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Master's in Software Engineering Key to a Successful Career Change

Matt Sisco, a Software Engineering master's alumnus, in the lobby of Frontline Education

Villanova faculty were instrumental in helping to shape the career of software developer Matt Sisco '16 MS

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Matt Sisco ’16 MS was toiling in a tight job market and faced an important decision early in his professional career: should he continue down his current path in retail management, in which he had already worked four years, or should he head in a new direction that could provide both personal fulfillment and higher income potential? In the end, he chose to invest in a master’s degree at Villanova University that launched his new career.

Matt earned a bachelor’s degree in English from The College of New Jersey, but he also had a strong interest in technology. He started exploring the tech field and took a few undergraduate classes in computer science at TCNJ. There, he met Associate Professor Peter DePasquale, PhD, ’90 CLAS, ’97 MS who also taught at Villanova at the time. DePasquale encouraged Matt to apply for a master’s degree at Villanova – which was also DePasquale’s alma mater.

"Choosing a master’s at Villanova was the best thing that I have done in terms of life-changing career decisions."

Matt took DePasquale’s advice and in 2016, he completed his Master of Science in Software Engineering at Villanova. Today, he works at Frontline Education in Malvern, which provides a broad suite of technology solutions for school districts.

“Choosing a master’s at Villanova was the best thing that I have done in terms of life-changing career decisions,” Matt says. “I was able to propel myself forward by learning more advanced topics, as well as filling in for lost career experience.”

Below, we talk to Matt about software engineering and about how Villanova’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences helped guide him in his new career.

How did the professors at Villanova help you realize your career aspirations?

One professor, Paul Schragger, was an encouraging and available mentor who helped me realize that I had a mind and passion for data. His courses allowed long-term discussions about data and how data analysis is changing nearly every industry as more and more information is collected and cross-referenced. Being able to work with him in both the classroom and in my independent study helped formulate my career goals.

I also enjoyed my software engineering class with Professor Bruce Weir, who challenged us to consider why we call it engineering at all. Another professor, Thomas Wise, challenged us to consider what quality really means, why we test code and how we can have the right mindset as a tester and developer. Both have heavily influenced my understanding of quality and the responsibility one has to writing well-thought-out, clean and quality code, within a given time frame and budget.

How did your time at Villanova most concretely prepare you for your current role? What about your future?

Villanova taught me the need for a solid layer of computer software theory. From there, I was able to quickly learn any new technology that I wanted to because I had an understanding of where it fits into the bigger picture. The world of computer science can be daunting when you are introduced to different technologies all at once and you see how much you don’t know about enterprise software. Having this base makes it less intimidating.

How did working with Villanova professors help you understand your own management style and learn how to manage others?

Much of the Villanova faculty had us work in teams. They gave us open-ended topics to research and lots of independence in how we got to the end goals. This showed me that an agile team based on hands-off management is best for me. Management oversees the bigger aspects of the project and decides on what features come next, and then all of the details are handled by the team. I currently work on a team that demonstrates this management style, and it allows us to work efficiently and be transparent into our progress of the project.

What does engineering mean to you? How can it help benefit the future and generations of people to come?

In order for software engineering to be considered a proper field of engineering, we as developers need to put our stamp of approval on a project, have a degree of personal responsibility and show that a project is both functionally correct, but also meets quality requirements. It needs to be easily tested, able to be understood by another human being and flexible enough to be changed. I want to instill on the younger generations of software developers not to be “hackers” who throw something together that may work now, but fail three months from now. Instead, have pride that your work will be easily maintained by others who come after you.

About Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Since its founding in 1842, Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has cultivated knowledge, understanding and intellectual courage for a purposeful life in a challenged and changing world. With 39 majors across the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, it is the oldest and largest of Villanova’s colleges, serving more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students each year. The College is committed to a teacher-scholar model, offering outstanding undergraduate and graduate research opportunities and a rigorous core curriculum that prepares students to become critical thinkers, strong communicators and ethical leaders with a truly global perspective.