This Month's Featured Resources...


ChristmasHistory BundleChristmas Latin Latin Calendar

Monday, July 31

A Day at the Office With..................a Computer Scientist


As part of our new series, "A Day at the Office," we are interviewing people about their chosen career paths and how they got to where they are today.  Our hope is to bring some perspective and inspiration to middle and high school students beginning to form an answer to the age-old question, "What do you want to do when you grow up?"

Today, we are featuring a Computer Scientist who works with analytical software at SAS

1. Hi Eddie, please tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Eddie Rowe. I was born in the Chicago suburbs and grew up in Asheville, NC. As a child, I enjoyed board games, swimming, roller skating, nintendo, and playing football in our socks at a friend's house. I live in Cary, NC just outside of Raleigh with my wife and sheepdog. I work at SAS Institute, a world-leader in business intelligence software.

2. How did you first get involved with computers?
My brother bought an Atari-400 and I "inherited" it after he upgraded to a Commodore-64. I would try to follow the programming recipes in a book we had in the house, but mostly I just played games. It did introduce me to what in today's language is called "the art of the possible" - that computers can do a lot of things for us, so we can always try to see what we can get them to do.

3. Everyone has their own story. Who or what would you say has influenced you the most?
A handful come to mind. My Dad is a huge influence. He is a tirelessly selfless person. He taught me the value of giving your time for others. He also taught me much about self-reliance, how to cook, how to use power-tools, and how to be a maker. At least a fourth of the furniture in our house growing up was made by Dad. Another influence on me is my brother who demonstrates how to be both personally successful and a man a strong family and faith.

4. Which question about your job do you get most often from other folks, and how do you answer it?
"What is it you'd say you do here?" The official answer is "lots of stuff." (better answers in #6)

5. Computer scientists can have a variety of jobs. Can you describe some of them, and what is your role?
My official tasks include supporting the primary product sold by the division in which I work. SAS is a company that produces its own software language for statistical data analysis. We also produce software programs that facilitate using the SAS language for certain tasks. One of those is the SAS Fraud Framework which is web-based and allows our customers to interact with the reports and analysis that we prepare for them. The facets of my job are writing SAS code to create the reports and analysis, and writing additional code that populates the web display for customer use.

6. Describe your typical day on the job. What is your favorite part about your job?
My favorite part of my job is that I'm not limited to my specified tasks. After nearly seven years here, I have been able to acquire some latitude to look through our processes and our programming and find key places where significant improvements can be made and make them. I still do the typical customer interactions like my peers, but at least 50% of my time is being a "force multiplier" as described by my manager. (A coworker at my last job would say "we make things more better."). Something I completed recently is using what I know about processing efficiency to rewrite a significant portion of our healthcare provider networking algorithms to perform 85% faster. (What used to take 350 hours to run, now only takes 52 - still a long time, but we talking about data tables with half-of-a-trillion records in them.) But, generally I spend time at my computer writing code and helping my coworkers to do the same.

7. What sort of training and education did you complete?
On my own as a teenager and at Summer Ventures, I learned the BASIC programming language. I have undergraduate degrees in Science Education and Physics. While in college I learned C++ and dabbled in Matlab and Maple. I was originally a high school math and science teacher. I went back to school for a Master's degree in Applied Mathematics which is where I learned most of what I know about computational efficiency as well as a firm foundation in Matlab. I worked at a web-company and learned MySQL and Perl on the job as well as Mathematica. I went back to school again for a Master's degree in Analytics where I completed several courses related to my current industry as well as successful certification in Basic and Advanced SAS Programming.

8. If you had to give a single piece of advice to a young person looking toward computer science as a career option, what would it be?
Learn SQL and *at least* one other language. Many languages and operating systems are available open source which is great. Get a unix computer, install a web-server, and start writing database-driven webpages using SQL and either Perl or PHP. Learn javascript. Learn mobile web development. There are a lot of technologies that are easily accessible for free on the web for learning purposes. And cheap computers like the Raspberry Pi make the hardware accessible, too. Build a website, build a mobile-app, get an arduino and make some servos move. And, *take a logic course* Learn what the opposite of "A and B" is.

9. Where do you see yourself / your family in 10 years?
I'd like to have traveled more in the next 10 years than I have in the last 10.

10. What makes you happy?
Mild weather, swimming, routine, good conversation, making things - especially making things for others. 


11. Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself, your journey, or how to pursue a career in the computer science?

Like most careers the people who truly stand out technically are the ones who immerse themselves in what they do. The difference between interest and passion. We all hope to be blessed to work in a field that interests us. But the things you're passionate about are the ones you'll do on your own. I do a lot of programming and web-development pro bono for the NCHSAA and a dog-rescue for which I volunteer because I enjoy it. It's a good way to know you're in the right field. 

One caveat to that is a great piece of advice I heard from Mike Rowe. "Don't follow your passion, but always bring it with you." Your passion may be stained glass window repair, but how many of those opportunities are there really? You may find yourself doing something that's hard to be passionate about, say, septic tank cleaner. But bring your passion with you. Passion for a job well-done, a well-pleased customer, and a well-regarded coworker. Which brings me to my second point. Standing out technically is not enough to stand out. Those that truly shine in industry are the ones who are not only superbly capable, but those who make others around them better. Share what you know - when asked. Find ways to make everyone else better.

As you can see, there is a lot to the field of Computer Science.  We hope that this has helped you to understand the career just a little bit better.  Discover more about Computer Science as a career path here!
Post a Comment