MCS Alumni Profile: Phillip Knoll Posted on April 20th, 2016 by

phillipknollTell us about yourself.

I graduated from Gustavus in 2003 with a degree in Computer Science. I am currently working as an Oracle, B2B Commerce Architect (Pre-Sales)

How did the MCS department help you get where you are today?

My exposure to the strong theoretical and mathematical foundation of the Gustavus MCS curriculum helped me immeasurably. Where before I had a simple “knack” for computing technologies, I gained a more thorough awareness of the ways in which technology shapes our lives through the often invisible laws of computer science, mathematics, systems and and information theory. This is surely a “high road” and long-term approach compared to the immediate goal of learning particular technical skills, but one that has continued to pay dividends over a decade after my graduation. Of course, I also learned some very practical skills during my studies – but the most important thing is that Gustavus MCS prepared me to continue to learn for a lifetime.

What is your favorite memory or memories of the MCS department?

Traveling out of state to represent Gustavus at ACM programming competitions, racking our brains for a solution to seemingly intractable problems, and realizing that many of these held an intrinsic “gotcha” or trick that required thinking outside the box. While we didn’t win any of the contests, the effort of putting heads together with my classmates was very enlightening and a look forward to the nature of creative problem solving. It bears a remarkable similarity to the modern practice of technical interviewing, as well serves as a reminder of the value of teamwork and flexibility.

Also, Max Hailperin’s class on Object Oriented Development was likewise an eye opening experience that required my study group to design and develop a program to serve the needs of an on-campus “customer” – in our case, a creative tool for the poet-in-residence. The structure of the class was refreshingly open ended, requiring complete ownership of our own team goals, commitments, and follow through. Our grade in the class was determined by setting our own criteria for success and following through on them, to demonstrate that our program had solved the problem that it was created for. It was only natural that after enjoying the effort of our team of “Code Poets” so thoroughly, that I later found myself employed as a consultant at the aptly named “Art Technology Group”, where the skills I learned in the classroom were directly applicable to serving customers and colleagues.

Max Hailperin’s “computer archaeology” lessons in Comp Org and OS classes, showing what used to pass for state-of-the-art (and knowing our current technology will soon look just as quaint!)

Barbara Kaiser’s many “theme songs” and favorite sayings of Calculus and Computer Science 101 core topics. “Break this range into small intervals, take a limit, add them up, blah-dee-blah goes the theme song, you know the rest!”

John Holte’s notoriously difficult Discrete Calculus classes which nonetheless imparted a knowledge of combinatorics that I can command at a moment’s notice to bewilder my friends and neighbors, and the notable feat of completing a writing credit in a mathematics course.

The very unique experience of taking Compilers as a capstone course. So much of the entire MCS curriculum and skill set was encapsulated in that very one class. Very challenging and very rewarding.

Finally… showing up to my undergraduate comprehensive examination in torn army fatigues and an old t-shirt, passing on my comprehension of MCS curriculum subject matter, if not my fashion sense. I have since invested in a few good suits.

Anything else you would like to add or mention?

Despite the currently increasing trend of functional programming, I have so far yet to write any more code in Scheme. 😉


Thanks for the update Phillip. It’s good to hear from you.

If you would like to let the MCS department know what you are up to you can do so by clicking here.


Comments are closed.