Sheila Isbell

(MS CS 11)

Chief, Software Engineering & Analytics Division at GTRI

What were the circumstances of your coming to work at the College of Computing?

I work at GTRI but am happy to serve the College of Computing as the Dean’s wife and an alum.

Prior to this, had you ever thought about coming back to work at Georgia Tech?

Since stepping on Tech’s campus, I have always been interested in being a part of the community. I started off volunteering with the women and minority student groups then focused on the graduate students. Whether it’s planning events, speaking at events or being present to meet with alum, I am happy and honored to be in the room with our best and brightest.

What’s one of your favorite memories from your time as a student?

I was a non-traditional student at Tech working full time with a young family, so connecting with other students and their schedules could be a challenge. However, my favorite moments were our late-night study sessions as a group after gathering in a TA’s office hours. There is a camaraderie and understanding that we will get through this, and we did! I think that knowing what is possible carries through to problem-solving challenges in our chosen profession.

How has the College changed since you were a student?

The student population is definitely larger, but what is the same is the professors are committed, kind, and interesting.

How is GT Computing different than similar institutions?

When I went to school, computing was not as broad as it is today. I think it is helpful to think about the courses in threads, if I were an undergrad during this time, I would have pursued People and Intelligence. There are a lot of project-based courses that connect students with all of the local companies in the area. To that end, GT Computing is special because of where it is – Atlanta, this city has such energy, it is exciting to be a part of all of the movement that is occurring right here, right now.

What do you carry with you from your time as a student that still informs/influences your personal/professional life?

I like to encourage those in computing to pursue a grad degree. It is a great way to take the foundational computer science that you learn in undergrad and tailor it for your particular interests. As a part-time student and full-time employee, I took courses that matched my professional interests in communication, decision-making, and population health. Therefore, AI Storytelling with Mark Riedl, Intro to AI with Ashok Goel, Computational Journalism with Irfan Essa, and Educational Technology with Janet Kolodner were all key courses for me. Many of the GT Computing classes were full of projects, reading papers, and discussions. I love learning this way.

How would you like to see the college grow in the next decade?

I think the college is moving in the way it should go, which is pursuing interdisciplinary connections. Computing has a strong role in solving problems holistically in our everyday lives. The joint programs, centers and courses that are being created will result in impactful connections and solutions that will benefit both our students and society in surprising and delightful ways.