WFU Computer Science 2019
What advice would you give students who have an interest in STEM/Health?
This a two-step approach: find your preferred learning method, and use it to self-teach. I am a software engineer, and while I find videos enticing for stories, talks, and presentations, I prefer having browser-based textbooks/documentation for learning. I like to “learn by doing” while I am reading (or afterwards), so I’ll usually create a very small and narrowly-scoped personal project to work on alongside the text.
What WFU career resources did you utilize that were most helpful to you?
Resumes are usually the most powerful tool an applicant can have. Any WFU career resources that tune or enhance your resume are instant recommendations. The importance of connections, writing practice, and technical interview practice can vary between career paths, but the resume/CV workshops and reviews are my highest recommendations. Another thing: do a career trek if you are interested. They are like small study abroad trips with classmates in your field. I did the San Francisco career trek, and it was phenomenal. Huge thanks to the OPCD (Office of Personal and Career Development) for putting that together.
What courses, activities or experiences gave you an edge in the job search process?
The answers to my first two questions are what gave me an edge. Grades, research, and academic experience are great, but I think many other folks give better, unique, and substantive advice in those areas. Being resume-polished and (within reason) self-reliant in learning are what gave me an edge. Think of a student who loved their 19th century poetry class, and then began to read some outside material out of interest. They did not fake their interest, but they let the course material from their poetry class help guide them towards their interests. That is what happened to me, but the class was never consistent. Originally, it was International Politics. Another semester, it was Computer Security. In one senior year semester, it was Linear Algebra (from someone who didn’t do so well in other math classes!). I let myself change my interests frequently, and went to the OPCD at every twist and turn. We would tune my resume to help imply what I wanted out of my next career step; not what I had already done.
What specific advice would you give regarding effective networking?
Networking is trickier than I believe some folks give it credit for, and that’s especially the case at networking events. I believe that is because event hosts, recruiters, and candidates all come for different reasons, and folks within each camp come for drastically different reasons. One recruiter may come without any positions available. Another recruiter may be trying to find volunteers for a local high school code camp. These curveballs may not be what you expect as a candidate. My specific advice for navigating these events and networking in general: know why you are there and what you want out of the event/exchange. Being forthright with your intentions makes these exchanges less shallow and increases chances of a sustainable, professional relationship. A lot of times, you’ll meet folks who you can reach out to in five years when you move to their area. On the other hand, if you do not know why you are there, then I recommend using that time elsewhere.
What specific advice would you give to students regarding effective interviewing?
Similar to my last answer: know why you are there and what you want out of the interview. However, you do not have to be “passionate” about your livelihood. Working to live, feed your family/friends, and have a good life are great reasons on their own, so never feel bad about those core motivations! Thus, let’s focus less on “passion” and more on what we bring to the table. Are you confident when you need to be self-reliant to learn? Will you find a calm rhythm in a stressful situation (i.e. technical interview)? Empathize with the interviewer, their team, and the company, and figure out what they are looking for. If you can answer the questions above, empathize with the interviewing party, and use that motivation to prepare accordingly, I believe that you’ll kick some …
Are there any books, magazines, websites, etc. that you would recommend to students who are interested in STEM/Health?
Ah, this is such a fun question. I have just finished reading “REMOTE” by the folks over at Basecamp (formerly 37signals). It has a slight STEM/Health slant, but it’s not quite unique to those fields. Regardless, it’s a great read on the merits and tradeoffs of hybrid/full remote work. Another thing: I recommend keeping an eye on your favorite conference speakers, writers, and leaders in your field. Making an anonymous Twitter account and using the “Lists” feature to organize your feed is a low barrier-to-entry method for this. Finally, I wrote a blog post on “Three Unusual Books for Computer Science Students” that might be worth checking out: https://nickgerace.dev/post/three-unusual-books
Where’s the best place to reach you?