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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King's Quest
Roberta Williams

Video games immerse users in a world of high tech thrills, stunning visuals, unique challenges, and interactivity. They enable users to become a warrior princess or a gruesome ghoul, create a virtual persona, or even develop worlds that other gamers can play on. But before the games of today became reality, they were the dreams of a few innovative individuals.

Roberta Williams is considered one of the pioneers of gaming as we know it today. During the 80’s and 90’s along with husband Ken Williams through their company On-Line Systems, she developed some of the first graphical adventure games. These included such titles as Mystery House, Wizard and the Princess and the popular King’s Quest series. Williams also helped introduce more girls and women to the world of gaming by bringing games developed from a woman’s perspective to mainstream market.

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).

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.

@ symbol
Ray Tomlinson
Ray Tomlinson

Have you ever considered that someone, at some point, was in a position to choose what symbol would be used separate the user from their location in an email address? That person, it turns out, was Ray Tomlinson, and in 1971 he chose "@". Tomlinson is credited with demonstrating the first email sent between computers on a network, and when asked what inspired him to make this selection he said, “Mostly because it seemed like a neat idea.”

After completing his Master’s degree at MIT in 1965, Ray joined the Information Sciences Division of Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Since then he has made many notable contributions to the world of network computing. He was a co-developer of the TENEX computer system that was popular in the earliest days of the Internet; he developed the packet radio protocols used in the earliest internetworking experiments; he created the first implementation of TCP; and he was the principle designer of the first workstation attached to the Internet.

Turing machine
Alan Mathison Turing
Alan Mathison Turing

Did you know that computing has been used in military espionage and has even influenced the outcome of major wars? Alan Mathison Turing designed the code breaking machine that enabled the deciphering of German communications during WWII. As per the words of Winston Churchill, this would remain the single largest contribution to victory. In addition, he laid the groundwork for visionary fields such as automatic computing engines, artificial intelligence and morphogenesis. Despite his influential work in the field of computing, Turing experienced extreme prejudice during his lifetime regarding his sexual orientation. There is no doubt that computers are ubiquitously part of our lives due to the infusion of Turing’s contributions.

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