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.
Rob Timpone, Class of 2013, is a Lead Mobile Software Engineer at Yello. Rob shares what he loves most about the computer science industry, reflects on his favorite MPCS course and offers advice for those looking to apply to the MPCS.
Did you come to MPCS with a computer science background?
No, I worked as a portfolio manager and equity research analyst before starting the program. One of the main reasons I chose to apply to the MPCS was that it seemed like a great fit for someone looking for a rigorous program that would help them change careers.
What motivated you to apply and enroll in MPCS?
I previously worked in finance, where I would use Excel heavily for my day to day work. I started writing some basic macros using Visual Basic and quickly realized how powerful and fun coding could be. I started looking into more technical career options and decided to pursue a Master’s degree as it would give me a broad set of fundamental computer science skills, as well as provide a classroom structure and a community in which to learn.
What was your favorite MPCS course? Why?
My favorite course was iOS Application Development. It was my first exposure to building mobile apps and the projects we worked on really sparked my interest in mobile development. There was a lot of variety in the assignments that were required and a large number of topics were covered in a single quarter. After completing the course, I knew mobile was an area I would enjoy working in.
What is your favorite memory from your time spent as a MPCS student?
My favorite memories from MPCS were learning exciting new technologies alongside the other students in my cohort. Many of my fellow students were passionate, driven, positive people that were genuinely interested in honing their new skills. We had a great time growing together from the first programming course all the way up until graduation, and we spent a lot of time together in the computer lab.
How has your MPCS education helped you achieve your professional goals?
I feel MPCS gave me the background I needed to be able to jump into several areas of computer science without feeling lost. If I had taken a self-taught route, I may have missed some key areas along the way. Having a broad set of computer science fundamentals makes it much easier to work with the other non-mobile engineering teams at Yello as we have a shared knowledge base that we all understand.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
My team starts off each morning with our daily stand-up meeting then gets to work building out new features and fixing bugs in the code bases. It’s common for our developers to pair together or follow up with other team members that may be able to help them. Many days I’ll meet with members of our product team to discuss how upcoming features will work as well as go over any new designs that need to be tweaked. When I’m not actively coding, I’m performing code reviews, working on our test suites, and coordinating with other teams. There’s also usually an area that I’m doing some professional development in, like learning more about Swift or Core Data.
What do you enjoy most about your profession?
One of the great things about working in computer science is that it is always changing. The way we write our mobile apps at Yello has already changed significantly in the time since I graduated from MPCS. New design patterns are always being introduced, different tools are being created by the open source community, and programming languages continue to evolve at a rapid pace. There is always something new to learn. This is particularly true for mobile as it’s not uncommon for annual updates to hardware and developer SDKs to make a big impact on how apps are developed.
Would you recommend MPCS to others? If so, why?
I would absolutely recommend MPCS to someone looking for a way to transition into a career in computer science. The program teaches students core fundamental skills like programming, algorithms, and databases, while still allowing students to specialize in the more specific areas they are interested in. The coursework was both challenging and rewarding, and the other students in my cohort were great to work together with. It wasn’t easy, but it was a very positive learning experience.
What is a piece of advice you’d give someone considering applying to UChicago’s Masters Program in Computer Science?
Try to teach yourself some basic coding skills first and see if it’s something you’re passionate about. There are many high quality resources freely available that will teach you enough to gauge your interest. MPCS is a rigorous program, and it requires a genuine interest in learning the material. If you feel yourself becoming enthusiastic about learning more, you will certainly fit into the program.