Year Graduated: 2009
Degree: Honors BS Computer Science / MS Computing
Current Position & Company:  Senior Software Engineer and Technical Lead at Google

When and why did you decide to go into engineering as your educational and career choice?
Both of my parents worked in medicine, so I never had much exposure to what a career in engineering would be like growing up. I knew that it was a field with a lot of variety and increasing opportunities available, so I had a general intention of pursuing some kind of engineering-related degree but nothing concrete. When I first arrived at the U, I was mostly interested in arranging my schedule to make time for as many ski days as possible. Fortunately for me, Comp Sci 1 fit my schedule “constraints.” I found that algorithmic thinking and modeling/solving problems computationally was something I enjoyed immensely, so I dove straight into computer science as a major and never looked back. I trusted that the explosive growth of computing would lead to some kind of academic or professional path beyond graduation, and although the road had some interesting twists, it has definitely led me to a fulfilling career so far.

What was your experience like going through the University of Utah’s College of Engineering?
I found my passion for computer science early as an undergrad and was motivated to pursue it and challenge myself. I appreciated that the School of Computing offered a combined BS/MS program for me to channel that motivation to push myself academically and accelerate preparation for graduate study or a career. I was able to compress the timeline for obtaining a master’s degree, which proved to be beneficial for early career opportunities and compensation, and was able to fulfill many of the undergraduate major requirements with graduate level courses in topics I was most interested in. Having that freedom to chart my own personal course and dive into advanced studies within the major was a really valuable benefit and led directly to opportunities and connections both within the U and beyond.

There were a lot of other facets to my experience at the U, too, of course: I was involved in the U student council as well as administration for one of the several student ski and snowboard clubs, racked up countless days of skiing, taught toddler gymnastics on campus as a part-time job, attended many a sporting event as part of the MUSS, and joined the original U Facebook (when it was still limited to invite-only at a small number of universities!). My experience was a great mix of the benefits of a large public university combined with the unique aspects of the U and the Salt Lake City area.

What did you learn most during your time here at the U?
Studying at the U opened my eyes to the sheer breadth of technical and creative possibilities that can be achieved with the building blocks of engineering and computing principles.

Did you have a favorite professor and if so, who was it and why?
Pete Shirley’s Intro to Computer Graphics course was a delightful introduction to the area for me and opened my eyes to the depth of history and on-going work in computer graphics at the U. He ended up advising my MS studies, directing me to opportunities to learn from the many renowned leaders in their respective graphics specialties at the U. And he was a mentor to me beyond graduation as I started my career. I also have fond memories of Suresh Venkatasubramanian’s algorithms course and seminar (his passion for the subject and willingness/energy to discuss problems during office hours has stuck with me), and of TA’ing introductory CS courses for Peter Jensen and James de St. Germain (learning to help students understand CS was possibly more valuable for a career in engineering than being a student in the classes).

How did your education in the College of Engineering best prepare you for your career?
The School of Computing had all the resources I needed to learn solid CS fundamentals, get exposure to practical software engineering, and experience a variety of specialized topics taught by experts in their disciplines. The available courses covered both classic/fundamental topics and important industry trends, and the freedom of the different degree tracks available allowed me to tailor my studies as my knowledge and goals changed. I was able to follow a path naturally into an industry career after graduating, but I feel like my education was general and rigorous enough that continued academic study was a door that was open to me.

What advice do you have for those who have just graduated and are now entering the workforce?
Be clear to yourself about your values and motivations: Do you want to have a large personal impact at a smaller company or a small piece of societal impact at a larger one? Are there particular problems you’re passionate about working on? What are your needs and goals in terms of location, compensation, career path, and stability? Different opportunities will offer a variety of tradeoffs, so be honest about which aspects are requirements and which you’re open to exploring. And remember that these motivations will probably change over time!

Don’t be too discouraged by setbacks like hiring rejections. There is a wide world of opportunities available. Put in sincere effort to prepare for things like interviews, learn from mistakes when they happen, and keep looking ahead (sometimes a near miss – or two or three – comes to fruition a few years down the road).

Looking back at the arc of your experience here at the U and where you are now in your career, how would you best sum up the value of the education you got from the U’s College of Engineering?
Having worked at a variety of companies and with colleagues of varying backgrounds, it’s hard for me to imagine having found a better mix of quality of education and quality of life than I got at the U. Academic opportunities and talented faculty across many disciplines (including beyond the COE/SoC), the beautiful campus and continually improving facilities, and unparalleled access to outdoor recreation all played a part. I’ve always felt solidly prepared in terms of my CS and engineering fundamentals alongside peers from other institutions across the U.S. and globally and was extremely fortunate to be able to start my career without student debt thanks to the tuition rate and scholarship support at the U.