Julie S. Tarwater
Texas Tech University
Quality Control Manager
Biles & Associates
I began my studies at Texas Tech University as a Chemical Engineer. Since this article appears in an MAA publication, you might guess that I did not complete my studies in that field. My first mathematics class was Calculus I which I took during my second semester of college. My Calculus professor, who was also the undergraduate advisor for mathematics, began ruthlessly persuading me to change my major to mathematics. The strong suit of his persuasion was the fact that the field of mathematics offered a career rich in opportunities, especially for women. After a year of indecisiveness, I eventually changed my degree to mathematics. Almost ten years later, I believe that choice was the best career decision I could have made.
I graduated with a BA in mathematics and accepted a job with a mathematical and statistical software company, IMSL Inc., in Houston, TX. The company, now Visual Numerics Inc., provides software to the U.S. Government, many universities and research organizations, as well as various international industries. The IMSL software is embedded in C and Fortran software applications all over the world. I was originally hired based on my mathematics knowledge and problem solving skills despite the fact that I had no programming experience. I served the company as a Technical Support Engineer which included developing and presenting product demonstrations, assisting customers with software questions, and teaching training courses to customers and IMSL employees. This position allowed me to travel over the United States and many to foreign countries including Japan, Australia, China, England, France, and Mexico.
In 1994, I accepted an offer to work with a process control software company named Biles & Associates. Biles & Associates provides a process data historian to many Fortune 100 companies including many pharmaceutical, chemical, and food manufacturers. The software is used to track critical process data in the manufacturing environment. For three years, I taught customer training classes on the process control software. I was able to use my background in Mathematics while teaching topics in the area of Statistical Process Control (SPC). My current position with the company is Quality Control Manager. The Quality Control department is responsible for thoroughly testing the product in order to deliver a high quality product that meets the customer's needs.
Due to my background in mathematics, I have continuously found interesting and challenging career opportunities. Whenever possible, I speak on the subject of career opportunities in mathematics to students of all levels. I feel that my decision to seek a degree in mathematics has helped me throughout my entire career.