Jenna Barton, M&T ’19
Bernardsville, New Jersey
Finance and Entrepreneurship
Ever since I was in grade school I was determined to be an engineer, but as I got older I found I was fascinated with more than just designing the product. I was drawn to where tech met business and focused on understanding the why, who, and what of the problem and product. When looking towards college, I knew I wanted to study both business and engineering. When I found the M&T Program, I knew it was a perfect fit.
One of my favorite things about the M&T Program is that we study business and engineering concurrently, taking classes in Wharton alongside classes in the Engineering School. The interwoven nature of the courses not only allows me to explore my varied interests, it also helps me fine tune my education. As I better understand what my interests are, I can enroll in different courses to prepare me for that career path, be it in finance, engineering, or something else.
HIGH SCHOOL ACTIVITIES
During the school year, I pushed myself in academics and extracurricular activities. I pursued a challenging course load through my school’s AP program balanced by varsity athletics, where I was a dedicated runner on our cross country team and two-time captain of our fencing team.
I spent my summers following my passion for science and technology and was honored to have been accepted to numerous programs that allowed me to explore my interests. After my sophomore year, I attended the Management & Technology Summer Institute (M&TSI) where I was first formally introduced to and fell in love with entrepreneurship. The following year I attended New Jersey Governor’s School of Engineering and Technology, which allowed me to gain exposure to a large breadth of STEM fields, from modern physics to theoretical computer science. After my senior year, I attended Google’s Computer Science Summer Institute, which allowed me to dig even deeper into my love of software engineering.
LIFE AT PENN
I can’t remember the last time I walked down Locust Walk and there wasn’t a student handing out flyers for an event. With such a diverse student body, Penn has so many opportunities for you to get involved. You’ll never be at a loss of something to do! Whatever you’re interested in, you can find a club here on campus. And if not, you’ll find someone with whom you can start the club!
My favorite course thus far has been Data Structure and Algorithms. The course is immensely challenging, and it combines two things that I love: writing code and attacking complex problems. The “written” homework forced us to think about the different algorithms and approaches we were studying, and the coding assignments gave us tangible proof of real-life applications: it wasn’t just about solving the problem, rather it was about implementing a solution and doing so efficiently.
I took the class spring of my freshman year. The following summer I was honored to work with incredibly talented engineers at Google designing and implementing an API to meet designated user needs. This course helped me keep up with many conversations, particularly those with the machine learning team. It, along with the prerequisite course Mathematical Foundations of Computer Science, teaches how to approach an analytical problem, come up with multiple potential solutions, evaluate those solutions, and implement the ideal one. Such skills, to me, have proven invaluable in my other courses and during summer internships.
For me, the M&T Community has been a huge part of my experience at Penn. It started long before my first day as a freshman. Joining M&T is like joining a family where everyone has different backgrounds, interests, and talents. Some of my favorite conversations have been with fellow M&Ts about different passions we have; be it backpacking, reading, music, or anything else. Everyone is unique, but we all share a passion for some aspect of technology and business.
The closeness of the community extends beyond just your own year, too. Upperclassmen and alumni are more than happy to answer questions and offer advice. I cannot begin to describe how much I have learned about different career paths, Penn courses, and life in general from conversations with my fellow M&Ts, both past and present.
A great analogy for what it feels like to be a part of M&T is to imagine a small town’s baseball team: it’s a tight knit group where everyone supports one another. Although different positions allow players to develop specialized skills, everyone is still driven by a common interest. If ever asked (and often even without asking!) graduates will come back and coach you along the way, offering advice and support. From pre-game potlucks to grueling practices, we come together as a team – and you always feel welcome.
ACTIVITIES AT PENN
I am on the logistics board for WeissLabs, the student-run incubator within the Weiss Tech House, and a member of Architechs, Penn’s hardware hacking club. In the fall, I TA a graduate-level course in financial derivatives within the Wharton School. The course develops the skills necessary to value and employ financial contracts, such as options and futures. This spring I will be a TA for Digital Audio Basics within the Engineering School, which explores the technical fundamentals of modern MP3 players and cell phones. As a freshman, I was a research assistant for a Wharton professor. I focused on identifying and developing software solutions that enhance financial research, specifically targeting projects related to venture capitalism and entrepreneurship. Additionally, I fuel my love of being outdoors as a member of Penn’s Outdoors Club.
BEST SUMMER EXPERIENCE
My best summer experience thus far has been interning for Google after my freshman year. I spent twelve weeks in New York City in the Engineering Practicum Program. The experience was truly amazing! Even with only a year of college experience, I felt prepared for the software engineering role. The foundation I built allowed me to understand how to approach the implementation of the project and how to use available resources to learn the skills I had yet to develop.
The internship went well beyond just coding. I met so many talented people, made incredible friends, and got involved in things I never expected to. I took cooking classes from an amazing chef, attended presentations from incredible speakers, and explored the city with my fellow interns. It was as if every day was an adventure. I’ll never forget the things I learned along the way. This summer I hope to continue my adventure when I return to Google as part of the Software Engineering Intern Program – this time in Boulder with the hope to explore everything that the Rockies have to offer.
FAVORITE THING ABOUT PHILADELPHIA
Though Philly has many different activities to offer, one of my favorite things about the city is the Schuylkill River Trail. I love to run, and when I need a break or some time to just relax, I lace up my sneakers and head to the Schuylkill. The trail itself is a favorite of runners and bikers and has countless picturesque views. From the Christmas lights on Boathouse Row to budding cherry trees lining a gravel trail to sunsets that illuminate the city skyline, each time out has its own beautiful view. It’s been amazing that even though we’re in the city, there’s still an escape to a tree-lined path far enough removed from the busy atmosphere. It feels like a completely different place.