Mike Galassi, Software Development Manager at Amazon, Class 2012

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.

Michael Galassi, Class of 2012, is the Software Development Manager of Search Experience at Amazon. Michael reflects on his favorite MPCS memory, shares which former student and current professor encouraged him to apply and tells how his time at the University of Chicago prepared him for his demanding and rewarding career.

Did you come to MPCS with a computer science background?

Prior to MPCS, I completed my undergraduate studies with a BS in Computer Information Systems. While this prepared me for a career in Software Engineering as a Java developer working on eCommerce systems, I lacked the foundation in math and algorithms to really take my work and career to the next level.

What motivated you to apply and enroll in MPCS?

A friend of mine, Aaron Elmore - now a CS Professor at UChicago, was already finishing the program and encouraged me to apply. I recognized I needed to gain a stronger foundation in CS in order to work on complicated problems typically only found at major tech companies, or in a research environment.

As a Veteran, I was fortunate to have access to the Post 9/11 GI Bill which payed for a substantial portion of my graduate schooling. Having sacrificed so much to earn that benefit, I was determined to apply it towards a graduate program that would provide the satisfaction of continuing my education, but also advance my career.

MPCS at the University of Chicago afforded me the opportunity to accomplish these goals in a prestigious university setting with a positive and rigorous learning environment.

What was your favorite MPCS course? Why?

Algorithms. It was interesting and challenging. To quote a fellow student, the course "really stretched your brain". Gerry Brady is a fantastic professor and invested in each of the students, which made all the difference.

What is your favorite memory from your time spent as a MPCS student?

Having beers with Gerry Brady and all the students in our Algorithms class after the final exam. We were completely spent, relieved, and somewhat in denial that we had actually finished the course and would not be in Ryerson or the library the following weekend "grinding chalk".

How has your MPCS education helped you achieve your professional goals?

The degree opened doors for me professionally, but the knowledge I gained has helped me succeed in my career and be much more effective as a problem solver. The foundation in CS was also essential in positioning me to work at a large tech company like Amazon.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

My days at Amazon vary depending on the time of year, and where my team is with current projects. Most days begin with reviewing email, prioritizing work and any open issues for the day that would impact my team's work or the systems we support. We have a stand-up meeting mid-morning where we discuss each engineer's progress, what they're working on for the day, and any obstacles.

The remainder of the day is spent in various meetings with business groups we support, writing status updates for our stakeholders, and doing project management work like resource planning and risk management. Throughout the day I also continue to deep-dive on technical matters with my engineers-- reviewing their code, and doing tests to verify we're building to specification.

What do you enjoy most about your profession?

I enjoy the challenge of solving complex problems and applying technology to make our lives and business easier. I like the fact that every day I'm given the opportunity to innovate and make an impact on the world big or small.

Would you recommend MPCS to others? If so, why?

Without hesitation! It was an extremely gratifying experience to be a part of MPCS and learn from the faculty and other students in the program. Being in this program and attending the University of Chicago was a very positive and challenging experience. The range of courses available and the flexibility in the curriculum allowed me to tailor the program to meet my needs and interests.

What is a piece of advice you’d give someone considering applying to UChicago’s Masters Program in Computer Science?

Do it, you won't regret it! It's challenging, but the faculty, staff and students are there to support you. Make connections and get everything you can out of the program.

Also, don't be in a hurry to graduate. Really put thought into what you want to accomplish with your graduate studies, in your career, and at MPCS. While it can be tempting to "crank through the program", it's not a race. Take advantage of everything the program and the school has to offer and really grow during your time there.

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