St. Olaf Alumna - Julie Kirkham

Julie Kirkham
  • Student's name: Julie Kirkham
  • Undergraduate institution: St Olaf College
  • Position: Manager of Software Development
  • Company name: Target Corparation
  • Industry sector: Software Development Technologies

What she does:

  • Julie graduated from St Olaf College in 2001 with a BA in Mathematics and as a senior, worked on a project for Target during St Olaf’s interim term over January. She was later offered an internship position in Target’s PC Tech Services department during the summer between her undergraduate education and graduate school. After graduate school, Julie found employment by Target as a Client Support Lead, responsible for managing both Target’s call center agents and the team writing the call center’s technical solutions. Julie then transferred to Target’s deployment services department, responsible for deploying software to retail stores. She was then promoted to Manger of the server deployment team.

Math on the Job:

  • As manager of the software development, Julie focuses her math skills into finance and resource management. She is responsible for her team’s expenses including payroll and project budgets. Also, Julie uses the skills she gained in upper-level math courses to focus her team’s efforts on projects relevant to improving Target’s computing systems. Moreover, these skills come in handy when reporting the team’s work to Target’s senior management.

Julie's background:

  • While gaining her BA in mathematics from St Olaf, Julie worked on a project for Target through St Olaf’s math practicum, a specialized course for seniors to develop math skills used in the business place. Julie then used her undergrad education to intern for Target, helping finance her graduate school tuition at the University of Minnesota. At Minnesota, Julie specialized in computer science, and received a master’s degree in the subject, making her a prime candidate for management of the software development of a corporation as immense as Target.

Advice for students:

  • A math major may not seem to have any direct connections to the business world, but skills gained from math classes may prove to be invaluable in virtually every place of employment. As Julie says, “I wouldn't have traded my math degree from St Olaf for any other degree. I find every day that I am thankful for the problem solving, analytical, and spatial skills I acquired in my math classes at St. Olaf. [Math] skills are in need everywhere. From education, to business, to community efforts; the skills you acquire from these courses will help you problem solve in a variety of situations. They will help you define a problem, analyze it from all angles and then finally, be able to explain why you chose the solution you did, and how it specifically solves the problem.”