CSpotlight: Graphics Side of Computer Science

Why did you choose to study computer science specifically at the University of Minnesota?

I actually started in actuarial mathematics my freshman year. I was on the math team in high school and my coaches taught a program called UMTYMP here at the University. They always had great things to say about the U’s mathematics program and faculty, and I liked that the campus was close to home and affordable. I enjoyed the math major but I found myself wondering if it was the right fit for me. Computer science has always been an interesting field to me, and one of my mentors suggested that I switch over as the freshman year curriculum is very similar in the two majors. After my first python class I realized it was a much better fit. 

How did you become interested in computer science? What made you particularly focus on the graphics aspect?

I have been interested in the idea of computer science and graphics since a young age, starting in elementary school when I wrote small games to share with my friends in Scratch. I also remember watching a Pixar documentary on the history of animation, and dreamed of some day being able to animate the films we all love. My first experience truly working with graphics was when I participated in the Target Women in Tech Symposium. I created the visual components of my group's application and found that I really enjoyed the graphics side of computer science, which is why I decided to make it my emphasis.

How did you become an intern at Target? Tell us more about the Target Women in Tech Symposium Hackathon!

I applied to the Target Women in Tech Symposium Hackathon sophomore year as a way to gain experience and meet other women across the country within the computer science major. The hackathon was a 3-day experience where we learned from women within the computer science industry at Target, and at the end we were put in groups to create a program to solve an issue of our choosing. We were also given the opportunity to interview for an internship position at the end, and that is how I got my internship this past summer. I worked as a software engineer with one other intern on the Connected Commerce team. We created a guest-facing application that allows a Target guest to activate a cell phone from the comfort of their home. I worked on the front-end in Typescript and React and my co-intern worked on the back-end in Kotlin and Spring Boot. It was challenging to learn a new tech stack but also rewarding to see that I was able to pick up skills in frameworks and languages so quickly that I had no prior experience with. 

Tell us more about your internship with Minnesota Lottery.

The summer after my freshman year I worked at the Minnesota Lottery as a Marketing Intern. I worked on a project where I analyzed winner databases that contained information about sales, winners and retailers, and used that information to estimate the total sales generated by players that reside out of state. I was able to prove in my project that the Minnesota Lottery generates tourist dollars for the state of Minnesota. Although this internship was in a different industry, I really enjoyed being able to work with data and databases in a more hands-on approach and gained very valuable work experience. 

What advice do you have for incoming computer science students?

As a person who is underrepresented in this field, I know that you might experience times in which you feel like you don’t belong or that your input doesn’t matter. With this being said, it is important to remember that you are just as deserving as anyone else who is here. It might be intimidating at times, but continue to speak your mind and share your ideas.

Another piece of advice I have is to make as many connections as possible, whether that be faculty, TAs or other students. There is always someone willing to help with any questions you have, and these connections can help you find internships and job opportunities. 

What are your plans after graduation?

Upon graduation, I have accepted an offer as a Software Engineer in the Technology Leadership program at Target. As of now I hope to continue working on the front-end side of applications, but I am excited to explore the many different teams Target has to offer. Down the road I would love to create opportunities for younger girls to get into computer science through coding camps. Feeling represented and having a space to share a passion of coding is extremely important to me and I would love to be able to provide this to other girls in the future. 

Are there any additional experiences you did that you would like to highlight in the article?

I have always had a passion for running, and while looking for a place to continue this passion after high school I found the Minnesota Running Club. The club provides students the opportunity to compete in track and cross country at the D2/D3 level. I was able travel to different states for meets and met many lifelong friends!