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.
Jake Hergott, Class of 2015, is an iOS Developer at Rocketmiles. Jake shares how his previous role in finance motivated him to apply to MPCS, reflects on his favorite UChicago course and describes what he loves most about his profession.
Did you come to MPCS with a computer science background?
I did not have a computer science background before MPCS. I had spent some time using online resources to learn the basics of computer science and some programming languages.
What motivated you to apply and enroll in MPCS?
Before MPCS, I was working at a hedge fund and spent a lot of time with Microsoft Excel. I ended up using if-statements, vlookups and bitwise operators to build our models and really enjoyed it. I finally tied what I was doing with Excel to computer science and I was hooked. It seemed like a no brainer to apply to and enroll in MPCS.
What was your favorite MPCS course? Why?
My favorite course was Gerry Brady’s Algorithms course. Throughout the course, you will be taught the classic sorting, graph and dynamic programming algorithms, and you will learn about time complexity and space complexity. But, the course is not about memorization. The goal is to use the lessons learned to solve future problems you will face. She challenges you and teaches you to think in new ways.
What is your favorite memory from your time spent as a MPCS student?
My favorite memory as a MPCS student was watching the final project presentations in Andrew Binkowski’s iOS Application Development course. Almost every student came in to the course with no knowledge of what goes into an iOS application. It was amazing to see how much we all learned in a short period of time. Most of the apps were “App Store ready”.
How has your MPCS education helped you achieve your professional goals?
MPCS provided me with a strong foundation to continue learning and growing. There will always be new technologies and new programming languages, and to be a good Software Engineer I believe you must be able to adapt quickly. Specifically, I have been able to apply both of the iOS courses I took to achieve my professional goals. I have two apps of my own in the App Store and have worked on a handful of other apps in the App Store since MPCS. I’m currently an iOS Developer at Rocketmiles working on our app where users can book hotels and earn thousands of loyalty miles and points per night.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
I usually start the day going through my email and checking my calendar for the day’s meetings. Our team then gets together for a daily standup to sync up. From there, I spend most of my days working on new features, implementing AB tests and fixing bugs for the next release of our iOS app. I also spend a large amount of time helping with designs and planning future versions of our iOS app.
What do you enjoy most about your profession?
What I enjoy most about my profession is working with smart, creative people. Everyone at Rocketmiles is intrinsically motivated to grow both the company and themselves. I also enjoy solving hard problems. It’s extremely satisfying when you’re working on a difficult problem and come across an elegant solution.
Would you recommend MPCS to others? If so, why?
Yes, I would recommend MPCS to others. The core courses provide you with the fundamentals of computer science. From there you can choose electives based off of your interests. Electives can be chosen from a variety of different paths ranging from Software Engineering to High Performance Computing to Data Analytics.
What is a piece of advice you’d give someone considering applying to UChicago’s Masters Program in Computer Science?
Go for it! I highly recommend applying, especially if you’re someone without a background in computer science looking for a career path change. Almost every industry today is being taken over by tech. With a degree in computer science you will always be employable.