University of Chicago Masters Program in Computer Science alumni push boundaries and innovate across many facets of industry. Whether it’s developing seamless UX interfaces, engineering software at fortune 500 companies, working in big data or keeping networks secure; our esteemed alumni use their applied skills education from MPCS to problem-solve, create, and elevate the computer science field. Learn from their stories and discover how a CS background can prepare you for cutting edge careers and leadership roles.
Caroline Kaufmann, Class of 2003, is the Finance & Business Administration Manager at Siemens Industry, Inc. Caroline reflects on her favorite class project, relays what most excites her about her profession and shares the big question you should ask yourself before beginning your MPCS journey.
Did you come to MPCS with a computer science background?
Before attending The University of Chicago, I did not have a computer science background. However, I had a strong foundation in math from studying physics in undergrad. Although many of the technical aspects of programming and languages were new to me when beginning the MPCS, the basis of computer science comes from the same mathematical and logical framework that I studied in physics.
Additionally, the immersion courses that MPCS provides were great for acclimating me to this type of work. They were geared in math and really made me feel like I was in my comfort zone. I was able to build on the skill set I had already developed in undergrad.
What motivated you to apply and enroll in MPCS?
I always enjoyed technical and quantitative subjects, and I believed computer science would provide useful skills for a career in the business sector. The programming and coding skills I learned were very applicable to my first role as a consultant after graduation-- a position that opened the doors to the business world.
What was your favorite MPCS course? Why?
I enjoyed algorithms the most -- I liked thinking about the basics of logic.
What is your favorite memory from your time spent as a MPCS student?
I enjoyed working on homework and projects with my classmates. One assignment that really stands out was a project for my databases course. My partner and I had to create an online store complete with photos, merchandise and a functional shopping cart. I really enjoyed having a tangible product that spoke to all that I had learned. As a result of this project I was able to show future employers that I could create something that had functionality and utility.
How has your MPCS education helped you achieve your professional goals?
After earning my masters in computer science, I obtained a job as a procurement consultant, analyzing large datasets to help companies reduce their costs. This led me to obtain an MBA and go on to an internal management consulting position, which led to my current role in corporate finance.
What do you enjoy most about your profession?
I’m not only inspired by the numbers, but what Siemens does for our customers. What we do makes buildings more comfortable, safe and efficient. What really excites me about what my company does is that we’re very concerned with the digitization of things. Everything is connected and has computer logic behind it. My CS background really speaks to this trend and assists me in understanding the science of what we do as a company.
I enjoy that in my role as the financial manager for a business, I have to maintain an overview of the entire business, from sales through operations, understanding the drivers of revenue and cost that contribute to our overall profitability. Finance is the measurement of health of a business; and my role allows me to interface with all of my company’s moving parts. In finance you’re at the center of it all.
Would you recommend MPCS to others? If so, why?
Yes, I would recommend the program for someone who wants to work in the information technology field. The MPCS is a great way to position yourself for change. If you’re currently in a certain career or path that isn’t a good fit, MPCS is a great way to open new doors and get new skills that will take you where you want to go.
Computer Science is now the basis of everything we do. There’s not an industry or area of life where CS isn’t involved. No matter what you want to do long term, the knowledge you gain from MPCS will prove invaluable.
Additionally, the reputation of The University of Chicago is a really big benefit. I graduated in 2003; and people still recognize the quality of education I received. What I liked about the program was that it was academically rigorous, but also practical.
What is a piece of advice you’d give someone considering applying to UChicago’s Masters Program in Computer Science?
Figure out several jobs you think you would like to have when you complete your degree -- then take it a step further. Ask yourself, “Would this degree open doors for you to get the job you want?”. This question is important because it is essential in determining how to make your degree work for you post graduation.
Asking this question helped me understand where my interests lied. I learned that I loved technical work, but I wasn’t a hardcore techie--and that’s ok. I learned where I wanted to be on the technical spectrum.
At University of Chicago you get a blended skillset. You leave the program with computer science knowledge that lends itself to multiple avenues. Many of my classmates moved into marketing, finance, big data, and analytics. By asking this question you will provide yourself with the path towards achieving your desired career.