Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Tyler Kieft

kieftName: Tyler Kieft

Age: 25

Occupation: Software Engineer

Education (UR and additional): B.S. Electrical and Computer Engineering, 2010 University of Rochester

Current job title: Software Engineer

Current employer: Facebook

Current city/state of residence: San Francisco, CA

When and how did you choose your major(s)?

When I left high school, I thought I wanted to study biology, but I had an internship at IBM the summer before college that made me also very interested in Electrical Engineering. Unable to choose, I decided to take the intro classes for both ECE and BME my first semester. It was soon clear that I enjoyed ECE much more, so I stuck with that. I had also always loved programming, so I opted for a minor in Computer Science as well.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

Before I graduated, I started working on a startup company in the speech recognition space with a cofounder whom I had met at a job fair. Scholarships I had received at Rochester allowed me to graduate without debt, so I decided to take the risk and pursue that full-time after graduation. I figured if it didn’t work out I’d be only slightly worse-off. It was an awesome ride and I learned more in the two years I was doing that than I could have in any entry-level job.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

Right now, I work as a Software Engineer at Facebook. I work on their mobile apps. I’ve always loved to code, and I really enjoy making stuff that people will use. Writing software is not just about getting things to work, it’s about coming up with a simple, elegant, fast, functional solution. There’s no other place in the world where I can make products that will be used by as many people as I can at Facebook.

How do you balance your work and personal life?

Since I spend so much time on the computer at work, I try to do things that don’t involve a screen when I get home. Reading, hiking, running, and roaming aimlessly around the city are some of my favorite activities. Two tips: make sure to use the vacation time that you’re given, and don’t be afraid to say “no” if someone asks you to get something done in an unreasonable timeframe. People will respect you if you set boundaries.

What advice do you have for current Hajim School students about their time on campus, graduate study, or the first few years after college?

Don’t spend all of your time in classes. Use the resources of the University – faculty, other students, and extensive labs and library materials – to pursue independent work of some sort. As an engineer, this means you should go build something. Not only will you feel a sense of accomplishment from this endeavor, but you’ll have something that will make you stand out from other candidates when you start looking for jobs. Employers care about what you can do, not just what classes you’ve taken.

Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Brandon Jasionowski

UntitledName: Brandon Jasionowski

Occupation: Electrical Engineer

Education (UR and additional): BSEE 2002, MSEE 2004

Current job title: Systems Engineer

Current employer: Azure Summit Technology

Current city/state of residence:  Fairfax, VA

Family: Engaged

Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

My introduction to UR was quite interesting. In high school I was looking primarily at schools with good engineering programs. One summer weekend my father took me to an overnight event at RIT. Before leaving on Sunday we spontaneously decided to check out the University and tour the facilities, as we heard good things from our neighbor, who was in her 2nd year of attendance. I was impressed by the campus atmosphere and had a gut reaction that I should attend.

When and how did you choose your major(s)?

I decided to pursue electrical engineering when I was a junior in high school, since I always had a passion for computers and electronics. I believe I was encouraged to do so due to my early exposure to engineering (tinker toys, erector sets) and computers (8086 computer when I was about 5).

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

In my junior year of undergrad (2001) the job market was not particularly rosy following the tech boom bust. After some thought, I thought it prudent to pursue a master’s degree. I decided to stay at UR to further my education because I really liked the school and electrical engineering department. I also had a great network of friends that decided to stay for advanced degrees as well. After graduate school I found a position in Rome/Syracuse for a small defense contractor. I found my master’s degree quite helpful in differentiating me from the work force.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I’m a systems engineer for a small R&D technology firm in the DC metro area. I straddle the hardware/software boundary, often working with embedded hardware and writing software for modeling (Matlab/Python) or application development (Python/C++). It’s very fulfilling because I don’t perform the same monotonous task every day and working for a small company gives you a lot of flexibility.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

The most useful skill I learned at the university was the ability to perform independent research. I’m often tasked with implementing algorithms for a technology area that I’m not very familiar with or is relatively new. This requires me to study a subject and achieve the task with little input from my manager. It’s easy to learn a programming language in college for example, but technology evolves and engineers are required to continually adopt new skills and learn new subject areas all the time. The university helped foster this ability.