Jennifer Schweers, BS

Spencerport, NY

Degree earned at WPI:
BS, Computer Science
Minor in Philosophy and Computer Engineering

Degrees earned from other institutions:
Master’s of Human-Computer Interaction, Carnegie Mellon University

Why did you choose to attend WPI?
I loved the campus, I wanted to be at a small school, and they covered my tuition.

How did your studies and experiences at WPI prepare you for graduate school?
I did a master’s in human-computer interaction, which mixes computer science, user experience research and design. The technical aspects of the degree were nothing surprising and nothing I wasn’t prepared for after WPI. CMU does semesters, which felt pretty mellow compared to WPI; it’s such a different pace from seven-week terms. Absorbing the habits of time management, getting work done but not burning out, is likely the most professionally useful thing I learned at WPI.

My program at CMU was a terminal master’s, aimed at people who would be going (back) to industry, so it required a capstone project in lieu of a thesis. This project was structured similarly to an IQP or MQP: a small team, an external client, a span of part-time preparation followed by a span of full-time project work. Having gone through the IQP and MQP and a couple years of work, this was work I could handle. It was startling to observe classmates who had gotten through their undergrad work without learning to be professional – basic things like running a call with a client. Another side benefit of the projects was becoming more comfortable with public speaking, which has turned out to be quite useful both in grad school and at work.

Present job title and employer:
I am a senior software developer at athenahealth, a company in Watertown, MA that does software as a service for medical practices. I work on athenaClinicals, our web-based electronic medical record. I’m delighted to be working in health care, having a job that’s making life easier for doctors and helping them better care for patients.

How do you feel your experiences at WPI prepared you for working in your field?
My first job opportunity out of school grew directly out my MQP. I went away to the Silicon Valley project center and did my MQP at eBay. At the end of senior year, someone I’d met there called to say he needed an intern and asked if I’d like to come back to eBay. I did, ended up getting hired full-time, and stayed there for three years. It worked out well.

The daily work I do currently is a direct outgrowth of my education: web development, scripting, querying, feature design, reviewing code. CS courses at WPI gave me a lot of practice working fast and diligently, qualities my current supervisors have commented on.

How has WPI’s philosophy of Theory and Practice, and working with teams, prepared you for facing real-world challenges in the workplace or graduate school?
WPI prepared me well to work in my field – sometimes in terms of learning specific skills, but also in terms of learning to deal with deadlines, self-directed projects, and rocky team dynamics.

Groups or extracurricular activities you participate in at WPI:

  • Crew
  • New Voices Drama Festival
  • Tennis
  • Tau Beta Pi

Academic or professional awards you have received:

  • Salisbury Prize
  • Dr. Neil G. Sullivan Memorial Scholarship
  • Trustee’s Scholarship
  • Recognized for high performance within the department and across the company at athena and eBay.

Additional comments:
WPI prepared me to be successful in my field. More personally, however, most of my close friends are people I first met at WPI (as is my lovely husband), and I’m lucky to have them around. I look back on my time there with a lot of fondness.

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