Key Change

Switch from singing to coding proves e-ssential

Becky Case in front of a graphic pattern
How does a student
with dreams of singing on Broadway fall in love with computer programming? For Georgia Southern alumna Becky Case (’04) it was easy.

“I started as a vocal performance major, but after the first year I was a little worried about future career prospects,” she said. “I didn’t want to teach voice and the idea of making it as a professional singer seemed unlikely. I decided to take a computer class that fit into my schedule. It ended up being Intro to Programming (Visual Basic). I loved it and changed my major at the end of the semester.”

Climbing the Ranks

Since graduating, the singer-turned-computer scientist has climbed the ranks through software engineering opportunities at Zappos, Bonobos and OpenSky. Today, Case is the vice president of engineering at Birchbox, a leading online beauty subscription retailer. The company’s technology infrastructure allows subscribers to pay monthly for five beauty products based on their individual beauty profile, which is created on an easy-to-use website. Case oversees all engineering for the e-commerce company.

“Birchbox is global in six different markets with three offices in Europe in addition to our New York headquarters,” she said. “My team is responsible for any tech that needs to be built to support our sites, apps, subscription services, retail locations and internal tools that are needed for business operations.”

Although her days are filled with projects, Case said, “I still try to make time for coding when I can, as it’s something I very much enjoy.” With all that she has accomplished since leaving Georgia Southern, Case is equally excited about the mentoring relationships she has established with the people she supervises.

“Being a manager means much of your time and energy is invested in your team,” she said. “I love watching them stretch to meet a challenge and succeed. I also love the organizational aspect of my job. I enjoy planning and putting things in order, so coordinating project deployments, company initiatives and employee work is something I find soothing.”

Coding is like songwriting. Data is like raw words and notes. Coding is like songwriting. Data processing is like singing. Computational results are like the song.Why Internships are Important

Case credits Georgia Southern for igniting her passion in computer programming and says what she learned here has been invaluable in her career.

“While I learned a lot that I don’t use every day―the different types of sorting algorithms for instance―the basics are key to understanding more advanced computer science concepts,” she explained. “In addition, when I do need to know about an algorithm, I can implement it because I learned which one was the right tool for the job at hand. Furthermore, college taught me how to think critically and learn on my own. Self-learning is the key to being a good engineer as tech evolves constantly.”

The Statesboro native also advises students to pursue internships, saying she would never hire a new graduate who didn’t have work experience as an intern or from a part-time job.

“Students with internships are more prepared for the challenges of working in an office environment,” she said. “Also, they make better engineers in the long run as they’ve already had valuable real world experience―putting them ahead of their non-interning counterparts.”

True Blue Memories

In reflecting on her years at Georgia Southern, Case’s favorite memories include homecoming and the sing-along for Handel’s “Messiah” every year. And she can’t forget fighting for parking before class, saying she “took it as a personal challenge to get a good spot.”

Case is also passionate about painting, yoga, SoulCycle and her 9-year-old Siberian cat, Nikola Tesla. Living in New York City has been challenging but she admits she loves her job and a work environment that allows her to perform at her very best.

“It took quite a while for me to become adjusted to the city,” she said. “I decided for the first two years to live within walking distance of my office. That allowed me to get used to New York without having to deal with the subway. But even then it can be overwhelming with the noise and all the people. However, I’ve always wanted to live here―so adjusting was just par for the course.”

Sandra Bennett