Each Master of Business and Science (MBS) student has a unique journey through our program. This month, we’re sharing the story of alumni Laura Gordon, MBS’22. Gordon graduated with a concentration in User Experience Design (UXD). Currently, she serves as a Web Developer for the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences, a position which she has held since 2016. She has been working in information technology since 1993. Prior to her current role, she worked in project management and freelance website design. Gordon is also the founder of the Joomla User Group of New Jersey, and she manages the Rutgers University Women in Technology Group.
How did you become so involved in the Joomla community? What opportunities has this created for you?
Gordon built her first website in 2005. She first heard of Joomla, a content management system, while teaching website development. Her first Joomla website was for the Springfield Public Library, which she still manages today.
“It changed my career because in order for me to build a public library website, I needed help. You can’t do anything by yourself,” said Gordon.
She joined the Joomla User Group of New York. At her first meeting, the founders of the group inspired her.
“They encouraged me to keep going,” said Gordon, “that even if I’m not a PHP developer or not a heavy-duty programmer, I could do just as much as everyone else.”
Gordon specialized in website creation for public libraries.
“I found a knack for it. I loved working with the librarian directors.” She and the librarians shared an appreciation for data, working to organize it properly.
In 2016, Gordon discovered that the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences was looking to add a Joomla developer to their team. Due to her experience creating Joomla websites, the role was a perfect fit. She was impressed by the sites that they had built.
“What I liked about the School of Arts and Sciences is they also really appreciated the data, and they really took the time to build sites that made sense.”
Why did you choose the MBS degree?
Gordon knew that she wanted to hone her skillset to be a better employee for Rutgers and for her own personal development. Her boss suggested that she get an MBA.
“Whatever career path you’re in, I think it’s important to always work with your management to say, ‘What can I do to learn more?’”
However, when examining the MBA, she found that she desired a path better suiting her technical interests. Then, she stumbled upon the MBS degree.
“When I discovered User Experience Design, I said, wait a second, that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 25 years, but without any training.”
She knew this degree and concentration were the right fit for her because she was excited about every course that she would take—from Introduction to User Experience Design, to Marketing, to Information Architecture.
“You should enjoy your classes. If you don’t get excited about the things you’re learning, then you’re in the wrong major,” said Gordon. She continued, “Your career path doesn’t necessarily have to be what your major is. It doesn’t matter. But if you’re not excited about what you’re learning, you’re not going to be able to move forward. You’re not going to be able to dig deeper.”
What has been your biggest professional achievement?
Gordon shared her top two professional achievements. The first was building her first Joomla website for the Springfield Public Library.
The second: “Finding the opportunity at Rutgers and going for it,” said Gordon. She had heard of the opening for her current position through a friend from her synagogue, although Gordon hadn’t been seeking a full-time job.
“It’s important in life to hear what’s going on in the outside, and there might be something for you.”
It was a tough jump for her transition from freelancing to working full-time, but she was successful.
What did you find to be the most valuable aspects of the PSM program?
Gordon found great value in completing group projects and working with peers to achieve a goal.
Additionally, she appreciated the careful planning of the UXD curriculum. She shared the example of the Information Architecture course, in which she and her partner followed the curriculum and the path of the instructor to create a 150-page report over the course of the semester.
“My background is grab it, run, and done. These classes forced me to slow down and to take things one piece at a time.” Students have to be patient with the process, she added. “If you try to skip, you’re going to miss something important.”
How did this degree prepare you for success in your career?
“I was already processing all of my work with a user experience design perspective, but not knowing it,” said Gordon. The MBS degree provided Gordon with a better-thought-out process.
“If you do the research properly, you will come out with a better result in the end. The hard part is convincing your employers to give you the time to do the research ahead of time.”
By completing the MBS degree, Gordon learned why she must approach design from a user’s perspective and how to demonstrate the importance of user experience design to stakeholders.
Do you have any advice for current or prospective students?
Gordon advised students to allot sufficient time for each course and project. She also suggested that students not take any other courses alongside the capstone.
"If you’re not able to give it the right amount of time,” said Gordon, “then you’re doing yourself and your team a disservice.”
Gordon also advised students to volunteer for opportunities outside of their comfort zone.
“Try things that you’re not comfortable with. If you're not comfortable with speaking, then you should be speaking. If you're not comfortable with writing, then you should be writing.” The PSM program is the best place to practice these skills and take risks.
Gordon recommended that students complete an externship—but only if they have the proper amount of time. Externships allow students to gain hands-on work experience that can be added to their resumes.
Gordon highlighted the importance of building connections while in MBS. She advised students to reach out to classmates and meet up or chat in person if possible.
"It's those relationships that are going to get you the jobs, and it's going to be the start to your career,” said Gordon.
Gordon offered one final thought.
“Take your time through the program. Enjoy it each step of the way and try to meet as many people as you can, even if you may not be comfortable with it.”
To read about other MBS alumni, check out our las alumni spotlight highlighting Patrick Riolo, MBS'19.
Tags: Alumni spotlight, alumni, User Experience Design, UXD