Friday, March 28, 2014

Alumnus: Jack Weast, CS '99

5:58 PM

Jack Weast graduated from Maseeh College with a BS in Computer Science in 1999, and his rapid rise to the rank of Principal Engineer and Solutions Architect at Intel is an awesome example of what can happen when the Power of Place is combined with hard work and dedication. In addition to his work at Intel, Mr. Weast is chair of the Industrial Advisory Board, an associate CS professor at the College, and is a Champion of research at National Taiwan University. He received his MS in CS from Oregon Graduate Institute in 2003.

Weast got his start at Intel when one of his professors recommended him for an internship to an Intel hiring manager (who happened to be a Maseeh College alum). Weast turned that initial Viking connection into part-time contracting job during the academic year and additional summer internships through the rest of his undergrad, all culminating in a full-time position at Intel by winter term of his senior year.

Since his start at Intel, Weast has been working on technology ahead of the mainstream curve. He began as a Junior Software Engineer in the Mobile Technology Lab at a time when the desktop PC was king and "nobody bought laptops."  He was next promoted to Senior Software Engineer with the PC Client Group, where, as chair the certification committee at the Digital Living Network Alliance (an industry standards organization), he led the development of a certification program for technology shipped in hundreds of millions of consumer devices every year. Continuing with consumer devices, Weast became an Architect in the Digital Home Group, working on the first Smart TVs and digital media adapter technologies in partnership with tech leaders like Yahoo and Google. He was promoted to Senior Architect within that unit before creating his next position.

Definitive development guide authored by Weast
"It truly sounds like a stupid cliché, but hard work, a rock-solid work ethic, and determination, nine times out of ten will trump raw intelligence. There are people way smarter than me who work for me.  It's important to remember that, to pay back and acknowledge the people who work for you. But it was the willingness to work evenings and weekends that got me where I am." - Jack Weast

Facilitating the Future
Weast now manages the Experience Solutions Team, part of the "user experience research organization" tasked with "translating a human perspective into architecture and engineered solutions" on a two to five year horizon. As Weast explains, "a vision for the future is only as valuable as the technology that can bring it to market," and so his team connects Intel technologists with researchers and scholars in the social sciences and humanities in order to accelerate the future and build technologies that can make it reality.

Personal Billboard (Credit: Intel)
Some of the concepts developed by the user experience research group were on display at this year's CES: a unique use of a two-sided Ultrabook screen called Personal Billboard that allows for personal expression and informal communication, as well as a magnificent demonstration of how storytellers can use technologies to create entirely new narrative experiences complete with an augmented reality experience with a militarized flying whale called Leviathan from Scott Westerfeld’s excellent steampunk novels.

Augmented reality presentation (Credit: Intel)
Weast's organization "remembers the human role in product development [in order] to make technology work for people, improve people's lives, and make their lives easier." At the same time helping to evolve Intel from its origins as a "silicon company" to its future as an "experiences company" that can be a thought leader and an inspiration to its many partners.

(Credit: Intel)
Advice for Current Students
If he could go back in time and give his undergrad self a pep talk he would offer the following wisdom:
  • The education you receive at PSU can allow you to surpass graduates of other (better-known) schools – Maseeh College requires a strong work ethic focused on hard, tangible results, which will serve you well in industry.
  • Carry a chip on  your shoulder for any respect you don't get, and use it as motivation - "I'm just as good as them, and I'm going to prove it" should be your attitude.
  • The first 5-7 years of your career are key: your work in this time will speak volumes about you and create a name for yourself within your company. 
  • Keep your head down, work your butt off, and do not concern yourself with promotions - your work will speak for itself.
  • Consider graduate school while you’re starting out as a young professional - as you are promoted and take on more responsibility within the company, it can become harder to find the time to continue education.
  • The tech sector, particularly on the west coast, believes in meritocracy -- nobody really cares where you went to school or how old you are, only what you have done
  • If you are ever feeling too comfortable in your position, that's precisely the moment when you need to make a change.  Change what project you’re working on, seek new opportunities, and try new ideas to keep yourself fresh and always learning new things (this is highly valued at Intel).
  • Tech companies have come appreciate the value of non-traditional viewpoints as the key to a more accurate perspective of the world we live in.  Diverse employees from different walks of life that bring unique perspectives are essential to Intel and other companies’ success.
Finally, be confident in what you've accomplished and in your own abilities. More often than not, you are better and more capable than you realize... If you're wrong, learn where you got it wrong – move on, and with your next project, show you’ve learned a lesson and are improving who you are and how you work.  You can’t go wrong with continual self-improvement.

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