Lauren Jarrard, BSDAS 2006, is currently an iOS Manager at Discovery Inc. She has over 14 years of experience in the digital media and mobile application industries, having worked as a software developer and now manager since her graduation from the University of Florida.
In what ways did your Digital Arts & Sciences (DAS) experience [at the Digital Worlds Institute] prepare you for your career?
When I was looking for college degrees, the mobile field was not around. I liked engineering, and I liked programming, but I still had an interest in being creative. That’s why I ended up going with Digital Arts and Sciences. I appreciated that my electives could be more design-focused, which helped me in the mobile world. While there’s a lot of engineering aspects to every feature, you also need to make it easy for the user to understand, or they’re never going to use it. Having those design aspects in my life helped reinforce building a good customer experience.
What do you like most about your current career?
I love the field of mobile applications. It changes every year. I’ve been building mobile devices since the beginning of iPhones, and it’s been interesting to see the evolution of the technologies. Sometimes that’s a new language like moving from Objective C to SWIFT, and sometimes that’s changing the user experience, like moving to an iPad where it’s just an oversized iPhone experience, to a multi-split view and being able to do multiple things on the iPad at once. I think there’s a good balance of creating cool features for the users, but also it’s just an ever-evolving product; I never stop learning. I feel like I have to relearn the whole thing every year. So it’s challenging, but I think at the same time, that’s why I love it.
What are your favorite DAS memories?
These courses have probably changed since then, but we had a studio class where we worked on a big project for a semester with a small team. I mean, you go through school, and you learn about programming languages and the whole process of engineering, but I think that was the first class that took it all in and ran home with it. You had team members, each with their strengths and weaknesses, and you had to play to those strengths and weaknesses. You had to formulate a plan — sometimes that plan fell apart horribly, but you know what, that happens in engineering too. I thought it was a good think-tank learning experience and an introduction to working in the real world. And obviously, the people that I met, we all kind of went just totally crazy ways. It speaks to the diversity of the program. Some people went on to work at Google, and some people went on to work in the film industry. [Digital Worlds] caters to those creative types, and it’s been interesting to see where everybody’s ended up.
What advice would you give to current Digital Arts & Sciences students?
Follow your passion. If you’re interested in it, pursue it. There was no class in mobile programming when I was in college, but I just found it, and I loved it. Everything you learn in college gives you the basic skills to figure out how to learn. But it’s up to you to go and find your passion, and sometimes you fall into it. Also, make friends, you know, have fun. I took a bunch of classes; I think I took ceramics? I don’t do anything with ceramics now. But it was fun; I learned an interesting skill and didn’t regret it. So follow your passion, but also don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone.