Alumnae/i Feature

KT Sittig-Boyd ’16 Shares Passion for Computer Science by Founding Annual Hackathon

While studying computer science at Simmons, KT Sittig-Boyd ’16 was certain she wanted to take the academic path after graduation. “I wanted to get my PhD,” she recalls. “I was completely convinced that was the choice for me.”

While working in a university lab during the summer, she had a chance to talk to PhD candidates about their day-to-day lives. “The work they were doing was cool, but it made me consider the reality of being in school for the next five years. I opted to enter the industry instead.”

And she’s glad she did. Most recently, she’s been a Software Engineer in the Employee Cloud Platform team of Toast, Inc., a company that offers software solutions to restaurants for running their business and managing employees.

“We wear a lot of different hats at Toast, which I like,” says Sittig-Boyd. “In software engineering, we solve whatever problems need solving, whether it’s infrastructure solutions or migrating legacy data to integrate with the broader system.” Focused on back-end software development, Sittig-Boyd’s team works closely with their users. “We figure out pain points, how we can make things work more effectively.” 

When Sittig-Boyd came to Simmons, she hadn’t intended to study computer science. “I was undecided but thought I would focus on English and economics. Maybe philosophy,” she recalls. “When Professor Margaret Menzin and Professor Nanette Veilleux saw that I had taken a programming class in my last semester of high school, they convinced me to take ‘Intro to Programming.’” That’s when her fate was sealed. “I thought, 'I love this! I want to do this forever!'”

Don’t feel like you need to be locked into a certain path. Nothing is set in stone.

While at Simmons, Sittig-Boyd was a Teacher’s Assistant. “I had the chance to explain concepts to students, learn how to talk in front of rooms of people, and explain why their programs wouldn’t work. It was good training.”

As a senior, Sittig-Boyd was part of a team of students — Karina Berçan, Caitlyn Gemma, and Clare Pak — who planned the first SharkHack Hackathon at Simmons, which has since become an annual event. “We reached out to prospective sponsors, asked alums to become mentors, and learned how to put together an event.”

That first SharkHack spanned from a Friday evening to Saturday evening and included keynote speeches from two alums, software workshops, a scheduled walk on the quad, and a cookie break sponsored by Insomnia Cookies. All this, and an opportunity for coding and networking. “Reaching out to alumni was fun. I later ended up working with someone who spoke at the Hackathon!”

For prospective students or those with undeclared majors, Sittig-Boyd encourages having an open mind. “Don’t feel like you need to be locked into a certain path. Nothing is set in stone.” She advises that practical experience is always beneficial, as you’ll get a more detailed idea of the typical daily work.

“It’s one thing to write code in class,” she says, “it’s another to work with a team of other people on a codebase that is ten years old. You need to learn a lot of good troubleshooting and problem-solving skills. Overall, start wherever your interest lies. If you like video games, or web design, find people to talk to about those industries.”

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