From Co-op Student to Co-op Employer: Jennifer Clarke Recounts Her Time at Northeastern, Twenty Years Later

December 11, 2018

By Christian Stafford

It has been nearly 20 years since Jennifer Clarke was featured in a Northeastern University prospective student brochure for the University’s College of Computer Science, now the College of Computer and Information Science (CCIS). A lot has changed and a lot has happened; Clarke reflects on her personal and professional developments since entering the workforce in 2002.

Recalling the brochure she was featured in, Clarke said she remembered answering questions about what a typical day in the life of a CCIS (back then it was simply CCS) student was, and her future aspirations to be a computer scientist. The brochure also contained a photo of Clarke, which she remembered quite fondly. “I was sitting on the hood of my car with a laptop and the Boston skyline in the background. It looked like a really nerdy Whitesnake video,” she said.

Graduating from Northeastern in 2002 with a dual degree in mathematics and computer science, Clarke was able to complete three co-op placements during her undergraduate career. At Zoom Telephonics, a manufacturing company, Clarke managed a database of customer support information. At Auspice Corporation, she created software to monitor Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) hardware and detect power outages. “This was in the early days of VoIP, so we were pretty bleeding edge. [Auspice Corporation] was a small company with fantastic engineers and I learned so much. I had a phenomenal mentor named Gary Cunha, who is also a graduate of Northeastern, and I still keep in touch with him today,” Clarke said. Clarke’s final co-op was spent working on a research project at Northeastern thanks to a National Science Foundation grant. “I had the opportunity to work with Professors Richard Rasala and Viera Proulx on a new library of tools to help teach Computer Science at Northeastern,” Clarke said. “During this co-op, I was encouraged to publish a paper on an interactive tool that I created to help teach Automata Theory. The paper was accepted, and I was invited to Kentucky to present my work at the annual Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education (SIGSCE) conference,” she said.

Recounting the many fond memories she has of her time at Northeastern, Clarke mentioned creating, “life-sized data structures out of construction paper and traversing them on foot with several classmates” from her Algorithms & Data Structures class with Professor Rajaraman. “And of course, I’ll never forget my first introduction to Object Oriented Design with Professor Rasala; somewhere in the dusty recesses of my attic lives a floppy disk with my Swimming Fish lab on it,” Clarke said.

Clarke said she still stays in touch with her “forever-friends” that she first met in Kennedy Hall at the beginning of September her freshman year, saying that she has even worked with some of them after graduating. Coincidentally, Clarke said she is heading up to Maine soon for an annual meetup with friends from Northeastern – a tradition that started back in the summer of 1998.

Coming up on the 20th anniversary of her graduation, Clarke has managed to stay very busy, starting her professional career with a full-time position at her former co-op employer, Auspice Corporation, where she spent 11 years until they were acquired by Arris in 2008.

“In April of 2013 I transitioned from the telecommunications space into healthcare with a new position at Curaspan Health Group,” Clarke said. “At Curaspan, I had the opportunity to move into a leadership role, managing local, near-shore, and off-shore teams building software as a service (SaaS) products,” she said. In 2016, Curaspan was acquired by naviHealth, and a year later was when Clarke said she decided to make another jump to Radial Analytics, which at the time was an early startup in Concord, MA. “I have been working at Radial Analytics as the Director of Engineering for almost a year now, and it’s incredible to see what we have accomplished in such a short time!”

As the Director of Engineering at Radial Analytics, Clarke said her primary responsibilities include managing the engineering team and designing and developing new software products.

“With Radial being such a small startup, I ultimately wear many hats,” said Clarke. “On any given day I might work on an EMR integration with a new customer, recruit and interview new team members or plan an off-site team building activity to celebrate a new customer acquisition or product launch,” she said.

In 2004, two years after graduating from Northeastern, Jennifer married Jeremy Clarke, who she had met during her freshman year, as they both lived in Kennedy Hall and studied computer science together.

“Jeremy and I welcomed our son, Jack, in the Spring of 2007, and daughter, Vivienne, during the Fall of 2010,” Clarke said. “Since then, we’ve been running around like maniacs trying to balance demanding jobs with even more demanding children, and all of the conferences, soccer games, recitals, customer calls, baseball games, and early-morning deployments that come along with both. It’s been a whirlwind, but I wouldn’t change any of it,” she said.

According to Clarke, she has come full circle now that she is working with and hiring Northeastern co-op students of her own.

“Since graduating, I have pushed to hire Northeastern co-ops at every company I’ve worked for, and at each company my employers have been wowed by the talent CCIS produces,” Clarke said. “Several of the students I’ve hired as co-ops have ended up coming back to work for the company full-time, and it’s so exciting to watch their growth from intern to full-time salaried employee. I was so fortunate to have wonderful mentors during my time as a co-op, and I do my best to channel them as I help mentor and grow this new generation of computer scientists,” she said.

While a lot has changed at Northeastern during the past twenty years, Clarke says that the university’s computer science program has remained steadfast in its quality and reputation. “While the buildings and programs may have changed, the core culture and strength of the program has remained the same,” Clarke said.