TA Spotlight: Graham Mackenzie

Graham Mackenzie

Graham Mackenzie is a TA for CS 6340: Software Analysis. Keep reading to learn more about Graham!

What do you do professionally?

I have been working as an American Sign Language interpreter for the past 24 years. First on staff at the Rochester Institute of Technology interpreting mostly Science & Engineering lectures, then freelancing in the widest possible variety of settings in several major cities across the US, from corporate boardrooms to judges' chambers to prisons to twelve-step meetings to ERs, and most recently interpreting video/phone calls between Deaf and hearing people at a nationwide service provider's offices here in Seattle. In my career, I have been in the room for people being born, people dying, and virtually everything in between. Now I just have to make the transition into a completely orthogonal line of work; easy peasy.

Why do you TA for OMSCS?

Oh, for so many reasons, most of them the usual ones: I greatly enjoy teaching and helping others learn, I wanted to give back to a system from which I had benefited, teaching helps me understand the material better, etc. And out of a sense of duty/obligation, honestly, because this program runs on the labor of our peers making (this industry's version of) minimum wage. Also, because I was honored to be asked and need all the opportunities to burnish my résumé I can get, frankly. But also, because being a TA has, in my mind, always been a part of the graduate school experience, the classic academic journey. And because I have a keen interest in observing the dynamics of power (however limited in scope) up close and wanted to see how the educational sausage is made, so to speak. And especially to gain greater empathy for the sacrifices others have made in the past to help me succeed, as well as a deeper appreciation of the constraints of the system they were working within while doing so.

What is your advice for future OMSCS students?

My advice is to find your people asap! I was lucky enough to get invited into a great friend group on Slack awhile back, without whom I honestly strongly doubt I would have made it this far, quite possibly might have dropped out by now. Even if you have a private group with just a handful of people you know and trust — maybe add one or two of the ones you click with most per semester — having a place to kvetch, troubleshoot, and provide mutual support can be life-changing in a program like this, especially when we're otherwise so isolated from each other in so many ways. Start the group yourself if you have to; others will thank you for it.

What hobby or activity are you looking forward to getting back to once you're done with OMSCS?

As a (somewhat surprising, although perhaps it shouldn't be) number of others have said on here: I'm an Artist and am looking forward to getting back to all of the Artistic activities I've had to put on hold in recent years. Most immediately upon graduation, I'll be recording some a cappella covers of the work of a band called The Green Arrows that recorded the first LP in Zimbabwe back in the 1970's, filming my one-man version of Shakespeare's most famous play, which I'm titling "Grahamlet", and baking and cooking everything I can from GBBO and the New York Times recipe archive. Just three classes to go!