Many would say it is a challenge to have one person in a household pursuing a graduate degree, but Malikah and Victor Montgomery like a challenge. By the end of 2019, the couple will each earn a graduate degree from Georgia Tech’s online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMSCS) program.
The crazy thing is, this isn’t the first time the Montgomery’s have accomplished the same feat together. Married for 16 years and together for nearly 20, the Montgomery’s met in high school Spanish class. Upon graduation they attended Illinois State University, both earning degrees in computer information systems.
Bachelor’s degrees in hand, the Montgomery’s started their careers at State Farm where they have worked for over a decade. The couple started in the same role, but have since pursued different paths within the company. Malikah now works as a software developer and Victor is an IT manager.
Malikah and Victor Montgomery met in high school Spanish class and are now "classmates" in Georgia Tech's online Master of Science in Computer Science program.
Since their days in Illinois, Malikah had dreamed of earning an advanced degree but couldn’t find the right program for their lifestyle and budget. Around the same time, they began traveling around the southeastern U.S. recruiting candidates for State Farm. As they traveled, they began meeting Georgia Tech students and graduates and soon noticed that they were a caliber above the rest of the applicants.
“The more we talked to candidates, the more we realized how much we were drawn to and impressed with Georgia Tech graduates. When we realized we had an opportunity to become Georgia Tech graduates ourselves without having to leave our jobs or break the bank, we were immediately interested,” said Malikah.
Even though they are now Atlanta residents, the Montgomery’s chose to pursue their master’s via the online route. With two kids and one on the way, the OMSCS program seemed like a perfect fit. It offered much-needed flexibility for their schedules while also making their goals completely affordable.
The Montgomerys say their three children are their best motivation.
Both Malikah and Victor feel that participating in the program has been an incredible decision for them personally, for their family, and for their careers.
“With an almost ten-year gap since I’ve done hardcore programming, OMSCS has helped me prove to myself that I’ve still got those skills. Technology has changed so much since we earned our undergraduate degrees, but I’ve just got to remind myself to be patient and allow myself to fail. The pursuit is not easy, but it is rewarding,” Victor said of his experience.
Malikah added, “The expectation is not for you to know how to do something, but to become a thought leader in a particular space and to advance that space.
This new way of thinking really hit home what it meant to earn a master’s degree from Georgia Tech. I started to understand that it’s okay not to have the right answer immediately and that they try to get you to a place of learning and thinking that is different and helps you grow as a student, as a professional and as a person.”
With working full-time jobs, raising a family and school, keeping it all together can be tiresome. But the Montgomery’s have maintained a healthy amount of competition to keep themselves motivated.
“I want her to succeed and get an A in every class. I just want her to get the 94 and I get the 95!” said Victor with a laugh.
Besides the grades and the career advancement from pursuing OMSCS degrees, the best motivation for the Montgomerys is ultimately their children.
“It’s been cool to be a student at the same time as our children. We have a healthy amount of pressure on them to perform well academically, but I think it’s good for them to see Mom and Dad studying and for them to ask how my test went,” said Malikah.
"Hopefully by seeing us put in the work for our degrees, they’re also being motivated to pursue their own studies and see that we understand what they’re going through at school too. It’s given us a unique bond that other families may not have,” she added.
There is a possibility that Victor and Malikah will graduate together. Victor says that picturing he and his wife walking across the stage together with their kids in the audience brings him to tears every time. It’s a moment that drives them forward and that they hope they can create and cherish forever.