Three Minutes with Lynn Mrsny Griffis

Lynn Mrsny Griffis is originally from Norfolk, Nebraska. She started her Scott Scholarship in 1997 as part of the first Scott Scholar class. She graduated from PKI in 2001 with a major in Computer Science and also holds a Master’s in Management Information Systems. She is currently in Omaha affiliated with Aviture. Contact her via Facebook.

It was a great education. Senior level classes were a lot more challenging. You’re meeting a lot of professors. I do like the relationships that I was able to build while I was there. I did a lot of the Business Seminar Series events. You got to ask questions early on to some of the people already in the industry, the business leaders, to have that kind of casual conversation and get a feel for it.

Early on, the Scott Scholarship group was pretty small. Almost everyone was in computer science, so you saw everybody in your classes. Group projects were nice. You had other people who were driven and good students.

We didn’t have the dorm life. PKI wasn’t even there. We attended the ceremony for the opening of PKI; that was a neat event. We all just lived in apartments. It was a little different as far as socializing.

Most of us got internships that first year or second year. Everybody was taking advantage and doing well. I got an internship with Lucent, now Avaya, and I worked there even after I graduated. I think that the balance between the education and learning the business side was such a huge key for me.

It’s not necessarily bad to get experience doing a lot of different things. I’ve worked for three large companies: Lockheed Martin, Union Pacific, and Lucent. It’s just been nice to get the different experience in the different industries. All have been doing the same sort of programming and web development with Java. It’s the business knowledge in each industry that is really interesting to see how the technologies are applied.

Recently, I’m working for Aviture, a software consulting company, that provides services on various DoD contracts. I provide architecture support and software development, having done some of the business development in the past, here in Omaha and out in DC, for our different Air Force and Army contracts. I like the DoD work. It’s really nice, really interesting, a good challenge. During my time with Aviture, we have gone from doing just software development and architecture support on DoD projects, to partnering with local high schools in the community to help shape the curriculum for and teach computer science courses, as well as position ourselves to be a more product-focused company. Seeing this take shape and being part of a company like this has been great.

Most recently, I’ve been staying home with our daughter that just turned one year old! She is my most rewarding “job” to date.

I like Java. I started out doing web applications with ASP pages. That was OK. About a year and a half later, I got more into Java development, focusing on front-end development. Java is so widely used across software development. I wouldn’t see myself doing anything other than that. There’re so many scripting languages that can plug-in and frameworks that you can use. There’s more than plenty to do with the language.

If it’s not usable, it’s not good. As we code, especially with early prototypes and designs, we’re always showing that to the customer. We have early sessions with the customer and other members of the team to make sure the front-end is usable, desirable, and adheres to our standards.

We run an adapted process. It’s in between, taking on pieces of Agile and its more rapid releases. It’s definitely different than what the government is used to with their software development cycles. At UP – that was pure Agile. But with DoD it’s recognizing a need to be more Agile. I don’t know if it will get there, just with the heavy process that you need, the CMMI Level 5. The processes must be followed, the documents must be produced, but it’s kind of governed between the government and the contractors.

Your career is not just to sit down and do your job. When you start with a new company, learn as much as you can about the business because that always seemed to help me everywhere I went. You could be coding right along anyone else, but if you’ve had more domain knowledge or business knowledge, you were kind of the go-to person because you could provide more than just somebody who was just developing.

Software development-wise, that’s really easy to transition. That’s what keeps it balanced as you go. The domain knowledge, that’s the toughest part. Your technical skills, they’re always there. You’re always building on those. You’re going to grow as you work at different positions or different roles within a company, or even as you change companies. I liked how you could see one thing somewhere and how you could apply that to another thing somewhere else.

Don’t stop learning. Research stuff on the web, read about the newer technologies, download and play with new frameworks or toolkits. Learn the domain that you’re working in. Learn as much as you can about the business, and excel in what you do. You’ll be surprised in how many opportunities you’ll be presented with.

Find this and other interviews of Scott Scholar Alumni at ScottScholarAlumni.org. If you’d like to be featured in an upcoming interview, have a request to hear about someone else, or just have any other comments or suggestions, please contact Kyle Hoback.

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Three Minutes with Cary Clark

Cary Clark is originally from Elwood, Nebraska. He started his Scott Scholarship in 1999 and graduated with his Bachelor’s Degree in 2003 and Master’s Degree in 2005, both in Computer Science from PKI. He currently lives in Omaha and works for Baldwin, Hackett & Meeks, Inc. Contact him via Facebook.

I wouldn’t be able to code without PKI. Just the overall experience and education was necessary. The new direction PKI is going will help. From what I hear, they’re trying to focusing on researchers and really cranking out those innovative solutions.

My Master’s project was a context-based search algorithm to detect changes in vocabulary. People use a different phrase to describe something in the domain you were looking in. We didn’t have the time or everything we needed to pull it off. I think it’s still a very viable product; it’s just a matter of finding that niche to make it a commercial product. Right now it’s still a little raw. It’s still being researched and worked on at PKI. It’s not dead; it’s just gone back into academia.

The company I work for is Baldwin Hackett and Meeks Inc. which offers software for banks and does a variety of custom projects. In addition we design software for big companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Greyhound, MCI, and Union Pacific. Almost everyone in the company has a programming background.

Getting the oppotunity was through my Scott Scholar connections. Nick Hildebrandt was an intern before me, along with a bunch of other Scott Scholars. That’s where I got the connection to even look into BHMI. Nick’s still here, Kevin Walters and Philip Morton as well.

Right now I’m working on an exciting product with UP and Insight Network Logistics called ‘Ship Cars Now’. It’s exciting because the used car market is really taking off, and this allows cars to be shipped over UP’s rail instead of just by truck to reduce costs.

The plan is to continue to evolve and be a better coder and programmer at BHMI. After that, I don’t know. I’ll just have to wait and see. Eventually, I would like to get into project management, but for now I’m entirely happy programming.

I think Java, C#, and C are going to be the front-runners. Scripting languages come up – Ruby, PHP – I think there are plenty of applications and frameworks out there that people are going to bring up and use. We’re still using Java and C# when it comes to the web arena.

I agree with John and Bob, you need to learn those base languages – C, C++ – without those niceties that Java gives you. After that, you need to learn some higher-end languages, particularly how they work with infrastructures. You’re rarely just using Java. You’re using Java and Spring, Java and Struts, Java and JBoss. You have to know how to use your language inside some other framework.

Not everyone is using Java. For strong back-end stuff, people are still doing C++. A lot of BHMI is devoted to C++. We’re dealing with banks, transactions, and what-not. Our products have to handle millions of transactions, and performance is key. With C++, you can get a lot better throughput. Which is going to be faster than Java.

Find this and other interviews of Scott Scholar Alumni at ScottScholarAlumni.org. If you’d like to be featured in an upcoming interview, have a request to hear about someone else, or just have any other comments or suggestions, please contact Kyle Hoback.

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Three Minutes with Martin Goodenberger

Martin GoodenbergerMartin Goodenberger is originally from Elwood, Nebraska. He started his Scott Scholarship in 2002 and graduated from PKI in 2007. He majored in Bioinformatics and minored in German and Chemistry. He currently is in Medical School at UNMC. Contact him via Facebook.

I could take a lot of classes and be challenged all the time at PKI. I could take a heavy course load, which prepared me a lot for medical school. Whenever we have any kind of math in medicine, like in some biostatistics lectures, I’m very strong in because our statistics and math background that I had to have for bioinformatics.

Choosing a specialty is like choosing majors in undergrad.  You start out thinking you want to do a certain specialty, but a lot of people end up changing. Third year you do rotations in specialties that everybody is expected to have some knowledge in; fourth year you do pretty much the same thing except for that in the fourth year you get to choose the rotations you do. After the fourth year, you graduate with your MD but you still can’t practice medicine because you have to do residency where you’re actually trained in your specialty.

The summer between my first and second year of medical school, I went to Columbia and worked at a maternity hospital. They wouldn’t let anyone but the pregnant women into the hospital so the women ended up laboring alone, in pain.  They didn’t have any anesthesia. They just had an exam table with stirrups and a big, black plastic tarp over the table so that they could hose everything off after delivery.  At the end of the table, there was a big trash can for all the fluid to fall down into. You had to catch the baby and make sure it didn’t fall into the trash can. The hospital was clean and a safer place to have a baby than at home. It met the World Health Organization’s standards for delivering babies and was better than nothing. It was free and run by the government, but it was definitely bare bones.

I get to see patients that not everyone gets to see because I can speak Spanish. You get more of the nuances of the conversation and what someone’s trying to tell you if you speak their language. No translation is going to be perfect.  You miss a lot of little details that are lost in translation that can be helpful in trying to figure out what’s going on.

I’ve finally decided that I want to go into radiology.  I’m in the process of applying now.  The application process goes from September until March of the next year.  At the end of the process you rank all of the places you would like to go, and the residency programs rank who they would like.  Everyone in the nation submits their ranking lists, a computer spits out the results, and on the same day, everyone across the nation gets the results.  At UNMC we don’t find out where we will go until we open an envelope at a ceremony with our class and families.  It’s interesting to watch reactions because not everybody gets to go where they want.  I chose radiology because the field relies heavily on computers and physics which are some of my strengths.

Take advantage of the financial freedom that being a Scott Scholar gives you. It’s good to get a job and build your resume, but you are also in a unique position to actually have time and money simultaneously.  Travel and do things that interest you now because the more committed you get to work and school, the less you’ll have an opportunity to do what you want, when you want.

This and future interviews of Scott Scholar Alumni will be found at ScottScholarAlumni.org. If you’d like to be featured in an upcoming interview, have a request to hear about someone else, or just have any other comments or suggestions, please contact Kyle Hoback.

Update from Martin (Feb 2015): 

When I was interviewed for the last piece, I was in my fourth year of medical school in the process of applying to residency. Now, four years later, I’m still in residency!

To become an MD you have to finish undergrad and medical school. However, to be board certified and practice independently you have to do a residency and optionally a fellowship. I chose to do my residency, i.e. specialize, in radiology.

I was accepted at UNMC and now am partway through my fourth of five years. In residency you are an MD but have to be working under the supervision of someone more experienced, much like an apprentice. In the summer of 2016 when I finish residency I plan to sub-specialize and do a fellowship in body imaging.

Most days at work consist of looking at X-Rays, ultrasounds, MRIs, and CT scans. We take what we see on the images and try to combine what we know about the patient to provide a reasonable explanation or list of possibilities of what is going on to the referring doctor. We also do image guided procedures. For example, a common procedure we do is use CT to guide a needle to a lung nodule to take a sample and determine if it is benign or malignant.

I am getting to the point now that the knowledge I use through most of the day is fairly specialized, what I learned in undergrad is no longer directly applicable, though of course I needed it as a foundation. Specifically my undergrad math, physics, and computer science classes help me when I need to understand how a machine or algorithm works for troubleshooting.

My advice to current Scott Scholars would not change. Use your financial freedom and the time that you have as a student to travel or pursue productive hobbies! I’m so glad I spent time traveling and doing as many diverse things as I could in undergrad. I still have the opportunity to travel occasionally, but it would be incredibly hard to do it for months or a year like I did in undergrad.

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