After learning on the job for eight years, Robyn Powell was looking to improve her foundational knowledge of information technology. Her promotion to IT Director spurred her to enhance her propensity for troubleshooting computer problems, and she went looking for a degree program that could support her long-term career goals.
When she found Florida Tech, she knew “that the information that I would learn throughout the courses would be invaluable to my career and my future.” She was also impressed by Florida Tech’s ranking in the top 200 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, among other accolades.
“Graduate school was a major personal and professional investment for me, and the honors and reputation that FIT [Florida Institute of Technology] possessed helped me to make my decision,” said the 2017 Master’s in Information Technology grad.
As a single working mom, the experience was challenging and rewarding for the New Orleans native, who found support in her family and her CEO. She was able to immediately apply what she learned in her classes to her job, and the degree gave her “the knowledge and confidence to make the right business decisions.”
We asked Powell, 33, about her experience with online learning, the challenges she faced in the program and more.
Q. Tell us about your background.
I was born and raised in New Orleans, La., which is where I currently reside with my 7-year-old daughter, Gab. I obtained a Bachelor of Science in Natural Sciences at The University of Holy Cross in New Orleans in 2007. Even prior to finishing my undergraduate degree, I knew that I wanted to pursue graduate school, but I was uncertain of the path that was best suited for me.
Upon completing my undergraduate degree, I obtained a position with a global franchise organization as a performance and operations consultant. After a year in that position, I transitioned to the IT department as a technical support engineer. This transition sparked my passion for the field of IT.
I’ve always had the propensity for troubleshooting computer hardware and software problems, and was eager to learn more about the technology industry. A year after I transitioned to the IT department, I was promoted to IT Director. I’ve been working in IT for the last eight years and my entire career in this field has been learned from on the job experience. I wanted to have a better foundation of knowledge as it relates to IT, which is why I decided to pursue my Master’s in Information Technology.
Q. What were the most important factors in choosing Florida Tech?
I researched a number of universities in pursuit of a program that would best fulfill my needs, and Florida Tech’s program was the most impressive. FIT’s curriculum was perfect for my long-term career goals, and I knew that the information that I would learn throughout the courses would be invaluable to my career and my future.
Furthermore, I was extremely impressed to discover that Florida Tech was among the top 200 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, in addition to other top university rankings. These factors were important to me because the decision to enroll in graduate school was a major personal and professional investment for me and the honors and reputation that FIT possessed helped me to make my decision.
Q. How will your Florida Tech degree make a difference in your career?
I was reaping the benefits of the knowledge that I gained throughout my academic journey far before I completed my studies. With no solid educational background as it relates to IT, my skill-sets were derived strictly from on-the-job experience and real-life situations. Although on-the-job experience is critical in any industry, I didn’t have the educational foundation to make confident decisions.
Now that I’ve completed my MSIT studies, I know that I have the knowledge and confidence to make the right business decisions. I also have a better understanding of how departments work together in an organization, the importance of database integrity and security, network administration and protocols, project management and management of information systems. Florida Tech’s curriculum has helped me develop and improve information systems within my organization.
Q. What surprised you most about taking an online program?
I’d never taken an online course, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was very surprised at how structured and organized the classroom settings were. The virtual lectures were very professional and informative, and I learned so much during each class. The variety of content and assignments that were included in each course syllabus were very effective in ensuring that we understood and retained the information that was being delivered.
Q. What was your favorite class and why?
This is a tough question to answer because upon starting and completing almost every course, I always felt that the current course that I was taking was my favorite. If I had to choose, I’d say that the course that I not only enjoyed the most, but also provided the most valuable insight for me in my career, was Management of Software Systems.
In this class, I learned about all aspects of software engineering, including the design, analysis and construction of systems, and that the main goal of software engineering is to make software that is reliable, efficient, maintainable and meets the needs of the customer. We performed case studies on failed software systems, the cause of the failure and how failure could have been avoided. These studies were extremely valuable because we were able to see other companies’ mistakes and how to avoid them.
My favorite parts of this course were the projects that required us to create our own systems. These projects sparked our creativity by outlining the product overview of the system, stakeholder overviews, and functional and nonfunctional requirements of systems. I learned to create UML diagrams that illustrate major components of a system and how the components worked with one another. We also created wireframe prototypes of what our systems might look like. These projects sparked creativity and taught me to incorporate better functionality, requirements and design in software engineering projects. I’ve incorporated these lessons into real projects and systems development in my professional career.
Q. What was your most valuable takeaway from the program?
The importance of communication, teamwork, cooperation and trust. These are all vital components of any organization. If you surround yourself with a hardworking group of individuals who share the same vision and goals, you will succeed.
Q. What advice would you give other students who are considering enrolling in the program?
I would absolutely encourage anyone who’s thinking about obtaining their MSIT degree to pursue their goals! Before enrolling, I researched a variety of degree options from several different universities and my final decision was to pursue my MSIT degree from FIT. I worked very hard to achieve this goal, and now that I’ve finished my journey, I’m happy to say that I’m a stronger, more confident and knowledgeable IT professional, and I’m already seeing the return on investment in my career.
Q. Who has been your support system?
My family and colleagues have been an incredible support system throughout this entire process. My CEO is the one who motivated me to go back to school to obtain my master’s degree, and he has been an integral part of my journey. My daughter has been such an amazing motivator, cheering me on every time I completed an assignment or an exam.
Q. What was the most challenging part of your student journey?
I’d have to say that the most challenging part of this journey was juggling my studies with a very demanding job, all while caring for my daughter, ensuring that her studies weren’t suffering, getting her to soccer practice, dance class and any other activities. It was difficult, but I was able to find a good work/life/school balance and powered through it to succeed.
Q. Who or what inspires you to succeed?
I’ve been inspired to succeed from the time I was a child, seeing my mother – a single mother of three – care for her children while attending nursing school full-time and then moving on to anesthesia school. She’s instilled that sense of passion for success in me and my goal is to instill these values in my daughter. I’m inspired to succeed because I know that I can always do better. To be successful, you have to be passionate, determined and motivated to succeed.
Q. What is one fun fact about you?
Before entering the field of IT, I hadn’t taken a single computer science or IT class. I stumbled into a position that would set the path for the rest of my professional career, embraced the opportunity to become a passionate IT professional and now I’ve achieved my Master’s in IT.