TITLE: A Milestone for Our Student Population
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: December 03, 2005 10:33 PM
DESC: ThoughtWorks may not be Google, but placing one of our graduates there is still a milestone for our CS program.
I teach at a "comprehensive university", one of those
primarily undergraduate institutions that falls outside
of the Research I classification whose schools dominate
the mind share of the computer science world. After
graduation, most of our students become software
practitioners at companies in Iowa and the midwestern
Last spring, I was excited when one of my M.S. students
became the first student at our university to receive
a job offer from Google. I may not have been more
excited than he was, but then again maybe I was... His
thesis presented some novel work on algorithms for
automatic route planning of snow removal operations,
an important topic for road departments in my part of
the world, and Google found him a promising developer
for Google Maps. As an advisor and faculty member,
I was filled with pride -- perhaps a false pride.
Look at this validation of my work!
Imagine my disappointment when, for a variety of
personal and pragmatic reasons, my student turned
Google down. I sympathized with his difficult
choice, but where's the caché for me in
"I was the advisor of a student who almost
worked for Google"? What about my needs?
Today my excitement was renewed when I found that
a former undergraduate student
of mine has accepted an offer from ThoughtWorks.
In the software world, ThoughtWorks is known as
one of the cooler consulting firms out there.
Like Google, it seems to hire up lots of the
interesting folks, especially in the OO and agile
circles I frequent.
Chris approached Thoughtworks through its
program, aimed at attracting promising recent
graduates. He is just the sort of student that
programs like this seek: a guy who has demonstrated
potential in classwork and research, even though
he doesn't come from a Big-Name Institution. His
undergraduate research project on the construction
zoomable user interfaces
won the award for undergraduate scientific research
at our university, an award that usually goes to a
student in the hard sciences.
Universities like ours are a relatively untapped
resource for advanced technology companies. Our
best students are as strong as the best students
anywhere. The only problem is that many of them
don't have a big enough vision of what they can
accomplish in the world. Turning their vision
whether in start-ups or established firms, is
the key. It's one of my major goals for our
department over the next three years.
I can take some pride in knowing that my courses
in object-oriented programming and agile software
development probably helped this student attract
some attention from the folks at ThoughtWorks, but
I know that it's these students themselves who make
opportunities for themselves. As an educator, my
job is to help them to see just how big the world
of ideas and opportunities really is.