E-commerce drives couple’s STEM careers

Sarah Gilliland Korth ’11 and Luke Korth ’12 have spent the early years of their careers helping to set the stage for e-commerce’s explosive growth; Sarah at Facebook developing mobile apps and Luke at Braintree, an online payment service.

Sarah Gilliland Korth '11 and Luke Korth '12
Photo og Sarah Gilliland Korth ’11 and Luke Korth ’12 by Stacie Cronkleton

E-commerce has become so ubiquitous, it’s hard to realize it’s a relatively new concept. The idea of using a mobile device to purchase online is even newer. E-commerce in the U.S. is expected to top $430 billion in 2017, and mobile devices account for more than 40 percent of that revenue.

Luke and Sarah both got their start, in more ways than one, at Cornell. In fact, they met in Professor Leon Tabak’s systems software class, and their personal relationship developed throughout their years on the Hilltop.

They also took advantage of opportunities to get practical experience. Sarah spent two summers as a research intern in New Jersey and North Carolina. Luke did a summer internship at Dartmouth immersed in computer security, and he worked as an intern and software developer at J&P Cycles in Anamosa, Iowa.

Sarah headed to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to work on a master’s degree in computer science. Her graduate work included human-computer interactions (HCI), artificial intelligence, and graphics. She also spent time as a software engineering intern at Facebook in Menlo Park, California.

After getting his degree Luke joined Sarah and took a job with the UW’s Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System (CHESS), a computer-based system designed to help individuals cope with a health crisis or medical concern.

With Sarah’s graduate degree in hand, they headed off to the Bay Area. Luke found work as a software engineer at Braintree, which had been founded six years earlier. Sarah took a full-time job with Facebook, working on the Facebook and Messenger apps for Android devices. These apps are among the most popular in the world and are used by more than a billion people every day.

After almost two years in California, with Luke worn out from commuting three hours a day, they moved to Sarah’s home state of Ohio. Industry giant PayPal had purchased Braintree and provided Luke with an opportunity to work from home as tech lead for developer experience for the company’s clients.

The couple married in 2015 and a year later, after their son Rowan was born, Sarah became a stay-at-home mom. As Rowan gets older, she plans to ease back into freelance work on web design and graphics. After that? Because of the nature of tech work for the internet, she’s likely to have a variety of options for her work environment. She also wants to finish writing a mobile game she was working on before Rowan. “I had to learn a new programming language for it, but this was something I did several times in various classes at Cornell so learning new languages just comes naturally now,” she says.

Since he left Cornell, Luke has also spent time developing applications, which are available on Google Play. Among them are Photo Paper, an automatic wallpaper with photos from a photography website 500px, and Auto Fi, a VPN app. He’s got five more on GitHub, most of them targeted at developers. His apps have been downloaded about 350,000 times.

Both of them look back on their time in Mount Vernon fondly.

“We had a great time and got a great education,” Sarah says. “One Course was hugely helpful for me. I needed to know my professors and my advisor. It was perfect.”