University of Minnesota
Master of Science in Software Engineering
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Jim Pichler

MSSE Grad:
2004

Current Job:
Senior Director
Digital River, Inc.

Jim’s Story:
“Ever since I got my undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Minnesota in 1992, I had always wanted to go back to school at some point to get a Master’s degree in a related field. This goal was always a little bit more of a personal goal that I was wanting to achieve to help me feel like I was doing a good job towards continuing my education and getting to the next level. I thought that getting my Master’s degree would affect my career only slightly given that I had already moved up quite a bit over the years within Digital River. But once I did get my graduate degree in Software Engineering, I was very much pleased to find out that I had achieved significant progress towards both my personal and career goals. Personally, I felt gratification that I had set out to do something difficult and had persevered through full time work plus full time school which can be a challenge in terms of having limited time to do fun things. During the two school years, I did sacrifice social activities but felt tremendously satisfied knowing that studying time really meant something special towards achieving my goals. Looking back it really wasn’t a big deal for those two years to not go a few extra trips or a few extra events; it was really worth it to focus on school and to learn the material that was presented to me.

“But, the unexpected result of getting my Master’s degree on my career was simply what I would state as ‘context’. I had been doing software development and software lifecycle project management ever since I got my undergraduate degree in 1992, which amounted to about nine years worth of experience before I went back to school. Going through the program helped me to be able to put a framework around the experiences that I had, and to properly reflect on things that I had done and their place in the world of software engineering. I understood now why it was so difficult to bring about software process change, and also how important things that I had done naturally really were in the whole picture of managing a software project such as estimation and planning. As I went along in the program, the educational material could be easily placed into personal experiences of mine, hence really helping to complete my full circle of context with the software engineering world.

“And now the added benefits as I move forward in my career are to have a solid set of software engineering fundamentals, to be able to refer back to the principles via real experience that I have gained, and to help me in my current work to have a full picture of things in order to make the best decisions I possibly can for the projects that I am working on for increased benefit of my company. I think my ability to manage software projects and to predict things that may go wrong is ten times better than it was pre–Master’s degree, and I really feel completely prepared for all the things that can go wrong on a project and to be able to turn things around for the better to have a lot more successful projects that are delivered on time and on budget. I take a more disciplined approach to my every day tasks and I am always trying to quantify aspects of software engineering project to align to the business goals within our organization, which I feel I am completely more successful at doing with my Master’s degree in software engineering from the U of MN Software Engineering Center.”