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Career Profiles:

Mark Jeffries

1. What is a brief description of your job?
video I'm a Senior Systems Specialist, which deals with the computer support at the company. I do evaluating and testing of hardware and software, as well as solving computer-related problems.

2. Where did you grow up?
video I was born and raised in Racine, Wisconsin, an industrial town 40 miles south of Milwaukee. Basically grew up as a working class kid both parents worked in the factories, and that's pretty much where I got my start. They were very big on education, so I got a lot of my educational upbringing from my parents. I presently live in San Francisco, the crucible of tolerance and diversity.

3. What training and degrees do you hold? What were the specific areas of study?
video My undergraduate was in communication arts and public address from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. It focused particularly on how people communicate, why they communicate, what problems occur from communication, as well as things like theories of persuasion and mechanics of group think, and so on. From there, I went on to do my master's in educational technology and instructional design at San Francisco State University, which focused on computers in human interaction.

5. What is the minimum training that is required for your job?
video The minimum training for my type of job would be at least an undergraduate degree in computer science or some related field.

6. How many years of study are typically needed to acquire the training for your job?
video For a senior systems specialist, the total typical number of years is usually between eight and ten.

7. What percentage of an average day is spent using your training?
video In my case, in an average day between 10 to 14 hours, 100% of my training is used.

8. What science education, if any, is useful in your field?
video In this field, any science education is useful because the more you know about any particular subject matter, the more effective you will be in providing a solution.

9. What general work skills do you use on a daily basis?
video A senior systems specialist works with a diversity of issues, and because of that your skill sets try and really center around team-building, general diplomacy, problem-solving, and for lack of a better description, hand-holding.

10. Are you working in isolation or with a team of co-workers or subordinates?
video There's many times when you're doing research, such as problem-solving or testing equipment when you do work pretty much in isolation. But the wide-ranging world of computing technology calls for team-building and it calls for working with a group of people. Because there's no such thing as a master of all, particularly with computing technology, because there's so many different ways to get something done.

11. What are your working conditions? Dress codes? Environment (Indoor or Outdoor)?
video A systems specialist at Genentech is in a relatively laid-back environment. We are relatively casual here. We're not a big suit culture. The hours can be somewhat grueling, and when you're working on a problem or when you're rolling out a new product for the company, because in many cases it's a cultural change, it can be tension-filled.

12. What is the biggest challenge you face in your field?
video Well, both the communication arts and the educational technology skills joined together to basically help me focus on my job as a systems specialist, because I act as a bridge between the heavy-duty geek programmers who make applications and the people that use them. I primarily work as a translator. I translate what somebody wants to do with a computer to someone who develops things with a computer, and hopefully get them on the same plane.

13. What is the most rewarding experience in your field?
video The most rewarding experience as a systems specialist is problem solving, coming up with a solution that makes using computing technology more transparent to the user.

14. How did your interest in your field develop?
video Well, I have to say in all honesty, how I got into computing in particular was through the back door. I used computers for fun and also for my undergraduate study. And as time went on, I found that my skill set was increasing. In the meantime, I focused a lot on the communication aspects of how people actually get information between one another. After my grad--undergraduate experience, I thought about it and said, "You know, maybe I should make a combination of these two..."

15. What did you want to be in high school?
video I wanted to be a dentist in high school. I was very interested in dentistry. My second occupation I wanted to go into was architecture.

16. Was school easy or hard for you then, and did you like it?
video I actually enjoyed school, although with anything in life there's good parts and bad parts. There were definitely struggles and the usual hassles that you experience in high school, but there were also a lot of good things. A lot of good teachers, good advisers, lots of friends.

17. Are you doing now what you expected to do when you finished school?
video I did not expect to go into computing as heavily as I did. And I didn't expect to become a systems specialist. And I definitely didn't expect to become a senior systems specialist. But I have to say I'm definitely enjoying the job that I do.

18. What advice do you have for students interested in your field?
See below.

19. Beginning with high school, what science courses do you recommend to prepare for your field?
video If you're focusing in biotechnology as a systems specialist, the general science courses are really important biology, zoology, botany, some genetics would definitely help.

20. How is the future projection for jobs in this career? Do you forsee an increase in demand in the future?
video In my opinion, I see that there is going to be a great demand for people who can bridge the gap between computing technology and how humans work with it.

21. Do you use the Internet on a daily basis? If so, how?
video I use the internet on a daily basis, and I use it for a multitude of things. Primarily as a reference tool, also as a communications tool for doing chat sessions or group discussions. I also use it for a vehicle for acquiring new tools and software.

22. With regard to your profession, which web sites do you recommend for students interested in your field?
video Well, some sites that I would recommend for students interested in this field would be of course the Genentech website, but also sites at other schools. In particular, the Instructional Technology website at San Francisco State University, the Multimedia Studies program at San Francisco State, as well the Stanford University website and the University of California system websites.

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