Tyler Kieft

tyler kieftBS electrical and computer engineering '10

Occupation: Software engineer, Facebook
Residence: San Francisco, CA

When and how did you choose your major(s)?

When I left high school, I thought I wanted to study biology, but I had an internship at IBM the summer before college that made me also very interested in electrical engineering. Unable to choose, I decided to take the intro classes for both ECE and BME my first semester. It was soon clear that I enjoyed ECE much more, so I stuck with that. I had also always loved programming, so I opted for a minor in computer science as well.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

Before I graduated, I started working on a startup company in the speech recognition space with a cofounder whom I had met at a job fair. Scholarships I had received at Rochester allowed me to graduate without debt, so I decided to take the risk and pursue that full-time after graduation. I figured if it didn't work out I'd be only slightly worse-off. It was an awesome ride and I learned more in the two years I was doing that than I could have in any entry-level job.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

Right now, I work as a software engineer at Facebook. I work on their mobile apps. I've always loved to code, and I really enjoy making stuff that people will use. Writing software is not just about getting things to work, it's about coming up with a simple, elegant, fast, functional solution. There's no other place in the world where I can make products that will be used by as many people as I can at Facebook. (Editor's note: In November 2012, Tyler was one of the first engineers hired from Facebook to work on Instagram, the photo- and video-sharing application that allows more than 200 million iPhone, Android and online users to edit photos and videos and share them with followers. Click here to read a Rochester Review article about the integral part Tyler has played in designing Instagram's features.)

How do you balance your work and personal life?

Since I spend so much time on the computer at work, I try to do things that don't involve a screen when I get home. Reading, hiking, running, and roaming aimlessly around the city are some of my favorite activities. Two tips: make sure to use the vacation time that you're given, and don't be afraid to say "no" if someone asks you to get something done in an unreasonable timeframe. People will respect you if you set boundaries.

What advice do you have for current Hajim School students about their time on campus, graduate study, or the first few years after college?

Don't spend all of your time in classes. Use the resources of the University – faculty, other students, and extensive labs and library materials – to pursue independent work of some sort. As an engineer, this means you should go build something. Not only will you feel a sense of accomplishment from this endeavor, but you'll have something that will make you stand out from other candidates when you start looking for jobs. Employers care about what you can do, not just what classes you've taken.