Alumni Profile

Monica Wild

Monica Wild.

With my engineering degree I learned how to break down a problem to it's fundamental pieces, explore solutions, and evaluate these solutions in a rigorous way, and to keep working the problem even when it gets tough. A degree in engineering is a degree in problem solving. I think this will be invaluable wherever I end up in my future career - it certainly has been in the positions I have held and in the continuation of my schooling so far. I think these are larger life skills as well. Since overall life will almost definitely contain it's fair share of problems that crop up, it's important to have a rigorous framework for approaching them, as well as the stamina for meeting those challenges fully."

Where I've Been

Cities

  • Buffalo, NY
  • Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Organizations

  • BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York
  • CUBRC 
  • ModPac 

Positions

  • Intern
  • Analyst
  • Grad student

What I've Done

What types of work have you performed? What projects have you worked on?
Big picture: Data Analysis, Forecasting, Software Engineering. BlueCross BlueShield: (1) As an intern, I worked on a project aimed at uncovering the features of Medicare plans that drive Medicare membership. (2) As an analyst, I designed a robust software program for forecasting insurance claims totals. CUBRC: I constructed an algorithm prototype that fuses text analysis and machine learning techniques to prioritize military intelligence needs. CUBRC: I performed a feasibility analysis to determine whether or not a proposed adjustment to a manufacturing process would be possible.

What have been some favorite aspects of your work?
What I love about the engineering field is first the prospect of challenge. I know that I will be able to find work where there is rarely a boring day. For me, this is essential. The other major attraction of the engineering field is endless possibility. There are so many completely different companies you can work for and different types of work you can do as an engineer. Everyone's path is different, because engineering at it's core is just formalized, structured problem solving.

What was one of your most satisfying days as an engineer?
One good day I remember in my engineering career so far came when I was working at CUBRC on my project to prioritize military intelligence needs against one another. I had developed a software prototype for an algorithm that would take new intelligence needs, evaluate them against all needs in the system, and attach a score to them. However, the project was at a little bit of a standstill because accessing past data (which the prototype demanded) was difficult due to security reasons. With the help of my boss and my adviser at school, I identified a publicly available data set that I could use to start evaluating the software prototype, which meant that the project could move forward.

It took a little mental agility to find a way to get around the barrier of limited data, but when I got to this solution it was the same feeling of finally solving a physics problem that you've been struggling with for three hours. The feeling of "yes - I got it!". Another good day was finding myself a new resident in Edinburgh, Scotland, where I am now completing my Master's in Operations Research (a sub-field of Industrial Engineering) and Data Science. Some days I still cannot believe how amazing it is that I really made it there! Engineering and computer science are the vehicles that got me there.

Was it worth it? What has your engineering background made possible for you? What value has it added to your overall life?
Engineering has taught me how to problem solve. With my engineering degree I learned how to break down a problem to it's fundamental pieces, explore solutions, and evaluate these solutions in a rigorous way, and to keep working the problem even when it gets tough. A degree in engineering is a degree in problem solving. I think this will be invaluable wherever I end up in my future career - it certainly has been in the positions I have held and in the continuation of my schooling so far. I think these are larger life skills as well.

Since overall life will almost definitely contain it's fair share of problems that crop up, it's important to have a rigorous framework for approaching them, as well as the stamina for meeting those challenges fully. The engineering mindset is also an analytical mindset. The ability to effectively analyze situations and weigh alternatives in a rational manner is likewise invaluable in real life outside of work.

Why it Matters

What would you say to the freshmen currently sitting in your shoes?
This course will truly provide the framework for how you approach all problems in your engineering career going forward - that is if you pay attention and let that be true! You will of course pick up more skills (and more technical skills) throughout your four years in engineering, but you need to have the big picture problem solving approach down first, to understand where those technical skills fit into the engineering process, and how to apply them to a totally new problem.

This class is designed to teach you how to confront a completely foreign problem and approach it in a rigorous manner to fully understand the problem, identify possible solutions, and evaluate those solutions. That process IS the engineering process. The other things - Calculus, Physics, Thermodynamics - are tools that you use to complete that process.