Welcome to Major Matters, a series where we tackle how recent college graduates from St. Edward’s University translate their academic major to real-world careers.
Sophie Gairo is a 2017 graduate who used her Computer Science major to secure a job at VMware, a Silicon Valley-based cloud computing company, as a software engineer.
What is your current job?
I am a software engineer at VMware working in cloud computing. This means I take part in the requirements stage, planning, design, implementation and testing of software. Vmware provides cloud computing and platform virtualization software and services. Our clients are other businesses — really any company that needs cloud services — and 99.8 percent of all fortune 500 companies are our customers.
How did your major prepare you for your current job?
The approach in applied learning is extremely valuable in today’s market. Instead of exclusively learning theories from a textbook, we completed labs or extended homework assignments that required hands-on coding to practice and apply the methods we were learning. We worked on real-world projects and brainstormed our own ideas from day one.
Besides your current role, what else could you do with a Computer Science major?
There are a lot of paths stemming from the Computer Science major at St. Edward’s. A friend of mine has worked in the bio-medical field. She writes tests to ensure that the life-saving equipment doesn’t fail. Another friend is a website developer. Another has successfully started his own cryptocurrency mining company. Others went to graduate school to pursue research in various fields such as robotics and machine learning. Others have turned to the nonprofit sector to address the digital needs of those organizations. Every business or field is moving into the realm of computer science, so it can be a ticket to work on whatever you are passionate about.
What was your favorite class in the major?
It’s a tie between Artificial Intelligence and Mobile Apps, both electives.
What did you like best about your major?
The supportive environment. From the professors to the students, everyone shared a common goal of learning. There was never a time that I needed help understanding or working through a problem that I didn't have someone willing to lead me through it.
What sort of internships or jobs did you complete that helped prepare you for your current job?
The first internship I had that utilized my major was as a research assistant with the Wild Basin summer program where I learned how to break down the needs of a user and translate that into software requirements.
This led to receiving a spot as a research assistant at Carnegie Mellon University. I spent nine months working on some of the most cutting-edge projects in the world.
I moved on to work as an engineering intern at VMware, where I currently work as a software engineer and a team lead (scrum master) of three teams. All these opportunities started with department support and guidance.
What advice you can give for prospective Computer Science students when hunting for jobs?
Never accept any unpaid internship while in or out of school. Your thoughts and ideas are worth something. Take the coursework for your major early on. As soon as you take your third computer science course (Data Structures and Algorithms), you can qualify for most internships. Apply for the job even if you don’t meet 100 percent of the bullet point requirements. Try your best to go through at least one internship while in college. Both your job prospects and compensation will see a large increase once you graduate.