Daniel Dowler is a software quality engineer with Dell EMC, based in Draper, Utah, where he works on the Mozy infrastructure team to develop and test features for storing and protecting customer data. Curious about his career pathway from international relations to tech, we asked him a few questions.
How did you start exploring career paths?
I’ve had some interesting and great experiences over the years, many of which the international relations program helped prepare me for. I did an internship in Washington, DC, in the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee under Senator Bob Bennett. While there, I met a University of Utah student who was thinking about a Fulbright opportunity. I thought it sounded interesting, so I applied after a year and was selected to study in South Korea. I had proposed to do research on inter-Korean economic relations. While in Korea I realized that I needed more quantitative skills.
What was your next step?
I applied to some master’s programs in economics but didn’t get in. The following year I applied to the math graduate program at BYU and somehow convinced them to let me have a go at it, even though I had only minored in math. It was a lot of work, but it gave me skills and confidence in the field. In particular, I had to learn how to program to do some of my thesis research. This gave me just enough computer skill to get into the tech industry as a tech support engineer for enterprise clients. I proved myself there and was able to move up to software engineer.
“I kept at it until something else materialized.”
How did you decide that tech was where you wanted to be?
My interest in the tech industry was sparked by a few things: a great work culture, challenging problems to work on, the opportunity to make an impact, and good compensation. The facility I work at has an on-site gym. I received one month of paternity leave when my youngest child was born. And they paid most of my tuition for a second master’s degree—in information and data science from UC Berkeley—which I finished in January. I hope to move into a data science role at some point, which uses programming, math, and statistics.
What has your career strategy been and how has international relations played a role?
If I were to sum it up, I’ve just looked for opportunities and applied to a lot of schools, jobs, and internships that I didn’t get. I’m pretty stubborn, so I kept at it until something good materialized. I saw opportunities and challenged myself to work hard toward them. Looking back, the international relations program gave me excellent writing preparation and a good quantitative introduction. It also helped me to appreciate diversity and work well with people of different cultures and backgrounds.