Sam McGrail ‘13

Alumni Spotlight

Sam McGrailUndergraduate Degree: Psychology (BS) (Neuroscience track)

Current Position Title and Affiliation: Lead Software Engineer

Summary of Position:
I started writing front end graphing tools for an electrical engineering company in 2015. Over the last 5 years, I have been a key part of the development of the monitoring software. The coding has included charting, visualization tools, and user interface design. My team has created one of the best online condition monitoring systems for high voltage transformers. They use this software to track things like temperature, or dissolved gas in oil measurements over time.

Future Goals:
I am working my way towards a promotion to project manager. As I am the last remaining member of the original development team, due to pandemic related layoffs, I have been tasked with training other employees on the software stack. I hope to secure this position in the near future, and discuss company sponsorship of a masters in HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) 

Sam at coding bootcamp
Sam at coding bootcamp

What do you love most about this career path?
I love the autonomy and freedom provided by a software development role, especially one with remote opportunities. I have been semi-remote since 2015, and as a result, the transition to a remote situation during lockdown was much easier. I love the ability to work on interesting esoteric logic problems alone, while also satisfying some tendencies of extroversion, with in-depth teamwork in person, interacting with highly skilled engineers. I love the fact that most of my other coworkers do not have a degree in this field, yet are effective workers.

How did UMass and/or Psychological and Brain Sciences help prepare you?
I worked as an Oil Lab tech for a full year, right after graduating in 2013. Even though I did not have a rigorous background in chemistry, the UMass undergraduate degree prepared me to function well in this role. I designed some simple excel macros, based on tools I used in undergrad statistics. These were used by other members of the lab to automatically do calculations on the furan chemical analysis and paper chromatography results. I felt confident in the role, including interacting with dangerous chemicals, due to my previous training in UMass undergrad.

Tips for Current Undergrads:
By graduating, you are proving to a wide variety of employers that you can do some serious work, because it takes serious work to graduate. Be confident in that. Keep in contact with your undergrad network, it may come in handy in unexpected ways! (In my situation, when Christina Metevier wrote me a wonderful reference when I was applying for US citizenship). Remember to relax! And enjoy your last bit of time in undergrad.