Computer prof's coding grads are in demand


By Douglas Esser
When University of Washington Bothell Professor Kelvin Sung recommends one of his programming graduates for a job at a tech company he’s not surprised if the hiring manager later calls and asks, “Do you have any more like that one?”

It’s even more common when the CEO is one of his graduates. That’s the case with Bill Harding, founder of, an online marketplace based in Seattle that provides the technical expertise for entrepreneurs to operate an ecommerce storefront, competing with Amazon, eBay and Etsy.

The 2004 Computer Software Systems graduate now employs three more of Sung’s students.

“Your previous students comprise the core of our business,” he recently wrote to Sung. “Bonanza is basically the ‘Kelvin Sung All Stars’ team.’”

“Please continue to keep me posted if you spot any new stars coming through your doors,” Harding continued. “I’m building the team on the idea that ‘A-players want to work with A-players,’ which means we’ve had a tough time finding people to meet our bar for quality.”

Sung modestly defers the credit for successful students to the graduates themselves. Harding admits he was an unusual student.

“I have always suffered from impatience and rapid onset of boredom,” he said in an email interview from Mexico where he took his team on a winter vacation. “It made me a poor student by conventional measures. But it turns out to be a ‘talent’ if you end up as the CEO.”

Harding says he grew to respect Sung immensely during his time at UW Bothell.

“Kelvin wanted to understand how he could build a class that engaged all different types of learners, including those that weren't crazy about going to lectures,” he said.

After Harding landed an early job at a video game studio in Kirkland, the hiring manager contacted Sung and said it had four UW Bothell graduates, including Bill, and asked, “Do you having any more of those?”

The 16-year School of STEM Computing and Software Systems professor says UW Bothell has graduates at Amazon, Microsoft and Boeing. He has helped place graduates into jobs at several local companies:  PicoBrew, which introduced technology to homebrewing; Vertafore, which provides software for insurance companies; Her Interactive, which creates video games based on Nancy Drew stories; Mylio, which imports and syncs photos across devices; Big Fish, maker of mobile and PC games; and Humongous Entertainment, video game maker.

Sung says he’s glad to make recommendations. He’s humble about his contribution but admits he does attract good students.

“I’m really lousy at teaching in the sense I make students do a lot of the work,” he said. “Students who like to code, who excel at coding, gravitate to some of the classes I offer. These are very good students. The jobs they get … they shine through.”

Harding estimates he has personally worked with more than 100 developers over his career.

“The developers that Kelvin has introduced me to are consistently in the top 5 percent of those that I encounter,” he said. “Kelvin has proven himself time and time again to be a remarkable judge of character and competence.”

Harding says UW Bothell graduates “deliver the tools to spark this community and make it stronger every day.”

Bonanza, in turn, is helping entrepreneurs “by empowering regular people to take their passion (often a hobby) and share it with the world through an online storefront.”

Harding boasts Bonanza is highly rated by EcommerceBytes and a best place to work award winner in the 2015 Best in Biz awards. 

“I believe our time at UW Bothell taught us to work hard and get things done,” he said. 


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