The I.T. Factor: The Stevens Information Systems Degree
“My master’s degree in information systems has made me a more holistic person in my career.” — Niña Kitele ’23, M.S. Information Systems
Most middle schoolers will change their mind about what to wear to school so focusing on a career path at that age seems out of the question. But ever since discovering a book on coding while waiting for her mom in the local library, Niña Kitele has found it inspiring to use technology to create unique solutions.
The daughter of two registered nurses, Niña has carried on her family’s healthcare legacy as a technology services manager at Johnson & Johnson where she works on corporate IT finance systems. As her career progressed and she gained experience delivering projects, she recognized how businesses were increasingly dependent on integrating new technologies into their day-to-day decision-making processes.
That realization prompted her to search for the right master’s degree program, which led her to Stevens. The Stevens information systems master’s degree is built with a balance of technical and leadership skills that enable students to become creative problem solvers.
How has your Stevens experience impacted your current role?
My job is to accelerate our business outcomes by working on our consolidated financial systems, in particular to enable our company’s financial leadership to make informed decisions powered by real-time, centralized financial data. What I do is I serve as a solution lead overseeing the design, delivery and run state of our central finance projects. My master’s degree in information systems has really helped me become a more holistic person in my career. Topics like database management and systems architecture, that's all baked into everything that I do day-to-day, but because of my degree, I'm also able to understand how that all fits in both a technical and business context.
How did you learn about Stevens and what made you want to choose the information systems program?
Time and time again, the Stevens program just came up on every single list when I searched for top programs, but what eventually got me to choose Stevens was really a more analytical approach. I narrowed down my search and scraped the internet for every syllabus that I could find across various programs. In the end, Stevens just really had the curriculum that I was looking for. Not only a core curriculum that spoke to me in terms of what I might potentially be interested in later down in my career, but just the wealth of electives that they had to offer really helped me make that decision.
What does the information systems curriculum include?
The information systems degree can be as technical as systems architecture, data analytics and machine learning, but can also be just as business process oriented as IT strategy and process innovation. The information systems program really marries the best of both worlds and provides professionals with skills from both technical and business perspectives.
Why are information systems professionals in such high demand?
I think we can all undeniably say that technology degrees in general are in high demand, but I think what makes an information systems degree even more lucrative is that it bridges that gap between technology and business. In the “real world,” information systems professionals align our technical teams and our business stakeholders. That's what ensures companies that their technology investments are going to deliver innovation, efficiency and competitive advantage.
Why did you want to pursue a master’s degree?
I was already working at Johnson and Johnson as a lead for their central finance projects. My objective for this master’s degree was to be able to sit in rooms and talk knowledgeably and speak analytically from a technical perspective while making sure that I had a holistic view of the business context. It also makes sure that all the doors are open as I continue in my career.
How did the program’s structure allow you to balance working and school?
I had just started my role at Johnson and Johnson so I really needed to make sure that there was flexibility. The online program lets you take as many or as few courses as you want, and I was really able to work well with my manager at work and try to prioritize my workload. That actually meant taking extra courses my last two semesters just because I knew that this summer was going to be really busy with my project work.
Was there a specific instance when your Stevens experience helped you in your work?
I took a class with Professor (Dinesh) Kumar called Managing Emerging Emerging Information Technologies. That was a really impactful experience for me, not only because the frameworks that we learned in that class were so thought-provoking, but also because I would take the class on a Monday night and by end of the week I was applying it to the work that I was doing. I had time set aside in this class where I would think about the pain points that I was experiencing at work, and then I would think about the frameworks we were learning in class and try to develop my ideas. By the end of the week, I was bringing it up in my 1:1 with my manager for implementation, discussing how we can make it fit for change. That experience is something that I really relish—being able to learn such great ideas, develop them in a safe space and then apply them to work.
Was there anything that surprised you about the experience?
I knew someone that was already in an online program at Stevens so I had a first-hand account of the level of quality that Stevens online programs had, but you can't help to be a little bit skeptical. I didn't have any online classes during my undergraduate program, and I was familiar with the rough learning curves my siblings went through during the pandemic. It really surprised me that the professors really tried to make the online lectures as engaging as possible. I was really worried that not being in person, we would just be sitting and listening to a lecture, but professors really took advantage of all the collaborative tools that our conferencing platforms had. Having breakout sessions, even if it's virtual, and using different fun activities really makes the lecture that much more engaging.
Describe your overall experience with the information systems degree program.
Even though the information systems degree at Stevens is a very technical program, I really want to emphasize just how important people are to that process.I think the faculty and the students really made my experience. One of my electives was in cybersecurity and it was actually taught by Stevens’ chief information security officer. That type of experience, being able to have a whole semester where you can get the perspective of the university CISO and their wealth of knowledge, was something that I don't think I could get in many other places. There are also students from all different work experiences, all different industries, countries, and also some students that are just full-time students that don't have any work experience. All of that comes together to provide a rich experience with all different perspectives and some really engaging discussions.
What are your future career goals?
I would really like to be someone at a large healthcare company working on end-to-end IT strategy. I think it's really interesting how technology can enable companies to do things that they couldn't do years ago. So I see myself in the future, focusing on the development of technology strategy and portfolio management. I aspire to take ownership of determining and prioritizing business strategies for our IT departments to align with corporate strategy, by focusing on technology-enabled business models.
I'm actually the daughter of two registered nurses so growing up, healthcare was in my life. I see the impact that it has on people every day, and even though I'm “just doing IT," I can see how it eventually gets back to the healthcare workers and the patients. That impact is important for me to have in my career.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering taking pursuing an online degree at Stevens?
Take the jump. I know that the application process happens a long time before you actually start the program, and it can be really easy to just keep pushing it off, especially if you're already working full-time. It’s never going to feel like it's the right time but because of how flexible and easy the program is, it can cater to however fast or slow you need to go.