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Alumni Spotlight: Claire Tolbert

Released by Panhandle State Campus Communications on 07/10/2018 Claire and her dog, Pancake —Courtesy photo Claire and her dog, Pancake —Courtesy photo

Goodwell, Okla. — A Full Stack Software Engineer at Alkami Technology, Claire “Ellie” Tolbert graduated from Panhandle State with a degree in Computer Information Systems (CIS).

Claire read an article as she says “many moons” ago written by Dr. Sara Richter about letting Panhandle State be your ‘second chance’ and that is exactly what led her to Goodwell.

“I read it while working a tough job and being a college drop out. I was motivated to finally go back to school and finish my education, and that very article brought me to tears! I reached out to her in January 2011, and I was enrolled in classes something like 10 days later with help from Diane Murphey. Those two women made it their mission in a matter of days to get me back in school, and I am forever grateful for that. It is because of them that I am where I am today.”

Murphey commented, “Claire was one of those students who made me look forward to teaching. It was rewarding to see her grow personally, academically and professionally while at Panhandle State. She is a graduate of whom I am especially proud.”

Claire jumped right in and hasn’t looked back. As a student, she was involved in Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP), KPSU Radio, and Choir. Additionally, Claire worked as a Computer Lab Assistant and CIS Teacher’s Assistant helping grade homework for Intro CIS classes.

“My junior year at OPSU, I placed 3rd in Application Development at an AITP competition with my partner, Jake McClellan. That was really exciting!! The contest was judged by the people who interviewed me that weekend, and I ultimately got a job at that company!”

The learning that Claire did while on campus still plays a part into her work, “Diane Murphey always said that because technology changes every two years, the CIS program can’t possibly teach us what we need to know. Instead, they will teach us how to learn. I carry that with me every day. There is no way to truly master anything in programming because it changes every day. What I can master, however, is my learning process and ability to be quick on my feet.”

When it comes to a favorite thing about Panhandle State, “The community is unlike anything I’ve experienced in my life. I love the small class sizes and how everyone genuinely cared about me. I felt the love and support from fellow classmates and my professors, and I never felt like just my Student ID number. I think that love and care is what ultimately motivated me to graduate. There’s really no ditching class or missing assignments at OPSU. Not if the professors have anything to say about it!”

Career achievements include being the first of her group to be promoted from Entry Level Programmer to Certified Programmer I at her first job out of college (ARGO). Later at Brierley+Partners, Claire became the only Dev Account Lead who didn’t have a Senior title. She was the Dev Account Lead on two accounts, Orchard Supply Hardware and Hertz. She is moving up quickly in her current position, closing tickets during her first sprint at work and serving as the Subject Matter Expert on the Payroll widget.

Alkami Technology provides digital banking solutions for mid-size credit union. “My team - called Nucleus - is responsible for some of the most used and highest visible pieces of the application like the Dashboard (what you see when you first log in) and My Accounts (where you view all account details). This means I’m always busy, and have to be on my toes for any incoming Production Fires. It’s a lot of fun!”

As far as hobbies and interests, she has started a new “pet project.” “I was primarily a back end developer for my entire career, and only ever dabbled in front end. Recently, I have decided to push myself to learn more front end development. I figure the best way to do something right is to do it wrong publicly. I now stream on Twitch every Saturday and Sunday morning live coding! I’m currently building my personal website, but it can turn into absolutely anything. The programming community on Twitch is amazing. It’s live paired programming with fellow developers at its finest, and everyone is so supportive!

I’m really excited about this because I feel like I’ve taken my code learning process into my own hands instead of relying on work! Eventually, I’m going to have other people host on my stream and just teach the world something for two-three hours. I want to build out a community of developers who share their knowledge with the world, so we can all constantly be learning from each other!”

Claire can be found on any social media @JustAskClaire.

As far as future plans, Claire isn’t entirely sure but for now she knows she “loves debugging, figuring out mysteries, and creatively solving problems.”