December 4, 2005Her job: Computer Engineer, Harvard University
Describe what you do in your current work situation?
I am now an associate professor of computer science at Harvard University, in our division of engineering and applied sciences.
Why did you choose engineering?
I grew up in a small town in rural, upstate, New York. I like to describe it as a place with more cows than people. I was always a good student in math and science, but I had no idea whether that would continue when I left my safe, protected environment. In an effort to figure that out, I went to college at Harvard College, where I studied Applied Mathematics (Harvard did not yet offer an undergraduate degree in Computer Science then).
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have?
B.S. in applied mathematics from Harvard University Ph.D. in computer science from University of California, Berkeley
What do you like best about being an engineer?
Computer Science is the ultimate combination of Engineering and Science. It provides the tangible satisfaction that comes from building things and seeing them run with the thrill of discovery that is the hallmark of scientific exploration. Practicing this combination in an academic environment provides the social interaction that rounds out the ideals of a perfect job for me.
What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals?
I want to continue to do interesting technical work, work with people, and help young people become skilled computer scientists and engineers. While I try to take pride in all my accomplishments, I think the biggest thrill still comes when someone tells me how wonderful my students are.
What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices?
After graduating in 1983, one of my professors encouraged me to go work for a start-up computer company that was building a new computer. This was the beginning of a real career for me and a friendship and mentoring relationship with my former professor that has lasted to this day. I rarely make major career decisions without talking with him and we constantly find our careers interleaving.
Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book.
I have always maintained an active life outside work, playing soccer, studying karate, spending time with my family, and socializing as much as my schedule allows. When you have a job, you have plenty of time for these activities, but when you have a career, you have to make the time, and it's an effort well worth making.