At Virginia Tech, Master of Engineering students are trained to thrive in environments that require professional skills such as leadership, management, communication, decision-making, diversity, and cultural competency. Development of these skills is crucial to post-graduation success in the ever-evolving technology sector.

Graduating Innovation Campus students Abrar Rhine, Anand Patel, and Joan Perez Lozano already have positions lined up at tech giants Raytheon, Fannie Mae, and Linkedin.

Abrar Rhine, who earned an undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech in 2022, will work for Raytheon Technologies as a senior software engineer in Charlotte, North Carolina. He decided to pursue his master’s degree as a part of the accelerated degree program and hoped the breadth of classes would deepen his knowledge of artificial intelligence and machine learning and give him the hands-on coding experience he needed.  

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Abrar Rhine at the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus HQ. Photo by Lydia Pritchard for Virginia Tech.

“The classes are amazing. You’re building real-life software in collaboration with your classmates and helping your professors with their research. I don’t think I’d get that opportunity anywhere else,” Rhine said. “If you look at the senior positions at tech companies, they look for either a higher degree or comparable work experience. I think my master’s degree helped me get this position. It separated me from other applicants.”

Anand Patel, who will be working as an enterprise technology program associate at Fannie Mae in Reston, Virginia, echoed that sentiment. “The entry-level field is pretty crowded, so applying to positions while pursing my master’s set me apart. One of the things our faculty members do to help us stay particularly relevant is incorporate hot topics like ChatGPT into our lectures. It’s important to discuss how this field is evolving.”

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Anand Patel. Photo courtesy of Patel.

Patel earned his undergraduate degree in biology but wanted to enhance his software development skills with his master's degree. To prepare for the rigor of his master’s coursework, he enrolled in a coding bootcamp at a local community college.

For Joan Perez Lozano, whose home country is Peru, pursuing a master's degree in the United States had been a personal goal since he visited the country for the first time in 2015.

“While I believe that we are capable of growing and developing as a person and professional anywhere in the world, I think the U.S. is the most ideal, as it is home to many leading tech companies and startups,” said Perez Lozano. “For my capstone, my teammates and I had the opportunity to collaborate on a Boeing-sponsored project. This was particularly challenging because it required the application of all the knowledge that I had acquired throughout the master’s program. We worked through challenges together and with the help of our Boeing point of contact. We got a taste of what it’s like to be in a work environment.”

Perez Lozano will work at Linkedin as a software engineer at its headquarters in Sunnyvale, California.

His advice for other students interested in pursuing a master’s degree? “As a first-generation student and a member of an underrepresented group in the technology industry, never let yourself down, even if the path looks difficult and there’s not much support,” he said. “Stay open-minded. Your interests and goals may evolve over time. Embrace the journey, don’t be afraid to take risks, and take care of yourself physically and mentally.”

The Virginia Tech Innovation Campus is both a place and a culture that unlocks the power of diverse people and ideas to solve the world’s most pressing problems through technology. Construction of Academic Building One, located in Alexandria, is on track to be completed in fall 2024.

“By the time you graduate, you’re ready to get into the tech industry and change the world,” Rhine said.

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