Sarah Koop, JPMorgan Chase & Co. Software Engineer Intern: “My MPCS coursework and my internship have provided me with a strong technical background.”

The University of Chicago Masters Program in Computer Science students 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 students use their applied-skills education from the 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 internships.

Sarah Koop University of Chicago MPCS

Sarah Koop will be graduating from the MPCS in 2019. She tells us how the skills she learned at the MPCS helped daily in her software engineering internship at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Can you tell us a bit about the internship process? 

A recruiter reached out to me through Piazza and told me about Code for Good, a yearly hackathon hosted by JPMorgan.  I applied and was accepted to participate in the hackathon, a 24-hour coding event where we worked on a project for a non-profit organization.  The Code for Good event also served as an interview for the Software Engineering Internship, and I received an offer after attending.  

Can you walk us through your day at your internship? What might a great day look like for you?

My internship project involves working with two other interns to build a full stack application to be used internally within the firm.  We are also part of a larger team of more experienced software engineers who help provide guidance and direction on the project.  

On a typical day at my internship, I arrive at the office and have a daily stand-up meeting where we discuss our work for the day and any challenges that we are having. After stand-up, I either continue working on my coding task from the previous day, or check the backlog of sprint tasks.  I spend the rest of the day coding individually or pair programming with my team members. The internship program also provides mentorship, speakers, and social events, so I will often attend one of those programs in the afternoon.  

I love finding the solution to a difficult bug or finishing an important feature for the project, so a great day would involve successfully building and deploying a portion of the project that we had been working on for a while.  

Which programming languages and other technologies do you find yourself using regularly? Were these skills you learned in the MPCS?

I work with React, JavaScript, and Groovy (which is similar to Java).  I took the Web Development course in the MPCS where we learned JavaScript and an introduction to React.  That course provided a great foundation for front-end development that I was able to expand on during my internship.  I also took the Concepts of Programming course which was taught in Java. This helped me understand the basics of object-oriented programming and made it easier to understand Groovy.

What was your reason for applying to the MPCS? Did you have prior experience in computer science/a computer science background? 

My undergraduate degree was in Information Technology Management.  After working in an IT advisory role after graduation, I realized that I was much more interested in software development.  I had taken some introductory courses during undergrad in programming and databases, but I didn’t have any formal computer science education. I enrolled in the MPCS in order to gain the knowledge to transition my career into a more hands-on software engineering role.

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

I would definitely recommend the MPCS to anyone coming from a non-CS undergrad education who wants to move into a more technical role.  The summer immersion program served as a great foundation to build the knowledge necessary to move into the full MPCS coursework in a very short amount of time.  The professors I have had throughout the program have been incredibly smart and accessible to students, and the courses have been interesting and relevant to my internship work.  

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

My MPCS education led me to my internship at JPMorgan.  The internship, along with my coursework, has provided a strong technical background that makes me confident in my ability to obtain a full-time software engineering role after graduation.  

What is a piece of advice you’d give someone considering applying to the MPCS?

I would say to consider if a degree in Computer Science would be helpful or necessary in your desired career path and if you have the time to devote to the program.  The MPCS coursework can be challenging and requires a lot of dedication, but the program is unique in that it allows you to go from no formal CS background to a full Master’s degree in only a year and a half.  

Do you have any internship advice for someone who may be starting to apply? 

Start applying early.  If you are pursuing software engineering roles, the first few times you live code in front of an interviewer can be overwhelming, so don’t get discouraged - practice helps.  Also, look into less traditional recruiting channels like hackathons, tech networking events, and conferences.