At a Glance
I am currently a senior at Iowa State University majoring in computer engineering with a minor in business economics. I am active in both the University and College of Engineering Honors Programs and expect to graduate with full honors in the Fall of 2017. For more information on my academic experience feel free to reach out to me or read the additional information provided below.
ISU Campus - Fall 2015
Fall is without a doubt my favorite time of year, especially on campus here at Iowa State University. All the leaves turn burnt orange and crimson red, and are - for a short time - still on their respective trees. Of course, fall means winter is right around the corner, and with it cold wet walks to morning classes.
Coover Building - Fall 2015
Home to many of my computer engineering and electrical engineering courses, Coover is something of a home base for me at Iowa State. The moth statue at its entrance is of the first ever computer bug - representative of the actual animal which found itself shorting out the original digital computer first designed and built at Iowa State.
My time at Iowa State has been a period of incredible growth in a wide variety of expressions. From technical prowess to leadership experience, I have been challenged to expand in many ways. Coursework within my major has served to deepen my technical competency and prepare me for industry design and development projects. Additionally, experiences outside of my major have helped me grow in breadth and have worked to expose me to a wider variety of disciplines, subjects, and have fostered in me a greater understanding of the possible social context of my future work. Lastly, my time at Iowa State has also taught me a great deal about leadership, the power of cooperative work, and has developed in me an appreciation for life-long learning. Perhaps non-coincidentally, these pillars of depth, breadth, and leadership are the foundational steps required for graduation from the University Honors Program - something I will do this Fall - and have served to define my time at Iowa State in a number of ways.
First and foremost, my time at Iowa State has helped me develop my technical prowess and explore depth within Computer Engineering. Courses like CPRE 281 and 288 helped establish my foundation in hardware design by introducing me to the building blocks of computer circuitry. With these courses I learned how to design registers, memory units, ALUs, and similar devices and then program those devices to aid me in accomplishing simple tasks. Later, I built upon these experiences with courses like CPRE 388 where I was able to design a fully functioning five-stage pipelined CPU and program that device using the MIPS assembly. Accomplishing something like that would have seemed impossible four years ago and yet today it feels very familiar and I recognize it as not only a natural progression of my education but rather just another foundational experience I can now starting building from. Similarly, courses like CPRE 185 introduced me to programming for the first time. I immediately fell in love with the precision programming demanded and the flexibility it afforded. Later courses like COMS 288 and 311 taught me how to use the paradigms of programming to accomplish far more challenging but powerful tasks. I learned how to design effective data structures and efficient algorithms. I found that I began to think about programming in a new way. Slowly, it became less of a wrestling match against the compiler and more of a cooperative achievement. I understood how computers worked and why they worked that way. I was no longer working with a black box, randomly seeing what I could get away with and running into its limits. Instead, its components and capabilities had been exposed to me. I knew how my computer worked and why it worked that way. I knew its strengths and its weaknesses. Slowly but surely my general naïveté was replaced with confidence and competence. As a result, I’m excited to start using that knowledge to expose myself to harder challenges and larger problems - to start illuminating the dim corners of software design I wouldn’t possibly have known about four years ago.
Additionally, my time at Iowa State has exposed me to a number of diverse subjects and concepts and in so doing has increased my breadth as much as my depth. The economics 101 lecture I intended to take merely as an elective grew into a Business Economics minor. I came for the supply and demand and stayed for the taxation analysis and technology investment case studies. I learned how governments and businesses invested in technology and came to better understand the consequences and rewards of those decisions. Additionally, my hobby in audio engineering morphed into a music technology minor. I learned just how much computers had changed the music industry. I saw how software like ProTools allowed producers and mixers to do on a laptop what used to require a million dollar machine the size of a small car. I used my programming experience and software like Max to build my own synthesizers and mixing consoles. Then, participating in the honors program allowed me the opportunity to assist in a genetic research lab for a semester. Here I learned the impact parallel computing was having on biological and medical research. I came to appreciate how the machines I was learning to build and control were making a real difference in science and medicine. Topics like graph theory took on a whole new meaning when applied to gene sequencing. Then, my interest in architecture prompted me to take a course in the subject. What I assumed would be interesting but relatively straightforward lectures became my favorite two hours of the week that semester. I learned about the early cultures of the Americas and how their environments shaped the way they lived. I saw how a thousand years of history and culture were slowly woven together and gave us works like the Washington Monument and Falling Waters. After two years of core engineering classes I was reminded that there was a world outside of physics, math, and programming and yet I had the perspective to see how they were related. In fact, I had just come from an internship where I was writing plugins for tools like Revit, one of the software systems changing the way architects work today.
Finally, my time at Iowa State has given me many opportunities to cultivate my leadership abilities. In project management courses like COMS 309 and 329 I learned about frameworks for effective development such as Agile and SCRUM. I was given opportunities to use those skills during development projects and was able to grow as a leader by organizing and guiding my teams. Perhaps my largest growths as a leader came from the University Honors program where I served as a first-year seminar co-leader. In this position I was responsible for creating lesson plans for an entire semester, leading a group of 12 students through their introduction course, and also helped organize our semester retreat event. Teaching a class for an entire semester was a brand new experience which forced me to examine the macro-level objectives of the entire course and still be able to apply those principles on a more detailed micro-level when creating weekly lesson plans. Lastly, while at Iowa State I had the incredible privilege of serving as the Production Coordinator for The Salt Company, the largest student organization on campus. In this position I now oversee all production and technical activities for the organization, steward the use and training for our technical equipment, and am responsible for the execution of our production efforts each week. Through this opportunity I have grown a great deal as a leader. I’ve had the opportunity to develop my communication skills in a number of ways. Training new volunteers on our equipment involves simplifying processes and clear descriptions of complicated systems to near laymen. The execution and coordination of live production events also requires a unique and very useful set of communication techniques which allow for fast and direct communication in moments of high pressure. I’ve already seen the usefulness of these skills during my internship experiences and look forward finding continued cross-over.
Over the past four years Iowa State has been a home for me. Here, it seems, I have grown more then expected in more ways than I expected. The time seems so short and yet looking back I can’t help but marvel at how far I have come as a student, an engineer, and in many ways as a person. I have had the opportunity to study subjects and topics I used to dream about knowing one day. What not so long ago seemed miraculous if not impossible has become the reality of my profession. Through diligence and hard work I have become competent in the areas of hardware and software design and had the opportunity to express and cultivate those talents through a number of design courses and internships. Yet, in many ways, I’ve also become acutely aware of just how much I don’t know and how important and rewarding education can be. More than anything, my time at Iowa State has taught me to never stop asking questions and teaching myself.
Campanile - Fall 2015
Perhaps the most recognizable symbol of Iowa State University, the campanile is located at the heart of campus. It signals the time for thousands of students every hour and is used to perform a musical piece each noon. I could not resist snapping a picture of the landmark despite the fact that it is likely the most cliche Iowa State photo.
ISU Football - Fall 2015
In the interest of transparency, this photo was taken at the only Cyclone football game I have ever attended. That said, it was a great experience. The city of Ames really comes alive on game days despite the fact that it is usually a foregone conclusion that we will lose. Cyclone pride runs deep however, especially come basketball season.
General Education Reflection
As I approach the end of my time at Iowa State the realities of entering the Software development industry are quickly becoming a reality and I feel very exciting to explore the opportunities it may afford. I plan to graduate at the end of the year with a bachelors degree in computer engineering as well as with minors in both business economics and music technology. In addition, I am on track to graduate with full honors from the University Honors Program. However, I know that the days of educating myself won’t end with my tenure at Iowa State. Rather, I will continue to learn and grow through industry. I must say, that is perhaps the most exciting part of the career I have chosen. I love that our technologies continue to evolve and expand and I enjoy the challenges and rewards associated with that truth. After experiencing life at companies like Workiva and MODUS Engineering I hope to find a position at a similar company, somewhere they value the product they create and strive for excellence in their work. I also greatly enjoyed the cultures of each of these companies and hope to find a working home which embraces many of the paradigms of flexibility and creativity that many modern SaS development operations seem to be embracing. As I continue to grow and become exposed to more technologies and development patterns I would love to one day move into a project management position. I have fallen in love with the organizational structures afforded by system like Agile and SCRUM and find a great deal of satisfaction in using those systems to help make others more effective at creating the best products and services possible.
Certainly the technical design and project classes I’ve taken for my degree will be useful, but I also believe the soft skills I have developed through the general education classes I’ve taken at Iowa State will serve me well moving forward. To meet these requirements for my college I took number of Spanish courses as well as a class in American Architectural History and Business Finance and Investment. These classes served to broaden the spectrum of my education here at Iowa State but also helped me to gain appreciation for how engineering can effect society at large. For example, in my architectural history class we examined practices of structural engineering (perhaps the oldest form of engineering) throughout human history. We saw how the architectural decision of societies reflected their own views and values and analyzed how environment played a critical role in shaping design. We also so the benefits or effective design and the possible consequences of bad design. We even looked at some of the largest engineering projects in history such as the building of the Panama canal and the way those projects were managed. Additionally, my courses in business economics have helped me to understand the roles investment, finance, and economic feasibility play in Engineering projects. I learned how to talk to investors about gaining capital for projects and examined the role government investment currently plays in a number of industries. In short, these classes helped me to gain an outside perspective on engineering from the frame of design and economics and have in many ways served to shape my view of engineering and its impacts on society.
Additionally these classes have taught me to see beyond the engineering solution when examining problems. Through them I have come to understand that there are additional dimensions by which problems need to be approached in order to find effective solutions. First and foremost, the economics of any solution are extremely important. The most beautiful solution to a problem is not going to be successful if it isn’t economically feasible or profitable for investors. The most effective and cost efficient solutions to a problem aren’t going to be successful if they aren’t easily relatable and groomed for usability. The most innovative products are not going to sell if you can’t find the right audience for your ideas and make them believe in your solution. Additionally, engineers should always consider the global and societal impacts of their work. We are in the unique position of building the systems and infrastructure society will use to progress itself and there are frequently ethical decisions to be made about how these systems should function, where priorities should be given, and how the systems should be allowed to interact with their users. Many times these decisions are small and seemingly insignificant but at times they can be very important and difficult to make. However, it is my hope that my experiences at Iowa State and beyond will continue to inform my decision making practices and help me to develop the non-technical aspects of an engineering career.