October 14, 2019

Recent grad, Jonathan Chu, takes us through his journey to becoming a software engineer

After 10 years working as a mechanical engineer, Jonathan Chu was ready for a career change. A graduate of UCLA with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering degree, he had worked on everything from airplanes and military vehicles to satellites, and though he enjoyed it, he always maintained the passion for programming born in a high school where he learned HTML, C, C++, and even passed the AP exam for Java.

So in the summer of 2016, Chu enrolled in Engineering for Professionals (EP)'s mechanical engineering program with a plan to focus on mechatronics: a fusion of mechanical engineering, computer science, and electrical engineering. However, after taking the Kinematics and Dynamics of Robots course, he realized that what he really enjoyed was the programming aspect of robotics and he decided to pursue Computer Science.

I'm a really good mechanical engineer, but I love programming, Chu said. I realized that when it came to furthering my education, I had to find my passion, assess my skills and interests, and then go for it.

Chu turned to Eleanor Chlan, retiring program manager for the computer science program, for advice. He credits her with greatly influencing his decision to transfer to the computer science program, even though it meant extra prerequisite courses.

Chlan was a wonderful source of information and a great person to speak with, Chu said. We discussed my interest in programming, mechatronics, and data science, and she gave me course and program-specific advice. I will always appreciate the time she took to connect the dots from my work experience and interests to determine what classes to take in the computer science program.

In August 2019, Chu graduated with a Master of Science in Computer Science with a focus in data science and cloud computing. He is now a software engineer with Raytheon, working at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, managed by the California Institute of Technology.

The experience that I gained in the Engineering for Professional program contributed to helping me attain my current job as a software engineer because it gave me knowledge and skills that companies seek in good candidates, Chu said. The high reputation of Johns Hopkins University also shows employers that I have the intelligence and work ethnic needed to be a valuable contributor to a company.

Flexibility, cost, student engagement, portability, and reputation are just a few of the criteria Chu looked at when selecting a graduate school. He said John Hopkins met each of these criteria, from its great ranking in U.S. New and World Report to its flexibility around his work schedule.

I knew I would walk away from this program with the skills that would make me more competitive in the job market and that would increase my earning potential, he said.