Career Profiles

Explore profiles of real professionals and students to learn how they got started, what they love about computing, and all about the fascinating work they do.
Nita Patel

Nita Patel

Systems and Software Engineering Manager, Londonderry, United States

Degree(s):

M.S.Cp.E. Computer Engineering; December 1998; Southern Methodist University; Dallas, Texas
B.S.E.E. Electrical Engineering; Magna Cum Laude; May 1995; Southern Methodist University; Dallas, Texas
B.S. Mathematics; Magna Cum Laude; May 1995; Southern Methodist University; Dallas, Texas
“Learn to appreciate failures as much as you do the successes and never give up an opportunity to experiment or try something new.”

For as long as I can remember, I have loved trying to figure out how things work. My mother stressed that my two younger sisters and I learn all kinds of creative skills while growing up (e.g., cross-stitching, sewing, making our own toys or working on home repairs). We tackled a new project/skill each summer. I really enjoyed those creative projects and found that it was fascinating to learn how to learn, apply and adjust. This is the essence of engineering.

I love my job because it is part management and part technical. Not only do I get to lead and provide support to incredibly talented individuals, but I also get to work on advancing technology and developing mission-critical capabilities for our warfighters. As a systems engineer, I have the opportunity to work with many different disciplines and get to help pull the pieces together. It is the ultimate jigsaw puzzle and it is lots of fun.

Working on the NEXRAD Doppler radar network has been one of my favorite projects. It was a fascinating multi-year, multi-discipline, multi-agency, hardware/software upgrade to the National Weather Service radar network. I worked on the design, integration and final deployment with theorists, engineers, technicians, and meteorologists. The mix of ideas, skills and facilities was fascinating. My husband and I drove across country on one of our summer vacations, I would point out all the radars in the network that we passed (we even stopped at a couple of sites to support installation and/or troubleshooting).

I enjoy volunteering with IEEE (currently I am the IEEE Women in Engineering International Chair, serve on the Computer Society Board of Governors and serve on the IEEE Eta Kappa Nu Board of Governors). I also volunteer quite a bit with Toastmasters International, which helps me to keep growing my communication and leadership skills. Outside of work, IEEE and Toastmasters, I enjoy playing in and directing chess tournaments (http://www.relyeachess.com), taking cross-country drives with my husband, reading and eating all sorts of ice cream flavors.

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Turing machine
Alan Mathison Turing
Alan Mathison Turing

Did you know that computing has been used in military espionage and has even influenced the outcome of major wars? Alan Mathison Turing designed the code breaking machine that enabled the deciphering of German communications during WWII. As per the words of Winston Churchill, this would remain the single largest contribution to victory. In addition, he laid the groundwork for visionary fields such as automatic computing engines, artificial intelligence and morphogenesis. Despite his influential work in the field of computing, Turing experienced extreme prejudice during his lifetime regarding his sexual orientation. There is no doubt that computers are ubiquitously part of our lives due to the infusion of Turing’s contributions.

MATLAB graph
Cleve Moler

Cleve Moler improved the quality and accessibility of mathematical software and created a highly respected software system called MATLAB. He was a professor of mathematics and computer science for almost 20 years at the University of Michigan, Stanford University, and the University of New Mexico. In the late 1970’s to early 1980’s he developed several mathematical software packages to support computational science and engineering. These packages eventually formed the basis of MATLAB, a programming environment for algorithm development, data analysis, visualization, and numerical computation. MATLAB can be used to solve technical computing problems faster than with traditional programming languages, such as C, C++, and Fortran. Today, Professor Moler spends his time writing books, articles, and MATLAB programs.

Listen to what Professor Moler has to say about his life’s work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IT5umwNSAxE

Punch card from a COBOL program
Jean Sammet

Jean E. Sammet was one of the first developers and researchers in programming languages. During the 1950’s - 1960’s she supervised the first scientific programming group for Sperry Gyroscope Co. and served as a key member of the original COBOL (COmmon Business-Oriented Language) committee at Sylvania Electric Products. She also taught one of the first graduate programming courses in the country at Adelphi College. After joining IBM in 1961, she developed and directed the first FORMAC (FORmula MAnipulation Compiler). This was the first widely used general language and system for manipulating nonnumeric algebraic expressions. In 1979 she began handling Ada activities for IBM’s Federal Systems Division. Ada is a structured, object-oriented high-level computer programming language, designed for large, long-lived applications, where reliability and efficiency are paramount. Jean has a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College and an M.A. from the University of Illinois, both in Mathematics. She received an honorary D.Sc. from Mount Holyoke (1978).

Cursor
James Dammann

If you have used a word processor today, moved your mouse on your laptop, dragged an object around on your smartphone, or highlighted a section of text on your tablet, you can thank Jim Dammann. In 1961 during his second year at IBM and just one year after completing his PhD, Jim created the concept of what today we all take for granted -- the cursor. This idea he documented in utilizing the cursor within word processing operations.

After retiring from IBM, Jim went on to inspire future generations of software engineers at Florida Atlantic University. His work there too demonstrated his creativity for he spent considerable effort enhancing their software engineering program by integrating ideas and feedback from local industries into the University curricular. Today, Jim lives in the Westlake Hills west of Austin Texas and spends most of his time in his art studio. He wrote and published The Opaque Decanter, a collection of poems about art, which provided a new view at part of art history.

Gordon and SenseCam QUT
Gordon Bell
Gordon and SenseCam QUT

Gordon Bell is a pioneering computer designer with an influential career in industry, academia and government. He graduated from MIT with a degree in electrical engineering. From 1960, at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), he designed the first mini- and time-sharing computers and was responsible for DEC's VAX as Vice President of R&D, with a 6 year sabbatical at Carnegie Mellon University. In 1987, as NSF’s first, Ass't Director for Computing (CISE), he led the National Research Network panel that became the Internet. Bell maintains three interests: computing, lifelogging, and startup companies—advising over 100 companies. He is a Fellow of the, Association of Computing Machinery, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, and four academies. He received The 1991 National Medal of Technology. He is a founding trustee of the Computer History Museum, Mountain View, CA. and is an Researcher Emeritus at Microsoft. His 3 word descriptor: Computing my life; computing, my life.

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