Master of Science in Computer Science & Software Engineering

Emily Hsu (GCSDD '17, MSCSSE '20)

Emily Hsu AlumnaWhat inspired you to choose the master’s in computer science & software engineering program at UW Bothell?

At first, I was looking to switch careers and become a software engineer, so I searched online for different options. Since I was working full time, I found that the MSCSSE at UW Bothell had evening classes and students could enroll in the program part-time. This was exactly what I was looking for, so I chose this program. To prepare for the graduate-level classes and get a strong foundation in software design and development, I enrolled in the UW Bothell Graduate Certificate in Software Design & Development before enrolling into the MSCSSE program.

Any big question you asked yourself before enrolling to make sure the program was the right choice for you?

Could I catch up? As a non-CS background student (I studied biochemistry as an undergraduate), I was worried about if I could catch up with the other master’s degree students in the beginning. Luckily, I had a good learning experience in the graduate certificate program. This 9-month program prepared me and gave me the confidence to apply to the master’s degree program.

What would you say makes the program unique?

The program is unique because those with a non-CS background can gain admission to the master’s program once they have developed a strong foundation in computer science through the graduate certificate. For career changers moving into CS like me, I got a chance to explore different CS topics and technologies in the master’s program which ultimately helped me find the area I am particularly interested in. 

What are some highlights from your student experience?

Looking back at the highlight of my student experience, one that comes to mind is the labs. Probably because that is where I spent most of my time doing homework and projects. At times the lab even felt like a second home for me. I spent a lot of time there to code, discuss group projects and have meetings with professors.

Another highlight was traveling to conferences! I got to go to Hawaii to attend an academic conference to present my paper. It was my very first time attending an academic conference and it was such a wonderful experience. I also was awarded a scholarship to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) last year. It was a great experience as well—a highlight I will remember for a long time.

What courses did you enjoy the most, and was there an area of research that inspired you?

I enjoyed the CSS 581 Machine Learning and CSS 534 Parallel Programming in Grid and Cloud classes the most. In these two classes, I learned various methods to process and analyze data. I had some data analysis experience in my previous work, but never learned these new methods and technologies to solve problems, so it is very interesting to me. I also enjoyed my capstone project where I worked on a neural network simulator from Professor Stiber’s lab. This project helped me improve not only my software skills, but gain knowledge in neuroscience.

What were the most challenging and rewarding parts of being a student?

The most challenging part was the capstone project. Since I did not have much research experience in college, the project took me quite a lot of time to complete. From understanding the backgrounds, designing the project, to testing/troubleshooting code, and finally documenting the whole process in a logical way all requires lots of effort.

The most rewarding parts were my classmates and professors at UW Bothell. I learned a lot when we worked on projects together.

Do you have any advice for future students?

I would suggest to begin thinking about what area you would like to focus on your capstone thesis or project as early as possible. In particular, I feel the capstone is more difficult for students who don’t have as much computer science experience like me. But as you take more classes and do more projects, you will have an idea of what area you think is interesting to you. Talking to Professors, understanding their research, and scoping out your project early will save you lots of time later when you actually begin to work on the project.   

Where are you currently working, and what is your job title?

I am currently a software engineer at T-Mobile.

Do you feel the degree prepared and supported your professional career goals? How did this job opportunity come about?

Yes. I think the coursework covered many aspects from the real-world today in software field, which was helpful when I wrote my resume. In particular, the projects I did definitely helped me in conversations during job interviews. I used a lot of class projects as example to demonstrate my understanding and skillsets to the interviewers.

Are there any other thoughts or advice you would like to share?

There are always new areas to research and technologies to learn in the software field. A big takeaway for me from this program is that I have the ability to self-teach myself new things. I think that is one of the most important must-have skills.

Continue on to read Emily’s alumni success story on the Graduate Certificate in Software Design & Development.