Graduate Certificate in Software Design & Development

Kelsey Stemm (GCSDD ‘16)

Kelsey StemmWhat inspired you to choose the Graduate Certificate in Software Design & Development program at UW Bothell?

Choosing the GCSDD was not a difficult decision: the comprehensiveness and rigor of the program, the availability in the evenings and the access to University of Washington Bothell faculty and educational support made it an easy choice. There are other options in the Seattle area for similar programs, but none of the other had all of these combined.

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

The impact on finances was a big question: could I get a job that would make back the investment in education? It was a bit of a leap of faith at the time because the program was newer. I can now say it was a very worthwhile decision because I increased my salary from my other career immediately, even as an intern.

What would you say makes the program unique or innovative?

The program has a wide variety of students: in my year, we had a lawyer, a microbiologist, an international affairs specialist, and more really interesting careers along with program managers and electrical engineers who were closer to software design & development. This made for unique perspectives and created a supportive learning culture.

What are some highlights from your student experience?

The best part of the experience for me was the long-lasting friendships I gained during my time in the program. There is a group of us that still meet (even virtually now!) and chat about life and career topics. Even more, there are students that I will still network with about career opportunities years after completing the program.

What courses did you enjoy the most?

The biggest impression from the faculty was that we were being supported to succeed. For one teacher, it was inviting students into his research group. For another, it was what he brought from industry and how he could speak to real-world scenarios we might encounter. For my favorite teacher, it was his willingness to be accessible for his students by providing time outside the classroom to make sure we understood homework assignments and coursework material. All of these amazing faculty members made for an incredibly supportive educational environment.

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

The ramp-up in the first quarter, learning how to be a student again after a few years off, was not easy. This coursework is challenging and leaning into the faculty and other student support is vital. That leads to incredible relationships that carry into your new career.

Do you have any advice for future students?

My advice for future students is to get to know each other. I have close friends from the program and several more that I can lean on for career advice. These are people who are starting their careers in the same field as you, and at the same time, and that can be very useful to be able to talk about.

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

I am a Software Engineer at Microsoft.

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

I could not have got to where I am without it.

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

Start early in the GCSSD learning how to interview and leverage those around you for practice. It’s incredibly useful to have those skills, and everyone else in the cohort probably needs the practice too!

Are there any other thoughts you would like to share?

I appreciated having access to UW groups such as the Society of Women Engineers, which can be another place to find students entering the same field as you.