From Farm to Tablet
From becoming an Ohio Certified Angus Producer on the family farm to performing computer-tech support for his grandfather’s business, then his school district, University of Cincinnati (UC) senior Jared Handra built an impressive resume before enrolling at UC’s Clermont College. That work ethic would eventually land him a highly coveted co-op interview with Microsoft and another opportunity to drive creation of an iPhone app.
“I’ve been working ever since I was 12,” the 23-year-old says. “My dad would drag me into work at 7 a.m. on a Saturday when all of my friends were sleeping in or playing Gameboys. I cleaned and stocked shelves, and, because I was the youngest and better at computers than anyone else, did repair.”
News of his abilities spread and his school district’s administrator hired him. “He was really encouraging and mentored me, showing me system diagnostics, hardware and basic networking,” according to Handra. That coincided with his senior year and a career decision. Though wooed by soccer scholarships, Handra’s practical side chose nearby Clermont UC and an affordable two-year degree.
In 2010, he registered for the computer–system-support-and-technician program and worked on the college help desk, which taught him he wanted something broader. As a result, Handra explored options at Northern Kentucky University and the main campus of UC, where accreditation and the strong co-op program “sealed the deal.”
He co-oped with French fragrance-and-flavoring company Mane, Inc. in Lebanon, OH, in system support. “I had itchy feet and asked myself if this is what I wanted to do the rest of my life.” He taught himself coding, declared software as his major and admits “that first semester was tough, though Kevin Ghantous (IT instructor and graduate) helped me through the transition.”
His next co-op with Tata Consultancy Services in Milford provided great pay and experience with a global firm, mocking up a web application with a dashboard that tracked projects. Interns also mentored middle- and high-school engineering students.
As Handra grew more confident in software applications, he began to search for his final co-op and boldly applied to Microsoft. His application and phone interview netted a plane ticket to Seattle and a personal interview. He left quietly during exam week, was whisked from the airport in a black car, subjected to five rounds of interviews before dinner in the Space Needle, a night’s sleep and ride back home.
Handra was disappointed not to get an offer, but yearned for a small company with one-on-one mentoring. He dragged his feet until Jeffrey Shephard, CEO for MedaCheck, contacted him. “He’s an entrepreneur and believes in giving co-ops the chance to make a huge impact.” And it was located downtown Cincinnati, somewhere the farm boy wanted to try.
Handra was tasked with creating automated testing for the customer web platform. MedaCheck offers medication reminders for android tablets and mobile devices. The co-op was handed a list of 200 tests along with program tutoring by one of the software developers that “really helped ramp me up. Without it, I would never be as good as I am now.” Handra eventually programmed testing for tablet software and android phones.