Carnegie Mellon University

Kunal Jain: Discovering His Niche as a Leader in Software Engineering

When Kunal Jain was researching master’s degree programs, he was attracted to the robust course offerings in Carnegie Mellon’s Master of Software Engineering (MSE) program. In particular, he was drawn to software architecture and design courses and the research done by faculty into cyber physical systems. These courses have proven to be favorites and he has found new passions in unexpected places. Beyond the curriculum, Kunal has relished opportunities to serve in leadership roles and support his peers. 

Though introverted by nature, Kunal often invokes his “alter ego” to boost his confidence. As an undergraduate in India, he used it to lead large groups, overcoming his initial hesitancy. At the MSE, he continued to refine his leadership abilities by joining the MSE Leadership Initiative (MSELi) board. Serving as VP enabled Kunal to organize community events and bond with fellow students. 

This year, Kunal has built upon that foundation and is serving as the team lead for his capstone practicum project. While challenging, Kunal appreciates the growth this role provides in conflict management, ensuring equal participation, and handling expectations. He plans to apply the feedback he will receive to improve as a leader.

He advocates for the program’s broad curriculum, which develops well-rounded software engineering leaders rather than just coders. Kunal believes the variety of business, infrastructure, quality, and communication courses provide holistic development — a viewpoint he developed as he progressed deeper into coursework. “I think that many [prospective students] don’t understand the purpose of having a variety of courses. They just see a lack of flexibility. But actually, what the MSE offers is the holistic development of the software engineer rather than just the theoretical knowledge for computer science.”

This summer, during an internship at Adobe, Kunal applied the knowledge he acquired in the DevOps, Cloud Computing, Engineering Data-intensive and Scalable Systems, and Applied Distributed Systems courses to successfully create a Monthly Active Users (MAU) dashboard. He leveraged cutting-edge AWS technologies covered in class to synthesize disparate data sources. “Working on a dashboard might not be that attractive to a lot of engineers but I tend to look at the bright side of all things. Anything can be a learning opportunity. Working on this dashboard was an opportunity for me to work on my big data skills.”

Outside of academics, Kunal unwinds through gaming, movies, and spending time with family, who remain in India. He initially limited recreational activities to fully immerse in the program. The Director’s Scholarship serves as validation he is maximizing this opportunity. It reminds Kunal that the faculty sees him as an exemplary representative embodying the MSE’s philosophy. After an intense three semesters, he looks forward to relaxing with his parents during a long-overdue visit before relocating to Seattle for a position with Adobe.  

Kunal’s experience proves the power of finding one’s niche within a graduate program. Through hands-on projects and student leadership roles, he has honed expertise in software architecture and design. Kunal entered seeking cyber-physical systems knowledge but leaves fulfilled in alternate areas aligned with his strengths. He encourages prospective students to appreciate the intentional breadth of the MSE curriculum. It develops multifaceted leaders prepared to tackle complex industry challenges.