Jennifer Kolar had more than 20 years of engineering experience but wanted to enhance her skills; Kelsey Stemm was looking to make a career pivot from human embryology to software engineering. Jennifer’s desire to add to her toolset and Kelsey’s career change led them in the same direction: graduate certificates at the UW Bothell School of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics.
The Graduate Certificate in Electrical Engineering Foundations provided Jennifer (GCEEF ’20) with the updated industry knowledge to thrive at work.
“My engineering background was pretty rusty,” said Jennifer, the vice president of engineering at Monsoon Solutions, a printed circuit board design engineering services and consulting company in Bellevue. “I wanted to refresh my knowledge, learn the tools, and get myself reacquainted with the more hands-on, technical side.”
Kelsey (GCSDD ’16) found the Graduate Certificate in Software Design & Development, which helped her jump-start her career shift to software engineering.
“I chose UW Bothell because it was more than just a boot camp,” Kelsey said. “I had the support of a college and the coursework was more rigorous. It really hit me how important this program could be to make this transition. For me, it was the best possible way to learn the things I needed to learn.”
As women in engineering and science, both Jennifer and Kelsey are used to encountering challenges.
Jennifer was one of five female engineering students in a class of 500 during her undergraduate studies in the ‘90s. She recalls a pregnant classmate who was told she “didn’t belong in school” by an instructor and also remembers being refused office hours.
After entering the software engineering field, Kelsey dealt with the typical doubts and bouts of “impostor’s syndrome” that come with any career change. But after years in the health care field, where women are in the majority, she also struggled with her confidence when she was the only woman in the room.
Through the graduate certificate program and the Society of Women Engineers, Kelsey met a community of learners and mentors that she relies on and values years later.
“Everyone was so supportive,” Kelsey said.“It didn’t matter where you came from or what you were doing. It’s been really great to have people who I can depend on, who I still know and talk to, to this day.”
Jennifer also found a strong support system in the electrical engineering graduate certificate program. She credits classroom discussions and teamwork with classmates helped her build upon her knowledge. Since completing the program, Jennifer has expanded her role and is enjoying being much more hands-on with engineering design challenges.
“It gave me a lot more confidence to be able to challenge or support the other engineers as well as our customers,” she said. “It also refreshed my foundational knowledge, so I could more easily answer my own questions and know what questions to ask. I’m happy that I did it.”
The graduate certificate helped Kelsey land an internship with Tango Card right out of school. That internship turned into a full-time job, and that experience helped Kelsey get hired at Microsoft, where she’s been for two years.
“I can say that UW Bothell is the reason I got the job — 100 percent,” Kelsey said. “Between the networking and the rigor of the coursework, it’s an incredible program, and I don’t think you can do much better.”
Learn more about UW Bothell’s Graduate Certificate in Software Design & Development or Graduate Certificate in Electrical Engineering Foundations. Register for an information session or sign up for our email list on the program websites. You can also follow them on Facebook for the latest updates.