We asked current Foster students to tell us why they chose Foster, explain how they balance life with school, and to share advice with potential applicants. Meet Master of Science in Information Systems student Matt Pearson.
1) Where are you from?
I’m originally from Maryland and Florida, but I’ve spent most of my life in the Yakima area and Walla Walla. That said, I’ve lived in Seattle for several years, and consider this city to be my home now.
2) Are you currently working? If so, what is your job title?
I am currently a Support Engineer at 98point6. Prior to that, I was Chief of IT at Rocket Lift, a small web development & hosting firm that I co-founded.
3) What attracted you to Foster and the MSIS program?
I applied to the MSIS program after the decision was made to downsize Rocket Lift, after almost six years of trying to grow the company. I didn’t know what to do about my career, or what to pursue next. So amidst my job-searching, I decided to explore the learning opportunities and community that the Foster school and the MSIS program have to offer. I found the curriculum to represent a good blend of hard and soft skills that match many of the gaps I feel exist in my own knowledge and skillset.
4) What skills and/or knowledge are you looking to develop?
I consider most of my skills and experience to be fairly tactical in nature. I’ve spent a lot of time solving immediate problems, and building processes and systems that are designed to fulfill short-term needs. I’ve not yet had the opportunity to work in a larger company on long-term strategic projects, or experience with processes that work for large teams. I’m excited to learn about how businesses work, how IT fits into the bigger picture for a company, and how to effectively communicate to both technical and business audiences. I also want to learn how to build processes and systems that can scale effectively, but that don’t sacrifice usability for all the people using them to get work done.
5) What kind of connections have you made with your classmates/larger business community while in the program?
Everyone in my cohort of classmates is very friendly, and I already consider many of them to be good friends. My teammates especially are a fantastic group of people that are very supportive; I know they’ve got my back. The program staff are also amazing, and alumni are very accessible to us as well.
6) What do you think about the information systems field in Seattle?
The industry is huge in Seattle. We’re quickly becoming the “cloud technology” capitol of the U.S., if not the world. And with many other types of tech companies in and around this city, opportunities are everywhere.
The information systems field, in particular, is very exciting. We’re learning about not just technology, but how to use it, how to build systems out of it, and how to shepherd organizations through difficult and potentially traumatic change as technological progress fundamentally alters various parts of our lives. There are so many intertwined technical, economic and social challenges that go hand-in-hand with these opportunities, and so many incredible people who are working on this stuff that it is amazing and humbling to be a part of it.
7) What kind of impact would you like to have on the information systems field?
I want technology to work in service of people. I care very deeply about privacy, security, usability, and accessibility. I hope that I’m one day in a position to have a lasting impact on something that many people rely on and trust to have their own interests in mind.
8) How do you balance school with other life priorities?
With great difficulty. It is a constant struggle to balance time and energy between work, school, and myself. I’m also an introvert, so balancing time spent with lots of people vs the quiet time that lets me recharge can be especially tricky. To a large extent, I go where I’m needed in the moment, and devote my time to whatever is due next.
It also helps to combine things; going to an industry meetup with some of my classmates gets me time with my friends, helps me meet new people, and gives me a chance to nerd out over some cool technology, all at the same time. There’s only so much time in each day, so I try to make the most of it when I’m out and about, and keep enough left over for myself.
9) What do you like to do for fun?
Landscape and macro photography. I’m also endlessly entertained by my wife and our two cats. When there’s time after the MSIS program, I’m looking forward to getting back to hiking and camping in the mountains.
10) What’s been your favorite part of the program so far?
Making friends with such a smart, diverse and dynamic group of people. The camaraderie that develops in this program is awesome, and it’s great to hang out with them and decompress after we’ve all had a hard day.
11) What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about applying to Foster’s MSIS program?
Be prepared to work hard, but to also pace yourself. Even though this program is only a year long, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Keep an open, flexible and hungry mind. A lot of information will come your way, and some of it might contradict your own knowledge or experience. Be okay digging into your own assumptions, and asking “why?” a lot.
Keep the “people” angle in mind. Technology alone is never a complete story without people to use it, and this program is as much about your cohort and teammates as it is the classes.
Learn more about Foster’s Master of Science in Information Systems program
This post is part of a series where we ask current students to answer 11 questions about their experience at Foster. Stay tuned for more interviews in the coming weeks!