Varun Kaushal, class of ‘14: “MPCS can boost and reshape a career.”

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.

Varun Kaushal, class of ‘14,  is lead architect at Everspring. Here, he discusses planning large-scale projects, all of the programming languages and applications he gets to interact with, and the three MPCS courses that made the most impact.

What does a great day at work look like for you?

Everyday is so different at Everspring.  The demands of my team, the needs of the business, and the varying technology projects all keep me on my toes.  If I had to describe an ideal day, it would involve having design sessions with our stakeholders to define the next release of products and updates but also getting a chance to demo new project releases within the team.  The most rewarding and satisfying times are when you get to see the fruits of your efforts and the appreciation from end-users for all the work that was put in.

What do you enjoy most about your profession?

At the end of the day, Everspring strives to expand the reach of higher education online.   What I love most about being here is being a good mentor to my team while also knowing that we enable people to have access to education.  I get a chance to plan large-scale future projects, but also get to stay in the weeds and get my hands dirty with development and system design.  There are few places I can think of that would allow me that much freedom and flexibility.

Which programming language/technical skills do you use most often at work?

Our stack is large and somewhat varied.  Though I hardly get a chance to code directly anymore, my main interactions are with Java, Apex, PHP, Python, NoSQL Databases and AWS systems.  I have also had a chance to work on some iOS and Android applications.

Describe a problem at work that your MPCS knowledge helped you solve.

Some of the most recent challenges we have been facing are around data and analytics.  We capture and store such an enormous amount of data that reporting effectively on it is difficult.  I rely heavily on my Big Data and Database experience from the MPCS program to help define data structures and query approaches to break the data problems down into easily digestible pieces. This is still an ongoing challenge which I am looking forward to addressing in newer and more innovative ways.

Did you come to MPCS with a computer science background? What motivated you to apply and enroll?

I did have a Bachelors in Computer Science, and had been working as an IT Consultant for several years before applying.  My main driving factor to pursue this program was two-fold. I started getting away from the technical details as my career progressed and I wanted a big push back in that direction to make sure my own skills and knowledge were not becoming stale.  Also it gave me a chance to broaden my expertise and learn about newer areas in technology that I could branch into such as Big Data, Cloud Computer, and System Design.

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

Absolutely! For those that have little technical background, this program offers an excellent mechanism to quickly ramp up and learn about a variety of technology topics that can boost and reshape a career.  The sheer number of course options allows two students to have vastly different learning experiences, which is a commendable quality for such a tight program. For individuals who wish to expand their existing knowledge and skills, this is also a great option. There is a balance between the reinforcement of existing ideas and diving deeper into newer and more advanced topics to supplement those that wish to advance further in their technical fields.

What is your favorite memory from your time as an MPCS student?

Seeing all the creative final projects from the other students in any of the programming classes.  Java, Android, iOS, Cloud Computing...all of these courses and more gave us the opportunity to go beyond what was asked and make something interesting.  Many of my peers really proved that the sky's the limit when using the tools and methods that were taught in class.

What was your favorite MPCS course? Why?

This is a tough one.  I don't know if I can pick one, but I do have three that particularly stick out:

  • Android Development - This was an awesome class as we immediately started making working applications for our phones.  It was very interactive and not a moment goes by in class where you aren't learning something useful.

  • Big Data - This is a very hands-on class. Learning about new data architectures, while also working in a system cluster and querying and crafting data approaches on the fly, was fascinating and opened my mind to so many cool possibilities with reporting.

  • Algorithms - While this doesn't make the list for most people, I must say that it was one of the most challenging and most useful courses I have taken.  Grueling through intensely difficult mental problems to prove mathematical rules helped me in every other CS and Technical course I have taken since.  It is so critical that it would be unfair for me not to give it the credit it deserves.

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

My goal out of school was to help build and lead a technology team and also design a scalable and sustainable software system.  Without this program, I would not have had the credentials, the knowledge, or the comfort in taking on such a heavy responsibility, let alone be successful at it.  Joining Everspring after graduation as the Team Lead, and Architect was the perfect testing ground for me and validation that this program is exactly what I needed.

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

Don't hesitate.  Even if you have a minor inkling toward technology but are unsure of where to take it and what to do, the people and resources on campus and in the department are the right people to help answer your questions.  Reach out to the network and talk to as many people as you can to help you decide if this is the right fit....once that is done, just go for it. The time flies by quickly, and you will never regret the skills you gain from it.

Do you have any career advice for someone who's pursuing a job in your current field?

Never stop learning.  This is said very often, but honestly, the moment you think you know enough, you become obsolete.  There is always something newer and cooler about technology coming around the corner. I guarantee you will learn something new that can turn you on your head about Technology every year, so don't let those opportunities to learn go by.