Tatiana Alexenko did not have a computer for some time as a child, and her first computer was actually a hand-me-down. But, as her interest in the machine grew and evolved from gaming to Photoshop, her seriousness toward computer science also took shape.
Alexenko graduated with a bachelor of science in Information Technology and Computer Science from the University of Missouri-Columbia, also with a minor in business and German. She also completed her master’s coursework at Mizzou, studying computer science and IT with special emphasis areas in artificial intelligence and robotics. Alexenko is currently completing her thesis on Natural Language Processing for elder care robotics.
Since early 2015, Alexenko has worked as a software engineer at Cerner on the Registration and Eligibility Services team, which is part of Revenue Cycle. She started her mentoring with Coding & Cocktails in early 2016.
1. How did your interest in coding begin?
Growing up, I didn’t have a computer for the longest time. I think the first computer I got was at 14 or 15. I think it was hand-me-down that had a lot of games on it, including Master of Orion. It’s a strategy game, and games were a thing that I was really into. I started playing around with Photoshop on it, too.
2. How has your technical knowledge transferred into other aspects of your life?
More recently, after I started getting into computer science in college, I started learning about how computer optimization works applying to real life. It can be applied to managing relationships with people and how you manage your time.
3. What do you enjoy most about your work?
I spend at least half of my time coding. I spend at least half of my time writing new code. It’s good experience getting to work on that large of a big code base. I like that Cerner is a big company. I like having a gym on site and the campus, as well.
4. What are the more challenging aspects of your career?
It’s challenging sometimes debating things with people. Guys can get away with being more passionate during a debate than women. When you are passionate about something, it can be easy to get carried away.
5. What advice would you offer your younger self today, or to someone who is looking to shift careers into one more coding-based?
To my younger self, I would say to research more. I was interested in playing games, but do more research on creating things rather than using existing things. I wish had known about the other applications of computer science, such as artificial intelligence. I wish I also had taken math classes more seriously back then, too. With artificial intelligence, you have to really know how the formulas work. For other people, it really depends on what they are trying to do. If they are trying to do data science, they should have a solid background in math and statistics. If you are trying to be a web developer, you have to want to continue to learn and put in the extra hours throughout the rest of your life. It has to be your passion; if it isn’t your passion, you aren’t going to be good at it.
6. If you could tell the general public one thing about software engineers and what it means to write code, what would it be?
When you are rational, and you try to talk to people about world events and politics, you can be perceived as cynical and cold.
7. How do you envision STEM evolving into our daily lives?
It’s already in our lives. Your behavior is constantly being tracked and analyzed by machines whenever you use the Internet, which is all the time. There is technology that is going to improve the lives of people who cannot take care of themselves, such as the elderly population. We have a growing elderly population but a shortage of health care professionals. In the next 20 years, we are going to start to see AI assistance that will help people not to feel like they are not alone. Self-driving cars also are going to start taking off sooner. It involves city planning and health care planning. Basically, it’s just improving processing of all kinds – it’s already being done all around you; there’s just going to be more and more of it.