Graduate Certificate in Electrical Engineering Foundations

Jennifer Kolar (GCEEF ’20)

Jennifer Kolar with dogWhat inspired you to choose the Graduate Certificate in Electrical Engineering Foundations program at UW Bothell?

I wanted a bootcamp/refresher of electrical engineering fundamentals to help me expand what I was doing with power integrity engineering analysis at my job. I started in EE in the early 90’s, but my experience was very rusty. I wasn’t finding I was disciplined enough to refresh on my own and liked that the program was designed for professionals, seemed to cover many of the topics I was interested in, and was in person. The nine-month length felt like it was enough to give some depth, but not too long of a commitment to what I knew was going to be tough to schedule in with my already busy life.

Any big question you asked yourself before enrolling to make sure the program was right for you?

I knew the biggest challenge for me would be fitting it in my schedule. I looked hard at how possible that would be and felt I could change some priorities around to make it work.

What would you say makes the program unique or innovative?

The fact that it was a cohort model wasn’t originally a deciding factor for me, but it ultimately greatly enhanced the experience. We were almost all working professionals and I think that really helped us relate to each other and support each other. I liked that the courses were taught by a mix of faculty and professional experts. Being in person and having the variety of lab and course time was also a really nice mix. Some of the instructors did a great job of optimizing use of class vs. lab time and being flexible when it was more helpful to go to the lab and work through it together.

What are some highlights from your student experience?

It was fun to just be back on a campus environment, walking between classes, hanging out and studying, and being back in that world. It had been a long time. I also have to say the Bothell crows were an amazing surprise the first time I saw them circling and filling the sky and ground. In-person lab time was some of the more memorable highlights, as it really involved a lot of teamwork and problem solving.

What courses did you enjoy the most?

I really liked Harry Aintablian. He was a great instructor, very mellow, and I felt like he had the right balance of stressing what was key to understand while simplifying the concepts. It was great to have the consistency of having him each quarter. That also really helped when things became virtual [due to the COVID-19 pandemic] as we already had a relationship with him.

The hardest course for me was 503 on circuit analysis. I think trying to combine analog and digital into one class, as well as the math and chemistry refresher I had to do along the way, made it the hardest. I would have loved to spend more time in more depth in these topics and perhaps not have the separate simulation class.

The course I think I gained the most useful knowledge for my purposes, in addition to 503, was 504 on device electronics.

The course I enjoyed the most was 505 on digital systems. Logic design has always been fun for me and it was exciting to see how the technology had changed over time.

What were the most challenging and rewarding parts of being a student?

Most challenging was needing to refresh on so much so quickly in the first quarter. After getting that foundation back, every other quarter was much simpler. Most rewarding was being back on campus, working with the other students and instructors, and also feeling the ideas and knowledge click in my head.

Do you have any advice for future students?

The program is very time-consuming day to day. Be ready to give up weekends and to have long nights during the time of the program. Ideally, get your employer on board with you spending part of your work time on the program. I found the instructors were all very encouraging and supportive and really wanted us to get the most out of the material; they really cared about us understanding the course content. Majority of the faculty were very good with working around our professional schedules.

Where are you currently working, and what is your job title?

I work at Monsoon Solutions, a PCB design and services company. I am the Vice President of Engineering.

How has completing the graduate certificate program helped you in meeting your educational and professional career goals?

My goal was to graduate with a stronger electrical engineering foundation so that when working with my EE customers, doing analysis and making recommendations on circuit design and implementation, I had more science and knowledge to stand on. I also wanted to have a better foundation to know which questions to ask and how to answer them. I feel like this program gave me the hands-on experience both in the lab and on paper to help me feel much more confident. I love being able to play the role of hands on contributor as well as people and project manager; this knowledge definitely lets me get back to being hands on much more readily.

What advice do you have for others regarding the career search during and post graduate certificate completion?

My advice for anyone on career searches is to build and use their network. If they are responding to a job ad cold, then be confident and be excited about what you do and understand why you want to do it. Do your homework on the company in advance. Don’t be afraid to be honest about what you don’t know in an interview. Ask questions.