Career Profiles

Explore profiles of real professionals and students to learn how they got started, what they love about computing, and all about the fascinating work they do.
Nita Patel

Nita Patel

Systems and Software Engineering Manager, Londonderry, United States

Degree(s):

M.S.Cp.E. Computer Engineering; December 1998; Southern Methodist University; Dallas, Texas
B.S.E.E. Electrical Engineering; Magna Cum Laude; May 1995; Southern Methodist University; Dallas, Texas
B.S. Mathematics; Magna Cum Laude; May 1995; Southern Methodist University; Dallas, Texas
“Learn to appreciate failures as much as you do the successes and never give up an opportunity to experiment or try something new.”

For as long as I can remember, I have loved trying to figure out how things work. My mother stressed that my two younger sisters and I learn all kinds of creative skills while growing up (e.g., cross-stitching, sewing, making our own toys or working on home repairs). We tackled a new project/skill each summer. I really enjoyed those creative projects and found that it was fascinating to learn how to learn, apply and adjust. This is the essence of engineering.

I love my job because it is part management and part technical. Not only do I get to lead and provide support to incredibly talented individuals, but I also get to work on advancing technology and developing mission-critical capabilities for our warfighters. As a systems engineer, I have the opportunity to work with many different disciplines and get to help pull the pieces together. It is the ultimate jigsaw puzzle and it is lots of fun.

Working on the NEXRAD Doppler radar network has been one of my favorite projects. It was a fascinating multi-year, multi-discipline, multi-agency, hardware/software upgrade to the National Weather Service radar network. I worked on the design, integration and final deployment with theorists, engineers, technicians, and meteorologists. The mix of ideas, skills and facilities was fascinating. My husband and I drove across country on one of our summer vacations, I would point out all the radars in the network that we passed (we even stopped at a couple of sites to support installation and/or troubleshooting).

I enjoy volunteering with IEEE (currently I am the IEEE Women in Engineering International Chair, serve on the Computer Society Board of Governors and serve on the IEEE Eta Kappa Nu Board of Governors). I also volunteer quite a bit with Toastmasters International, which helps me to keep growing my communication and leadership skills. Outside of work, IEEE and Toastmasters, I enjoy playing in and directing chess tournaments (http://www.relyeachess.com), taking cross-country drives with my husband, reading and eating all sorts of ice cream flavors.

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Explore profiles of real professionals and students to learn how they got started, what they love about computing, and all about the fascinating work they do.

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John Hennessy
John Hennessy

Have you ever wondered how computers can execute complex commands in mere seconds? John Hennessy is a pioneer of reduced instruction set computing (RISC) architecture which employs small, highly-optimized sets of instructions to greatly enhance computer performance. He was instrumental in transferring the technology, specifically MIPS RISC architecture, to industry. He co-founded MIPS Technologies and co-authored the classic textbook with David A. Patterson, on Computer Architecture.

As Stanford faculty he rose to be the Chairman of the Computer Science Department, Dean of the School of Engineering, then Provost and finally the President of Stanford in 2000 (and till date). Hennessy holds a Master’s and Ph.D. in Computer Science from SUNY Stony Brook. He is an IEEE Fellow and was selected to receive the IEEE Medal of Honor in 2012. Hennessey also launched significant activities that helped to foster interdisciplinary research in the biosciences and bioengineering at Stanford.

Cursor
James Dammann

If you have used a word processor today, moved your mouse on your laptop, dragged an object around on your smartphone, or highlighted a section of text on your tablet, you can thank Jim Dammann. In 1961 during his second year at IBM and just one year after completing his PhD, Jim created the concept of what today we all take for granted -- the cursor. This idea he documented in utilizing the cursor within word processing operations.

After retiring from IBM, Jim went on to inspire future generations of software engineers at Florida Atlantic University. His work there too demonstrated his creativity for he spent considerable effort enhancing their software engineering program by integrating ideas and feedback from local industries into the University curricular. Today, Jim lives in the Westlake Hills west of Austin Texas and spends most of his time in his art studio. He wrote and published The Opaque Decanter, a collection of poems about art, which provided a new view at part of art history.

First computer mouse
Douglas Engelbart
Douglas Engelbart

In 1967, Douglas Engelbart applied for a patent for an "X-Y position indicator for a display system," which he and his team developed at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in Menlo Park, California. The device, a small, wooden box with two metal wheels, was nicknamed a "mouse" because a cable trailing out of the one end resembled a tail.

In addition to the first computer mouse, Engelbart’s team developed computer interface concepts that led to the GUI interface, and were integral to the development of ARPANET--the precursor to today’s Internet. Engelbart received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Oregon State University in 1948, followed by an MS in 1953 and a Ph.D. in 1955 both from the University of California, Berkeley.

Punch card from a COBOL program
Jean Sammet

Jean E. Sammet was one of the first developers and researchers in programming languages. During the 1950’s - 1960’s she supervised the first scientific programming group for Sperry Gyroscope Co. and served as a key member of the original COBOL (COmmon Business-Oriented Language) committee at Sylvania Electric Products. She also taught one of the first graduate programming courses in the country at Adelphi College. After joining IBM in 1961, she developed and directed the first FORMAC (FORmula MAnipulation Compiler). This was the first widely used general language and system for manipulating nonnumeric algebraic expressions. In 1979 she began handling Ada activities for IBM’s Federal Systems Division. Ada is a structured, object-oriented high-level computer programming language, designed for large, long-lived applications, where reliability and efficiency are paramount. Jean has a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College and an M.A. from the University of Illinois, both in Mathematics. She received an honorary D.Sc. from Mount Holyoke (1978).

Router
Sandra Lerner

It is difficult to imagine a time when computers were not capable of sharing information and resources with great ease. Sandra Lerner pushed the boundaries of network computing as one of the co-founders of Cisco Systems, which introduced one of the first commercially viable routers. The router was born while Sandra was working at Stanford University in the 1980’s after earning her Master’s degree there in Computer Science. To avoid the tedious task of transferring information between computers using floppy disks, she and co-founder of Cisco, Leonard Bosack, created a local area network, or LAN, between their campus offices using a multiprotocol router that Bosack developed. Shortly thereafter the pair started Cisco Systems, and began selling the router which was a success, because it could work with so many different types of computers. After Leaving Cisco in 1990, Lerner started the trendy cosmetics company Urban Decay and became a philanthropist and avid activist for animal rights.

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