TA Spotlight: Rob Donaldson

Each week we spotlight an OMSCS TA, so you can get to know who's behind the screen. Here are four questions for Rob Donaldson, who TAs CSE 6242: Data and Visual Analytics.

Rob Donaldson

What do you do professionally?
I have worked at UPS for the past 17 years. I started there as a summer intern while I was working on my B.S. in computer science, and I've been there since. Until recently I was in application development, mainly in automotive and fleet management. After I graduated from OMSCS, I was promoted to a lead data engineer in a department supporting our IT infrastructure. I work on team of engineers and data scientists, and we are trying to implement AIOPS in our infrastructure ecosystem. Most of the data we need is siloed in vendor tools, so there is a ton of ETL work.

Why do you TA for OMSCS?
I started in the OMSCS in the second cohort back when there were only a handful of courses and only a few TAs for each course. It was clear from the start how important the TAs were, and that became more and more obvious as the courses scaled in size over time. I never found the time to TA while I was a student, but after I graduated, I found out that I could be an alumni TA. Seeing how much the program helped me (and some of my colleagues), I really wanted to give back.

What's your advice for future students in OMSCS?
Start your assignments early. A lot of assignments (and especially projects) are more involved than they might seem at first. And when you add work, family, sleep, and other commitments, things can pop up unexpectedly. The last thing you want to do is save an assignment for the weekend it's due. You're going to be a lot less stressed if you can start early and submit your work with a few extra days before the deadlines. Also, if you submit homework at 4 in the morning while half asleep, you might want to double check it the next day to make sure you submitted the right files. Don't ask how I know.

What's your favorite memory from your time in or working with OMSCS so far?
I flew down to walk at graduation, and it was my first time on campus. The ceremony was in McCamish Pavilion (which I had never been to), and they had all the graduates lining up in a room in the next building over. We were there for a while waiting, and I got the chance to meet a lot of the other OMSCS graduates. As cool as that was, the best part was when we started walking towards the ceremony. We went through a tunnel for a while. Then all of a sudden, we were coming out in the arena with cameras showing us on the jumbotron. I looked around, and the arena was completely packed with people. It was very surreal.