From Specialist to Software Engineer

Silicon Valley is a well-established job market for software engineers and developers. The Silicon Slopes are also gaining recognition for growth in the technology sector. But what about Silicon Plains? We’ll be hearing about that soon, especially if former MOS US National Championship bronze medalist and Nebraska native, Brooke Lampe, has anything to say about it.

Brooke competed in the MOS US National Championship several years back and is now using her Microsoft skills to push her forward as a software engineering student and intern. Find out how her MOS certification has helped her find her passion for technology.

Certiport: Brooke, first, congratulations on all you’ve accomplished over the last several years. We can’t wait to talk through all you’ve done since competing in the MOS US National Championship.

Brooke: Thank you so much! It’s been a busy few years and I’m excited to share what I’ve been up to.

Certiport: Wonderful! Let’s quickly delve into the past. How did you first get involved in the competition?

Brooke: I was doing an independent study of a course that taught the Microsoft Office suite. My high school had just started exploring the certification program as part of that course, and they were offering the students opportunities to become certified. I took the certifications in place of exams traditionally given to show mastery of the Microsoft Office suite, and I passed with flying colors. My teacher, Mrs. Quible, noticed my high score in Word 2013 and suggested that I enter the MOS Championship.

Certiport: It’s so awesome that your teacher recognized your potential.

Brooke: Absolutely! I owe so much to Mrs. Quible. She taught my accounting class as well as the independent study course which led me to be certified. She is the one who suggested that I pursue certification instead of the traditional course exams and gave me opportunities to learn Microsoft Office inside and out. During the summer, to help me prepare for the competition, she came to the school and let me in to take the certification exam again, so I’d be fresh when I showed up. I thank her for seeing the potential in me and giving me an opportunity to push myself after getting certified.

Certiport: We’re so glad she encouraged you to compete. What was your favorite memory from the MOS Championship?

Brooke: When I was sitting down to compete in Word 2013, my first time at the national level competition, I was very nervous. I didn’t know how the competition format might differ from the certification format, but as I read the instructions, I realized that I knew exactly what I needed to do. I was excited to put my Word skills to use, and I was excited to test my knowledge of the software. I was elated when I placed 3rd that year.

Certiport: Third place in the whole country is an amazing accomplishment! Did you gain additional certifications, besides Word?

Brooke: I have earned Microsoft Office Specialist certification in Word 2013, Excel 2013, PowerPoint 2013, Access 2013, and Outlook 2013. I’ve earned Expert certification in Word 2013 and Excel 2013, through which I earned my Microsoft Office Master certification.

Certiport: A true Master! Good for you! Do you feel like this mastery has helped you outside of school?

Brooke: Certification has helped me achieve the Microsoft Office background I’ve needed for various roles over the years. In my internship this summer, we primarily used Microsoft Outlook for communications and scheduling, and it was a relief that I knew how to use it.

Academically, I’ve written a lot of papers in Microsoft Word that required specific formatting and styles to meet industry standards. Thanks to my certification, I knew how to set up that formatting. For many of my presentations, I’ve used PowerPoint, and I’ve been able to design more sophisticated, professional presentations by utilizing the templates and styles I learned how to use as I went through the certification process.

I’ve also used my certification outside of school. For the research I’ve been involved in, as well as my internship opportunities, certification is a plus because it shows I have a background in business software. It tells professors and hiring managers that I can design reports and presentations in Word and PowerPoint, and I can communicate in Outlook. It is something I have always included on my resume.

Certiport: Sounds like you’re able to hit the ground running, which is exactly what hiring managers are looking for. Let’s talk more about your internships.

Brooke Lampe

Brooke: This past summer, I was a software intern at Cerner in Kansas City. My team at Cerner was focused on a solution that hospitals could use if the main system failed or the network went down, a solution that stores important patient data on local machines. My project was to support testing by developing a solution that allowed my team to update dates in the test data. It provided a user interface and updated the test data that was stored in databases. In my internship, I learned a new programming language, a new development environment, various new tools, and how software is produced in a true industry development cycle. Most importantly, I learned that I love developing software in the real world.

Certiport: What an awesome experience! And now you’re working as an intern at another company?

Brooke: Yes, since I’m currently a senior at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I wanted to get another internship under my belt. I just started as a Pathway Intern at Nelnet in Lincoln, in their technology track. Nelnet’s Pathway Program allows interns to rotate through different departments in a specific career track or “pathway.” My first rotation is in Cloud Computing.

Certiport: Sounds like you’re going to get some amazing experience! What are you hoping to learn?

Brooke: My department at Nelnet is called Cloud Computing, and a lot of my team’s work centers around automating business needs through software. I’m looking forward to learning how software can be used to automate, learning new programming tools and techniques, and exploring Nelnet’s culture.

Certiport: How exciting! Have you always known you wanted to pursue a career in software engineering?

Brooke: I’ve been interested in it for quite a few years. I fell in love with software engineering through an academic summer camp in middle school, where I was introduced to computer science and ciphers. I was taught web page programming in JavaScript and started coding simple websites. I designed an “About Me” web page, featuring my favorite book, my school activities, and miscellaneous information. I found programming exciting because users could click on elements in my web page and the web page would do something; it was interactive. I coded a button with the words “Don’t Press This Button.” It took users to a new page where I mocked them for pressing the forbidden button. It was fun to use my knowledge to express my personality!

Following camp, I brought my web pages home with me and enthusiastically showed them to my parents. In the weeks, months, and ultimately, years, following camp, I forgot about how much I had loved software engineering until I took programming courses again my senior year of high school. I had been planning on majoring in chemical engineering; I ended up in software engineering, and I have loved it ever since.

Certiport: Your passion will take you so far! What advice would you give to younger students who are just starting on this path?

Brooke: I would say to give yourself opportunities to explore technology and find things that interest you. Without my summer camp and my certification classes, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m so grateful I took the chances I was given to learn and push myself.

Interested in learning more about MOS certification? Visit