Riddhiman Das
Product Architect, EyeVerify, Inc.
Bachelors of Science in Computer Science, Class of 2012
Current City: Kansas City, MO  Hometown: Guwahati, India
Twitter Handle: @rdasxy

What drew you to Computer Science?
I was lucky that I figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up when I was still young. When I was 7 years old, my family got our first computer; I was so fascinated by it that I decided that I was going to become a computer scientist when I grew up.

I was exposed to computing concepts early– my parents would get me undergraduate level programming books while I was still in elementary school. They tried to get me the best resources possible to help me learn as much as possible.

I knew in my early teens that computing was going to bring about tremendous change in our lives, and that I wanted to play a part in the “Information Revolution” that was going to have an immense impact into the 21st century human civilization.

How do you keep up with the rapidly changing field of technology?
I often joke that Hacker News (https://news.ycombinator.com) flows through my veins. I am plugged into several online communities through social networking sites, as well as regularly reading numerous technical journals, blogs, websites, etc.

I have also started taking several MOOCs (massive open online course) lately through Udacity and Coursera, which has really helped me pick up newer technologies.

How did UMKC prepare you for your career?
The School of Computing and Engineering has a very thorough Computer Science program. The content I learned as an undergraduate was comparable, or sometimes even better than top Computer Science schools around the world. What was even better about the school was that because it is smaller, I had easy access to all my teachers and faculty. They all knew me personally and made several opportunities available to me that would not have happened at a bigger school.

I was part of several research projects that really helped me refine my skills as a computer scientist. It was also fun because I got to present my research at several conferences, where I met folks from universities around the world. When I graduated with my undergraduate degree, the research I was involved with was nearing commercialization so it ended up being my full time job.

Q+A With Alum: Cody Hill

Cody Hill
Manager, Energy Storage Systems, LS Power
BSECE, Class of 2010
Current City: Mountain View, CA (San Francisco Bay Area)
Hometown: San Francisco, CA and Kansas City, MO
Follow me on twitter: @Cody_A_Hill

What activities were you involved in at UMKC?

I was a recording engineer for Bob Beck at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance for five years which was an awesome gig! I also did audio work for the Marr Sound Archives with Chuck Haddix and KCUR’s New Letters on the Air radio program with Angela Elam.  The Communications Studies department let me teach a few workshops on audio editing, too.

I was active in IEEE, worked alongside Dr. Deep Medhi on a National Science Foundation funded research grant, and volunteered with Debbie Dilks (CSEE’s second mother to all) teaching science to children.

What drew you to Electrical Engineering (EE)?

I got into EE from being a musician (note: a poor one). My interest lead me to recording studios and concerts, where I began working as an audio engineer after high school.  When I first enrolled at UMKC, I was focused on media production in the Communications Studies department, but the more work I did with microphones and audio editing equipment, the more I wanted to master the technical side – pure EE and signal processing. You have to follow your passion if you are lucky enough to find it!

Did you take any technical classes in High School?

Quite the opposite, I was more of an art student.  Looking back, I wish I had done both.

How did you decide what area you wanted to work in?

As I got further into my EE studies I became really passionate about renewable energy and decided to make a shift from media to power.  Professor Mike Kelley was an extremely influential person at this time in my life.  He was so excited about power and energy and it really rubbed off on me.  After my undergraduate degree was complete, I went to the University of Texas at Austin to pursue a PhD with Professor Mack Grady. While there, I started working for an energy storage startup and that experience was transformative.  Energy Storage is a key in enabling technology for the future of our energy systems in a high-tech/low-carbon world.  And everybody everywhere needs cheap clean energy. I got my Masters Degree and put the PhD program on hold to work in the field full time. Today, I’m part of a private equity group that builds power plants and energy infrastructure in the U.S. with really outstanding management and coworkers.

How do you keep up with the rapidly changing field of technology?

I read obsessively, often for multiple hours a day. My RSS feed for general and industry news is something that I have been tweaking for years and I probably scan 100-200 article titles every day. With unlimited information at our fingertips, it seems like the key is setting up the right system of filters so that you find the good stuff fast, but are still challenged by people with different perspectives from your own.

Q+A With Alum: David E. Hawes

David E. Hawes
Senior Project Manager, Blot Engineering, Inc.
Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering, Class of 1986
Current City: Kansas City, MO Hometown: Leavenworth, KS

What inspired you to choose UMKC’s School of Computing and Engineering? I was looking for a program that allowed me to continue my career while getting a degree. The evening classes available at the SCE made this possible.

What project have you worked on since graduation of which you are most proud? While supporting an industrial client, there were challenges to complete a process and storm water treatment tank foundation and associated pipe rack during the winter months. The foundation required 185 concrete trucks and took over 20 hours to complete! The pipe rack involved structural steel design and auger cast pile foundations with pile caps. It was one of my most challenging projects but gave me the opportunity to use a lot of the skills I developed while at the SCE.

What drew you to engineering? I already had a background in construction, so engineering seemed like a natural next step. I had worked as a carpenter’s apprentice and then later became a journeyman bricklayer. Engineering was an opportunity to move forward in my career while still respecting my construction roots.

What do you love most about the engineering community Kansas City? I really love how many friends I have made. The engineers working for my own company, companies we partner with, and others I have meet through professional organizations have become a second family. These friendships have provided connections that have advanced my career in many ways.

Q+A With Alum: DeJ’on Slaughter

Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering , Class of 2013
Community and Citizenship Director, Turner Construction Company
Current City: Kansas City, MO  Hometown: Kansas City, MO

What initially attracted you to UMKC?

What set UMKC apart from other colleges I visited was the campus, the staff, and the endless opportunities. Kansas City is home to many of the world’s most prestigious construction firms, and UMKC has the relationships and networks to connect their students with these firms. The close proximity to such impressive companies allows for valuable internships throughout the school year resulting in, at least in my case, excellent job offers.

What activities were you involved in at UMKC?

I was involved in the UMKC Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and served as Vice President in 2012, and President in 2013. While assuming leadership positions in NSBE, I gained tremendous professional experience through community engagement and involvement, as well as industry relations. Alongside a solid team of dedicated NSBE students, we were able to have an impact in the lives of the collegiate students in our chapter, as well as many local high school students who were involved in the NSBE Jr programing and yearly events. It was also imperative that we had the support of Dean Truman and Chancellor Morton for NSBE initiatives.

How did UMKC prepare you for your career?

UMKC challenged me to become a problem solver. By tasking me with real world examples and hands-on education, I was also equipped with the essential skills necessary to navigate through the corporate world.

What do you love about the Engineering Community in Kansas City?

I love the competitiveness of the Kansas City market. Even as one of the world’s largest builders, we’re challenged to stay prepared, focused and bring our “A-game” in order to compete with the other construction firms in town. In result, the landscape of our city continues to be populated with many outstanding buildings and structures.

What advice do you have for students entering the field?

Make sure you have a passion for this field and never give up.

Q+A With Alum: James Lammers

Bachelors in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, Class of 1987
CEO, President for Trinity Animation
Current City: Lee’s Summit, MO  Hometown: Kansas City, MO

Tell me about an average day at your job:
The animation studio is like many other consulting services businesses: there are busy and slow times, there are deadlines and there are a variety of client styles and needs. As CEO, when things are busy I make sure employees have what they need to do their job while focusing on marketing efforts and longer term planning. When things are slow I get very busy finding productive tasks for all the staff to work on, and try to close the deal on any pending projects. And of course every day includes technical and HR problem solving, accounting and other details of running a small business.

How did UMKC prepare you for your career?
UMKC provided serious intellectual challenges and demanding courses that helped me learn to persevere and get better at general problem solving.

What is something that you wish was available to you as a student that current students at UMKC have access to?
The internet. A massive compendium of information, instantly searchable and viewable.

Did you take any computer science or programming classes in High School?
No, but I did build a Sinclair ZX-81 microcomputer in Junior High, with my father’s sponsorship and encouragement. On this, I learned Z80 assembly language and BASIC programming. During my junior year I attended the Rose Hulman Polytechnic Institute and learned the obscure language APL; as well as getting a good taste of what attending a private college in another state might be like.

What societies and groups are you a part of and how do you feel that they have helped you professionally?
I helped start a 3D user group for Kansas City in 1993 that has been a wonderful source of new friends and information over the years. I stepped back from it a few years ago but the KC Autodesk Users Group carries on in the same vein and I enjoy going to this group’s meetings.

What excites you about the future for your field?
It is an overwhelmingly exciting and expanding field, with application in almost every sector of the economy. Right now I see augmented reality as something that will eventually upend and radically change many areas of communication, learning and entertainment. We intend to be part of this.

What advice do you have for students entering the field?
Plan to keep learning, changing and adapting for your whole career.
Always live below your means and avoid debt.
Try to adopt a “consultant” mindset at your jobs and simply contribute generously and positively to whatever project they are working on.