QUEST Alumnus and Current Students Partner at UMD’s Department of Information Technology

Mark Nathanson (Cohort 20) graduated this past spring and currently works at the University of Maryland’s Department of Information Technology with the University Process Innovation Group, further improving business processes on campus. These processes include areas around UMD ranging from the Hiring Process and the Procurement Process and everything else in between.

Recently, I reached out to Mark to ask how it has been transitioning from student to professional life. Being in the Process Innovation Group for almost 6 months now, he says that life has been treating him well. Within his particular group at the Department of Information Technology, he even gets to work with several QUEST student interns.

I reached out to two of those student interns, Connor Welch of Cohort 22 and Jasmine Zhu of Cohort 26, to learn about their experiences at DIT and what it’s like to work so closely with a QUEST alum.

What is your role at DIT?

Jasmine: “My role in DIT is as a Business Process Analyst. I’m working on a project called the Student Experience Project where we are trying to align the university’s services with what students are looking to get out of their college experience, and my role is to conduct student interviews to discover and refine what students want out of college.”

What’s it like working with a QUEST alum?

Connor: “It has been great working with Mark! He was the TA for 190H last spring when I was a mentor so we got to know each other well over the course of the semester. When I initially joined the University Process Innovation group, Mark was not on the team, but when I heard we were hiring him later in the summer I got really excited. It is great whenever the opportunity is brought up to work with a fellow QUESTee since there is a seamless transition in working together. There is a mutual understanding on methodologies and approaches to problems, and in addition, Mark is an overall great guy!”

What is your favorite part of working at DIT?

Jasmine: “My favorite part about working at DIT is being able to actively make an impact on my school while learning more about my peers. By doing the Student Experience Project, I am learning about what fellow students want and how we can improve university processes to meet these needs. It is very cool that I can potentially change aspects of Maryland and shape it into a better school for students to attend.”

Are there any QUEST skills that you apply to your work?

Connor: “QUEST skills are always used while working with a client, whether it is the soft skills when interviewing stakeholders or analytically trying to develop a data model for a process. One of the more applied skills has to be ideation and relying on many iterations to develop a solution. For example, when developing a framework to outline a process, everyone in the office will bounce ideas off of each other and build off of each other’s ideas. This usually results in a messy whiteboard, but the outcome of an effective framework for the client. Other than QUEST, I cannot think of any other classes that would have prepared me to work in such an environment.”

And Mark agrees. He accredits QUEST as being one of the great opportunities he had while as an undergraduate student at UMD. As a high school student, he visited UMD and shadowed a student who was taking 390H at the time. After this experience, Mark concluded that QUEST was one of the main reasons he wanted to come to UMD. His achievements as an undergraduate student are many. To name a few, he piloted a Computer Design elective, traveled to Silicon Valley to see the lessons he learned in class applied in the job field, and even won Project of the Year at the 490H QUEST Conference.

Attributes that have made him successful can be seen from his values. He is a huge advocate for being patient and waiting until the right opportunity arises. However, he notes “that doesn’t imply a passive approach”, but rather to “take charge” and seize any opportunity that may land upon a person. To current students, especially for those looking for their first or second internships, he gives the same advice: seek opportunities you are genuinely interested in.

“As a student, your interest in a position almost always trumps your experience, at least in my eyes,” Mark adds.

Mark welcomes anybody that would like to reach out to him with any individual questions. He can be reached at mnathan1@umd.edu.

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