Women in Technology: My Life in Software Development at Drexel’s Goodwin College

Audrey Troutt talks about what her day is like in Software Development in the Higher Education industry.

by Audrey Troutt, SEAS ’07

My Day

I work at Goodwin College at Drexel University, heading up the software development team in IT. I am usually one of the first to arrive over there in the morning and I take advantage of the quiet mornings to review my emails and task list. I live by my to do list. During the day I check on the status of each of my projects. This includes projects like the Math Forum Problems of the Week , the Math Forum blogs , and projects for Goodwin College marketing like the content management system and new mobile website. Responsibility for these projects falls under my role as supervisor of software development for GIST. I manage these projects and make sure that things are getting done on time and that implementation decisions are made in line with our best practices. Often times I am also the developer responsible for implementing or configuring the software, other times I work with my colleagues and student programmers. There are about a dozen people in IT, half of which work in software development, systems and applications. I keep track of our projects on a wiki so that anyone can look there to find out what is planned and what has been done. If we are ready for a demo or need to brainstorm or make some decisions about a project I will set up a meeting with our internal customers. Over the years I have worked with employees from almost every part of the college, from part-time faculty to executives and the dean. I love that I have an opportunity to work with so many different people at Goodwin.

A lot of my time is spent programming. This week I am finishing up a new version of the Math Forum Problems of the Week app suite that includes important new features for teaching teachers how to effectively mentor students as they work on Math Forum problems. There is also a bug that I need to fix with our easy account setup wizard. When we learn about a bug like this I like to add an automated test for the software first so that when the code is changed in the future we can be confident that this problem hasn’t come back and everything still works the way we expect it to. We currently have 191 automated tests like this for the Math Forum store software, about 651 for all of the Math Forum apps together, and these are run each time a change is made to the code. That may sound like a lot of tests, but I actually wish we had a lot more! Programming takes time and concentration so I like to carve out a good chunk of my day without meetings or emails so that I can focus on it.

For lunch I used to go to the Drexel gym for some swimming, cycling or weights, but these days I head home to have lunch with my husband and five month old son, Felix. It’s nice to be only a few minutes away from home! I find it refreshing to get away from my desk for lunch and some fresh air–I come up with some of my best solutions when I take a step away from my computer.

Some days, like today, I need to do a deployment of a new version of an application. I have just wrapped up a new version of a custom application for event registration and I need to deploy it to one of our test servers so that it can be tested before I can demo it to my stakeholders at Goodwin. I always like to make sure that someone other than the person who made the changes to the software tests it. It is really hard to find errors in your own code–have you ever tried to copy edit your own writing and overlooked an an obvious typo? It’s the same with the software that you create. Our automated tests take care of things like obvious typos, but a fresh pair of eyes can also catch errors and also double check that what was implemented matches what was requested. My testers are all ready to go, so I take the most recent automated build of the software, move it over to the test server, update the database and start it up before I let them know that it is ready.

Every afternoon we have a stand up meeting over here with the tech staff. A stand up meeting is supposed to be a meeting where you are standing up so that you are not tempted to let the meeting drag on too long, but we actually sit down sometimes so maybe we should start calling it a “status meeting”. This meeting is really important because it gives us an opportunity to hear what everyone is working on. Sometimes if one of us is stuck on a problem this meeting is a convenient place to ask for help. It’s also a good way to check on the status of a task you are waiting for from someone else. We spend most of our time working alone, but we depend on each other to carry out different tasks and offer ideas and perspective on our work. After the meeting I might sit with someone to talk about a project. I really enjoy working with these guys!

My Background

So, I am not your traditional programmer. I didn’t study CS as an undergrad; I was actually a dual major in Physics and Music at a tiny innovative liberal arts college, New College of Florida. It took me two years of travel after that to figure out that I wanted to learn how software works. I went to the MCIT program at UPenn (graduated Dec ’07) to help me quickly build my skills and break in to software development. I was hired for my first fantastic job months before I even graduated. I think part of the reason I was so successful is that I aggressively sought out opportunities outside of my classes to get more experience programming. While at SEAS I networked my way over to the School of Education at UPenn where I found a willing collaborator in one of the faculty members and spent the summer building a web search tool she had envisioned. I even tried my hand at the PennVention competition. I was not always successful (as with PennVention—my project was an overly-ambitious failure), but I was hungry for experience and I was driven to create tools that people would actually use. I still am, and that is one of my secrets to success.

My Advice

For anyone out there who is interested in a similar career path, especially my fellow female geeks, I would recommend diving in to code and getting your hands dirty. Get as much experience as you can. Look for local, free events like hackathons , code camps and code retreats where developers get together for an intense weekend of coding for a good cause and good practice. You will learn more than any class at school, I guarantee it. Attend local tech user group meetings to learn about what people are actually doing and thinking about. There’s always free food and you might even get a job—it happens. For women, there are wonderful, very active local groups like Girl Develop It , Girl Geek Dinners  and Web Start Women that bring together women of all experience levels in the Philly tech community and provide friendly environment for asking questions and learning.

There is a vibrant, diverse and rapidly growing tech community in Philadelphia and they are actively looking for students to join the fun. They are trying to find you, mentor you, and get you started in a tech career, so don’t be shy!

Want to know more? Ask me on twitter @auditty

Day in the Life: Global Client Group at BlackRock

What can you expect as an analyst with a leading investment management firm?  Alissa Eisenberg posted to @PennCareerDay on April 4th, to shed light on this popular question among Penn students and alumni.  Read Alissa’s posts about what goes into her day at BlackRock and the diverse responsibilities that come with her position. Read more about Alissa below, and check out her feed here on our Storify page.

Alissa Eisenberg is an analyst in the Global Client Group at BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager by assets under management which were $3.X trillion as of 12/31/2011. She is responsible for supporting BlackRock’s relationships with key retail distributors including wirehouses, regionals, independents and RIA service agents. Alissa’s daily activities span a diverse set of projects, from attending client conferences to compiling strategy presentations on the firm’s partnerships.

Alissa graduated in 2010 magna cum laude from the School of Arts and Sciences with a B.A. in Health and Societies. While at Penn, she was President of the Panhellenic Council, Assignments Editor at the Daily Pennsylvanian, Captain of Quaker Girls Dance Team and Co-Producer of CityStep.

You Snooze, You Lose…..

By Barbara Hewitt

I’ve been thinking this week about how life speeds by…. The job search used to be a somewhat leisurely endeavor. Job seekers would find a job posting in a newspaper or other printed source, mail a resume and cover letter to the organization, and perhaps be contacted weeks later to arrange an interview. (I realize this is an extremely hard scenario for most current students to even imagine, but it is actually how I conducted my first job search out of graduate school!)

These days, however, the response can be almost immediate. This was reinforced to me last week when I took a phone call from a recruiter late Wednesday afternoon requesting an on-campus recruiting visit for the following Monday. Although I was a bit skeptical that we could turn around the process so quickly, the recruiter ended up interviewing almost 50 students during his visit to Penn and actually had to schedule an additional day on Tuesday to meet with all of the interested applicants. On a more personal front, we had an individual apply for a position in our office on Thursday and we were able to conduct a Skype interview with her on Friday. Skype has made the interviewing process much less costly and time intensive for both interviewers and candidates. The immediacy of feedback can be gratifying for job seekers who are quickly called for interviews. The downside, clearly, is that the large volume of digital applications employers receive results in many candidates never being contacted at all about positions if they are not considered strong candidates, which surely can be disappointing.

The moral of this blog post, however, is that effective job hunters must act quickly on an opening once they learn of it. Just because a job posting is scheduled to expire weeks or months later doesn’t mean that employers will wait that long to select a candidate – they often begin their interviews immediately. Smart job seekers will have their resumes polished and updated and be able to send them out relatively quickly. Of course, keep in mind that a slight delay is preferable to sending out sloppy, mistake-ridden materials, so do take the time to proofread your resume and cover letter thoroughly before hitting the submit button. (This lesson, too, was reinforced last week when I received a thank you email from another applicant addressed to someone I’ve never heard of….not the kind of impression one would hope to leave in thank you correspondence!)

By the Book: Online and In Print

by J. Michael DeAngelis, Information Resources Manager

Here are a few new (or newly updated) resources now available from the Career Services Library!

Current Jobs for Graduates bulletins provide fresh, entry-level job vacancies in the often-overlooked fields of liberal arts and the arts & humanities.  Each bulletin contains hundreds of current vacancies, all with direct links to the original posting for further information and application instructions.  This extremely popular resource was upgraded this month to also include internship listings!  Areas covered include: Liberal Arts, Writing/Communications/Publishing, Fine Arts, Performing Arts, Management & Business, Education, and International Jobs. Penn students can take advantage of our subscription to this site by logging on via our Electronic Subscriptions page.

Ten Steps to a Federal Job by Kathryn Troutman.  Ten Steps to a Federal Job is a total campaign approach for the first-time federal job seeker determined to land a high-quality federal position. The book includes updates from the 2010 Hiring Reform, samples of federal resumes, and step-by-step instructions on how to apply for federal positions.

An accompanying CD-ROM can be borrowed through Career Services on a limited basis.  Please speak with the Information Resources Manager during his regular office hours if you are interested in borrowing the software.



Career Opportunities in the Sports Industry
by Shelly Field. Seventy-three careers are discussed in a clear and easy-to-understand style. Boxed highlights of the facts in brief and a two-to-three page summary describe the position, the salary, employment prospects, educational requirements, and tips for entry. Lists of colleges, workshops, professional associations, and the media are appended.  Featuring jobs in Professional Athletics and Sports Teams, Business and Administration, Coaching and Education, Officiating, Sports Journalism, Recreation and Fitness, Racing, Wholesaling and Retailing, Sports Medicine and more.

Culinary Careers by Rick Smilow, President & CEO of  the Institute of Culinary Eduation, and Anne E. McBride.  With information on educational programs and a bird’s-eye view of the industry, Culinary Careers is a must-have resource for anyone looking to break into the food world, whether you’re a first-time job seeker or a career changer looking for your next step.

Looking far beyond line cooks and pastry chefs, Culinary Careers takes a look at the industry as a whole, with opportunities available to those with business, design and liberal arts backgrounds.  Careers covered include: Restaurant publicist, consulting in the industry, kitchen designer, food trucks owner/entrepreneur, restaurant management, restaurant investing, nutritionists and more!



Come by the Career Services Library today and check out these and other resources!  When classes are in session, we are open Monday-Wednesday 9am-6pm and Thursday-Friday 9am-5pm.  When classes end, we are open Monday-Friday 9am-5pm.


A Different Kind of March Madness

by Patricia Rose, Director of Career Services

It’s the last week of March, and you still are not sure where you will be working after you graduate, or interning this summer if you are not yet in your final year.  Perhaps you have been busy with your academic pursuits, or other pursuits, and haven’t had time for a job or internship search.  Maybe you have been looking hard for work, or maybe not so hard, hoping that, as Mr. Micawber says in David Copperfield, “something will turn up.”

At this point, what is past is past.  You can’t assume anything will turn up, although sometimes things actually do.  Make a schedule starting today for job hunting.  Do something every day, even if only for half an hour.  For job hunting tips, see helpful resources on our web site: www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices.

This is the time to focus on organizations that do “just in time” hiring.  They are most likely to have positions now, and in the weeks ahead.  These tend to be employers who are smaller and only start looking when someone currently working resigns.

Another possible source of internships and permanent jobs: start-ups.  Many start-ups are growing and are actively hiring young talent.  Working for a start-up is an exciting proposition for many candidates: the employees tend to be young, and the office culture is frequently casual when it comes to dress.  But don’t be deceived. Start-ups are serious business.  It can be intense to make things up as you go along, the hours can be long, and the pay can be lower than in a larger organization.  But the rewards are many.  Check out our start-up resources at http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/undergrad/startups.html.

Finally, don’t forget to stop by and talk to a career counselor.  He or she can provide helpful suggestions, so that you won’t be “madly” running in circles.  We can help you make a plan for the final (not four) seven weeks of the semester.  Good luck!