Why did you come to Illinois Tech?
Illinois Tech offered all I was hoping for in a school. It was an engineering school with an established history of innovation and excellent scholarship, breeding innovators such Mr. Martin Cooper (the inventor of the cellular phone). In terms of location, Illinois Tech’s prime location in Chicago, the third largest metropolitan area in the US was very appealing. Illinois Tech provides a good return-on-investment after graduation since students get good jobs. Finally, although we are often reluctant to admit it, Illinois Tech offered at the time the most substantial scholarship package compared to all the different schools I had applied to.
Why did you choose your major and specialization?
I initially began as a Computer Science student at Illinois Tech. A year into the program, I realized that Computer Science was not my best fit as it turned out to be heavily involved with a conceptual and theoretical approach to learning. A friend of mine had recently switched majors to ITM in the School of Applied Technology and recommended that I switch to ITM as he found it to be more practical, which I also did after meeting with Professor Ray Trygstad, the ITM department chair.
I must say that I have had the time of my life in the ITM department. Every class is unique and dives into different areas of Information Technology, Database Management, Web Design and Application Development, Software Development, Project Management, etc.
It was not until I took ITMD 361: Fundamentals of Web Development with Karl Stolley, Ph.D., that I figured out what career path I wanted to pursue. Beyond simply building websites, Professor Stolley also wants us to always keep the end user in mind. I enjoyed every minute and every project in that class and it led me to explore Web Design/Application Development and Software Development as specializations. My hope is to work as a User Experience/User Interface Engineer and always challenge myself to think critically about whom I am building software products, web and mobile applications for.
What is your favorite thing about being a student at Illinois Tech?
My favorite thing about being a student at Illinois Tech are the members of this community (staff, faculty, students). I have been able to nurture sustainable and wonderful relationships with members of this community. Whether it is in my role as a resident advisor, as a student worker or even as a student, I always feel like a valued member of the community.
How are the courses like? How do they help you? (Prepare for jobs/career)
The courses are very hands-on and practical. They are taught by industry professors most of the time. These are people who work, or have worked, as technologists. Thus, most projects – whether programming a simulation of an ATM machine in Java or re-evaluating the network and communication systems of a company – are rooted in real-world projects. Not only do you learn relevant skills that prepare you for your desired career, but you also gain much needed insights from different professors with long-standing experience in different sectors of IT.
How is campus life? What do you like to do?
With 140+ organizations – ranging from Magic the Gathering to Robotics or Greek organizations – it is almost impossible not to be involved in some group or activity on campus. I am a Resident advisor for the South Street Village First floor community. I create events for this community, serve as a peer counselor for my residents, work on educational door decorations, and many other things.
I am also involved in varying degrees with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), the African Student Organization (ASO), and the Student Government Association’s (SGA) Finance Board. Recently, I was chosen to serve as a Student Ambassador for the School of Applied Technology.
Do/did you have an on-campus job? If so, what?
I have two on-campus jobs. I work as a Resident Advisor for Residence and Greek Life and I also work as a support desk technician with the Office of Technology Services.
What type of projects or innovation have you done while at Illinois Tech?
While a student at Illinois Tech, I was able to participate in a few hackathons in the area. One of the more recent projects I have worked on at a hackathon was Pool I/O. Pool I/O was a chat bot that facilitated ridesharing within a company pairing up people with cars with carless coworkers. It was very challenging, but one of my best experiences since I have been programming.
What is your proudest moment as a student?
My first programming project in ITM 311 was a bit of a challenge at first. The project – simulating an ATM machine – had many features attached to it and it took me a while to figure out how to go from the big picture to the smaller components of the project. However, once I got past that stage, thanks to a comprehensive pseudocode, the project seemed to fall into place. It worked out so nicely in the end that I often find myself highlighting the project in my interviews.
If I could do 1 thing over again it would be.
To start directly with the ITM program in my first year at Illinois Tech.
What is the biggest challenge you faced as a student?
I often deal or have dealt with Imposter Syndrome. It is crippling to feel like you are not smart enough to be where you are and to feel as though people are going to find out soon enough that you are just an imposter. This often happens to me when I compare myself to other students at hackathons or in class. One thing I like to do to overcome this feeling is remind myself that I am a work in progress and every day comes bearing learning opportunities.
What do you want to do when you graduate?
I would like to work as UI/UX Engineer, developing user-centered web and mobile applications.
Advice for other students:
- Professional Development: Step out of your comfort zone and find groups with the same interest in technology as you – whether it is a student organization, a meetup or a team at a hackathon. Join them and work with them. You will always find interesting projects to develop. You can use these projects for your portfolio and, more importantly, the people you meet become part of your network.
- Classes: Schedule a good amount time for your homework; take note of the deadlines and work accordingly. Do not forget to take breaks too and do something you particularly like.