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. ----- BODY: 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 U.S. 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 ThoughtWorks University 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 of 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 outward, toward entrepreneurial opportunities 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. -----