From Inspiration To Impact: Theresa's Journey in Computer Engineering

"I hope to continue growing as an individual technical contributor and as a leader in my community and organization."

Theresa Mammarella

Theresa Mammarella

  • Degree: Bachelor of Applied Science
  • Grad year: 2017
  • Program:
  • Campus: Vancouver

Job title as of 2023: Software Engineer, IBM

Why did you want to study engineering?

I wanted to be an engineer for most of my life. My dad is also an engineer, and he always encouraged me to build and create things when I was growing up. In high school I enjoyed math and physics and had the opportunity to take STEM classes and intern at a local engineering firm, which further peaked my interest. By the time I was applying to university I was quite confident I would enjoy a career in STEM.

Why did you choose UBC?

UBC Engineering stood out to me on my university tours because of the welcoming and supportive atmosphere. The first time I visited UBC was to attend a Women in STEM event for prospective students which helped me learn more about the program. I also fell in love with the city of Vancouver and couldn’t wait to call it home.

UBC Engineering

Why did you choose Computer Engineering?

I had initially intended to study electrical engineering like my dad. During the first general year of engineering at UBC I took a bunch of different classes, including a C programming class. That course ended up being my favourite by far, so when it came time to apply for my specialization in second year, I applied for computer engineering. I had no idea what a career in computer engineering would look like but I’m happy to say I’ve never looked back.

Computer Engineering

What were some highlights of your undergraduate experience?

During my second year project course I was lucky enough to get paired with a really creative group. Most of the projects in the course involved writing code and learning to build circuits with Arduinos. My team learned a lot and had a tonne of fun solving problems and pushing the boundaries of the technology we were working with.

Another highlight was my 4th year capstone project. There's a research group in UBC that is informally called the Laptop Orchestra. They’re a group of composers, musicians, dancers and technologists that create live multimedia performances.

I worked on a project that used a Microsoft Kinect to track the movement of dancers. We captured this data to create a tool for the composers to generate music from the dancer’s movement to create some very cool multimedia performances.

This experience meant a lot to me as I was very involved in music at UBC – I took numerous electives at the school of music, played in the orchestra, chamber music ensembles and was a performer for the Laptop Orchestra one year. The capstone project brought together my interests in coding and music in a unique way.

Capstone Project Laptop Orchestra

What skills did you learn as an engineering student?

I’m one of the only people I know to be able to say that I use the skills on learned in university on a near daily basis. There are quite a few classes that have provided me with skills I continue to build on, including computer architecture, operating systems and systems engineering courses. 

Computer Engineering Courses

Tell us about your career since graduation.

I graduated in 2017 and was lucky enough to return full-time to the last co-op position I held, which was at IBM. I am a software engineer working on IBM’s open source Java virtual machine (JVM) Eclipse Openj9. We build cutting-edge language features and optimizations. Maintaining a reliable, stable product is a top priority, as Java is used by around 10 million developers around the world and runs a lot of critical infrastructure. I have recently returned to IBM after spending some time building compiler prototypes at Red Hat and then as a developer advocate at Sonatype working to secure the open source supply chain.

IBM Red Hat Sonatype 

What are the highlights of your job?

Besides getting to work on interesting technology, one of the things I love about my career is being involved in open-source technology and communities. I’ve met so many incredible and passionate technologists around the world because of this.

One of the ways I contribute my knowledge is by speaking at and attending conferences.

In a couple of months, I’ll be heading to Oslo, Norway, to educate other developers on cybersecurity best practices. It’s really rewarding that I've been able to use my software engineering degree to continue to learn and to help others learn as well.

What would you like to achieve as an engineer?

I hope to continue growing as an individual technical contributor and as a leader in my community and organization.

Throughout my career I’ve had the privilege of being supported by other women in highly visible technical and leadership roles, which has helped me to pave a path to success for myself.

I hope to be that for others someday as well.

Any advice for new students?

Don’t be afraid to try new things!

I was nervous about going into computer engineering at first. But I'm glad I took the leap because I was able to start a career that I truly enjoy. My second piece of advice is to join extracurricular activities. Starting university is a huge adjustment and building a community and support system early on can help set you up for success with a challenging degree like engineering – it’s definitely worth it!

Computer engineering co-op student at work

Computer Engineering

Computer engineers can change the world. Whether it is the systems that control our phones, cars, planes or robots — every automated device has a software or hardware engineer helping to create it. 

Computer Engineering

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