The door is wide open for new grads in computing careers
According to BLS data, computer-related professions will be among the top STEM jobs by 2020
“Computer science grads can work in a variety of domains.”
– Jeff Gray, University of Alabama
By Adriene Marshall
The demand for professionals with computer science and software engineering degrees is through the roof and is expected to grow by 32 percent over the next decade, faster than any other profession, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) data. Computer support specialists, system and information security analysts, software developers for applications and systems, network and computer systems administrators, programmers, web developers and computer network architects will be among the top STEM jobs by total employment in 2020.
These jobs are not just in the traditional places, like Google, Microsoft and Amazon, says Jeff Gray, PhD, associate professor of computer science at the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa, AL). “Computer science grads can work in a variety of domains,” Gray explains. “The Mercedes S-Class luxury sedan requires twenty million lines of computer code. The average electric razor has fifty thousand lines. Where there’s a need for automation, computer scientists are in the forefront helping to drive that automation.”
Technology is so pervasive that there is demand for more computer scientists than there are graduates with these degrees, notes Gray. “In May 2012, CS students averaged 2.8 job offers per student, which is more than for any other major. This is significant in an economy where grads in some majors struggle to get interviews for jobs below what their education would suggest.”
Getting hired is only the beginning. “Those who are successful in industry are the ones who continually evaluate and learn new technology,” observes Gray. He suggests that new grads join professional organizations and attend conferences to network and stay abreast of the latest innovations.
Telle Whitney, president and CEO of the Anita Borg Institute (ABI, anitaborg.org), confirms that computer science and software engineering jobs cover a wide range of specialties. “Programming, algorithm development, user interaction and data analytics jobs are numerous, not only in traditional tech companies but also in defense and aerospace, communications, finance, retail and entertainment.” By 2018 there will be 1.4 million new computing and computer-related jobs created in the U.S., she says.
There are a number of job hunting and mentoring resources for recent graduates at anitaborg.org/news/resources, Whitney notes. “It is always helpful for new graduates to network and connect with mentors.”
Altria is committed to finding diverse talent
Altria is dedicated to promoting a diverse workforce, says Dan Cornell, VP of information services. “To compete in today’s complex and dynamic business environment, we need employees who have a wide range of thoughts, perspectives and experiences. A diverse workforce enables us to define creative solutions that drive the best possible business results for Altria.”
Barbara A. Jones, senior manager of information services and campus recruiting manager, notes that college hires with computer science degrees are typically placed in roles like support analyst, business analyst, data/information analyst or workstation analyst. “We fill entry-level positions from our internship program. Each year we have about ten interns in the information services organization, and about half of them get fulltime job offers at the end of the summer.”
Altria Group (Richmond, VA) is the parent company of Philip Morris USA, John Middleton, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company, Philip Morris Capital Corporation and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.
Kristen Dunlap: technology analyst for client services at Altria
Kristen Dunlap is from Charlotte, NC. “At least that’s what I claim,” Dunlap says with a smile. “I grew up in a military family, so we moved around a bit.”
California and Louisiana were among the places she lived before the family settled in North Carolina, where she graduated from high school and earned her bachelors at Winston-Salem State University.
Dunlap describes her college experience as amazing, both personally and as a stepping stone to her career. “I chose to pursue a career in IT because I saw how technology touches everything, from the business world to the way we interact with each other,” she explains. “I felt that IT would give me a chance to help the world respond to technological events.”
As an undergrad, Dunlap interned with organizations that included the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Altria. “I liked the fast-paced corporate culture of Altria. There seemed to be many opportunities to grow my career and build my skills,” she says. “Altria focuses on helping interns and new hires perform at the next level.” She joined the company full time after graduation.
When Dunlap started as a fulltime employee at Altria, she provided user support for the sales team’s category management analytic tool and helped make system enhancements. Recently, she was promoted to a new position.
“I’m now supporting a project to update our manufacturing system framework and applications,” she says. “I manage scheduling and lead testing efforts to ensure that our enhancements don’t adversely impact what’s already in the system. It’s a great opportunity.”
Dunlap found a job more easily than her classmates and friends with other degrees. “With IT and computer science, you can land a great job in corporate America right out of college, continue your education to get an advanced degree, or contribute to research,” she notes. “It’s definitely a wide open field.”
The PhD Project helps minorities establish careers in academia
The PhD Project (phdproject.org) is a nonprofit organization established in 1994 by the KPMG Foundation to encourage African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans at the graduate level to consider careers as business school professors, often with a technical focus.
“Information systems is one of the five major business disciplines along with accounting, finance, management and marketing,” says Bernard J. Milano, president of the PhD Project and the KPMG Foundation. “When the PhD Project started, one percent of business school professors in the U.S. were minorities. Right now, it’s up to about four percent, while more than sixteen percent of business school undergrads are Hispanic American and an even higher percentage are African American. We believe strongly that if you have programs to attract minority students, then you need faculty and administration that reflects that student body.” He adds that since the PhD Project started eighteen years ago, the number as well as the percentage of minority business school professors in the country have quadrupled.
Many of the PhD Project’s recruitment efforts have focused on people working in industry who are interested in switching to academia. “We have a presence at many of the professional conferences, and our own conference every November in Chicago attracts more than 100 universities,” Milano says.
“The corporate world spends a tremendous amount of energy on diversity training, partly because many graduates are not used to working alongside someone from a different ethnic background,” he notes. “Having minority faculty not only shows minority students that they belong, it also sends a message to non-minority students that people of different backgrounds can be knowledge experts.”
Dr Renée Pratt: PhD Project faculty advisor
Renée Pratt, PhD, first heard about the PhD Project through a direct mailer she received while pursuing her masters in management information systems (MIS) at Case Western University (Cleveland, OH). She attended the PhD Project annual conference in 2002 and began studying for a PhD in MIS at Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL) the following year. As a doctoral student, Pratt was an active member of the PhD Project, holding the positions of secretary, vice president and president. Today, she serves as a faculty advisor to the PhD Project Information Systems Doctoral Student Association.
Pratt is assistant professor of business administration at Washington and Lee University (Lexington, VA). She teaches courses in MIS, computer forensics and e-commerce/web development. She received her BS in mathematics from the University of Florida (Gainesville, FL).
Before switching to academia, Pratt worked in industry, managing hardware/software inventory, website and intranet development, and doing ASP programming. “During this time, I began to notice disconnects in how IT professionals and business professionals communicate about project scope, timelines, design and development,” she says. “I saw a need to educate people in these fields so that systems could be designed to the users’ requests but within reasonable constraints.”
Pratt, whose research is widely published in industry journals, is a 2012-2013 Fulbright U.S. Scholar. Her research interests include post-adoption diffusion behaviors, traditional and clinical enterprise systems, and healthcare IT.
The PhD Project allows participants to see the many opportunities available to them, she says. “It is my hope that my experiences in the workforce and in academics will encourage, motivate and engage others to explore computer science and information systems in ways they never imagined.
“If you have an interest in programming and development, also explore the types of programs you enjoy creating,” Pratt suggests. “Develop an expertise in a functional area, such as human resources or accounting. IT/IS permeates every aspect of an organization today. You will never be bored.”
Aruba Networks looks to hire new grads in May and December
“Within our engineering development organization, we have opportunities for engineers with a background in software development and testing,” says Greg Rocha, engineering director in the R&D group at Aruba Networks (New York, NY). “Windows of opportunity for hiring new grads at Aruba Networks occur in May, June and December.”
Aruba Networks provides network management software, modular switches and wireless access points for wired and wireless infrastructures. “The R&D division is looking for new-grad talent to supplement the different levels of expertise we already have in our group,” notes Rocha.
Equal employment opportunities are a company priority, according to president and CEO Dominic Orr. It’s company policy to recruit, hire, promote, reassign and train qualified persons without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability or veteran status.
Nethra Muniyappa: Technical staff member at Aruba Networks
Nethra Muniyappa has been a fulltime technician in the access point wireless software engineering division at Aruba Networks since 2011. “Aruba handles wi-fi enterprise-level networking for colleges and hospitals,” she explains. “I’m responsible for determining the quality of individual connections, identifying external interferences to connectivity, and troubleshooting.”
Originally from Bangalore, India, Muniyappa received her bachelors in engineering, specializing in electronics and communications, at Dr Ambedkar Institute of Technology (Nagarbhavi, Bangalore, India).
“When I was an undergrad, I took an interest in microprocessor and microcontroller programming using algorithms to solve problems,” Muniyappa says. “My senior project involved direct digital frequency modulation, where I had to generate analog signals from the digital data using C programming. Writing algorithms fascinated me and these projects made me want to become more involved in programming.”
After graduation in 2004, Muniyappa landed a job in Bangalore as an R&D software engineer working on maintenance and enhancement of CDMA switches. Ringback tones and location-based services for emergency calls were important parts of her work. She took some postgraduate courses in programming to strengthen her skills. “After working there for three years, I realized that I wanted to learn even more,” she notes. “That’s when I decided to go abroad to get my masters degree.”
She convinced her loving and protective family that she was ready to assert her independence, and came to the United States to attend the University of Southern California (USC, Los Angeles, CA). She majored in electrical engineering with a concentration in wireless technology. “Although there are not a lot of women in my field, I had several technically strong woman professors at USC,” Muniyappa says. She finished her MSEE degree in 2010.
As a student, Muniyappa interned at Aruba. “I was exposed to industry-level applications for wireless technology,” she says. “I liked the job I was doing so I accepted the offer to work full time.”
Many students find it difficult to figure out what they want to specialize in, notes Muniyappa. “Follow your passion and stay focused,” she urges. “Whether it’s networking, cloud computing or data storage, if you keep up with the technology and interact with knowledgeable people, you can grow in the field.”
Accenture has worldwide openings for new grads with tech skills
Accenture (Dublin, Ireland), a multinational management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, is actively recruiting. “Accenture has technology labs around the world and seeks to hire the best people to work with clients on innovative transformation,” says John Campagnino, managing director of global recruiting.
“We’re seeking both entry-level and experienced professionals to work in our consulting and outsourcing businesses,” says Campagnino. “We look for experience with Oracle, SAP, Java/J2EE, Siebel, Workday and OpenLink Endur, plus expertise in digital and mobile technologies, the smart grid and technical architecture.” Candidates need to communicate effectively, work as part of an integrated team and demonstrate leadership skills.
“At Accenture, we take the widest possible view of diversity and are committed to creating and providing an inclusive, open and equitable environment for individuals with different backgrounds, lifestyles, needs and expectations,” says Jorge Benitez, chief U.S. executive and managing director for North America. “Our core values, including best people, integrity, and respect for the individual, are the foundation of Accenture’s diverse workplace, which spans countries, cultures, languages, generations, backgrounds and educational experiences.”
Benitez notes that Accenture has received recognition from groups such as the Human Rights Campaign, Great Place to Work Institute and Working Mother magazine. “Inclusion and diversity have long been fundamental to Accenture’s culture, fostering a collaborative work environment that helps our people succeed and enables the company to more effectively compete in the global marketplace,” he says. “Our workforce is a reflection of the clients we serve, the suppliers with whom we do business and the communities in which we live and work.”
Ginger Folker: software developer at Accenture
Ginger Folker works in the St. Louis, MO office of Accenture. She’s been with the company since 2010. “My latest project is a program that will allow insurance companies to quickly analyze the impact rate changes have on their existing book of business,” she says. “My main focus has been on the user interface. It’s been very challenging and I have learned a lot. I’m excited to see it get out the door and into our users’ hands.”
Growing up, Folker’s family moved around a lot due to her father’s job, but one constant was her love of numbers and problem solving. She took four years of accounting in high school and thought she’d pursue a degree in that field. “I went to college with a bright outlook on my numerical future, only to find out that I hated accounting,” she recalls. “I don’t remember how I landed on the path of programming, but I’m glad I did. I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing.”
Folker earned her 2004 associates in applied science, specializing in computer information programming at Black Hawk College (Moline, IL). She was the only student in her circle of friends to find a paying internship that also turned into a fulltime job.
“I worked for a man who created accounting software for dental offices,” she says. “The company consisted of him and me. I was the customer support, QA and developer. Forced to jump in with both feet, I learned quickly. Looking back on it, I’m glad it worked out that way. It helped me get to where I am today.”
A career in computer science is not for the faint of heart, Folker cautions. “Programming is a moving target: Something learned today could very well be irrelevant tomorrow. If you don’t like change and constant learning, this is not the career for you,” she says. “But surround yourself with the right people and they will help you along. It’s a very fulfilling profession and I’m fortunate to be a part of it.”
Bank of America needs developers, programmers and more
“There are many opportunities across our company for talented graduates with computer science degrees,” says Whitney Westbrook, SVP, campus staffing manager, global technology and operations at Bank of America (Charlotte, NC). “Available positions include software developers, application programmers, information security engineers, business analysts and quantitative analysts.”
Bank of America has a global diversity and inclusion council that is chaired by CEO Brian T. Moynihan, says Debbie Guild, the company’s chief technology officer for enterprise functions and end-user computing executive. “We value our differences, and understand that diversity and inclusion make our company stronger,” she says. “We want to create an environment where people can feel free to speak their minds.”
Bank of America offers a number of affinity groups, like the Hispanic/Latino Organization for Leadership and Advancement and Women in Technology and Operations. These groups host events that give employees both networking and educational opportunities.
Guild is executive sponsor for the women in technology and operations group, and she’s on the board of directors for the National Center for Women and Information Technology. “We understand that diversity is good for business and provides a variety of perspectives in problem solving.”
Yalixa De La Cruz is an AVP and business analyst at Bank of America
Yalixa De La Cruz is an AVP and business analyst at Bank of America. The bank’s core services include consumer and small business banking, corporate banking, credit cards, mortgage lending and asset management. De La Cruz supports equities in global markets and risk technology.
De La Cruz was born in New York, but her parents were born and raised in the Dominican Republic. She attended St. John’s University (Queens, NY) and graduated in 2009 with a BSCS and minor in cyberforensics. She’s now working on her masters in quantitative methods and modeling at Baruch College/City University of New York Zicklin School of Business (New York, NY).
De La Cruz helps the company’s project stakeholders define strategies, solutions, requirements and functional design for technology projects. “I am involved in the analysis necessary to meet those objectives, and I’m also responsible for working with developers and testers,” she says.
Her daily responsibilities typically involve taking part in data, application or systems analysis for ongoing projects or issues, and creating or updating associated documentation. “I work closely with developers to make sure they understand project requirements by stepping through code, reviewing systems flows and providing any clarifications required,” she explains.
Her undergraduate degree and work experience provided the fundamentals and analytical skills for De La Cruz to succeed in a technical role, and “being on the executive board of different university clubs and organizations helped me communicate and work well with others,” she says. “Both sets of skills are critical to my role as a business analyst.”
De La Cruz hopes her success will inspire others. “I’d like to be living proof that women can be successful in the financial industry,” she says.
Laura Batten: systems analyst at Bank of America
Laura Batten earned her BS in information science and technology at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State, University Park) in 2007. As an undergrad, she interned at Merrill Lynch and joined the company just before it was acquired by Bank of America.
She’s still with Bank of America today, working in the Pennington, NJ office. “In my current role, I am a liaison between the business and technology partners for web and mobile client applications,” Batten says. “I analyze business requirements, wireframes and visual designs, editorial content and other artifacts. I am also a subject matter expert on the technical systems and web services that my technology team offers.”
Batten’s job requires her to understand projects from the client’s perspective, as well as from a technical standpoint. “In my role, relationships are very important because I interact with many different business and technology teams,” she explains. “Most projects involve more than just my immediate technology and business partners, so the more relationships I develop, the easier it is to find answers and deliver solutions.”
Batten became interested in computers in her Newtown, PA elementary school. “I found them easy to use and enjoyed writing home pages, creating graphics and mixing CDs. I decided to turn my hobby into a career opportunity after seeing a presentation at Penn State,” she recalls. During her internship, Batten learned even more. “I was integrated into a team that was in charge of measuring website performance metrics. The experience allowed me to understand the types of opportunities my major offered.”
Batten appreciates the diversity of the technology teams at Bank of America. “Many of my colleagues are from different backgrounds, cultures and countries,” she says. “I’ve seen how diversity can strengthen a team. There is always something new to share, experience or learn.” She adds that the diversity within the company also provides strong female role models.
“I didn’t realize how versatile my degree would be until I saw how many different internships were available, in fields ranging from financial services to government to pharmaceuticals,” Batten says. “If you are pursuing a degree in a computer science-related field but have a passion for finance, you can apply for a technology position at a financial services company and get the best of both worlds.”
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