Gaining skills in the classroom that prepare you for real-world experiences early on.
Being from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, it’s an eight-to-nine-hour drive home. I usually do the drive for fall break and winter break. I’ve never gone home during the summer, but that’s because I’ve always had an internship or research program lined up.
I’m a software engineering major in the School of Computing. Our core classes are separated by cohort. For my first five semesters, I had an individual software engineering core course each semester, and I would take it only with those in my major who are graduating the same year as me. It was a class of about 15 students and was co-taught by two professors who were just outstanding.
I think having small, close-knit groups makes the program so great because it’s not like I’m raising my hand in a lecture hall full of 300 students. As a first-year student, if I was ever struggling with something, I’d raise my hand up in a room of 10 students and didn’t feel like I was lost in a crowd.
My program takes a super applicable approach to software engineering—every single lesson directly applies to real-world jobs. I would write code and submit assignments in the same way I’d post code at a software engineering job, which made the connection clear.
The summer after my first year, I ended up pursuing a research opportunity at the NIMBUS (Nebraska Intelligent MoBile Unmanned Systems) Robotics Lab on campus. I worked on an autonomous vehicle navigation project with a grad student. I got to spend my summer building a robot, modeling and cutting out 3D printing pieces, assembling it and writing software for the camera on the front of it.
The research I was engaged in was great, and I learned a lot, but what drives me is producing tangible results that people can benefit from immediately, so I decided to pursue a career in industry after graduation.
You must get an internship in order to graduate from my program, which sounds intimidating at face value, but the skills I learned in the classroom prepared me for real-world experiences early on. When I started interviewing for internships, the questions I’d get asked were like problems I’d solve in class.
I’ve had two internships. The summer after sophomore year, I worked on the research and development team at Southwestern Business Corporation in San Antonio, Texas. I did a lot of research about scripting, automation and machine learning. It was awesome and I learned a lot, but I also learned that I don’t really enjoy wearing business casual dress in super-hot temperatures.
Last summer, I worked at Flywheel, which is a hosting company in Omaha, Nebraska; it was a totally different experience. It was a semi-remote internship because of COVID-19, but I still learned a lot. I worked with a small group on their app development team that required working with a tech stack I’d never used before. I got to spearhead my own project and work on existing applications. I kind of got thrown into something I had no experience with, and they let us figure it out.
After graduation, I have a mobile app developer job lined up at Epic Systems, which is a medical software company in Madison, Wisconsin. It’s a role I’m really interested in, and only 45 minutes from my hometown.
Both of my internships had a great company culture, so I kept that in mind during my job search. I wanted to go somewhere where I could learn, grow, contribute and give back, but also somewhere where I’d like the work I was doing. I think I found that, which is great.