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.
Rohan Bedarkar, class of 2012, is a Senior C++ Developer at Intercontinental Exchange | New York Stock Exchange. Rohan shares what motivated him to join the MPCS, reflects on how his MPCS education has impacted his career and offers advice to those considering the program.
What does a great day at work look like for you?
A great day at work is when I am able to deliver a well thought and precisely engineered solution to a high profile problem! We all go through phases when we stumble upon problems. Sometimes though we find inspiring solutions in the most unexpected places - almost like a stroke of genius. That’s an exceptional day at work for me. Even if it doesn’t go that far I am always thrilled to learn something new.
What do you enjoy most about your profession?
It needs no repetition that the software engineering profession allows us to achieve beyond imagination. Our minds are extremely complex mathematical processes that rapidly imagine, build and destroy prototypes without moving a muscle. There is so much one can achieve if he or she is willing to work at this level of abstraction. Working for a Fortune 500 company that is also a Fortune 100 fastest growing company allows me to work with brilliant colleagues who share the same passion as me. As one of the largest derivatives exchanges in the world ICE transcends countries, cultures, languages and barriers. I get to contribute at the heart of world’s financial markets.
What motivated you to join the MPCS?
University of Chicago is not only the greatest academic institution in the world but also the institution whose philosophy resonates most with me. With focus on foundation, theory and first principles above what’s new and hot, UChicago teaches how to think - the life of the mind. It is no surprise that almost ninety Nobel prize winners (as of this writing) have been associated with UChicago. For me that was a tremendous motivating factor.
Did you come to MPCS with a computer science background?
I arrived at UChicago thinking I had a strong background in computer science but by the time I graduated I realized how naïve I was! It wasn’t enough that I was coding since I was nine, had graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering with distinction and later a Master’s degree in Financial Engineering. What mattered was that I had never approached Computer Science like I did at Chicago. My professional accomplishments before being admitted to the program while building device drivers, speech processing algorithms, quantitative trading strategies etc., were very tactical rather than strategic. Prof Michael Gibbs at Chicago Booth put it best when he mentioned the quote “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory but tactics without strategy is the noise you hear before defeat”. That was so true for me. A deeper understanding of CS theory helped me enormously.
Would you recommend MPCS to others? If so, why?
There is no doubt that Chicago is a holy city for derivatives trading, finance and market technology aficionados. The history of financial markets is deeply rooted within UChicago’s fabric. That coupled with a legacy in Physics, Mathematics and Economics makes UChicago the perfect ecosystem to learn Computer Science quite simply because computers are nothing without a problem domain. As we move deeper into Big Data, Machine learning, and HPC, UChicago CS brings foundational wisdom from Physics and Mathematics. It’s going to be hard to move forward without coupling the two.
What is your favorite memory from your time spent as an MPCS student?
I lived in Chicago for over seven years and what remains the most unforgettable memory is walking through three feet of snow from Hyde Park Metra station all the way to campus quadrangles in sub-zero temperature. It was the hardest thing I've done and it proved to me that one can go beyond obstacles in life if there is motivation. It’s also incredible how delicious coffee tastes in Ryerson Physical Laboratory watching it snow outside while engaging in a debate on Object Oriented Programming vs Functional Programming. Fun!
What was your favorite MPCS course? Why?
Advanced Algorithms with Gerry Brady and Advanced C++ Metaprogramming with Mike Spertus quite literally helped me build my career! These courses taught me to think before applying the first solution that comes to mind. Sometimes problems are deceiving and the devil is in details. A sound theoretical framework and mindset is required. More than how fast you can come up with a correct solution it’s important to first understand what correct is and if you can prove that! That’s what theoretical computer science is all about.
How has your MPCS education impacted your career?
After graduating from the program I worked for a quantitative hedge fund in Los Angeles, a speech recognition technology startup in Chicago and now Intercontinental Exchange / New York Stock Exchange in Atlanta. I have finally found a role and a company that I plan to settle in for the long term. Across most technology firms there are two common layers of complexities - the accidental ones and the inherent ones. Keeping a focus on the inherent without getting lost in the accidental kept me going. This goes back to the earlier statement that its more important to learn how to think rather than practice a particular skill.
What is a piece of advice you’d give someone considering applying to UChicago’s Masters Program in Computer Science?
Understand what University of Chicago stands for, its core values and imbibe them early. Ask lots of questions, challenge the status quo, and above all enjoy the journey.