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Class of 2021: From left to right: Neva Manalil, Gabrielle Choo-Kang, Amrutha Kumaran, Marlene Robles Granda, Asif Huq, and Tia King.
Class of 2021: From left to right: Neva Manalil, Gabrielle Choo-Kang, Amrutha Kumaran, Marlene Robles Granda, Asif Huq, and Tia King.

MS-HT's Class of 2021: Marlene Robles Granda

The first graduates of the Master of Science in Health Technology program in the College of Applied Health Sciences all landed jobs within four months. We spoke to some of them about why they picked MS-HT, how MS-HT helped them decide on their career, and what they most enjoyed about the program. This time we speak with Marlene Robles Granda.

Q: What attracted you to the University of Illinois?

A: One of the things I am passionate about is continuously learning. I was looking for an option that allows me to learn from knowledgeable professors in the field I was diving into, and networking with people with different backgrounds. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I found a niche, because it has a high academic reputation and has one of the largest academic populations. I came to UIUC because I want to be in a place that could open the door to gain and reinforce my skills and where I could meet great people whom I could trust and call friends.

Q: Why did you pick the MS-HT program?

A: As a computer scientist, I love technology and how this can improve people's lives, enhancing their independence, communication, and health. I am passionate to design and build solutions that have a broader social impact. I think we can use technology as a bridge to reduce gaps of people affected by social factors. I found the MS-HT a very exciting opportunity because it is an intensive one-year program with a curriculum very attractive to me. It conveys knowledge of user's behaviors towards technology use, user-centered design, human factors, software, and hardware among others, focused on health. Those topics and the skills needed to succeed in this program train professionals that stand out among others. This is an advantage in the U.S. job market, which is very competitive.

Q: Did the MS-HT program help you decide a career path?

A: MS-HT helped me to decide my career path. It really did. Before the MS-HT, I worked as a software engineer to positively impact people's lives either by automating manual processes to help people in their daily activities, introducing new tools for decision-making, or improving the quality of the computer services for communication purposes. After I graduated, I could achieve my goal to blend my previous skills and knowledge with the knowledge of health technology. Now, I know what factors influence people to use technology and how to design health tech according to the needs of people. My skills developed in the MS-HT allowed me to get into the healthcare system. Right now, I’m applying my knowledge and skills to my new position as a data scientist at OSF Healthcare, collaborating in the Digital Health Innovation team.

Q: What did you learn that you immediately applied in your new job?

A: What I learned from the MS-HT that I immediately applied in my new job (was) the health data analysis and technical communication skills. Right now I am a member of a multidisciplinary team focused on digital health innovation. I am working on research projects, ideating and designing solutions based on data-driven analysis to mitigate the challenges that patients face. Thus, communication is a key component of a team to achieve shared goals and transmit results to stakeholders. Also, problem-solving and management skills help me to do important contributions and be up-to-date in my activities as a member of my team.

Q: Did your new employer mention your MS-HT program as a reason you were hired?

A: They haven’t told me directly about that, but every time they introduced me to a new peer, they say, “Marlene graduated (from) the new master’s degree MS-HT that UIUC offers.” I strongly believe that MSHT is the reason I was hired for this job.

Q: What was your favorite part of the MS-HT program?

A: My favorite part of the MS-HT program was the capstone project experience. It helped me to improve my software development, data science, communication, organizational, problem-solving, and time-management skills. Furthermore, it allowed me to expand my professional network and work in a similar scenario as the industry is. Sharing with collaborators and facing challenges as in a real-world scenario, was fascinating to me. It gave me a boost in my professional career.

Q: What one thing did you take away from MS-HT that you feel was most important to your career?

A: The master's degree opened my eyes to know how health technologies should be designed and created to satisfy users' needs. It was through the MS-HT program that I realized how important it is to consider the users' needs first for ideating and designing solutions. Also, I enjoyed all the activities throughout this awesome experience: the lectures, the assignments, the finals, the team projects, the course meetings, the capstone project. Everything I learned and experienced in my journey as a student of the MS-HT was immensely satisfying. Even the constraints that I faced helped me to be patient, resourceful, and develop strengths I didn’t experience before. I am grateful to have met awesome professors and fellow students who I trust and appreciate.

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