MS MIT '09
Please tell us about your current position. What do you enjoy most about your job? What do you find most challenging? How has your experience in the M.S. in MIT program been helpful or contributed to your career progression?
I’m the CEO of Growing Technologies, LLC. We are a small software development company based in Charlottesville. Prior to becoming the CEO, I was the COO, Director of Technology, and Senior Developer.
I enjoy the breadth of my work. Though we are small, we work on a variety of interesting projects: a billboard management application for a state department of transportation, an interactive wastewater simulation application funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, and a teacher recruitment and placement application, to name a few.
On any given day I reach out to and meet with prospective clients in a business development role, gather requirements and acquire domain knowledge for various projects, write code, assist our developers in solving specific problems, perform quality assurance testing, and carry out all of the necessary administrative functions required in running a small business.
I find delegation the most challenging aspect of my work. Given my background as a developer, I have a tendency to solve problems that our developers could solve themselves. When I step back, I often find that not only do they solve the problem, but they solve it in a different and better way than I might have.
I wouldn’t be the CEO if I hadn’t completed the M.S. in MIT program. When I started the program I was the Director of Technology, focused heavily on writing code and managing and mentoring developers with limited involvement in client relationships or business operations. The M.S. in MIT program helped me understand the business side of the software development industry, allowing me to expand my role in the company.
What were your favorite parts of the program? What were the most important things you took from your time at McIntire?
Of most value from the program was learning how executives think and how to engage and work with them. Executives have a significantly different mindset, and being able to understand the executive perspective has been critical.
I particularly enjoyed the coursework on decision-making and finance. Understanding cognitive biases in concert with learning about decision-making frameworks for improved judgement is something I use in my personal and professional life daily.
Among the most important things I took from my time at McIntire was understanding people’s motivations. Knowing what drives your colleague, boss, employee or client is essential to meeting their needs and getting the job done. As an employer, I try to align what motivates our staff with the work we do.
What advice/words of wisdom do you have for current M.S. in MIT students who are considering either a job change or career change now that they are working towards the M.S. in MIT degree?
There’s no rush. One of the wonderful things about the program is the breadth of information that you are exposed to. Take your time in determining what job or career path excites and energizes you.
I decided not to leave my employer during or after the program. Instead, I found that I had new energy to take on different problems and explore areas in which I had no previous experience. The results have been very rewarding.
Lastly, consider whether your new position would be in a cost center or a revenue center. This may sound obvious, but businesses always try to keep their costs down. If one of your career objectives is to earn more, know that employers will typically pay more for those in a revenue center as opposed to a cost center, even if it is the same job description and skill level.