Why did you come to Illinois Tech?
Both of my parents and my eldest sister graduated from Illinois Tech so I have always had a lot of respect and admiration for this institution. Every time we take the Dan Ryan Expressway, my Mom points out Illinois Tech/IIT’s iconic red building and talks about how much she loved attending the school. I reside with my family on the Southside of Chicago, so the location is perfect since I’m a commuter student. The beautiful new Metra station at 35th street has enabled me to get to the school safely and easily. Illinois Tech has a renowned reputation as a distinguished technical school. Almost every time I tell someone that I am an IIT student, they are thoroughly impressed. I’m really excited about the future opportunities that a degree from Illinois Tech will provide for me.
Why did you choose your major and specialization?
Ever since I was a small child, I have had a knack for fixing or hooking up various technology-related devices like VCR’s, Nintendos, or computers. I researched many different majors including electrical engineering and computer science, but I felt like Information Technology and Management (ITM) was a better fit because I love working with hardware and troubleshooting problems in a system. I am now gaining experience in the world of cyber security and it is a fascinating, exciting and fast-growing field with a promising future career path.
What is your favorite thing about being a student at Illinois Tech?
The attitude of Innovation! I love how serious all the students are about their academic programs. They are very driven and focused on success. It is inspiring to be around so many skilled and intelligent people. Just seeing how determined everyone is has contributed to me pushing myself harder so that I can reach my ultimate potential. The diversity of the student population is a wonderful experience because I get to talk to people from all over the world and learn about different cultures and ideas.
How has Illinois Tech helped you?
The instructors and advisors in the ITM program are wonderfully helpful and approachable. They also have many years of real world industry experience that they openly share. This gives me some insight on how to properly prepare myself for my chosen career and what I can expect. Ray Trygstad, Vasilios “Billy” Pappademetriou, and Louis McHugh have been extremely influential in my success here and have really motivated me to take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities that Illinois Tech has to offer.
How are the courses like? How do they help you? (Prepare for jobs/career)
One of my favorite classes involved a unique hands-on lab in which we disassembled and reassembled desktop towers and laptops. For the Embedded Systems class, I designed and built a working Smart Mirror prototype that incorporated smart technology into a mirror, it received acclaim from friends, family, and even a few companies. These projects were extremely engaging and made the class fun as well as informative. Many of the courses are challenging, but this is expected at a top-tier institution. I’m learning how to focus on logic and critical thinking which will give me an advantage in the working world.
How is the academic experience? How does it compare to your previous educational experience?
My academic experiences here have been amazing. I have learned so much and been able to really delve deep into my field of study. I transferred from one of the City Colleges of Chicago and it was a very smooth transition. I have a lot of IIT pride as a Red Hawk and I am very grateful that I was given the opportunity to shine and succeed here. The scholarships I received were a huge help and my academic career wouldn’t have been possible without them. I am constantly telling people how happy I am here and how much I love every aspect of this school. The only bad thing is that there are so many projects, events, and organizations that I want to be involved in, but I don’t have enough time!
How is campus life? What do you like to do?
The Bog is such a fun place to hang out! You really can’t beat free pool, bowling, and video games. And the relaxation zone that was set up during finals was a life saver! The massage chairs melted away all the stress that built up from the hours of studying. Whenever I have a spare hour or two, I like to go to the gym because I feel it’s important to keep a good balance of physical fitness and studying.
Thinking about the resources provided to you by your Department (labs, faculty, networking and career events, competitions), what do you find most valuable and why?
The most exciting day I have had at Illinois Tech was when I was able to attend a live stream Google seminar hosted by an IIT Alumni in Mountainview, CA. He graduated from our very own ITM department. Using Hangouts, we were able to ask several Google employees questions about how to land Google internships and what it’s like to work at a renowned tech company like theirs.
I am always receiving emails regarding big-name companies and corporations visiting Illinois Tech to recruit our students. Companies like to recruit at Illinois Tech because they know we are hard-working and intelligent individuals. I try to attend as many of these career events as possible. The JobsForHawks website is also an extremely handy tool that I can use in my search for my dream technology job.
What were your concerns about coming to Illinois Tech?
Do/did you have an on-campus job? If so, what?
I work in Galvin Library as a student library researcher and as a junior computer support tech in Tech South. I really love both of these jobs because my supervisors and co-workers are friendly and helpful. I really appreciate using my brain on the job instead of physical labor because I was a food server for years in high-volume restaurants and that was stressful on my body and well-being.
What type of projects or innovation have you done while at Illinois Tech?
I designed and built a Smart Mirror using an old Android device and a Two-way mirror. I programmed an app onto the device using Android Studio that used Wi-Fi to display real-time data, weather, and other information. I mounted it to the back of a two-way mirror so that when you look in the mirror, you can see weather, email, news, and personal schedule information. It even used facial recognition to tell you to smile if you look like you’re having a rough day! This was an amazing DIY (do it yourself) project that Professor Hajek recommended for me and it is one of my favorite things I have ever built.
How have you applied what you learned at Illinois Tech to your job?
I have become an expert at researching for scholarly articles in journals. My tech classes have also prepared me very well for my job in the Tech South server room. I am constantly learning new things about technology every day.
What is your proudest moment as a student?
My proudest moment was realizing that I was on the Dean’s List and I was asked to be a Student Ambassador for the ITM Department. I am very honored that they recruited me to be an example of excellence for the department and I hope to do my absolute best to make Illinois Tech proud.
If I could do 1 thing over again it would be.
Take more than 15 credit hours in the semesters that I have been here!
What is the biggest challenge you faced as a student?
As an older, non-traditional student, sometimes it is challenging to keep up with how fast the younger students are and how much more knowledge they have about current technologies and programs. But I work very hard at absorbing all the knowledge I can and I learn a lot through networking and asking questions.
What do you want to do when you graduate?
My goal is to land a career at Google because I really admire their progressive work environment and their commitment to diversity in the workplace. As a woman in a STEM field, this is very important to me. I feel like if I work hard enough, I can land my dream IT job at their headquarters in California and enjoy the West Coast sunshine.
Advice for other students:
I usually tell other students to take full advantage of all the great clubs, organizations, and resources at Illinois Tech because employers like seeing that on a resume. Plus you can get some great experience in working with a team, project management, event planning, etc. And always talk to your professors and advisers! Don’t be scared, they are here to help and more than happy to help you succeed in the class. Make sure to network and attend the career fairs. Make use of the library and the Idea Shop!