Q&A with Quynh Nguyen, Cloud Services Engineer at AdobeNguyen, a computer science alumna, shares professional advice for BCOE engineering students
Quynh Nguyen, a ’18 computer science alumna, is now a cloud services engineer at Adobe. At BCOE, she was actively involved on campus and served as an officer for Gamespawn and Student Homeless Aid Relief Project (S.H.A.R.P.).
In this summer edition of the Career Corner Q&A, Nguyen shares advice for what engineering students should be doing now to prepare for the new academic year, and how they can set themselves apart when applying for fall internships.
1. How did BCOE prepare you for your current role as a Cloud Services Engineer at Adobe?
BCOE had a lot of opportunities for me to learn. I found some classes to be helpful when I was interviewing for my current role. Database Management System and Intro to Machine Learning were big influencers for me. Although some classes weren’t directly related to what I do now, I find it valuable I was given the opportunity to learn all the different subjects BCOE had to offer. It gave me practice to tackle new challenges and become a quick learner.
BCOE student organizations also helped me a lot. Workshops hosted by various organizations taught me more about coding. I was involved in Gamespawn during my four years, and I gained experience working on projects and leadership skills from being an officer. I also received a lot of support and mentoring from upperclassmen.
2. What professional, non-technical skills have been proven the most valuable in your career? How do you recommend student engineers strengthen these skills?
Collaboration is so valuable because it enables your team to work efficiently and creatively towards a goal. It sounds like a simple skill, but there are actually a lot of challenges when trying to collaborate with others. Collaboration is a skill that encompasses other skills like communication, emotional intelligence and open-mindedness. Some of these skills include
- Actively listening to your other team members and allowing communication to flow freely without judgement
- Having compassion and empathy for your teammates
- Being open to everyone’s perspective
- Respecting the diversity and background of each person
Creating a positive, collaborative culture is essential because it increases engagement in the team and allows us to work together effectively in a fast-paced work environment.
Student engineers can strengthen these skills by joining anything that involves a team. Whether it be doing class group assignments, joining a group to work on a passion project, or being involved in a school organization. Engineering isn’t a solo effort!
3. What can engineering students do now to prepare for a successful start in school in the fall?
All engineering students should have experience working on a passion/side project. At the beginning of the quarter, try to start or join a project to get hands-on experience in engineering. The earlier you work on something, the better. You will get to apply what you learned from classes, and you get more exposure on topics that the school curriculum might not teach.
I think most importantly, mentally prepare yourself for the upcoming year. You will face more challenges with each class you take. Some may be good, some may be okay, and some may be the worst thing you’ve ever taken. Be patient with yourself when learning new things. Keep an open mind and let yourself learn from your mistakes and experiences. This is your time to soak in as much as you can and explore your interests. Coming into the school year with a fresh, positive mentality makes the whole difference!
4. Internship positions continue to become increasingly competitive, with applications opening much earlier. How can students looking for internships set themselves apart as candidates when applying?
Candidates can set themselves apart with the passion projects they work on. It can be a personal website that shows more of your personality, writing posts for a technical blog, working on a phone app, etc. Doing anything extracurricular sets you apart because it shows the company that you have an interest to learn new things outside the curriculum and took the initiative to work on it.
When creating your resume, highlight any extracurricular activities that you do, such as passion projects, volunteering, student organizations, or work experience. Try to add detail when writing the descriptions of the items on your resume. For more technical projects, be sure to mention the languages or hardware you used to complete the project, and what technical part you played in that project. For volunteering or involvement in student organizations, highlight the impact that you had on the community and any other soft skills that you developed. For example, if you are an event coordinator of an organization, instead of saying something like “hosted weekly workshops”, go into more detail like “increased the membership of the club by x% by organizing beginner friendly C++ workshops.”
When you make it to the interview step, take some time to prepare beforehand. Make sure you are able to talk about anything on your resume. You will most likely be asked about the projects that you listed. Open up with a high-level overview of what the project is and why it is important. Then continue by talking about the work you did and go into as much technical detail as possible. Being able to technically communicate your part in the project will show the interviewers that you really understand your project and gives them the impression you can be quickly learn the internship project.
Last thing I want to mention is to don’t be afraid to apply for internships that you feel like you don’t 100% fit the job description. If it is something that is interesting, then it doesn’t hurt to apply. As long as you show that you have the desire to learn and are enthusiastic about it, then that will go a long way. Companies know that students won’t have a super deep knowledge on technical subjects and are just starting their engineer path. This is why companies value students who can work well in a team and have the initiative to learn. If you show your open-mindedness and enthusiasm to learn, then that will give a good impression on the interviewers.
5. What is your favorite part about being an engineer?
My favorite part of being an engineer is that there are so many ways an engineer can positively change someone’s life. Like creating medical equipment to save people’s lives, developing video games that bring communities together, building airplanes so that we can travel to our loved ones, and the list can go on and on. Engineering has such a huge impact in the world we live in. Being able to work in a team to problem solve together and create things that positively impact people is rewarding.