Finding Love for Computer Science Through Animation Games and App Development

Why did you choose to pursue a degree in computer science specifically at the University of Minnesota?

I was born and raised in Minnesota and my family has always been a big part of me. I couldn’t imagine being away from them for these four years. Being at the U of M has made it more comfortable between home and school. My mom actually introduced me to programming when I was a kid. In sixth grade, she got me a beginner programming book called Hello World! Computer Programming for Kids and Other Beginners. That was a core memory for me and it kind of inspired me to do my thing. I’ve always been interested in video games and animation, how they work, and how they make these things. After seeing how they got made,  I thought, “I want to do that too.” I started out coding different games and that was fun for me.

How did you become interested in computer science? What are your specific interests within the field?

In the field, I didn't really know what I wanted to emphasize in my major, but I had an app development internship this past summer. I was able to learn front- and back-end stuff, like how to make a website and developing apps for a company. Seeing the real-life applications of that was really helpful for me. Web design is really interesting to me.

Tell us more about your internship experiences.

This past summer I was at RSM, an audit, tax, and consulting firm in Minneapolis. This is my first time having a job with programming on a huge scale with a team, having to go to stand-up meetings, do training, and use my skills in a non-university-based environment. I was scared at first thinking, “Am I really able to do this?” I had my project leaders, my internship leaders, and the other interns as well. It made me realize that I can ask for help, especially in the business world, but also that if you mess up, there are repercussions. I learned that if you ever have an issue, you can speak up and talk about it.

Are you involved in any student groups? What inspired you to get involved? 

I'm in one group, but it's not really related to my major directly. I’m in the Minnesota Long-Form Improv Group. I joined during my sophomore year when I was with my friends at the activity fair at the stadium. In high school, I was on the speech team and I saw people with similar experiences, so I thought, “I should join this,” so I auditioned and got into it. That helped me become more sociable. I feel like that is really important for computer science, especially in the real world. Coding skills are important, but I also think social skills and being personable are needed as well. It helped out a lot too, because being able to think off the top of your head is very important, not just for improvisation, but for coding as well. Being able to think of solutions on the fly like,, “Oh this is broken? How do I fix it?” I didn’t think that it would help out that way but it did.

What do you hope to contribute to the computer science community at the University?

I’m not really sure what I could do because I haven’t been into research in that way. I would say that my graduation is enough for me to support my community, because my freshman year was during COVID and it was really hard to meet people during that time. It’s less me and more our whole year being able to graduate, get over that first hurdle, and have perseverance.

What advice do you have for incoming computer science students?

I would say it’s OK to ask for help. I feel like that first semester, especially because I was online, I was too scared to ask for help or to go to office hours. I kind of thought it showed weakness to even ask other students for help., but being fearful doesn't show weakness, it does the opposite. Asking for help allows you to find your weaknesses and your strong points. Don't underestimate yourself. When I first got into computer science, I had a huge inferiority complex. I would walk into a class and think how I couldn’t compare to other people in my classes. In CSCI 2021, I had a TA and he was guiding me through one of the labs and he said, “Whatever you're going through right now, everyone is going through the same thing.”

What are your plans after graduation?

I will be working full-time at RSM as an Application Development associate starting this summer. I also got into the Technological Leadership Institute's Master of Science in Security Technologies degree program here at CSE. I will be doing that as well starting in the fall.

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

For the internship, we got put into actual non-training work right away. I jumped into it and we would put our hands into whatever we wanted to when it came to working. It was a hands-on experience that I had working with code that I’ve never had before. It was huge with all the different things that I had no idea about, because this isn’t something we’ve learned in class before. Doing that really made me so excited to start work even though I was so scared. The biggest thing I noticed was fear, there was a lot of fear around the real world during your undergrad. Being in a bubble thinking “Oh, it’s okay if I don’t do this assignment,” but in the real world, it’s more like, “If I don't meet my quota or my due date there are big problems.” It made it really exciting because I got the real-world aspect. The internship was really great; the only complaint that I have is that the internship was too short, but I guess if that’s my own only complaint then that shows how much I enjoyed it!