Andy Schmidt '94 | Taking the Leap: Academic to Software Engineer

Cardinal Newman '98
UC Santa Cruz '02 - Bachelor of Science, Physics
Cornell '06 - Master of Science, Physics
Cornell '09 - PhD, Physics
Cornell '10 - Postdoctoral Studies
UC Berkeley '13 - Postdoctoral Studies
Andy Schmidt’s early affinity for math led to an appreciation for physics that endured throughout his educational experience and somewhat unexpectedly put him in the right place at the right time for a career as a software engineer with IBM.
As a student of physics while in college (“All my degrees are in physics,” Andy said proudly), he had anticipated a career in academic research that would advance his post-doctoral project at UC Berkeley on crunching quantum computation calculations. However, as he became increasingly frustrated as federal budget cuts stalled his research, he stopped at a job fair on the Berkeley campus and today he is a software engineer with IBM, bicycling to work from his home in Oakland, and enjoying at least a few weekends off!
Nowadays, he’s helping to get software built, learning computer science, trying to get a product ready for delivery, and appreciating being a member of a team and the collaborative nature of his work. The company, The BigFix, was purchased by IBM four years ago and the software that Andy is currently working on automates the management of the computers deployed by an organization.
“People absolutely take time to work with me,” he said. While he can work from home, he enjoys coming to the office and talking with the people who are working on the projects with him. “We are all specialists working on enabling a successful product launch.”
Although the spirit of collaboration also lives in academic research, he mentioned, post-doctoral students and researchers carry such huge workloads that there simply are not enough hours in the day for them to collaborate in the way he is able to engage with his colleagues. “At IBM, I’m constantly trying to find ways I can get involved in projects where I’m being productive for the company.”
Andy’s path to physics began by being good at math. “I always liked math and had practice working through arithmetic. I knew other students struggled with math, but I found I had to give myself time and be patient. As I developed good skills at learning math, it got easier. It worked!” he said. “As a senior in high school, I took AP Physics and saw it as a meld of math and science. I liked taking the time to do it.”
He also thought physics might make sense as a career. While thwarted by academic budget cuts (at least for now), he is proud of his specialty and knows it has application to his new field. However, he also wants to remain connected in the field of physics research and has just completed an article summarizing his Berkeley research, “A Prototype Silicon Double Quantum Dot with Dispersive Microwave Readout” that has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Applied Physics. Way to go, Andy!

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