Alumni Profile: Kris Reynolds (Class of 2012)

kris reynolds picture

Kris Reynolds graduated from Plymouth State in 2012 with a B.S. in Computer Science and a minor in Mathematics. He went on to earn a M.S. in Computer Science at University of Southern California in 2015. Kris currently works as a senior software engineer/software integration and test lead at BAE Systems.

Can you tell us a bit about what your typical workweek is like in your current job?

My primary role is the Software Integration and Test Lead (SWIT Lead) for an Navy Anti-Ship Missile program. Most days I work closely with the Systems Engineering team to identify and solve problems within the code base. These issues are not usually crashing problems, usually they are differences or incorrect results from the algorithms used within the system. As a result I spend quite a bit of time pouring over gigabytes of data with people from the Systems team to identify patterns and work as a group to determine the best (or most cost effective) way to resolve the issue. The resolution can be a code change, but it might just be an update to configuration files.

My secondary role is as a developer on the same program. As a developer I am given a short description of a new feature or known problem. I typically work alone to design, develop, test, and integrate the new changes into the system.

Tell us about some cool projects you’ve worked on since graduating.

I have worked on a few different projects since graduation. The first of which was an R&D project for missile warning and hostile fire (bullet) detection system for navy aircraft. I worked with the Systems team and another SW Engineer on the algorithms that detected anomalies in the environment and determined if they were an actual threat. If it was a threat we needed to determine what kind of weapon it was, and where it was coming from. It was all done in a RTOS at an extremely high frame rate, so I learned a lot about keeping code clean, simple, and most of all efficient.

The second project was for a map server that was to be used in the field on an Air Force aircraft. The map server used Google Earth to provide a 3D globe with our custom controls for identifying and monitoring communication systems. I worked on the whole cycle from requirements through test and sell-off to the customer. We used JSF and JavaScript to provide our custom front end on top of GE. The entire server was written in Java.

The third project is the anti-ship missile project that I mentioned above.

How did Plymouth State help prepare you for your job?

Plymouth prepared me in two important ways. The first is the core fundamentals that you need as a software engineer. This such as best practices, OOP fundamentals, architecture, and operating systems have all been key to my success. My knowledge I gained at PSU in these topics were not all-encompassing, they barely scratched the surface. However what they did hit was enough to give a strong foundation that any software engineer needs.

The second way is the problem solving skills I developed while at PSU. Like I said, what I learned in school was not enough alone. However I also learned how to collaborate with other to solve hard problems (Physics, Software Engineering, Algorithms courses), or gaining the confidence to tackle obscure algorithms (Thank you Dr. Shen), or to be challenged to go do the research yourself (Dr. Marshall) are all key components to being successful in the workforce.

What are some of your favorite memories of your experience at Plymouth State?

It was awesome to be so close to the professors. I remember many times just hanging out in Memorial way after we needed to be there just talking shop with Dr. Roberson. This also allowed for a lot of great class experiences with professors like Dr. Roberson and Dr. Marshall, who pushed us to reason our way to answers instead of just attacking us with a million slides. The PSU programming team was great. I got to travel for competitions against other schools, and made some good friends along the way.

What other things do you do for fun in your free time?

I am a huge car guy. I love to work on my car or with friends adding customization and go-fast-bits. Since graduation I have had a Mazdaspeed3, a Scion FR-S, a Mazdaspeed6, and my latest is a Kia Optima with over 300hp. I am currently saving up for a vintage VW Beetle project. Since cars are such an expensive hobby I can’t do that all the time :-P. So I also spend a lot of nights and weekends fishing the rivers and ponds of NH, and surf fishing on the coast.

What advice would you give to current CS/IT students?

You can pass all of your classes and graduate on time doing the bare minimum. Don’t. The professors at PSU are great and want to help you succeed. The harder you push yourself the more you will learn. The more you understand in your chosen field the more fun it is, and the easier it will be for you to find success.

When you are done school you will not find an employer that is happy with an 80% solution. Treat your programming assignments like they are for a job, as if someone else will be using, reading, and modifying your code. That will pay dividends when you go for an interview and they ask for samples of your work. Once you have a job your coworkers will be VERY happy to work with someone who can write clean logical code. From what I have seen there are very few people that come out of school with this ability and mindset. I know I needed some adjustments!

Anything else you’d like to share?

Work hard in school, but make sure you have some fun. Once you are graduated and working full time it is a lot harder to enjoy a good thirsty Thursday.