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.

First computer mouse
Douglas Engelbart
Douglas Engelbart

In 1967, Douglas Engelbart applied for a patent for an "X-Y position indicator for a display system," which he and his team developed at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in Menlo Park, California. The device, a small, wooden box with two metal wheels, was nicknamed a "mouse" because a cable trailing out of the one end resembled a tail.

In addition to the first computer mouse, Engelbart’s team developed computer interface concepts that led to the GUI interface, and were integral to the development of ARPANET--the precursor to today’s Internet. Engelbart received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Oregon State University in 1948, followed by an MS in 1953 and a Ph.D. in 1955 both from the University of California, Berkeley.

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

King's Quest
Roberta Williams

Video games immerse users in a world of high tech thrills, stunning visuals, unique challenges, and interactivity. They enable users to become a warrior princess or a gruesome ghoul, create a virtual persona, or even develop worlds that other gamers can play on. But before the games of today became reality, they were the dreams of a few innovative individuals.

Roberta Williams is considered one of the pioneers of gaming as we know it today. During the 80’s and 90’s along with husband Ken Williams through their company On-Line Systems, she developed some of the first graphical adventure games. These included such titles as Mystery House, Wizard and the Princess and the popular King’s Quest series. Williams also helped introduce more girls and women to the world of gaming by bringing games developed from a woman’s perspective to mainstream market.

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.

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