Dr. Katie Panciera
“I can’t think of a time I didn’t want to teach.” Katie Panciera, assistant professor, knew she was destined for a career in academia, especially after growing up with her professor father, but she wanted to explore industry before doing so to strengthen her skills and leverage her future academic career.
Panciera jokes she didn’t choose her career in computer science and user experience (UX), it chose her. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and Computer Science from Berea College and both her Master of Science and Ph.D. in Computer Science from University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
“I figured out pretty quickly that I wasn’t as interested in robots as people and focused on human computer interaction, the academic version of UX.”
After graduation, Panciera pursued her passion of human computer interaction and served as a UX researcher at internet behemoths Facebook and Google. As a UX researcher, she was dedicated to learning more about users at various stages of product development. At Google, Panciera “worked on Payments initially and conducted usability testing with products like credit card data being stored in Google Chrome, but I also did large foundational projects to learn more about topics like how people in other countries viewed and interacted with money to better understand barriers in app purchases, for example.”
Her focus at Google shifted to more large advertising customers, and in her final years she worked on G Suite’s tools for IT admins to help them with security and data migration. Looking back on her time at Google, she can see nearly a dozen products that she had a significant impact on.
Just as she knew it would when she was a college student, this industry experience she gained is invaluable as a professor at MSOE.
“There is not a single element of my being in industry that does not permeate who I am at MSOE,” said Panciera. “Earlier today I was reviewing resumes, cover letters and portfolios, and I can give our students concrete feedback based on being on the other side of the table. I purposely write some exam questions to get them thinking like interview candidates.”
Panciera also brings in day-to-day examples that give students an inside look at industry experiences. “I talk about projects I worked on or struggles I had. I help students understand the hierarchies in industry and what specializations they might consider.”
Students provide just as much value to Panciera, as she does to them. “I love how passionate and open our students are. I love getting to see things click and make sense for them. I love seeing them succeed in their internships and projects and getting to go into jobs they’re excited about. I really enjoy advising and having deeper insight into a dozen or so students’ pathways.”
Outside of work, Panciera enjoys spending time with her family, especially playing LEGOS and pretend with her child. She also enjoys cooking, baking, knitting, listening to podcasts and reading—she averages about 70 books a year! She has lived in six states, two countries, and looks forward to traveling to Canada and Japan in the future.