Ashley Mikkola ’14 is a full-stack software developer at Aceleron Energy — an award-winning clean technology company. She spends her days making software that helps monitor the performance of battery cells and aids in ensuring that the batteries are properly maintained.
Ms. Mikkola believes that her education at Carthage provided her with the skills needed to adapt to the changing workforce.
“My liberal arts education taught me that studying is more about learning how to learn, learning how to approach the unfamiliar, and learning out how to apply yourself in a semi-structured hierarchical environment.”
What have you enjoyed most about your career?
“I’ve enjoyed the ability to carve my own path. I worked first in the translation and internationalization industry, in which I experienced the intricacies in the lexical patterns of applied human language. As neural machine translation continued to gain popularity in the industry, I decided to pursue it further. I undertook some field research and additional training in programming languages to prepare for this. In the end, I came to realize that one can draw many parallels between natural and machine languages. These days, I work full time as a full-stack software developer, but who knows what the future has in store.”
How did Carthage prepare you?
“The requirements for a diverse course load at Carthage has given me confidence to try things outside of my comfort zone. There are some brilliant minds behind the Carthage curriculum. I remember being pleasantly surprised by the interesting things I learned, which I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience if I only focused on courses within my specialism.”
Why did you choose Carthage?
“Carthage was a reasonable distance away from my parents, and it checked their box for being a religious institution. I also liked the fact that I could study German and that the College was relatively internationally focussed for such a small institution in the Midwest.”
What opportunities were made possible because of your Carthage experience?
“I spent a lot of time abroad in Europe during my undergrad college career, which helped me familiarize myself with the visa requirements and applications that led to my successfully emigration.”
How has your liberal arts education benefitted you?
“My liberal arts education taught me that studying is more about learning how to learn, learning how to approach the unfamiliar, and learning out how to apply yourself in a semi-structured hierarchical environment. All of these skills helped me adapt to the challenges I faced as part of the varied and global modern workforce.”
Were you an award recipient? If so, tell us about the awards you received and what they meant to you.
“I was the recipient of three endowed scholarships: the Lukas Family Scholarship, the Thomas W. Lentz Scholarship, and the John H. and Mary L. (Hall) Meiss and Olive C. (Meiss) Padre Scholarship.”
Tips for current Carthage students:
“Don’t be afraid to take a course that sounds a little bit crazy, especially if it can fulfill some of your liberal arts requirements. For example, if you can take a yoga course that counts as both a religion credit and an exercise and sport science credit, do not hesitate to enroll just because you’re afraid the professor will be disappointed because you can’t touch your toes.”
Favorite Carthage memories:
“Some of my best Carthage memories were centered around the community of the College. The shape of the campus made it easy to see all my friends, classmates, and acquaintances. I was able to really strengthen my connections and relationships with all kinds of different people.”
What role have the values in Carthage's mission, "Seeking Truth, Building Strength, Inspiring Service — Together" played in your life?
“In reference to seeking truth, my time at Carthage involved scouring the Hedberg Library’s catalogue of resources to find materials and information for my essays. Learning how to find proper resources helped me become conscientious when searching for the source of a claim in news articles or when collecting multiple perspectives on a specific event or result.
“When it comes to building strength, the financial, social, and academic struggles I experienced allowed me to hone my independent problem-solving skills. These skills have been a cornerstone in helping me realize my dreams and successfully navigate the unprecedented challenges of the global social, economic, and political landscape that young adults are being faced with in the modern era.
“In terms of inspiring service, I believe that the community and collaborative environment of Carthage has contributed to my altruistic beliefs. It is these beliefs that ultimately led me to donate one of my kidneys to a stranger in need. Being exposed to a diverse and wide range of people during my time at Carthage was instrumental in helping foster a great deal of tolerance and fellow feeling in me, which I hope I can use to help shape the world for the better.”