Alumni Stories: Louis Cortina

Louis Cortina (M.A. 2009) is currently employed as an Implementation Specialist at Epic Systems in Verona, Wisconsin.

“Epic Systems is a national leader in EMR (or Electronic Medical Records),” Louis explains. “We produce, sell, and install software designed to facilitate a safer and more complete legal medical record. The software also has a focus in improving reporting for Hospitals and Physicians to make them more financially sound and medically compliant.”

Louis’s area of focus at Epic Systems is “specifically working on Operating Room and Anesthesia software. Essentially, I am a consultant with a focus in Project Management with both an Epic and customer team. This allows me to enter operating rooms, observe workflows, and program the software to fit a client’s needs.”

While this doesn’t necessarily sound English-related, Louis assures us that his particular degree and experiences in the program have been and are vital to his work. A couple of “internal projects” at Epic Systems that Louis is working on, for example, include “drafting a quarterly departmental newsletter” and “improving the ‘Reporting’ process.”

“My position often involves speaking with high-level executives in very sensitive situations,” he says. “Customers are worried about clinician happiness, time constraints, and money issues, and I must be a leading force in the face of their concerns. The experience that I gained in public speaking and drafting professional-grade correspondence has been invaluable in these responsibilities.”

Louis also looks to his previous experiences with literary theory in his software work mentioning, “Our software involves a lot creative solutions to tricky workflows at individual hospitals. My M.A. in English, which involved a lot of advanced theory, has also been with me in this endeavor. I tend to plan on three solutions for a problem, and I know that my M.A. is reason for this.”

So, how does one get from English MA to an IT position? Here is Louis’s interesting job-journey. After graduation Louis started in education, landing an adjunct position at Marist College teaching literature. But, it turns out that teaching wasn’t the right fit for Louis.

“I loved the teaching job, but hated the pay. An adjunct position isn’t easy to swing into a career, but it helps you to decide whether more education is the way to go or if you have run your course. I decided my education (at least structured!) was over.”

Since Louis didn’t want to go the Ph.D. route, he left teaching and literally moved on to greener pastures as he worked next as an arborist. He comments, “Arboriculture has always been a hobby of mine and I found out that you can make a pretty penny doing something you enjoy. And yet, I did go to school for 6 years: I wanted to work a white collar job and I waited it out (while slaving chopping down trees).”

Louis’s patience were next met with a strategy of passing on a few opportunities that came up. Louis says he “turned down several jobs in my search for the right one” and that “wasn’t an easy decision.” Of course, money and loans are a huge factor upon graduation, but these are Louis’ words of wisdom on that issue: “When you’re looking down at a mountain of debt, it’s easy to want to settle. My advice to those who crave a better position: take a job—not a career. You can always walk away from a job, a career is harder. Wait for the career that speaks to you, but stay busy. It seems contradictory but whoever said we have to think one way or another?” In the end things worked out well for Louis, but he was kind enough to leave some advice for students who will soon be out of school and in similar job-search situations.

“Patience is a virtue in this economy, but don’t rest on your laurels and never, I repeat never, have a sense of entitlement. There are literally millions of students in the same position as you. Keep at it. Apply to jobs incessantly-get creative. There is a fit for everyone.”

Louis  has some additional advice for those who will still be students for a while yet, regarding MA advanced projects. His particular project was on World of Warcraft and was inspired, he says, “By my friend who spent hours upon hours playing that game. I once saw him play for 16 hours straight—no kidding. It scared/inspired me. It was something I had no experience in, and I wanted to know more.” Louis also invites us to learn for his experience and observations about advanced projects.

“Chase what interests you. If you choose a topic you can only write so many pages on, you have picked the wrong one. Choose a topic that can be explored in a hundred different ways. Narrow that topic to a few strands, connect the dots, and bam-you got yourself a project. And, of course, don’t be afraid to go off the rails. I approached my project with no literature, only theory. Be creative and you’ll do fine.” While his project on World of Warcraft didn’t
necessarily transfer or influence his current IT job, it did prepare him in a different capacity. He jokingly adds, “It did prepare me to work with and relate to WoW players—which seem to populate every IT company.”

Not afraid of straying from the norm, but always remaining patient and keeping himself motivated to find a job that would fit him best, Louis Cortina represents many different spectrums of light at the end of the English degree tunnel!

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