Many Hamilton students take full advantage of the College’s open curriculum by exploring an assortment of new disciplines in their first year. Sometimes these academic adventures lead to unexpected careers. When Sarah Hammond ’14 registered for Introduction to Computer Science, she had no experience in the subject. Four years later after double concentrating in math and computer science, she is set to begin a career in software development at Amazon.com. Hammond was the valedictorian of the Class of 2104.
As a software development engineer, Hammond will be working on Amazon’s Global Payment Systems Team, the division in charge of developing the company’s electronic payment platforms. The team is based in Amazon’s Seattle, Washington, headquarters.
Before arriving at Hamilton, Hammond says she “never expected to get such a great job.” Once she discovered her interest in computer science in the spring of her first year, she took advantage of a number of opportunities at the College to help advance her career path.
Hammond spent the summer after her sophomore year working on-campus with Justin Smith ’14 and Associate Professor of Computer Science Mark Bailey to develop a complex new text analysis software. She credits the Computer Science Department’s small size with her ability to gain valuable summer research experience, and her story is not uncommon. Many Hamilton students like Hammond pursue summer research opportunities in the sciences, arts, social sciences and humanities.
Last summer Hammond excelled as an intern with Amazon’s Global Payment Systems team, which helped her acquire the post-grad position. She says the College’s Career Center helped her obtain this initial career-related experience and gave her the skills to succeed in the interview process. Hamilton’s overall emphasis on public speaking also provided Hammond with invaluable skills that will assist her for years to come.
Many Hamilton seniors take pride in the chance to exhibit their accumulated knowledge through a culminating senior project. During her final spring on the Hill, Hammond pursued a senior thesis titled “Adaptive Systems: Making Reading Easier” under the guidance of Professor Stuart Hirshfield. The study used electroencephalography to measure differences in participants’ brain function while reading texts on a screen in varying font sizes, attempting to find the best size for on-screen reading.
In addition to Professor Hirshfield, Hammond is grateful for her math advisor, Sally Cockburn, and the entire Mathematics and Computer Science departments for shaping her four years at Hamilton.
Throughout her time at the College, Hammond also took advantage of many opportunities to pursue her lifelong passion for music. She played cello in the Hamilton College Orchestra and performed with a number of ensembles over her four years. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the Computer Science Department and a peer tutor in the Quantitative & Symbolic Reasoning Center.
After many years of hard work, Hammond is happy to spend the summer relaxing and traveling while she prepares to make the big move to Seattle. Long-term, she envisions herself advancing in her software engineering career and perhaps attending graduate school.
Sarah Hammond is the daughter of Margaret Gallien and William Hammond of Saratoga Springs, N.Y. She is a graduate of Saratoga Springs High School.