Student Spotlight: Adrian Bao
Originally published in Student Spotlights (Spring 2020) by the University of Arizona Department of Computer Science.
Adrian Bao is a Tucson native and attended Pima Community College before transferring to the University of Arizona. Adrian will be doing a virtual internship with Amazon this summer and plans on graduating Fall 2020 with a BS in Computer Science.
In an interview with Martin Marquez (Director of Support Services for the UArizona Department of Computer Science), Adrian answered:
What excites you about the field/sub-fields in CS?
One of the things I wasn't aware of when I initially became interested in Computer Science was the vast number of specialties or emphasis you can choose from when going into industry. It's amazing that a degree in Computer Science can allow individuals to work in a wide variety of fields such as Frontend, Security, Embedded Systems, AI, the list goes on! I was excited at the opportunity to explore the different sub-fields through the courses provided at the U of A and I discovered my desired emphasis through a combination of coursework for Cloud Computing as well as my internship at CyVerse. The projects I got to work on and the technologies I got to use in both of those experiences were fascinating and I always continued to explore beyond the scope of the original projects. Additionally, I was looking for a specialty where I can make an impact with the software I would work on. Given that cloud and edge computing are booming right now, I realized that my contributions in the cloud-based industry would help make a significant impact on the users. It took a while to figure it all out but through some trial and error these past couple years, I am excited I have finally found my specialty within CS.
What memorable experience have you had in the department?
HackArizona 6.0 this past January was so much fun. It amazes me that a student-led event like that can bring so many people together from various universities and provide opportunities to connect with fellow technology-enthusiasts and employers for an entire weekend. This was my second year attending HackArizona, however, it was the first time I had a team intent on building something cool over the weekend. We went in light-hearted, coding for the fun of it and enjoying the weekend but we realized on the second day that what we had planned out as a project was actually pretty cool and might garner some attention. Too many Red Bulls, pizzas, and a 23-hour coding sprint later, we submitted our project on Sunday with only an hour to spare before demoing it to our sponsors. Sponsorship demos was one of my favorite moments of the entire weekend. Not only did we get to meet fellow students and learn about the awesome stuff they built but when speaking with the sponsors and seeing the excitement on their faces when demoing our project, our team was encouraged and motivated at the positive feedback we were receiving. It just goes to show that attending the event with an open mind can lead to completing an exciting project that receives recognition. The entire HackArizona experience is incredibly rewarding, regardless of what you choose to participate in. I salute the Computer Science students that organize the event because they provide us, as participants, opportunities to connect with employers and gain experience working on a project to professionally demo to sponsors interested in your development. I am glad I got to participate in HackArizona and highly recommend it to any Computer Science student.
Tell us about your internships with CyVerse, Garmin. Why are internships important?
I transferred to the University without any technical experience on my resume, which worried me a little bit. In my first meeting with Arthur Jordan, he recommended I start looking for opportunities as soon as I can stating that internships provide valuable experiences that help expand your interpersonal, collaborative, and technical skill sets. I took his advice and immediately started hunting for internship opportunities on Handshake, which is where I found CyVerse. As this was my first internship, imposter syndrome jumped in and I was intimidated thinking I wasn't prepared for this type of job. However, from day one, they made it clear that an internship is a learning experience and that they would provide any support I needed throughout the duration of the internship. I was excited at the opportunity to work on cloud-based software and with every passing day, I realized that CyVerse helped me discover my passion within Computer Science. Given that they are located on-campus, I have been fortunate enough to remain with the project since I started back in January of 2019, working during the Fall and Spring semesters. During the summers, they have been supportive of me exploring experiences at large companies such as Garmin (Summer 2019) and now Amazon (Summer 2020), which interestingly enough, were both obtained by applying on Handshake! While working at Garmin, I had the opportunity to observe what it's like to work on an international team with a highly active production pipeline. Additionally, this is where I learned a crucial point, never be afraid to ask for help. As an intern, you might feel insignificant or afraid to bother the full-time engineers with your intern work, but that is totally not the case. They were in your shoes once and value your contributions as an intern. Reaching out to your team, however large it is, can show them you invite collaboration and are open to discussion with others. The standard path of just getting a degree and graduating can get you quite far, however, exploring internships early on can really make an impact on your technical and interpersonal skills and gain the attention of recruiters. Not only does it give you an inside look at what it's like to work for a specific company but it also helps you gain priceless skills through a wide variety of experiences. I view internships as a bridge between a college degree and industry. They help you establish a strong foundation, build connections, and prepare you for industry as a Software Engineer or Program Manager.
What surprised you most when you transferred to UArizona?
I transferred from Pima Community College where the standard class size for a Computer Science course was roughly 20 or 30 students, max. Coming into the university and taking CSC120 blew my mind with how many students were in the class. I came from an environment where it was easy to just walk up to the professor and ask them a question about some bug in your code but I quickly realized that was not the case at the university. Fortunately, office hours, the TA's and Tutor's were all great resources early on that helped me get acclimated to the university. Another thing that surprised me when I transferred was the number of opportunities available to students to connect with employers or learn about internships or jobs. STEM-oriented Career Fairs, Handshake, HackArizona, and even the weekly job listings added to the Computer Science Newsletter all provided opportunities that I didn't quite have at the Community College level. I am grateful for the resources provided by the department that helped make my transition to the university much easier.