From STEM to Microsoft software engineer

Prathyusha Pillari. Courtesy photo

Prathyusha Pillari chose to attend the University of Washington Bothell “because it’s a great STEM school.” She majored in Computer Science & Software Engineering, graduated after winter quarter 2020 and started working at Microsoft as a software engineer.

But, that’s not all.

As a student on campus for four years, Pillari said she discovered opportunities and clubs even within her first year and “fell in love with the sense of community that the entire school had.”

For her engagement and accomplishments, Pillari was recognized this last academic year as one of the Husky 100, students from across all three UW campuses honored for making the most of their UW education.

Finding community

Pillari said she found her communities in two clubs in particular: Her Campus and the Association for Computing Machinery. The Her Campus club was a place for women to candidly express themselves in a safe place. The club is advised by Peter Brooks, an assistant teaching professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, who also was a mentor to Pillari.

More than just a club, ACM is a chapter of a professional tech organization. It helps students network and prepare for careers with events such as hackathons. Along with getting advice and support from mentor Arkady Retik, an associate teaching professor in the School of STEM, Pillari said she learned a lot about the tech industry.

Pillari also gained valuable experience through her involvement with UWave Radio, the student-run station where she was both a team member and a leader. She was a member of several other organizations as well: Bothell Women in Science and Engineering; Womxn of Color Healing Circle; South Asian Student Association; and Child Rights and You.

“My community helped me grow to be where I am today,” Pillari said.

Along the way, she explored career possibilities through internships at Goldman Sachs and Microsoft. “I got a chance to experiment with some of these roles and ultimately chose to be a software engineer because I love coding, building things and seeing them work,” Pillari said.

Giving back

Pillari is still involved in the ACM club, volunteering at events and hosting mock interviews.

“I believe in the mission, and I love the tech industry,” she said. “I recently had a lunch meeting with some of our ACM UW Bothell alumni working at Microsoft, so it is a close community.”

In the future, Pillari wants to attend graduate school, focusing her advanced studies on artificial intelligence or cloud technologies.

Because she graduated from UW Bothell just as the campus shifted to remote operations, Pillari celebrated at the virtual commencement. She would love to attend an in-person ceremony for the Class of 2020, whenever that might be.

Although Pillari did not have to pivot into online courses, she knows they can be challenging. Still, she advises current students to make use of all the resources available through UW Bothell.

“Join clubs and contribute as much as you can. Reach out to professors and club members if you need help,” she said. “The connections you make in college will last a lifetime.”

Each year, the University of Washington selects 100 students who are making the most of their Husky experience. Thirteen UW Bothell students were recognized as part of the Husky 100 Class of 2020. What’s special about a Husky 100 recipient? They dare to do. They use what they learn inside and outside the classroom to grow personally and to create change in their communities.

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