Cornell University
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Carolyn Chu, InfoSci Ugrad Alum

Carolyn Chu

Affiliation: Information Science, Systems, and Technology (ISST)

Hometown: East Brunswick, NJ

Why did you choose Cornell?

I chose Cornell for a number of reasons, top among them being because I knew it had a great Engineering school and was strong in many disciplines. That was important to me because I had no idea what kind of technical major I wanted, but I did know that I wanted a good education. I also loved the campus when I visited and was convinced to come after attending the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Prospective Candidates Weekend.

What did you want to know about Cornell before you came here?

I wanted to know about what life was like as an actual student and if it was going to be a good fit for me. For example, I worried about things like whether or not students were cutthroat or what kinds of opportunities were available outside of the classroom. I happily discovered that students were more collaborative than cutthroat and that there were far too many exciting opportunities outside the classroom to fit into a 24-hour day.

Why are you majoring in InfoSci? What is your concentration?

After considering all manner of technical majors ranging from Computer Science to Materials Science, I decided on Information Science, Systems, and Technology (ISST) with a concentration in Human Centered Systems. When comparing required coursework for the different majors, I found myself most excited about InfoSci courses like Human Computer Interaction, Intermediate Web Design, and Rapid Prototyping. ISST is also a very cross-disciplinary major so I was able to take a balanced load of technical and non-technical courses in a number of different areas that I was interested in.

What research projects are you working on?

I didn't do any undergraduate research during my time at Cornell, but I did work on countless projects for class. My favorite one was the vertical axis wind turbine with interactive LED lights that I built as a semester-long project for Rapid Prototyping.

Is there a particular faculty member in InfoSci who has influenced your educational experience?

There were two key people in InfoSci who impacted my experience the most. First, my advisor, Francois Guimbretiere, introduced me to the world of Rapid Prototyping and always pushed me to consider what kind of work I wanted to do after graduation. Second, InfoSci's wonderful undergraduate major coordinator, Amy Sindone, was always there supporting me in any way she could, whether it was convincing the department to help sponsor my travel to a conference or helping me make the tough decision of dropping a course in the fall and taking one in the winter instead.

What other activities were you involved in around campus or around Ithaca?

During my time in Cornell, I was an Outreach Director for the Society of Women Engineers for two years and a Co-President during my senior year. I also captained a co-ed intramural soccer team for two years and participated in the Cornell Table Tennis Club. I spent many semesters enjoying Cornell Outdoor Education PE courses and martial arts courses.

What was your greatest moment or accomplishment at Cornell?

My greatest accomplishment at Cornell was growing SWE's Outreach Directorship from around nine events annually to around thirty-two and successfully managing a team of fifty event chairs to run these events. I could see the impact I was making by inspiring young girls to consider STEM fields, and I plan to continue staying involved in SWE. In fact, I will be attending the annual SWE conference this year as a part of the Johnson & Johnson Women in STEM group.

What did you like about living in Ithaca?

I loved the natural beauty of Ithaca and the fact that it is one of the safest places to live. I also miss how you can walk or take the bus to pretty much anywhere you need.

How did you make it work financially?

Although my parents paid for most of my expenses, I had some student loans and also held jobs/internships over the summers and worked as a supervisor at the RPCC Service Desk during one academic year. I actually consider my experiences working for Cornell Conference Services for two summers and my internship at Johnson & Johnson as more valuable than the money I made doing those jobs.

What are you doing now that you've graduated?

I currently work at Johnson & Johnson as a part of their Information Technology Leadership Development Program. For my first rotation, I am in the Global Command Center on the Incident Management team at Raritan, NJ. I work on metrics and reporting for our Critical Response Team, create dashboards for senior leadership, manage our relationship with a vendor's Quality Assurance team, and am helping implement a new component in our incident and service request system.

What would you recommend about this program to potential students who are thinking about majoring in InfoSci?

I would recommend students explore the major with a few introductory courses like Communication and Technology or any of the web design courses to see if they are interested in these areas. There are many potential paths to follow in the major - some like the research aspect, others prefer design work or evaluating user interfaces, while others have an entrepreneurial flare and want to use emerging technologies in new and exciting ways. The breadth of opportunities and possible career paths makes Information Science one of the best majors to have. It doesn't hurt that despite a tough economy, InfoSci majors are in high demand.

Did you do any InfoSci related internships or projects with companies?

Between my junior and senior year, I had an IT internship at Johnson & Johnson in their Enterprise Portfolio Management Office (EPMO). I worked on a number of projects that included creating a proof-of-concept data visualization tool and designing and generating Preliminary Business Planning (PBP) templates for the VPs and CIO to make decisions on $2 billion worth of IT investments. I actually enjoyed my internship so much that I didn't want to return for fall semester.

Describe your experience finding a job.

I found many opportunities on CCNet that matched my skills and interests and followed the interview process for each of those positions. As I made it through to second round interviews, I tried to speak to as many people from the companies I was considering as I could to get a better feel for what working there would be like. Once I had all of my offers in hand, I did a bit of soul searching and decided on Johnson & Johnson's ITLDP program because I felt that it was the best fit for my interests and goals. My advice to students looking for an internship or a full-time job would be to make sure you allocate enough time in your schedule for the application processes and take into consideration how much class you will miss when flying out for interviews. I think there was at least a whole month when I was gone two days a week for interviews.

How do you use your IS education now that you're out in the "real world"?

I don't necessarily use the course-specific knowledge that I learned in Cornell, but what does come in handy is the ability to analyze data and quickly pick up and learn new systems to start delivering results. Having technical knowledge and a background in HCI (Human Computer Interaction) helps me better understand the applications I use and enables me to devise better and more efficient solutions to problems. For example, I use an application called ServiceNow at work, and having a basic understanding of databases helped me quickly pick up runningqueries and reports in the system. After playing with the reporting tool more to grasp how the UI works, I figured out how to join certain tables to generate metrics that the team previously calculated by hand.