Jessica Buck ’14
BS, Computer Science
Business Analyst for MedForce who previously worked as a software developer and computer programmer/analyst for other healthcare companies.
If anyone had told me when I was younger that I would end up with a degree in Computer Science, I don’t think I would have believed them. I enjoyed reading and writing and earned an Associate of Arts in English from Brookdale Community College. I thought I wanted to be an English teacher. Something didn’t quite seem right though, so I decided to hold off on going for a Bachelor’s and worked full time for a few years. I remember thinking it’s too bad I’m not interested in technology; it seems like there’s a lot of great opportunities out there.
At some point I looked back at my early experiences. My dad had a Commodore 64 when I was a kid. I copied short programs out of the accompanying guide before I could even read. In high school, my family was among the first to connect to the internet with our 28k dial-up modem. I worked on my own websites before I understood what the internet was. In hindsight, it’s surprising that I hadn’t considered pursuing a related career… and that I thought I wasn’t interested in technology.
In 2009 when my son was six months old, I returned to Brookdale to catch up on computer science and mathematics courses. There I joined the Women in Engineering, Science, and Technology (WEST) group and attended a talk at Monmouth University given by a female NASA astrophysicist. At that meeting, I met Dr. Catherine Duckett and Prof. Jamie Kretsch from the School of Science. That experience sealed the deal for me to apply to Monmouth. I applied for the Summer Research Program and transferred to the Computer Science program in 2011.
After attending Monmouth, I can’t imagine having gone anywhere else. I had the opportunity to work closely with my professors, getting help whenever I needed it, and with a child, I needed it often. Dr. Tepfenhart, who had been my mentor for the Summer Research Program (SRP), hired me to work for the Rapid Response Institute (RRI) on campus. Between the RRI, additional SRP sessions, and independent studies, I gained valuable, hands-on experience with relational database schemas, web development, and mobile application development. When daycare was closed for a month following Hurricane Sandy, my professors were supportive and encouraging as my son sat nearby coloring or scribbling on whiteboards as I worked.
I graduated in January 2014 and worked for two years as a software developer. My current position is Business Analyst for MedForce in Shrewsbury, NJ. Initially I interviewed there for a developer role, but my experience with words and writing in addition to my technical background led to a new opportunity. In my day-to-day activities, I work with our Application Development team, Accounts and Operations teams, and clients on design, requirements, and project plans. It’s satisfying to be able to incorporate a variety of skills, and there is always something new to learn.
As a woman in a male-dominated field, and one who somehow lost interest in the field for a while, I’m particularly excited to have continued involvement with Monmouth as a volunteer for events aimed at getting young girls interested in Computer Science. This year I assisted at a TechGirlz program to teach middle school girls HTML and CSS and volunteered as a CS mentor at a Random Hacks of Kindness Jr. event where girls in grades 4-8 built Android applications for local non-profit organizations.
Attending Monmouth was—and continues to be—life-changing for me. I saw my experiences come full circle, gained friends and mentors, and now have the opportunity there to pay it all forward.