What does it mean to you to be an engineer?
Being an engineer is a lifelong pursuit that requires updating your knowledge on a continual basis and an eagerness to face new challenges.
How is your field being redefined for today and tomorrow’s needs? What contributions do you hope to make to this redefined landscape?
I’ve witnessed enormous changes since I completed my undergraduate degree in 1983. Back then, I was interested in computers but there really was no dedicated course of study, so I had to major in electrical engineering. I had good jobs at the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, a radio network and a maker of scientific instruments, and I ultimately became a systems architect at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Still, I began to feel that something was missing. I had learned a lot as an electrical engineering major, certainly enough to do very well in my career, but I wanted to know the theory behind the computer science I was doing on a daily basis. That’s what prompted me to return to school, and luckily, by then, computer science and engineering had become a popular course of study. That’s a change I was happy to see.
How did NYU Tandon help you redefine yourself?
I’m currently a manager of search engineering and information retrieval at IBM, and while I hadn’t exactly been looking for a new career, it aligned perfectly with my area of academic research. (I have to admit that it wasn’t easy to conduct doctoral studies while working full time, but I’m glad I persevered.) So Tandon definitely set me on that new path. Additionally, because I’ve also been teaching courses here as an adjunct, I’ve gotten to see how rewarding that is; there’s really nothing like hearing that you helped a student or changed their life, and Tandon opened up that possibility for me.