BS computer science '08
Occupation: Product manager, Vlingo (speech recognition company)
Residence: Cambridge, MA
When and how did you choose your major?
I always liked computers. I grew up gaming, playing around making websites, but not actually doing real coding. In high school I took a programming class that I enjoyed. When it came time to choose my major at UR, I wanted to pick between my two favorite subjects: history or computer science. The tie breaker was that one was a lot easier to make money with!
Who were your mentors while you were on campus? Have you continued those relationships?
I had a ton of respect for many of my CS professors, and they all played a role in helping me develop. One in particular, who I TA'd for one semester, actually gave me a great recommendation when it came time to apply for jobs. I wouldn't say I keep in close touch with any of them, but I'm actually Facebook friends with some.
What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?
I started applying for jobs shortly before spring break of my senior year, and by the time graduation came I had a start date in June for the company I am still at in Boston. The job market was good at the time, so I had the luxury of looking for emerging tech in an exciting field: a speech recognition mobile company. I gave myself a month off before starting my transition into the "real world."
What do you do now and why did you choose this career?
I'm a product manager at a speech recognition company called Vlingo. I started out here three and a half years ago as a developer, and the great thing about a startup is that you get to learn a lot very quickly. It became obvious to me that my passions were more on the business and product development side, so I grew in that direction within the company. Having the technical background is immensely helpful.
How do you balance your work and personal life?
Sometimes it can be tough because it's natural to have some particularly stressful days. Gone are the days of long school vacations where you can really recharge your batteries. But along the way you learn how to strike the right balance of working hard enough to gain professional satisfaction and achieve your goals, but not so hard that you lose your personal life.
Where would you like to be in five years?
After making the switch over to product manager I am just hoping to gain more experience in that area. My next career objective will be becoming either a senior product manager or perhaps even a director of product somewhere. I want to play a critical role in releasing successful software products that millions of people will use and enjoy.
What advice do you have for current students?
Don't think you need to have everything figured out already. Things will come naturally and opportunities will present themselves. Just focus on taking advantage of everything around you at the moment so that when those opportunities come you can be well prepared for them. Learn the most you can, but remember to enjoy life along the way. My favorite Douglas Adams quote: "I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be."