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CSSE Trailblazer: William Leif Jones

CSSE Trailblazer: William Leif Jones

Photo of William Leif Jones

How Monmouth Gave Me a Second Chance.

I am very lucky to have been accepted into Monmouth University. College was not initially in my path when I graduated high school in 2004. As a young father, I felt like I had to do what was necessary to make sure my daughter had the life and opportunities that I did not. I had made the decision to enlist in the United States Marine Corps and excelled in all areas of my time spent in service. After 5 years enlisted and 2 deployments later, my time in the Marines had come to an end and it was now time to make a life for my family and myself out in the civilian world. I had learned such a sense of duty and responsibility in the Marine Corps that it was harder than I had imagined to fit in with my peers. When I interviewed for my first civilian job in the real world they saw the maturity I possessed and gave me a management position at Sam’s Club. I eventually stepped down to an overnight stock position to help take care of my children during the day, and to take some time to work on my mental health. I struggled a bit at first going from the extremes of working for the United States Marine Corps and being the “best of the best” to not quite having a purpose. As I worked on ways to accept and cope with my PTSD, I started to connect with some of the other veterans and realized I could do more and that I wanted to do more with my life. I needed to have some sort of fulfillment and find a way to serve my country on my terms, so in 2014 I decided to use my GI Bill and applied to Monmouth University.

I wanted to make a difference but was unsure what I could do with my anxiety, so I decided to look into working with computers. I wasn’t too familiar with the computer science and software engineering department but for the first time since I had gotten out of the service, I knew once again that I was going to be a part of something greater than myself. When I started here at Monmouth the Computer Science and Software Engineering department became a second family. Professors and students alike were more than willing to help; the support here has been amazing. The students in your classes become your brothers and sisters with whom you spend all your time with. The class sizes are small, which makes each class personable. I have been very lucky to meet brilliant individuals who I know I will remain friends with for the rest of my life.

Monmouth gave me the chance to learn the skills I needed to embrace a career for the rest of my life. I was not very aware when I embarked on this new chapter how much programming and the military had in common but, it truly did. As I went through class after class, all the disciplines that I had learned in the Marines could be translated into my code. There were rules and structure and I realized that is what I had been missing. Taken the things that I had been taught in the classroom, I had learned that this was just the beginning. Getting involved with the local student run IEEE/ACM chapter was where I found the people that strived for more. We did hackathons, outreach, and even host a high school programming competition. There are so many things to keep you occupied and to get involved on campus. Monmouth also has research opportunities

that allow you to work with faculty on a project that they are working on. All these activities are available and allowed me to become a better programmer.

Finally, I learned that the misconception of working with computers did not mean that there would be no human interaction. This was not the case and Monmouth prepared me for that too. I was also amazed to find out how many options there are within the coding field, from medical to banking, or even where I ended up back with the military. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to receive an offer from Northrop Grumman where I will be an entry level software engineer working with the military. Monmouth has shown me the door and I made the choice to walk through it.