Tierney Pitzer began her position as program director for the Information Technology Bachelor’s Degree Completion Program, effective July 1. As an active faculty member teaching for the program, Professor Pitzer was a natural fit to take over for interim program director Professor Garrett, who retired this summer.
She has more than 20 years of industry experience in software programming and IT project management in the DMV area, plus 10 years of teaching in higher education.
Now that Professor Pitzer is settling into her new role, we wanted to give our readers a chance to get to know her a little better.
Q: You are new to this position, but you aren’t new to GW?
A: Yes, I have been teaching the Programming and Computing Foundations I and II (python programming). As director, I will continue to teach these courses and pick up some new ones in the future.
Q: How did you get started in the IT field?
A: I fell in love with a computer science class in high school. That led me to take an advanced computer science class, wherein I was one of two girls. I seemed to be the only one among my friends who enjoyed programming, and to me it felt like solving a puzzle.
My interest in programming led to me completing a B.S. in Computer Programming from Shepherd University in WV. I was amazed by the prospect of being paid for something that was so enjoyable. The Monday after I graduated, I started my first job in Crystal City, VA for a Navy contracting firm. That first commute was 2.5 hours each way. I ended up working for twenty years for various firms in Herndon, Tysons, and D.C. During that time, I completed an M.S. in Software Systems Engineering from George Mason University.
Q: Tell us more about your main areas of expertise:
A: Programming, Software Deployment Management and IT Project Management:
- Programming – My first jobs were programming in C and COBOL. Throughout the years, I progressed to programming in other languages: C++, Java, and Python. I have also taught courses in these languages.
- Software Deployment Management – While working as a programmer, it frequently involved working nights and weekends deploying the software to a live environment. At one company, I kept making suggestions to management about how that deployment process could be improved. That caused them to give me the job of deployment manager.
A teammate commented, “Nobody wants that position,” because it involved evening and weekend work. But I enjoyed it, because I loved that feeling of accomplishment, working through tasks, and working with a team.
- IT Project Management – My deployment management position then transitioned into project management, which involved managing IT project schedules and working with clients.
Q: In addition to your 20+ years of industry experience, you have more than 10 years of teaching experience and have won awards. Tell me more.
A: Somewhere along the way, I got the idea to teach a night class. After that first night, I was hooked. I enjoyed working with the students and answering all of their great questions. One thing led to another, and I ended up teaching full time, which led to teaching for ten years.
I have taught programming languages (C++, Java, and Python), project management, and other IT classes. Six of those years have included teaching python at GW as an adjunct. The awards I have won were from a community college, due to the work that I have done outside of the classroom, which included advising hundreds of students each year and conducting programming tutoring sessions.
Q: Any initial thoughts you’d like to share on your plans for the information technology program under your leadership?
A: The field of IT is constantly changing, and therefore, I will look for opportunities in which we can add new courses and update existing ones to include relevant topics. I also plan to offer our students additional content and guidance.
Q: How do you like to spend your free time?
A: Listening to podcasts while trying to reclaim my marathon running abilities. My favorite podcasts right now are Car Talk, Snap Judgement, Hidden Brain, and StarTalk.
Q: Do you have a favorite movie?
A: A few are: Coming to America (the original), This is Spinal Tap, Jaws, Airplane!, and The Martian.
The Martian in particular reminds me of working in the IT field. This movie has everything – teamwork, coding, crashing the schedule, Donald Glover using a supercomputer, and some great awkward moments between management and the technical team. It also features disco and 70’s music, which could have been taken from my own playlist.
Q: What advice would you give to the information technology students as a whole?
A: Enjoy the course work because it is all practice for the real thing and will help to improve your stamina. As you take classes, explore various technologies, and think about what you like and dislike.
Don’t forget that there are many roles to choose from in the IT field – coder, tester, manager, DBA, too many to mention here. One person might enjoy being “heads down” writing code, while another person might prefer working with clients.