Alumni of the UW's Computer Science & Engineering department pursue work around the world -- some in obvious fields such as software development, others in less predictable areas like medicine and law. Below, read what some former students are doing after graduation, why they like their current work, and how the UW's Computer Science & Engineering department helped prepare them for the future.

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Alumni in the Software Industry

Ryan McElroy

Ryan McElroy
Computer Engineering & Bioengineering. Class of 2008.
Currently a Software Engineering Manager at Facebook.

Description of what you do:
I manage the memcache team at Facebook. We work on building and maintaining what is probably the largest memcached deployment in the world, and all of the infrastructure surrounding it to keep the cache high performance and consistent.

What do you like best about it?
I get to work with very talented people that help me learn and grow every day.

How did UW CSE help you prepare for where you are today?
It gave me the CSE foundation and skills to succeed technically at Facebook. Via tech talks and recruiting fairs, Uw CSE set up an environment where Facebook could recruit me. As a TA, I learned many lessons I now use to help with team leadership and teaching new team members.

Do you have any advice for current undergraduate students?
Take all the hardest classes. Find your limits and then push them out. Constant learning and growth is how you stay afloat in silicon valley and get ahead in the world.

Personal Hobbies:
Cycling, Ultimate Frisbee, Photography, Backpacking, Travel.

Chonghua Dong

Chonghua Dong
Computer Science. Class of 2011.
Currently a Program Manager at Microsoft

Description of what you do:
I'm working at Microsoft in the Windows User Experience team as a Program Manager. I work with a feature crew of developers and testers and designers every day to make the UI of Windows 8 an innovative and intuitive experience for users.

What do you like best about it?
I love working on a product that is used by so many people and generates so much buzz, and the team of people I work with is incredibly fun and intelligent.

How did UW CSE help you prepare for where you are today?
There were a few classes like HCI, my animation capstone, and Software Engineering which all taught me how to work in a group setting and a pipeline system of development. Since I don't do any programming at my job, my programming classes didn't help as much directly, but they did teach me the basic technical background I need to understand certain problems that arise during work.

Do you have any advice for current undergraduate students?
Honestly I wish I was less stressed out as an undergraduate. I remember the first two years, I struggled a bit with some of the harder more technical classes, and I thought I was doomed because I would never find a job I would excel at. Later on in the courses, I discovered that you can have a wide array of different jobs with a CSE degree, and I eventually found a field (HCI and UI) that interested me. I think it would be helpful if I was exposed to a wider variety of possible CSE jobs early on, since in the beginning I thought the only option was to eventually become a developer, which isn't true. :)

Personal Hobbies:
I love doing all sorts of art, mainly watercolor, charcoals, and digital painting nowadays. :)

Alumni in Graduate School for CSE

Laura Pina

Laura Pina
Computer Engineering. Class of 2008.
Currently at University of California, San Diego.

Description of what you do:
My research falls under Human-Computer Interaction and Ubiquitous Computing. I research how to create systems that can infer physical activity, and intervene at the right time and place to persuade people to decrease sedentary behavior and increase physical activity.

What do you like best about it?
I get to read interesting papers, be exposed to interesting research! Think about how to solve real-world problems!

How did UW CSE help you prepare for where you are today?
I had the opportunity to do research as an undergraduate for more than a year. It gave me a glimpse of what graduate school was like and loved it!

Do you have any advice for current undergraduate students?
I wish my undergraduate had prepared me with more web development, and mobile development. But from what I understand, UW has improved much in that sense.

Personal Hobbies:
I love watching foreign films, and attending live performances.

Justine Sherry

Justine Sherry
Computer Science & International Studies. Class of 2010.
Currently at UC Berkeley.

Description of what you do:
I do research in Computer Networks as a PhD student at Berkeley. Most days, I come in to school and take a class or a seminar, meet with my advisor and talk about my progress on my research, and then spend the afternoon hacking or writing on my current project. Right now, I'm studying "middleboxes" - devices we put in the middle of networks to perform advanced services like firewalling or caching.

What do you like best about it?
I like feeling like I'm a part of the development and growth of the Internet. It's the single biggest computer system we've ever built! It spans the entire globe, even in to space. More importantly, it enables tons of applications, new jobs, and has dramatically changed people's lives in both rich and poor countries.

How did UW CSE help you prepare for where you are today?
I started doing research as an undergrad at UW, working in the networks group with a graduate student - Ethan Katz-Bassett - who taught me to do research in Internet measurement and exposed me to what life was like as a graduate student.  I was hooked. I really liked the work I was doing and really wanted to keep doing it, so I decided to apply to graduate school. Applying was a somewhat confusing process: I didn't know what schools were good or how to go about applying. However, when I went to my professors, they gave me tons of useful advice and wrote me good letters of recommendation.

Do you have any advice for current undergraduate students?
Start research early! I thought that research was only for seniors, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Now, as a graduate student, when I invite undergraduates to work on research with me, I only invite sophomores and juniors. I want students who will stick around for a while and have time to really "dig in" to networking. Just a few quarters isn't enough to do that.

Doing research was one of the most rewarding parts of college for me: I learned how to break down a problem in to subproblems, how to speak and write well enough to present my ideas, and to face my fears in presenting new ideas to others. There's no reason to wait!

Personal Hobbies:
Baking, swimming, reading novels.

Alumni at Start-ups

Brian Ma

Brian Ma
Computer Engineering & Electrical Engineering, Minor in Mathematics. Class of 2005.
Currently CoFounder at Decide.com.

Description of what you do:
Have fun and change the world while I'm at it.

What do you like best about it?
Working with really smart people, solving really challenging problems, empowering consumers, and growing a business from the ground up.

How did UW CSE help you prepare for where you are today?
Ridiculous late nights helped me build character, classes helped me gain knowledge, projects helped me gain experience, job fairs helped me connect with startups, professors helped me cofound a startup.  :)

Do you have any advice for current undergraduate students?
Really take advantage of extra-curricular activities - internships, ACM, clubs, capstones, etc. Can't find something outside of class to work on? Grab a few buddies and start a project.

Personal Hobbies:
Board Games, Starcraft, Motorcycles, Startups, anything super challenging.

Alex Loddengaard

Alex Loddengaard
Computer Engineering. Class of 2008.
Currently at TownSquared.

Description of what you do:
I'm currently the co-founder of a startup called TownSquared.  TownSquared is a social platform aimed at helping niche communities build, host and grow robust, engaging and monetizable online networks.  You can learn more at townsquaredinc.com

What do you like best about it?
As far as TownSquared goes, I've always had a passion for bringing people together.  I get so much joy from other people, and with TownSquared, every day I'm able to try and bring that joyful experience to other people.  I can't think of something I'd rather be doing :)

I've always preferred working at startups, and ever since my time at the University of Washington I've wanted to do my own company.  I'm finally doing it, and I couldn't be more excited.  Startups are generally filled with much more passion than larger companies.  They're also a better place to broaden your skills, because almost never will you work on just one project or one area of expertise.  Startups are also an easy place to try other forms of technical positions, such as consulting, support, marketing, sales, or anything else that might sound interesting.

How did UW CSE help you prepare for where you are today?
UW CSE is an amazing computer science and engineering program.  Not only am I immediately respected within the industry because I graduated from such a fine department, but I also have a much better background than so many other engineers.  I left graduated college with a good mix of theory and practical knowledge, and right away I was able to start contributing to the engineering team I was working on at Cloudera, my first job out of college.

Do you have any advice for current undergraduate students?
I have three pieces of advice: intern, be as energetic as possible, and follow your heart.  I'll explain each of these in more detail below.

Try to intern as much as possible while you're in school.  You'll find that working in industry is far different than programming for a class.  Interning will teach you what it's like to work in industry.  Your experience will help you understand what type of jobs you'll like and won't like, and you'll also grow your resume, ultimately putting you in a more favorable position to get a great job after you graduate.  Start trying to find internships after your freshman or sophomore year, and don't stop interning until you graduate.

Alumni in Education

Helene Martin

Hélène Martin
Computer Science & Linguistics. Class of 2008.
Former Lecturer at UW CSE.

Description of what you do:

I get to help students of all ages discover computer science!  Part of my role is teaching UW undergraduates and the other is working with high school teachers and their students to increase their awareness of CS opportunities.

What do you like best about it?
All teachers are fueled by students' "aha" moments when hours of hard work culminate in crystal clear understanding.  It never gets old.

How did UW CSE help you prepare for where you are today?

The undergraduate TA program helped me discover a passion for teaching.  The challenging courses showed me how powerful computer science can be.  The contacts I made have helped me turn dreams into reality.

Do you have any advice for current undergraduate students?
Find out what you care about and pursue it obsessively.

Personal Hobbies:
knitting, reading, riding motorcycles, sewing.

Alumni Pursuing Other Fields

Marie Suver

Marie Suver
Computer Science & Biology. Class of 2007.
Currently at California Institute of Technology, studying Computation and Neural Systems.

Description of what you do:
I am a graduate student in the lab of Dr. Michael Dickinson, where we study the brain and behavior of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. My work in the lab is aimed at understanding the mechanisms underlying state-dependent modulation in the brain. Using a technique recently developed in the lab, I record the activity from single neurons in the brain in a tethered, flying fly. We use custom hardware and software to allow us to control what the fly sees and record how the fly is behaving, and can link the two to create a virtual reality for the fly. I also use genetic techniques to manipulate the activity of specific sets of neurons in the brain.

What do you like best about it?
I get to do science! I love the intellectual challenge, the variety of things I get to do every day, and I care deeply about what I'm working on.

How did UW CSE help you prepare for where you are today?
In graduate school, I have enjoyed using a great number of skills and tools I learned while in UW CSE, from embedded systems to multithreading to just about every algorithm I remember learning.

Personal Hobbies:
I enjoy music, gardening, softball, and cooking, among other activities!

Johnathan Lyon

Johnathan Lyon
Computer Science & Digital Arts and Experimental Media. Class of 2009.
5th Year Master's Program in CSE at UW.
Currently at Georgia Institute of Technology.

Description of what you do:
I am currently pursuing my PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, where I do research in Dr. Ravi Bellamkonda's Neurological Biomaterials and Cancer Therapeutics Group. Presently, I am working on novel biomaterial and electrical approaches to treating pediatric brain tumors and am currently funded through the NIH Cell & Tissue Engineering Training Grant as well as the Rosalyn and Norman Wells Endowed Fellowship.

What do you like best about it?
Pretty much everything except the lack of sleep. The work is rewarding, I'm learning a lot just from managing my own project, and I'm in a lab that is very much about following your curiosities, so I have some fruitful collaborative projects developing. Overall it's a great experience and it's really helping to solidify my sensibilities as a scientist/engineer.

How did UW CSE help you prepare for where you are today?
UW CSE taught me not only how to analytically approach and solve problems, but the diverse course set gave me a set of experiences and tools (from hardware programming to algorithms) that enable me to work flexibly, effectively and creatively in a field that doesn't really have many computer-savvy folks. I'm known as the "gadget and computer guy" in my lab and it's helped me a lot by giving me useful currency for knowledge exchange.

Do you have any advice for current undergraduate students?
1. If you're looking for a job, get as many internships as possible. Apply early & often. Use your CSE network, make it personal.

2. If you're looking to go to grad school, start looking NOW! Contact professors well in advance (i.e. years) and establish contact with admissions committee members if you can.

3. Start doing research as early as your sophomore year. Grades are fine, but research is best. Even if it's independent, get some faculty oversight. Think better letters of recommendation, better portfolio, and overall more enriching experience.

4. Study abroad.

Personal Hobbies:
Scuba diving, experimental music, hobby electronics.