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Annette Caldwell, MS in Information Technology, Class of 2017

Annette Caldwell decided to earn her MS in Information Technology for two reasons.

First, to advance in her career. The test engineer noticed there were opportunities for advancement at her company and wanted to take advantage of the opportunity.

Second, she wanted to teach at the college-level again, and knew that earning a master’s would help her with that goal.

Both of those goals were accomplished: Caldwell gained a promotion as well as a teaching position upon graduation. But that’s not all:

“I also have a better understanding of technology management in general, how it operates, its challenges and new ideas of how to overcome them. My income has increased since obtaining my degree, and I have a higher confidence in being successful in a technology role.”

Caldwell drove across Florida to attend commencement with her son and husband on the Space Coast in Melbourne, FL. It was important for her to show her son the importance of furthering your education. The rest of her family watched the graduation ceremony via live stream to take part in the occasion.

“Being an online student, it was great to be able to come to campus to celebrate my accomplishment with my family! It was also great to talk to some other graduates and participate in their excitement and enthusiasm as well.”

Florida Tech’s strong ties to NASA was important to Caldwell, a big fan of the Space program.

“While looking at potential schools to earn my master’s from, Florida Tech just seemed to fit what I needed. I am proud to be an alumna of the NASA school!”

We spoke with Caldwell on how her degree as affected her everyday work, her advice for students and more.

Q. Tell us about your background

I grew up in northern Ohio very close to a wonderful theme park called Cedar Point. For my undergraduate education, I moved to Columbus, OH, to earn a bachelor’s in programming and begin my information technology career. I spent five years in telecommunications and then moved on to five more years as a Dean/Instructor for a computer information systems associate degree program.

I moved to Florida and continued my career as a web developer for six years in a startup, which unfortunately did not take off. Then, I made a slight career change from developer to test engineer. Testing software is where I found my true niche in the information technology sector. Now that test engineers are required to automate software testing, I feel like I am a programmer all over again, and that’s a great thing because I understand the developers and we work together to bring quality software to the market.

My family consists of my spouse and my son, and we all are very technology-oriented. My husband has a background in mechanical and architectural engineering, and he recently threw his hat in the career ring of realty, and with his architectural background is a very good realtor. My son is studying computer graphics and is very good at hardware and fixing computers, a job I was happy to pass on to him!

Annette Caldwell with Son
Caldwell with her son at commencement.

Q. What skills and knowledge did you gain from your degree?

The information technology management program at Florida Tech improved my negotiation skills as a mid-level test engineer in my current duties. I am fostering knowledge transfer to other co-workers in my current position and have taken a more active role in our organization’s testing community of practice by doing presentations on material that I have a dominant knowledge in to help others rise to a level where they can take over my duties if I were not around. I am better able to articulate and write more concise test plans for stakeholders and managers in my current role with my graduate education.

Q. What surprised you most about taking an online program?

It was very convenient to be able to study online. If I had questions about the material, I could always get ahold of my instructor for guidance. I was also surprised to see physical textbooks being offered for some classes. My cat was happy to keep my page open for me while I got a snack in between my studies. The online classroom was a great fit for myself and my busy schedule.

Caldwell’s cat helping her study.

Q. What was your favorite class and why?

I almost picked my accounting class as my favorite because it was the class that always carried over into college and graduate studies. But my real career of working with information technology and the almost 20 years of experience between my bachelor’s and master’s studies led me to choose Project Management in Information Technology. This course appealed to me because it allowed me to learn how to react to ever-changing roles of project management in technology, especially with Agile methodologies overtaking more traditional IT project management technology. I was able to discuss in the class some of my current project management challenges in my workplace at the time. I learned some new perspectives from the instructors and students about other project management examples and some methods to better understand and be effective in the role.

Q. What advice would you give other students who are considering enrolling in the program?

Have an interest in the program you enroll in so that you will always be open to learning new ideas to make your work better and more valuable to you as you ware working through the courses. Because the classes are accelerated, you want to remain focused and not fall behind. Also, ask plenty of questions of your instructors about how the material affects your performance at work and some examples of applying the concepts in a real job.

Take advantage of the great support team at Bisk throughout the time you are at school. They are there whenever you need them to make sure your enrollments go smoothly, your funds are available and you can focus on learning the material knowing they will have your back for the next term all the way up until you graduate. I want to honor my representative Doug Epstein, in particular. Thanks, Bisk.

Q. Who was your support system?

My husband was very supportive through my studies and was respectful of the time I needed to devote to the courses. He also had very valuable input from his industry’s perspective, which helped me foster comprehensive communications in my course materials. He would fix issues in the house and do the laundry while I would study with the cat. He was my rock, and he shares in my successful career now that I am a graduate. My extended family was also very supportive and proud of my achievements. They look up to me to inspire them to do better. Also, my work had a great work/life balance, which allowed me enough time to engage in my coursework.

Annette Caldwell with Husband
Caldwell with her husband at commencement.

Q. What was the most challenging part of your student journey?

As always, I have never been a great test taker. It seemed whenever an exam would come up, I would be really wound up. Luckily, in the online environment, there was enough time to answer the questions and get the best scores I could get on them.

The rest all came very naturally to me, as having been in the industry for 20 years with a bachelor’s, you can enroll as a graduate with a lot of experience to bring to the classroom, which made the courses really fun. It was great to see the trends being amplified in your higher education with fresh and new ideas.

Q. What is one fun fact about you?

This ties hand-in-hand with the reason I chose to pursue a degree at Florida Tech, and that is my lifelong interest in NASA and the space program. Now that we are in Florida, we are going to the Space Center as often as possible and are looking forward to seeing as many launches as we can over our lifetime. Whether it is NASA, SpaceX or other space enthusiasts leading the charge, I really love the space program and look forward to everything space related!

Have you completed one of Florida Tech’s online programs? We would love to share your success story in our Student Spotlight series. Contact us at studentspotlight@bisk.com for additional details.

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