Career Advice: My Journey to Technical Programming

In a couple of weeks, my senior year at Fisk University will begin. Freshmen move-in day is still fresh in my mind like it occurred yesterday. With just two semesters left before I complete my degree in computer science, my excitement can hardly be contained. 

At an early age, my goal was to forge a career in STEM. 

Initially, I desired to become an astronaut. Fascinated with the study of the sun, stars and the universe as a whole, there was a desire to know how it felt to be in a rocket and shoot up to the outermost layers of our atmosphere. At 12, my desire to become an astronaut began to fade. 

A new passion in paleontology, which is the study of fossil animals and plants, surfaced. Wanting to understand the evolution of various species throughout the Mesozoic Era (“The Dinosaur Age”), I was captivated by the history of these once-living creatures. I frequently asked myself how these creatures evolved and why certain creatures evolved specifically to their location and climate. Additionally, the fact I liked how dinosaurs looked influenced my longing to work in paleontology. 

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Fast forward to my first year of high school, I revisited my love for astronomy. However, there was a new passion unlocked in my heart — engineering. Throughout high school, I wanted to become an aerospace engineer. In fact, I knew 100% that aerospace engineering was going to be my career. And my life was all planned out. 

I would go to the University of Central Florida to study aerospace engineering and get internships at numerous aeronautical companies which would allow me to gain experience for my ultimate goal … working at NASA. More specifically, working at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. There it was, my life pictured perfectly before my eyes! All I had to do was execute. My passion for engineering, however, decided to take one more turn. This shift was towards another kind of engineering. Computer engineering. By the time I graduated high school, I sought to be a software engineer. What would allow me to accomplish this goal? Majoring in computer science. 

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Before I knew it, I was moving my belongings into a dorm at Fisk, an HBCU in Nashville, majoring in computer science. I did not know what to expect, but I trusted the process. By doing so, an amazing rapport with my calculus teacher was forged. 

She notified me of an opportunity to work with the National Science Foundation as a researcher. Through this interaction, she assisted me in landing the internship for two consecutive years conducting imperative COVID-19 research. For those two years, I focused on New York data, constructing my own mathematical model. My research team and I presented at the MAA MathFest Mathematics Conference in 2021. Gaining technical skills as well as skills in big data research and manipulation, I was able to land an internship in my junior year with NewDay Impact Investing, a startup company in the finance industry, as an Associate Data Analysis. Working with them my entire Junior year was truly amazing.

Now I am a rising senior currently interning with Target Corporation in Minneapolis as a frontend software engineer. A frontend software engineer – or frontend developer as many people say – is an engineer who plans, designs, builds and implements UI (User Interface) systems of software programs, websites and web-based applications. I have gained invaluable experience that I can implement into college courses and the workforce for years to come. 

For all those computer science majors out there, we know how hard our major is! Nonetheless, with hard work, dedication and support from my loved ones, I will accomplish my goals. I have aspirations to become the Chief Technology Officer at a major tech company. Although achieving this will be far from easy, I am prepared to put in the work. I will accomplish this goal by continuing to build my network, elevating my soft and technical skills and applying myself within the workforce. 

Through the numerous changes in passion and career ambitions, I have learned that it is okay to change your mind. As long as you have a plan in place and the drive to continue onward, nothing will stop you!