Carnegie Mellon University

Integrated Innovation Institute

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Alumni Spotlight - Jarek Wilkiewicz (MSSM '09)

Finding a Path Back to Your Passion

Jarek Wilkiewicz (MSSM ’09) has been passionate about the field of artificial intelligence since his early education in Computer Science at the Technical University of Wrocław. According to Wilkiewicz, “I was born next door to one of the most famous Polish science fiction writers, Stanisław Lem, and I think he really inspired me to pursue computer science and artificial intelligence (AI) in particular.”

Wilkiewicz came to the United States in 1993 with the hope of working in the AI field. Unfortunately, in those early days, the field of AI just didn’t have many opportunities for employment, so he joined a telecommunications startup and worked as a software engineer.

Wilkiewicz remained in the telecom industry and worked his way up to a middle management role. During this time, he began exploring option for higher education opportunities and found the Integrated Innovation Institute's part-time M.S. in Software Management program, "I chose part-time because I wasn’t ready to give up my day job, and the Software Management program offered the flexibility of joining both at the Silicon Valley campus and remotely."

Although he was successful in his telecommunications career, Wilkiewicz felt compelled to return to his original roots in AI. Looking for a new challenge, he joined YouTube, a subsidiary of Google, to work on their API platforms for three years. This transition from telecommunications to software provided his next opportunity to work on the developer platform for Google Search. Here Wilkiewicz focused on mobile application development. He explains, "The reason I switched from YouTube to Search is because of my earlier education in artificial intelligence, the area I remained passionate about pursuing. And, some of the problems that Google Search is trying to solve involve machine intelligence." After two years with Google Search, he was able to switch to working on machine learning exclusively, as technical program manager.

Coming full circle, Wilkiewicz believes he is finally at a point where he can seize the opportunity to fulfill his passion in artificial intelligence, "Now there is lots of interest and new capabilities with advancements in fundamental algorithms, computing performance, available data and so on. I’ve decided to stick with the general area of machine learning and machine intelligence, finding different roles and projects that are rewarding within this transformational field. I have realistic expectations as far as the contributions that I’ll be able to make within my lifetime in the field, but I am very excited about the fact that, finally, it seems that things are taking off-- and I really want to be part of it!"

Wilkiewicz offers the following advice on pursuing your passion, "Build on the work of the giants before you, be your best in what you do, and pass it on to the next generation. Although sometimes reality doesn’t cooperate and detours occur, you should always pursue your dreams."

The Integated Innovation Experience

While in the part-time program, Wilkiewicz learned how to work effectively on dynamic teams and applied these skills immediately to his growing career, "While I was enrolled at Carnegie Mellon I got promoted to a director-level position running a large distributed software organization in the US, UK, and China. Since most of my engineers were in Beijing, I relied on the remote participation option in the [part-time] Software Management program. It really helped me to understand the effectiveness of virtual teams."

Wilkiewicz credits the Software Management experience for helping guide him back into a field that he loves, "The program enabled me to reboot my career and helped me find a path back to my true passion for machine intelligence."