Microsoft VP Returns to Alma Mater to Inspire Students

When Terri Jordan graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 1985, she never imagined that 26 years later she would be living in Seattle, Wash., working for “one of the most amazing technology companies in the world.”

Jordan, a native of Morrilton, Ark., has worked as vice president of technology, retail stores for Microsoft since 2009. Before that she spend nearly three years at eBay as vice president of technical operations, and that was after working her way to the President of Wal-Mart Information Systems Division where she began as an entry-level programmer. Jordan returned to her alma mater on Sept. 9 to discuss her career path with UCA computer science students and faculty.

Because technology is rapidly evolving, Jordan told students, “What you’re learning in class now is a foundation for new things that you’ll be doing in the workplace in two-to-five years.”

 When she began studying computer science in the mid-1980s, Jordan programmed on punch cards using an early computing language called Fortran (Formula Translation). Today, Jordan operates as the chief information officer for Microsoft’s retail stores, a new operation that was launched two years ago. There are 12 stores located along the west coast and in other major metropolitan areas such as Houston and Atlanta. Three more stores are in construction now and expected to open for the holiday shopping season and 75 stores are scheduled to open in the next three years.

In addition to her successful career, Jordan also discussed what it was like being a female in a male-dominated field. She said it is disappointing that the number of females in computer science is decreasing.

 ”We try to make sure we have diverse candidate pools, but it can be difficult,” she said. “The thing about corporations is you need diversity, both in gender and other demographics, because it will make for a better product at the end of the day.”

In conjunction with Jordan’s visit, the UCA Foundation announced the endowment of the Computer Science Scholarship Fund, which will be used to recruit a diverse group of students to the computer science program. Students will be able to apply for the Computer Science Student Scholarship in the spring. It will be awarded for the 2012-13 academic year.

Dr. Chenyi Hu, Chair of the Department of Computer Science, said, “While we are very proud of our past accomplishments, we are also facing a challenge to recruit and retain high-quality students especially female students. I am so grateful that we have the opportunity to endow this scholarship, which will help us bring more diverse students to the field.”

The scholarship was endowed with approximately $30,000 from a larger donation made a decade ago by the Conway Development Corporation in order to help UCA build a strong computer science department. — Jennifer Boyett