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Science & Research

CS students apply coding skills over summer

Cisco, Microsoft and Facebook among companies where CS students choose to intern during break

Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 22, 2015

“My first semester of freshman year I was so scared that I would fail my first computer science class,” said Sachin Pendse ’17. “But when I started thinking about coding as something creative — being able to make something that people can use — instead of mathematical, I started to like it.” Pendse is now double concentrating in computer science and international relations.

Perseverance is necessary in the field of computer science, Pendse said. Over the past two summers, Pendse interned at Cisco, a technology company based in San Jose, California that manufactures networking equipment. For 40 hours every week, he helped configure hardware servers that used different programs to track incoming traffic and analyze suspicious activity.

Pendse is one of many computer science concentrators who complete internships at major technology companies over the summer, getting the opportunity to apply their coding skills in a real-world environment.

“What it helped me with the most was actually working in this professional environment and seeing how the process works,” Pendse said.

During his first year at Brown, Pendse reached out to several Cisco employees, emailing them with his resume and skill set. The emails paid off, as he landed the internship that summer and received a return offer to work on Cisco’s Cyber Threat Defense system the following summer.

Pendse said he viewed his internship as a supplement to both of his concentrations. One of the biggest intersections between international relations and computer science is cybersecurity, he said. Another intersection, cyberwarfare, has the potential to change the standard expectations of war and can involve nongovernmental groups, he said.

Beverly Tai ’17, an applied math-computer science concentrator, spent her summer months interning at Microsoft.

Tai worked alongside several software developers, a project manager and a designer to create a Windows 10 application that will launch in October. “Before the internship I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do postgraduation. But the internship solidified my enjoyment of coding, so I’m more sure about my career path,” she said.

After emailing her resume to Microsoft and receiving a call from a recruiter, Tai was given the opportunity to interview at the company’s headquarters, where she illustrated her skill set by answering technical questions on a white board.

“The whole tech industry is its own little world. It’s this great collaborative environment, and we were given so many benefits,” Tai said. “They were kind of just throwing money at us.”

Scott Zellers ’17, a computer science-economics concentrator, worked in a similar environment at his internship with Facebook in Menlo Park, California.

The selection process for the internship was rigorous — Zellers first had to demonstrate his coding ability in an online collaboration document before he could move forward in the interview process. But after confirming his aptitude, Facebook flew him out to headquarters for the on-site interview.

“Facebook is solving hard, interesting problems, and I was lucky enough to get an offer,” Zellers said. “It was a very positive experience. People there were very open and willing to help me out.”

But Zellers said he sometimes worked up to 55 hours each week. He added that the project he was working on “wasn’t very Facebook-y,” and was not what he had expected.

Zellers said career counselors at the Center for Careers and Life After Brown helped him brush up on interview skills to get the Facebook internship.

Pendse said the internship turned his experience from one of fear of taking computer science courses and failing intro courses to one of getting A’s.

“Anyone can do it,” he said. “It just takes time to set in.”


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