In May 2017, Daniel Ziegler ’17 addressed his fellow classmates at the College of Computing & Informatics (CCI) commencement ceremony in the Daskalakis Athletic Center. It was a special moment for Ziegler and his family of Dragons; in the audience were his parents Terry Ziegler, BS electrical engineering ’86 and Linda Ziegler, BS computer science ’86 who, like her son, was taught by Professor Jeffrey Popyack, PhD. Ziegler graduated cum laude and honors with distinction from the Pennoni Honors College with a BS in Computer Science. He served as president and founder of DUCSTeach, a student-led team of volunteers from Drexel University who provide technical assistance to local schools and community groups in need; president of the Drexel Chapter of Upsilon Pi Epsilon (UPE); undergraduate peer mentor and teaching assistant for computer science courses at the College; and as a member of the Phi Sigma Pi National Honors Fraternity. Since graduating, Ziegler has worked at his former co-op employer, Turn 14 Distribution, a wholesale performance auto parts distributor located in Horsham, PA.
CCI: What has life been like after Drexel?
Daniel Ziegler: To be honest, it’s kind of like permanent co-op! It’s especially true since the company I joined after graduation was the same company I worked at for my second and third co-ops. It’s nice to have my evenings and weekends free again, and I’m not missing studying for exams.
CCI: Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing for Turn 14 Distribution. How did co-op prepare you for your career?
DZ: I’m currently the project lead for Turn 14’s API, which allows our customers to get up to date product and order information. Not only do I work on the API itself, but I also help work on the documentation and talk to customers and their developers about the API and how it can work for their business. For me, it’s the perfect balance of development work and human interaction. Because of the work I had previously done using API’s and seeing how various documentation worked, it helped me see what other developers would want when they started using ours.
CCI: Any other projects/activities have you been involved in since graduating from Drexel?
DZ: I was working in the Empathic Design and Technology Research Group during my last quarter at Drexel on a human-computer interaction project. I’ve been working in that lab for most of this academic year and continuing the work on that project. It’s been nice to keep some ties to the professors and students at Drexel as I transition into post-college life. Since that project is now ending, I’m looking to start a project of my own, either to teach myself a new skill or just for fun.
CCI: How did your experiences in your co-ops and internships influence your career post-graduation?
DZ: Well, my co-op clearly influenced where I worked since I went back to Turn 14. But, they also helped refine what I was interested in doing. I knew I liked working with end users when possible, and I also liked working on smaller teams that have direct input into the products they build. It also showed me that working at a company that had variety built into the position was extremely important. Being able to work on different things prevents monotony and makes coming to work more exciting.
CCI: As the founder of DUCSTeach, former peer mentor and TA, and former president of UPE, how did your experiences outside the classroom assist you in your personal and professional development?
DZ: Having to juggle multiple roles outside the classroom helped me learn how to prioritize, increase efficiency and stay organized. The best way to learn how to manage projects and teams is to try things and make mistakes so you can continue to get better. These roles also helped me with my communication skills. While some of my former students wondered why we had to take English courses if we weren’t going to be writers, this job has proven that we interact all the time with people internal and external to our companies, both orally and in writing (emails, memos, documentation, etc.). I need to make sure that I can communicate effectively to developers, business owners and contractors while understanding the different needs and nuances of each.
CCI: What advice would you have for students hoping to break into the computing field?
DZ: If you want to get into computing, you have to find something that’s fun and exciting. The great thing about our field (and the most overwhelming thing) is the seemingly limitless areas of computing to investigate. Try as many as you can and find out what you enjoy and can learn, and try to get that on your next co-op. The classroom is a great set up for jobs, but nothing beats experiencing computing in the real world with real businesses and customers.
CCI: Any advice for graduating seniors?
DZ: This is the one time in your life where you get time to yourself. Treat yourself! You’ve survived college and can now say that you’re a Drexel Alumni. That’s deserving of a celebration! Take a vacation with friends or family. At the least, get time away from the keyboards and electronics. This is the best time in your career to do something for you with the people who have made your college experience a positive one. Make the most of it.