Ian Williams, BS
Degree earned at WPI:
BS, Computer Science and Interactive Media and Game Development
Why did you choose to attend WPI?
I just had a gut feeling that I would fit in really well there. The main thing was my impression of the students and professors I talked with. I really hit it off with them, and I knew that would be very important to my success and happiness once I got there.
I knew I was going to go for computer science, but I was also interested in game development. Because WPI had game development as well, I could do a double major with the two. This really helped make my decision to choose WPI.
Software Development Engineer for Microsoft
How do you feel your experiences at WPI prepared you for working in your field?
I felt very well prepared for my current position, which was evident long before I graduated. While interning, I already felt technically ready. By the time I finished my sophomore year, I felt competent and ready to handle many challenges. After that, what became more important was learning more about the engineering process itself from a social aspect.
In terms of working here at Microsoft, everyone is technically competent; everyone can get the job done, but what makes the difference is working well with everyone else. It doesn’t matter how good you are if you can‘t work in a team environment to accomplish things. Being an engineer is so much more than just having the core knowledge. WPI was most useful in providing the experiences to apply this knowledge.
There are a couple things I could bring up in every job interview that were “gold.” The first was a software engineering course with Professor Pollice involving 13-student teams that really reflected reality because of the collaborative structure. It was less about the work you did and more about how you accomplished this work within the team context. The second was the IQP and MQP. Both were intriguing to interviewers.
By the end of my first semester of senior year, I had six job offers. Thanks to the Career Development Center (CDC), I didn’t have to pursue a single job opportunity beyond what they handed me. They know what they’re doing and they are a huge part of the success of WPI students.
How has WPI’s philosophy of Theory and Practice, and working with teams, prepared you for facing real-world challenges in the workplace?
In my course work at WPI, I took many deep theoretical courses only loosely connected to my work now, but very useful – especially in the interviewing process. The first “bar” interviewers set seems to be the technical competency bar; by having a strong theoretical background, you’re able to blow through that step and easily excel there. The second “bar” is the “practice” step; this is where the IQP and MQP were extremely useful. Your experiences at WPI set you up to nail an interview in regards to both theory and practice.
At Microsoft, you have a very high technical competency level in all its employees and among its team members. At WPI, you had many different levels of skills and approaches within teams, which was actually more challenging and therefore prepared you well for the challenges you might meet in the work place. You learned to appreciate others’ mindsets and see that there were other valid ways to look at, and solve, a problem.
Groups or extracurricular activities you participate in at WPI:
- President (2010-11), Events Coordinator (2009-2010): Association for Computing Machinery
- New Member Educator, Interim Herald: Sigma Pi Fraternity International
- Web Chair: Inter Fraternity Council
- Ultimate Frisbee Club
Academic or professional awards you have received:
- Neil Sullivan Memorial Scholarship: Second Place
- Charles O. Thompson Scholar
Personally, what I love about WPI from a purely educational standpoint is the flexibility in the curriculum and how you choose to structure your education. If you have some notions about what you like and don’t like, everything is structured in such a way that you can pursue your interests and not be forced to go through classes you don’t care about. WPI’s system, especially the CS department, allows you to be flexible, to try things out, step out of your comfort zone, and pursue things that interest you. That is very valuable.
Equally important is looking at how a college looks socially. This is where you are going to live, where you are going to make friends, where you are going to make your first professional contacts. WPI has an awesome community. The number of organizations and extracurricular activities is amazing. It is a place you will find like-minded people and be able to pursue your interests.