University of Lowell
Electronic Commerce Specialist
The Kodiak Group
Programmer/Analyst, Lockheed Martin Defense Systems (formerly GE Aerospace), Pittsfield, MA
I started college as a computer engineering major at a small private college. Sophomore year I switched colleges (to U. Lowell) and majors (to math). Both decisions were wise. During my senior year, I was interviewed on campus by GE, and hired by the manager of a systems engineering group at Defense Systems in Pittsfield. The manager was specifically looking for someone with a broad mathematical background to do programming and analysis work on various projects for various requesting engineers. I fit in immediately; I loved turning abstractions of physical systems and situations (i.e., mathematical models) into efficient and well-designed computer programs. I was immediately set to work learning positional astronomy and writing programs to select the stars to be observed during field testing of our guidance system and sending the necessary positional data to the test site. After that exciting initial assignment, I worked for several engineers on many different projects mostly involving the design, revision, and maintenance of large Monte Carlo simulations of various guidance and artillery subsystems as well as the associated data analysis.
A secondary portion of my job was to keep the engineers up-to-date on new computer systems and software through informal training programs and consultation. I briefly considered pursuing a Master's Degree in Systems Engineering and even took a few courses, but decided that I preferred the mathematical aspects of my job and still did not want to become an engineer. During my time with GE and Lockheed Martin, I often took advantage of the in-plant training program in order to keep current with the rapidly changing Information Technology field. In this way, I obtained a familiarity with new or different operating systems (including UNIX), languages (ADA, C), scientific studies (underwater acoustical modeling) and defense systems. I also spent some time in self-study, and thus learned the MS Office Suite and Visual Basic. The learning process does not stop once the degree is in hand!!
Electronic Commerce Specialist, The Kodiak Group, Pittsfield, MA
I finally tired of the upheaval and uncertainty of the defense downsizing of the early 90's, and left Lockheed Martin after 11 years (11 years, 1 month, 1 week, and 1 day for the numerologists among us!). I was concerned about finding a technically challenging job that would allow me to stay in Berkshire County. Before long, however, I accepted a position with an Electronic Commerce (EC) consulting company called The Kodiak Group. The environment is quite different from the multi-national, publicly-traded corporation, as my new company is small (but growing: we will be opening a third office in Denver), privately owned and operated by four equal partners, and more personal. The technical aspects of my job are quite similar: writing applications programs and scripts, developing and managing databases, establishing remote access hookup to client systems, and administering a Lotus Notes network.
The client I'm currently assigned to is a Fortune 100 manufacturer of computer products. I'm part of the "mapping team" which is the EC equivalent of software development. A major component of EC is EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), which involves the system-to-system transfer of business information and data via a set of standard file formats, including ANSI, industry-specific, and international standard sets. EDI allows companies to automate virtually all of their business processes. The software development takes place in the form of writing and maintaining a set of translational programs, or maps, that translate the data to and from the client's proprietary application systems. There are hundreds of standard "transaction sets," for everything from purchase orders to health care claim forms to financial transactions. Thus the job is always interesting and challenging.
There are many opportunities available for me at The Kodiak Group. Other positions involve business development, systems analysis and design, systems and network operation and maintenance, as well as training, both internal and at the client sites.
I was fortunate to find not just one, but two excellent jobs quickly and easily. When the time came for a change, I was able to take the skill set started in college and developed during my years in a scientific environment with a multi-national company and apply them to helping a small company grow and succeed in a business oriented environment. My mathematical training allowed me to adapt very quickly and to be productive almost immediately.
During college, I had only a vague notion of career options and paths for math majors. The one thing I might have changed about my university experience would be to have formed a more concrete career plan. I would encourage today's students to discover as much as possible about mathematical careers in all types of industry (the possibilities are virtually endless!) and then choose a focus and concentrate elective courses around that focus. As mathematicians our greatest strength is a firm foundation in the fundamental rules of abstraction and expression, which we are then able to build upon in whatever direction our soul and conscience dictate. Mathematics has been called the universal language; express yourself!