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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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.

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Mark Dean

If you have ever used a PC with a color display you have been acquainted with the work of Mark Dean. After achieving a Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee, Dean began his career at IBM. Dean served as the chief engineer on the team that developed the first IBM PC, for which he currently holds one third of the patents. With colleague Dennis Moeller, he developed the Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) systems bus, which enabled peripheral devices such as printers, keyboards, and modems to be directly connected to computers, making them both affordable and practical. He also developed the Color Graphics Adapter which allowed for color display on the PC. Most recently, Dean spearheaded the team that developed the one-gigahertz processor chip. Dean went on to obtain a MSEE from Florida Atlantic University and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, has been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and is the first African-American IBM Fellow.

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).

RISC processor
John Hennessy
John Hennessy

Have you ever wondered how computers can execute complex commands in mere seconds? John Hennessy is a pioneer of reduced instruction set computing (RISC) architecture which employs small, highly-optimized sets of instructions to greatly enhance computer performance. He was instrumental in transferring the technology, specifically MIPS RISC architecture, to industry. He co-founded MIPS Technologies and co-authored the classic textbook with David A. Patterson, on Computer Architecture.

As Stanford faculty he rose to be the Chairman of the Computer Science Department, Dean of the School of Engineering, then Provost and finally the President of Stanford in 2000 (and till date). Hennessy holds a Master’s and Ph.D. in Computer Science from SUNY Stony Brook. He is an IEEE Fellow and was selected to receive the IEEE Medal of Honor in 2012. Hennessey also launched significant activities that helped to foster interdisciplinary research in the biosciences and bioengineering at Stanford.

Bletchley Park
Dr. Sue Black
Dr. Sue Black

Dr. Sue Black has demonstrated the power of social networking. She used Web 2.0 technologies to help raise awareness of, and critical funding for, Bletchley Park, the UK World War II center for decrypting enemy messages. She has also been an active campaigner for equality and support for women in technology fields, founding a number of online networking platforms for women technology professionals. A keen researcher, Dr. Black completed a PhD in software measurement in 2001. Her research interests focus on software quality improvements. She has recently won the PepsiCo Women's Inspiration Network award, been named Tech Hero by ITPRO magazine and was awarded the first John Ivinson Award from the British Computer Society. In 2011 Dr. Black set up The goto Foundation, a nonprofit organization which aims to make computer science more meaningful to the public, generate public excitement in the creation of software, and build a tech savvy workforce. Read Sue's blog about The goto Foundation: http://gotofdn.org

Liz Gerber - Image credit Lisa Beth Anderson
Liz Gerber
Liz Gerber - Image credit Lisa Beth Anderson

Liz Gerber earned her MS and PhD in Product Design and Management Science and Engineering at Stanford. She specializes in design and human-computer interaction, particularly how social computing supports the innovation process. Her current research investigates crowd-funding as a mechanism for reducing disparities in entrepreneurship.
Gerber's work funded by the US National Science Foundation and the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance has appeared in peer-reviewed journals, including Transactions on Computer Human Interactions, Design Studies, and Organization Science.
As an award-winning teacher and researcher, Liz has touched the lives of more than 6,000 students through her teaching at Northwestern's Segal Design Institute and Stanford University's Hasso Plattner's Institute of Design and through her paradigm-shifting creation, Design for America, a national network of students using design to tackle social challenges.

Image credit - Lisa Beth Anderson

Image credits