New to the Tech Industry? Here’s Some Advice from Software Engineer, Rachel

Rachel Menge is an embedded software engineer who recently graduated from the University of Michigan, receiving her Master’s in Computer Science and her Bachelor’s in Computer Engineering.

Continue reading to find out more about her experiences with internships, graduate school, and finding a full time job!

So Rachel, here’s a FAQ that’s on all student’s minds, are internships important?

Internships are a great learning experience and they are a key part of figuring out whether this is the right career path for you. Not only do you learn more about the industry, but you also learn a lot about yourself. Typically, in an internship, you will join a team of other software engineers and contribute by writing, debugging, and testing code.

“My first internship was at Garmin, working on Honda’s navigation system. For that, I mostly did script writing for the devices that they were testing on. It was a small office, and I learned very quickly that I would prefer a larger office.”

The following year, for her second internship, Rachel said, “I ended up staying at Garmin, but going to Kansas and working for their firmware. I was on the team that developed the Garmin vivoactive 3M watch. It was really fun; that was one of my favorite internships. That one was probably a little more high level than I would have liked in terms of software.”

Rachel’s most recent internship involved designing drag and drop modules that would allow the company to do autonomous driving or machine learning and created an education kit to teach machine learning using tools.

After I’ve received my undergraduate degree, would you say I should pursue a Master’s degree?

A Master’s degree isn’t necessarily right for everyone, but depending on your career goals, it may be worth the time and financial investment.

For Rachel, it was definitely worth it. “I felt like I needed a lot more practical skills and a little more time to really understand how the concepts I’ve learned apply in industry. So, my masters gave me another year to do an internship and it also gave me a chance to explore and do more research, which I really enjoyed.”

Another important thing to note is that many universities offer five year programs. According to Rachel, “you can count the classes you take in undergrad towards your graduate degree, meaning you’ll spend less time doing your graduate degree because you’ve already taken some of the required classes. I applied and got accepted to that program, which was huge because that meant that my graduate degree would take half as long, so for me it only took an extra year.”

Additionally, while working towards her Master’s degree, Rachel was a graduate student instructor (GSI), which paid for her tuition! Pretty neat, right?

How exactly does one go about finding a job while in school or post graduation?

Everyone knows that finding a job can be a difficult task. One of the best ways to start the process is by going to a career fair! “From career fairs, I was able to get interviews quickly, and that was nice to get quick feedback on your application. So, I highly recommend those. I’m from Ann Arbor Michigan so I was looking at Michigan jobs mostly but I ended up choosing a job out in Washington, for Microsoft, so I could experience different places.”

What can I do while as a student to be successful in my future career?

Whichever career you choose, know that there are many different paths to success. The two factors that will help you get to where you want to be are “exploring a lot of opportunities and talking to a lot of people who are in the track that you think you want to be in.”

Author avatar
Emaan Riaz
Emaan is a third year Computer Science student at UC Davis
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