Check out the clip from "Fresh Living" with President Aaron Reed, Ed.D., Director of Corporate Relations Britta Nelson, and recent graduate Sophie Wargo. They share their insights about the value of a computer science degree in today's economy.
Neumont College of Computer Sciences's official blogs shares the stories of our students, alumni, faculty, and staff to illustrate the Neumont experience.
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On Wednesday, March 15, 2017, Neumont University Alumnus and Oppenheimer Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory Dr. Ludmil B. Alexandrov gave the speech below at the Commencement Ceremony celebrating the Class of 2017.
Dear graduates, dear members of the faculty and staff, dear parents, family, and loved ones – we have gathered today to share and to celebrate an important, dare I say, a milestone achievement.
To those of you graduating on this day, I offer my most sincere congratulations for successfully completing this stage of your formal education. I know that the past few years at Neumont have not been easy. I am sure that for many of you there have been numerous sleepless nights trying to finish a homework assignment, or attempting to meet a project deadline, or preparing for an important presentation. Now, it is the time to relax! It is the time to celebrate! You made it – you have finished your degree and moved to that ever elusive next level. Give yourself a round of applause! You really deserve it!
It is really an honor to be back at Neumont and to address this newly minted group of alumni. I have to confess that when Aaron Reed called me and invited me to present this commencement address, I was deeply flattered and I was completely overwhelmed. Without any hesitation, and with little thought about the task at hand, I accepted this honor. As time passed and the date for the speech came closer, I started realizing that I do not really know what to talk to you about. Of course, I did the most natural thing for a computer scientist – I went on the internet and I googled “how to write a great commencement speech”. As I learned from Google, the goal of a commencement speech is to plant a seed that will inspire the graduates towards a better path forward. This is indeed a daunting task and I am not quite sure whether I will be able to live up to this expectation.
In fact, I decided that the best approach is to tell you a story. To tell you a story of a fellow Neumont graduate. To tell you my story. And by telling you my story, I hope that I will be able to show you two things. First, that your education at Neumont will be invaluable in your future jobs, whatever these jobs might be and wherever these jobs might take you. And, second, I want to challenge you to not be afraid to follow your dreams, no matter how crazy these dreams might be and no matter where these dreams might take you.
It was almost exactly 10 years ago when I was in your position. I have just completed my education at Neumont and I was looking forward to going to my first serious job. I remember looking at a piece of paper. That same piece of paper many of you got today – your degree, your diploma. I also remember reflecting on my decision to come to Neumont for my bachelor’s degree.
At the time of my graduation, I did not know whether I have made the right choice. Whether the education at Neumont has been sufficient for paving the way towards a successful future career. Now, a decade later, I have absolutely no doubt. I know for sure. The foundation that Neumont gave me was not only sufficient to make me an exceptional employee of a fortune 500 company but this education also gave me the necessary courage and vision to apply what I have learned at Neumont into completely different fields. Indeed, I was able to take the project-oriented mentality and use it in all parts of my life including in my education and my scientific research.
I can still clearly remember my decision to become a student at Neumont University. I remember receiving a brochure in the mail, looking at it, and thinking – this place seems great for a person like me.
And what do I mean by a person like me? I have been passionate about programming since a very early age and I am sure that many of you share this early adoration for computers. My passion was first expressed in regards to playing computer games-a habit that still persists to this very day. As timed passed, I found it much more fascinating to program computers and to create my own games and my own tools. I deeply enjoyed programming and savored every moment of it.
During my time in high school, in all honesty, I was super nerdy.
At that time, I constantly participated in competitions for mathematics and informatics. Not only did I compete but I also deeply enjoyed being part of these competitions! When it came time to decide where to go for college, I knew that I wanted to go to a place of like-minded people. A place full with “nerds just like me”. A place that could educate me in cutting edge technologies. I understood the value of knowing mathematics, theory, and algorithms but I was more thirsty for learning hands-on technology skills necessary to solve the problems relevant today rather than solving the problems of yesterday.
I do clearly recall my very first day at Neumont’s campus – everyone around me was excited about various aspects of computer science and everyone was eager to learn. Indeed, it was a great place; it was almost a perfect place.
During my years at Neumont, its students, its staff, and its administration became like a family for me. The numerous hours spent developing projects brought us, the student at that time, together creating friendships that have endured the test of time. The projects we all worked on were not simply college assignments, rather, these projects became voyages that we took on together as teams, in some cases, these projects even became battles that we fought together.
The staff and administration of Neumont were ever present and always there to help and guide us throughout these journeys, making everyone’s time at the University truly unforgettable.
A few months after graduating from Neumont, I started my very first job as a business technology consultant at Deloitte Consulting. I was justifiably worried, as I did not know what would be expected from my first job. After my first week on the job, I was not worried any more. Not even the slightest bit.
The job as a consultant at Deloitte was so very similar to the many projects that I have done at Neumont and I knew exactly what I should do and when I should do it. In fact, I recall thinking that one of my enterprise projects was much more complicated than my current job as a consultant. To my surprise, the situation was rather different with my colleagues at Deloitte who came from other colleges. Many of them were indeed quite smart and they have completed their education at top universities across the country. However, what they lacked was the exposure to the rigorous project-based education and the type of thinking that Neumont has given me, and has also given you.
Most of my Deloitte colleagues were experiencing projects for the very first time and, naturally, they were struggling with this first encounter. After the first six months on the job, my manager came to me, he looked me in eye, and told me, “Ludmil, you really know what you are doing. You are operating on the next level we keep talking about. I think we should promote you as soon as possible."
Indeed, I got this first promotion by the end of that fiscal year. In contrast, it took several years for most people from other universities to achieve this career step since they first needed to learn the rules of the game. The rules that I knew and you know from your time at Neumont. I should confess that this was not only my experience; many of my friends and classmates from Neumont were also excelling at their jobs with remarkable pace: getting promoted faster and receiving significant salary raises.
Indeed, what you probably do not realize at this moment but you will almost surely know within a few years is that your education at Neumont has provided you the necessary road map and experience to steer through the turbulent waters of corporate America. The completion of this rigorous education has given you both the necessary knowledge and the know-how to shine in your new jobs and to be more successful than you have ever imagined.
But going back to my story. After working for some time as a consultant, I discovered that I am extremely passionate about understanding scientific problems and, more specifically, about solving biological conundrums. It was an unexpected personal discovery and, in fact, it was a scary discovery. I felt valued and appreciated in my current job as a consultant. I also felt that my career was moving forward and I was being well compensated and promoted. In contrast, I was unsure whether I will be any good as a scientist, especially in a new field like biology. At that time, I remember thinking that while there is a good chance that I will fail as a scientist, if I do not try to be one, I will regret it for the rest of my life. Indeed, in parallel with my day job as a consultant, I started using my computational skills and training at Neumont to help scientists at Harvard with the analysis of large biological data sets. As time progressed, I found myself enjoying biological research more and more and I eventually I applied for a master’s program in Computational Biology at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.
I was very blunt in my application essay – I wrote that I have limited knowledge in regards to biology and that I have a strong project-based computational education from Neumont. To my surprise, I was not only accepted at Cambridge but I was also given full funding to support my master and subsequently my doctorate studies.
I would later learn that my diverse academic background and education was an essential reason to get these scholarships. Nevertheless, going to a place like Cambridge was intimidating. Cambridge is a university that is more that 800 years old, it is older than most countries that currently exist. Cambridge has educated a big proportion of Nobel prizes winner and it has effectively created most of the modern fields of biology, physics, economics, and literature. To my dismay, completing my master's, and later my Ph.D., was much easier than I expected. Without realizing, the hands-on learning at Neumont has prepared me to educate myself on my own.
I was not reliant on lectures, rather, I looked at each class as a project and I developed a set of tools around it. For example, instead of simply readying and comprehending lectures in neuroscience, I developed various programs simulating neural networks, synaptic plasticity, single-neuron models, and many others. The ability to learn on my own and build projects from any topic allowed me to successfully complete my graduate studies and to develop a thread of science which has been novel and unique and has set the standard for future work in an important area of cancer research.
Ten years ago, I graduated from Neumont University and during the past decade I managed to go from a successful consultant to a respected scientist who is currently a co-investigator on one of the largest cancer research projects in the world. Reflecting on the past ten years, I can clearly appreciate that the education and foundation, which I received at Neumont, have been essential for my personal and my professional development. You may or you may not realize it today, but the education you have received will allow you to shoot for the stars. Ten years from now, many of you will be on the top of the world and I hope that you will be able to look back and to grasp the fundamental importance of completing this very first step. Of completing your education at Neumont!
Again, congratulations! Congratulations on finishing this phase of your life. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors and do not be afraid to change the world.
Thank you and good luck!
Neumont University honored students at their 2017 commencement ceremony on Wednesday, March 15 at the Salt Lake Masonic Temple with special remarks from Dr. Ludmil B. Alexandrov, a Neumont graduate from the Class of 2007.
President Shaun McAlmont welcomed the distinguished guest and opened the ceremony on behalf of Neumont’s administration, noting that the purpose “is to honor you with this ceremony; to motivate you go on and do great things; to remind you that the path will be tough; to listen and keep learning; to be grateful to those who got you here; and most importantly, to be proud of this accomplishment and have it serve as the foundation for the successes to come in your lives.”
The sentiment was echoed in Alexandrov’s address, as he reflected on his time at Neumont and the impact it had on his achievements and contributions to science and research. “A decade later, I have absolutely no doubt, I know for sure, the foundation that Neumont gave me was not only sufficient to make me an exceptional employee of a fortune 500 company, but this education also gave me the necessary courage and vision to apply what I have learned at Neumont into completely different fields.” He explained, “Indeed, I was able to take the project-oriented mentality and use it in all parts of my life including in my education and scientific research.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science, Alexandrov went on to University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England where he earned both masters and doctorate degrees in computational theory and biology. He currently works at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico as an Oppenheimer Fellow furthering his cancer research.
Alexandrov also encouraged the graduates to look forward to the future with great optimism. “I want to challenge you to not be afraid to follow your dreams no matter how crazy these dreams might be and no matter where these dreams might take you,” he said.
The ceremony honored approximately 170 new alumni who have earned their bachelor’s degrees in the computer sciences. Students earn their degrees in three years by attending classes year-round.
Watch the complete Commencement Ceremony on our YouTube channel.
Matthew Fajardo doesn’t need the fluff. When he puts his mind to something, it gets done. When he transferred from private school to public school in high school, he soon discovered that pushing hard at the beginning of the week, meant time to relax before the weekend hit.
Matthew also likes computers. In fact long before he graduated from high school, he knew he wanted a career in computer science. And what’s more, he wanted to get working in the field as soon as possible.
Matthew wanted a school that gave him access to both computer science and a career. That's why when Matthew and his father, Mark Fajardo, heard about Neumont University, they knew it was the right fit – even though it meant Matthew would be relocating more than 600 miles from home.
“Neumont was a good fit because I like to get through things fast,” Matthew, a recent Neumont graduate explained. And by fast, he means less than three years it took him to complete his bachelor's degree in computer science. “I could skip what I didn’t need,” he said.
Like most Neumont students, Fajardo discovered a place where his degree contained exactly what he needed to launch his career post-graduation – he is a software developer at Kern River Gas Transmission in Cottonwood Heights, Utah.
By attending classes year-round, Neumont’s unique and intense approach to education means students focus on what’s most valuable for a career in the tech industry. 97% of Neumont graduates are employed within six months of graduation, and accept an average starting salary of $63,000 per year.*
But the program is not for the faint-of-heart. Where Matthew could get by in high school with a single day of hard work (and ‘coasting’ for six). “At Neumont, you have to do the work every day,” he says. “You get out of it what you put into it.”
And it’s more than time that you’re putting in. While the cost of any education is expensive, Mark says Neumont is worth it.
"It’s an investment, but worth every penny. Neumont was a life-changing experience for my son," says Mark. "The entire Neumont experience was wonderful.”
From the financial aid staff to the advocates to the admissions officers, Mark was especially thankful for the time and attention Neumont gave him and his son.
“They encouraged us to ask questions and were very informative with the parents," says Mark. "Any time they were making any changes they informed us ahead of time, and any time I called they would get back with me right away.”
For parents wondering if Neumont could be the right fit for their computer science-minded son or daughter, Mark says “I recommend it to all my nieces and nephews.”
And his son Matthew, has some words of advice for future students, “Don’t get sucked up in video games.”
Learn more about Neumont University's successful alumni at www.neumont.edu/alumni.
*Employment and salary statistics are calculated using data from the 2011-2014 Neumont University graduates. Neumont verifies employment and first-year compensation by employers in writing. Neumont does not guarantee employment or first-year compensation for future graduates.
For most Neumont University students, earning their degree means launching their career in technology. But for Erasmo Flores, it was a different story. He had already held C-level positions at various companies in Mexico and was looking for a degree to help him understand the technology he was managing. When he found Neumont, he enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science program. At Neumont, Erasmo found much more than credentials. He discovered a new way of looking at and learning technologies that made him an even more attractive candidate for leadership in the tech sector.
Now he travels the world working for HP Enterprises (one of two publicly listed, Fortune 500 companies created from a split of the original Hewlett-Packard) and has some great insight for current and prospective students.
It's unusual for a university to brag about their students getting jobs immediately after college. But at Neumont University, it's a core focus for our staff and faculty. We work with tech companies to develop a curriculum that will teach our students the technical and interpersonal skills they will need to succeed in a professional environment. That means from day one, we're working with ever student to launch their career in technology. The experience culminates for students with Enterprise Projects in their final year when they work with companies on real projects.
Chief Academic Officer Aaron Reed explains the role he plays in bringing together students, faculty, and staff with industry partners to help our grads get great jobs.
It’s no secret that at Neumont University, we love celebrating our alumni’s successes. So when we had the chance to chat with Kevin Teynor, game programmer at React Games, we jumped at the opportunity. Kevin graduated in the first Bachelor of Science Game Development cohort in 2014 and recently served as an alumni judge at CPI (Capstone Project Invitational).
He has been at React Games for just over a year, and says one of the benefits of working for a small studio is that “all the programmers get a chance to work on various things.”
While a typical workday consists of coding, testing and reiterating, the development process at React is highly collaborative. He says, “Even though I'm an engineer, I still have some influence on the overall design which is really cool.”
Like a lot of locals, Kevin loves to ski. He also enjoys going to movies, and --no surprise here for a BSGD grad-- playing video games. Below are his answers to a few questions about his current work and where life has taken him since graduating from Neumont University.
NU: What’s your best Neumont University memory?
KT: I don't know that I could pick out a single memory that was the best. Just working on all the different game projects was a lot of fun. Winning project showcase with one of them, 3D Geometry Wars, was pretty cool.
NU: Now that you’re in the industry, what do you think the industry is lacking?
KT: In my (limited) experience, the biggest thing I see is a lack of diversity. Too many people with too similar views, backgrounds, and ideas is a huge limiter on what we can even think to make.
NU: How did Neumont prepare you for your current role?
KT: Outside of the actual education, Neumont's accelerated schedules and at times overwhelming workload was a great way to grow acclimated to how the actual industry is. Learning how to manage tough deadlines is as important as any of the technical skills.
NU: Any words of wisdom for current (or prospective) Neumont students?
KT: Stay motivated. It's a lot of work, but it's incredibly rewarding when it's something you're passionate about. Don't burn yourself out by not taking breaks or doing something fun. Also, if you're not so good at it already, learn how to ask for help. This goes for both technical and personal problems. If you're having trouble with anything the best thing you can do is get advice or at least another perspective.
NU: You are working in a field that is predominantly male. Any specific thoughts on women and STEM or what the industry can do to attract more talented women?
KT: I think it's a shame that there aren't more women in the game industry, and I think the biggest reason for it is the whole "boy's club" mentality that idealizes the exclusivity of the existing culture. It's the biggest thing that I think needs to change before more women will be attracted to the industry; and it's the responsibility of the entire gaming community--not just the developers--to make it happen.
NU: What’s a tech trend you’re interested in and why?
KT: All the new virtual and augmented reality tech looks really cool and interesting, and I can't wait to see what sort of games will be made around the hardware. The possibilities are virtually endless. I'm willing to bet entire new genres will emerge.
NU: With Salt Lake City deemed the world’s best Comic Con, if you had one super power what would you want it to be?
KT: I'm too indecisive to choose one; I imagine I could have fun with pretty much any super power. If I had to choose, it would probably be the ability to fly.
[This interview has been edited for clarity and content length.]
Jonathon earned the nickname “Tree” because of his height, but he has made a name for himself for different reasons at REI Systems. His current duties include supporting two teams throughout the year with new development and maintenance of an enterprise solution.
“That's just a fancy way of saying I maintain a website for a company that happens to be the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS),” he says. "Maintaining the site consists of fixing new and old bugs while introducing new functionalities in tandem, so communication with all parties involved is important.”
Like many students, Tree chose a computer science education from Neumont University for the accelerated program.
“Going to school year-round highlighted the work ethic needed in order to survive in the industry,” he says. “There are no summer breaks and short timelines.”
We got a chance to hear a bit more from Jonathan about his experience at Neumont and in the field.
NU: What is your best Neumont memory?
JTM: It is hard to pick out one specific memory, but a few things that come to mind are the memories of struggle and overcoming the mental rigors of the course. I remember the staff that helped us through the rough moments when second thoughts lie in the back of our heads. And friendships that will last my lifetime.
NU: How did Neumont prepare you for your current role?
JTM: The career path of the computer science major is vastly broad and requires a passion to learn in order to stay current. Neumont helps by teaching students to disseminate information through critical thinking and curiosity. Neumont fosters an environment that is conducive for learning making absorbing all the knowledge easier.
The hands-on approach is beneficial since the majority of our jobs include coding. I have a friend who is attending a well-known university who is also pursuing computer science, but has hardly written any programs. Writing code is half of our jobs; therefore we must do it well.
Also Enterprise Projects – having insight into what positions are available is helpful for choosing where in the industry you want to work.
NU: Now that you’re in the industry, what do you think the industry is lacking?
JTM: There are several things that are missing from the computer science industry.
1. Best practices and adhering to standards. Neumont does a fantastic job in this area. When working in a group and dealing with other people's code, using best practices and standards is critical for the projects success.
2. A drive to add value to the project. Taking responsibility for the product and ensuring that everything is complete and then a little more.
3. More women. You might laugh at this one, but women approach solving problems differently. It is unfortunate that our field is dominated by men, but the more we advocate for diversity, the more diverse we will become.
NU: Any words of wisdom for current and prospective students?
JTM: Be diligent with the little things. I personally believe anyone can learn how to code and become a computer scientist. However, doing so requires a drive to push your knowledge to the limit and farther.
I recommend Neumont to prospective students looking for careers in computer science. I believe Neumont provides a good structure for teaching students how to think critically and solve problems: the root of all programming.
NU: What’s a tech trend you’re interested in and why?
JTM: 3D Printing is just amazing. We are really close to being able to print working organs.
Another tech that is interesting is self-driving cars. The idea that a driver is no longer required for a vehicle is going to be life changing for everyone.
NU: Since according to Stan Lee, Salt Lake boasts the best Comic Con in the world, if you had one super power what would you want it to be?
JTM: This is a tough one. I'd want the power to fly. I would be able to travel the world on a whim and never sit in traffic.
[This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.]
We always love when our alumni stop by to visit. And on November 3, 2015, we were lucky enough to have four graduates from the Class of 2014 join us for a panel discussion. Watch the video for their insight and advice into life after college.
From left to right, you'll hear from Aaron Martinez (Rakuten Marketing), Sam Fisher (inContact), Ryan Adams (React Games), and Zach Hunt (Performance Systems International). They each graduated from a different degree program and have different jobs in technology.