When Jay Brown decided to pursue his Professional Master’s Degree in Applied Systems Engineering from Georgia Tech, he had been working in the engineering and software industry for more than 25 years. Brown, who had earned his bachelor’s degree in 1987, had been considering earning an MBA, but determined it would be better for him to pursue a more technical degree. He knew he needed to be equipped with systems engineering, problem-solving and management skills to take on future leadership roles in his workplace and in the industry.
“I wanted to go back to school for some time, but I wanted to and needed to continue working. It was a great opportunity to earn a master’s from Georgia Tech while still working full time,” he says. “If the PMASE program had been available 15 years ago, I would have been in it.”
Instead, Brown was a member of one of the first graduating classes for the Professional Master’s Degree in Applied Systems Engineering, referred to as PMASE. Brown embarked on the two-year program as part of the 2011 cohort. Shortly after earning his degree in 2013, two major professional milestones occurred:
• He was promoted from a program manager to a director of software architecture within a new division at Turner Broadcasting System focused on innovative media technology.
• He was named secretary and a member of the executive committee of the Atlanta chapter of INCOSE (International Council on Systems Engineering), a group he joined as PMASE student. INCOSE is providing additional networking opportunities and exposing him to systems engineering activities in the Atlanta area.
His supervisors supported his desire to pursue a professional master’s degree, and his company provided some tuition reimbursement.
The program’s hybrid format, with online coursework, lectures and team projects, coupled with three on-campus visits at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, was a structure that Brown believed set him up for success as a student. At times, the rigorous pace felt like having a second job, but it was manageable and provided practical knowledge that could be applied to the workplace.
“It was a lot of work and I expected it to be a lot of work,” he says. “I had to make room for it, but I was able to do it and still keep my day job and keep up with family commitments.”
The team projects were an essential component of the PMASE program, for a few reasons. He developed professional contacts with his cohorts and the Georgia Tech faculty and deepened his skills, particularly when working on large projects. Now, as leader of the Turner Broadcasting System software architecture team, he integrates the systems engineering philosophy, tools and techniques that he acquired as a PMASE student.
“I learned a systems-thinking approach to complex problems,” he says. “I’m able to approach complex problems more effectively.”