Computer Programming and a Need for Speed
A Rolling Start into College
Kira Peter of Greenfield, Indiana had the goal to visit multiple Christian colleges before deciding where to go. Grace College, in Winona Lake, Indiana was her first stop, but it wasn’t a top-pick at the time. In fact, she chose this particular day simply to avoid taking the PSAT for the third time, (those standardized tests in high school can be BRUTAL, and what better excuse but to go on a college visit?) She considered this somewhat of a Christian college “test run.” She didn’t have high expectations, and she wasn’t hopeful that she would find her school on the first try.
But at the end of the visit, after a day of smiling faces, and friendly “hellos,” she looked at her mom, eyes wide, and said, “I think I want to go here.” While she reluctantly visited several other Christian schools, none of them measured up to Grace.
Finding the Right Lane
She started her time at Grace as an actuarial science major. But after her first calculus class, she switched to a degree in counseling. Her roommate, Emalee, was taking the course “Intro to Computer Science” with Dr. Koontz. Emalee coaxed Kira into taking the class as a way to fulfill her BS requirement. Plus, who doesn’t want to take a class with their roommate just for fun? She finished the course and enjoyed the knowledge she gleaned from it, but she had fulfilled her science credit and was moving on with her counseling degree.
The next session started, and to Dr. Koontz’s dismay, Kira wasn’t in his class. He sought out Kira and set up a one-on-one meeting with her. In an attempt to get her to add an information systems minor, Dr. Koontz was surprised when Kira decided to switch her major altogether. In that meeting, Kira realized her natural gifting in computer science and decided that the counseling field actually wasn’t for her.
If you ask Kira what the best part of the information systems program was, she won’t hesitate to say it was the individualized guidance from Dr. Koontz. The small class sizes allowed her to ask questions freely and understand the subject matter at a deeper level. “Dr. Koontz teaches you how to problem solve and how to learn in a programming environment,” she said.
Kira said that was the beauty of the information systems major. It prepares you for a business coding job — where the technical skills of a coder meet the entrepreneurial skills of a businesswoman.
She explained, “In the world of coding, the language and practice change at a rapid rate. If you become so tied to one way of doing things, you will not succeed in this field.” And that is why Kira found success as she picked up speed in her field.
Picking Up Speed
Kira was connected with several internship opportunities while at Grace which shaped her into the competent programmer she is today.
Her first applied learning experience was with One America in downtown Indianapolis. This experience laid the groundwork for her internships to come, and also gave her confidence in her ability to interview.
Her second internship was with Silveus Insurance. An IT employee unexpectedly reached out to her early on at Grace. “That was really neat because I wasn’t even looking for an internship at the time,” said Kira. Dr. Koontz and one of her classmates had name-dropped her to the company who employs a large number of Grace graduates — yet another tangible benefit of the small class sizes and relationships built with professors.
But her third and final internship in college took the cake. She found out about the role through the Xtern program, an organization that pairs college programming students with internships at the fastest-growing tech companies in Indianapolis. An Xtern representative came and spoke in one of Kira’s Information Systems classes, and that was all it took for Kira to sign up.
One of Kira’s four interviews was with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It would be so cool to help with the Indy 500, Kira thought, but I don’t know anything about racing. As it turned out, the speedway was the company she connected with the most, and the interviewers were eager to snatch her up before the other companies could.
Kira’s time at the speedway was the full 200 laps! She was afforded a number of unique experiences, including working on a concept proof for a chatbot. She enjoyed the balance of experimenting with new technology, but also getting to help out with event-oriented tasks. “It was so much fun working for the speedway during the Indy 500 in May where it’s all hands on deck,” she reflected. During that season, she got to work on the ticket sales software, update the remote kiosks and even sold some tickets herself. “It’s crazy for a programmer to have all those responsibilities, but it was a really nice change of pace,” she reflected.
The summer internship was drawing to an end, but her time with races didn’t stop there. “After my summer internship, they asked me to continue working for them remotely at school,” said Kira. When it was all said and done, Kira had acquired over a year of experience with a world-renowned speedway. When her senior year was drawing to an end, Kira was offered a full-time position working with the speedway, but the opportunity was canceled due to COVID – 19.
Now a fresh graduate, Kira looks to the future with ample experience, an impressive resume, and a hopeful spirit. In many ways, her race is just getting started.
To learn more about our information systems major, click here!