Kwadwo Asamoah Boateng: Voices of Penn Engineering Master’s Alumni
This is part of our series of articles written by Penn Engineering alumni about their experiences at Penn and how it shaped their lives. This article is written by Kwadwo Asamoah Boateng, who graduated with a M.S.E. degree in Computer and Information Science in 2012. He is currently Senior Director of Engineering at Group Nine Media.
I grew up in Accra, the capital of Ghana. After high school, I attended the University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science. Upon completion, I wanted to continue with a master’s degree, but KNUST hadn’t started offering their master’s degree program in computer science. I started to look for schools abroad while working on campus as a teaching assistant.
During that time, I came in contact with some Penn exchange students who were participating in the International Development Summer Institute program on the KNUST campus. They were very welcoming and we talked about life at Penn, as well as education in the United States in general. Around the same time, the Provost of the College of Science mentioned he had contacts at Penn and would put me in touch with them. He also added that there was a vibrant Ghanaian/African community in the Philadelphia area and in the school as well.
I started to look more into the requirements and the courses in Penn Engineering’s Computer and Information Science (CIS) department. I was really impressed with the School’s offerings and the areas of research. Additionally, I spoke to my friends who knew members of the Ghanaian community here in Philadelphia and they spoke very highly of Penn.
After my application and successful admission, I was put into contact with officials at Penn’s International Student Services office, who were exceptionally helpful regarding the whole immigration process. They provided a wealth of information regarding settling in and finding accommodations and they readily answered all my questions. The graduate student coordinator also created a mailing list and Facebook group where my fellow master’s students and I introduced ourselves and began discussing the courses we would be taking.
I arrived in the U.S. and started school in the fall of 2010. My first semester took a little adjusting to — the weather, the food and the culture were a little different from what I was used to. With the help of the friends I made, and the guidance of my academic advisor, Professor Boon Thau Loo and alumni of the program, I was able to adjust accordingly. The African Studies department was also exceptionally helpful in helping me settle into the school. They organized various programs that helped me learn and adjust to the culture.
There were a lot of classes in the CIS department that I wanted to take — more than I could ever fit into my schedule. Those that I enjoyed the most include Computer Architecture, Software Systems, Internet and Web Systems, and Software Engineering. Looking back, those classes gave me a solid foundation to become a good engineer and guide most of the technical decisions I make on a daily basis.
What really impressed me at Penn was that all of these world-class professors who were leaders in their respective fields were teaching us daily. One thing that I was also very happy about was how the professors and TAs were always willing to meet with us regarding any issues we were facing. They were all very welcoming and expressed a genuine interest in my success. I discussed my course plans with my advisor on a regular basis.
During the last semester of my program at Penn, the Career Services team was instrumental in preparing us for interviews and arranging for top companies to come to campus. During this time, I had meetings with top tech companies, and the Career Services team helped me prepare my resume. Before graduation, I had multiple job offers here in the U.S. and abroad.
I decided to join Thrillist, an online media company covering food, drink, travel and entertainment in New York City. I started as a software engineer working on a collection of projects including an e-commerce website the company owned, called Jackthreads. I had the opportunity to work with some of the smartest software engineers in media, and I had the privilege of using some of the latest technologies in the industry. Besides my day-to-day of working directly with code, deploying code to production and performing code reviews, I had the opportunity to grow my soft skills by helping with interviewing and recruiting, as well as mentoring newer developers and presenting at conferences.
Five years down the line, I currently work as a senior director of engineering at Group Nine Media, the parent company for Nowthis, Seeker, Thrillist and The Dodo. Throughout my career, all of the courses I took at Penn have proven very useful in my day-to-day, first as a developer and now as an engineering director. Through my Independent Study with Professor Chris Murphy, and my Curricular Practical Training, I was also able to get a good amount of hands-on experience even before graduation.
I decided to come to New York because it has a very vibrant life and lots of energy. Being here in New York gives me the option of enjoying a bustling city life with numerous activities but I also have the option of going hiking upstate within a few minutes when I want to enjoy nature and some nice scenery.
I keep in touch with most of my classmates who graduated with me via Facebook and Instagram. Once in a while, when they are in the city, we hang out for drinks. From time to time I meet some of them during conferences and tech meetups. I was recently invited back to Penn to talk to the CIS master’s students about my experiences in the industry, and answer questions about life after graduation.
I particularly like working at Group Nine Media because aside from all the perks, we have a really good culture that allows for growth and a very good work-life balance. People are treated with respect and everybody has a voice when it comes to technical decisions. We solve very interesting and challenging problems, and what makes it even more rewarding is that so many people interact with the systems we build.