Software engineering ‘nomad’ finds temporary home at RIT

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Photo by A. Sue Weisler

Fifth-year software engineering major Alex Ford has made a temporary home for himself at RIT, specifically through his work with the Society of Software Engineers.

Alex Ford isn’t being coy when he tells 
people where he’s from.

“The planet Earth,” he says.

When pressed, he chuckles and replies, “I’m serious…I’m a military brat.”

Ford, a fifth-year software engineering major in the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences, has lived in three countries and eight states. His father, Eric, is a member of the U.S. Air Force. The years Ford has spent at RIT are the longest he’s ever lived in one place.

He’s certainly used his time wisely. 

Ford has completed four co-ops and 
has been instrumental in his academic 
department’s student group, the Society 
of Software Engineers. During his first week on campus, Ford met with his 
academic adviser and asked her to help 
him meticulously plan out his first 
three years.

“That’s just who I am,” Ford says. “I’m goal-oriented. I need to have goals.”

And, with graduation rapidly approaching, Ford can now say that he’s accomplished his biggest goal.

In 2007, Ford spearheaded an effort to create a wing of the Society of Software Engineers called Voices in Software Engineering. He felt it was important to inspire his fellow students by bringing some of the most prominent and influential individuals in the field to campus.

“I think students find it fascinating to be able to meet these people that they’ve read about,” Ford says. “We consider a lot of these people to be our idols and we admire their contributions to the field.”

Voices in Software Engineering started bringing speakers to campus in the spring of 2007. The first was Steve McConnell, who authored the book Code Complete. The group has also brought in the influential “Gang of Four,” a group who wrote a book on object-oriented programming.

But Ford’s vision wasn’t fully realized until Dec. 4. That’s when Bjarne Stroustrup, the developer of the programming language C++, came to campus. Reaction to his visit was extraordinary and Stroustrup spoke to an overflow crowd. 

“From day one, that was our goal—to bring someone of his stature to campus,” Ford says. “To overhear people saying ‘Wow, I met the founder of C++’ is a really cool thing.”

Oddly, Ford wasn’t able to attend Stroustrup’s presentation. He had to meet a group to work on their cross-disciplinary senior design project. It wasn’t all bad, however. Ford got to pick up Stroustrup from his hotel, have breakfast with him and attend an “experts session” that followed his talk.

While Ford no longer chairs the Voices in Software Engineering group, he remains active and hopes to see the group flourish well into the future.

As for his own future? He’s in the midst of a job search and is leaning toward eventually pursuing a doctorate. Just don’t expect to see him living in Rochester much longer.

“I’m kind of a nomad,” he says. “I need variance in my life.”