Happy Friday! Today we are continuing my month long series highlighting some amazing women of different majors and fields. If you haven’t already, check out my interviews with Carissa, a psychology major, and Tran, an illustration major! For today’s interview, my beautiful friend Brandy will be sharing her experiences as a computer science major. Computer science is one of the most competitive, challenging, and top paying fields right now. What’s crazy about this field is that only 20% of computer science professionals are women! According to Rasmussen College, some of the reasons why women tend to avoid computer science is because of the stigma that women aren’t intelligent enough, they’ll experience hostility in the work environment, and computer is an antisocial, unfeminine field. My friend Brandy is a living example that women are intelligent and qualified enough to excel in computer science. If you’re interested in this field, you’ll want to keep reading because Brandy will be giving some incredibly helpful advice and insight about being a computer science major!
Meet my friend Brandy!
Here are 30 Questions With Brandy, a Computer Science Major:
1. Where is your hometown?
2. What are your hobbies/interests?
Tahitian dancing, baking, reading
3. What’s a fun fact about yourself?
I love love love boba and noodles <3
Blaze Ann speaking: As you can tell, all my friends and I LOVE boba haha!
4. What college do you attend?
CSU East Bay
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5. What year are you?
6. What is your major?
7. What is your future career goal?
TBH I don’t even know what I want to do still *insert nervous laugh* buut I’m leaning towards maybe something in cybersecurity, specifically like a Cybersecurity Analyst.
8. When and why did you pick this major?
I picked this major during my second year of community college at Ohlone College. To be honest, at first I was trying to major in Business Administration with a minor in Graphic Design. However, one of my required classes I had to take in order for me to transfer to UCR (which was one of the universities I was debating on transferring to at the time) was an Introduction to Computer Science course. This course just broadly went over the different topics in computer science, and it was just a general intro course to computers and information technology. It was in this class that I realized I enjoyed it waaay more than my current business classes. Keep in mind this CS101 course was on Fridays from 8am-12:15pm, and the fact I looked forward to this class more than my other classes told me something LOL!
Anyways, there was this final group programming project we had to do and present to not only our classmates but random guests that were to come into our class and review our work. Since there weren’t many girls in the class, and no guys really went up to us and offered to be in a group, we decided to make a group of girls and called ourselves the “C-Girls” LOL! Moving on, this was the project and the class that made me realize I think I want to major in this, because it was just so much fun to learn and interact with my classmates. But, I didn’t change my major right away, I took a semester to think it over, and try other business classes. As it turned out, throughout the whole semester I kept thinking that CS is where I wanted to go because my business classes didn’t interest me in the slightest anymore, and that’s why by the end of my first year at Ohlone College, I changed my major!
9. Do you have any advice for those still deciding whether to become a computer science major?
For those still deciding, I would say not to rush your decision and compare yourself to your peers who know what they want to do and are on their way to graduating within 4 years. This is your lifetime job in a sense, you spend more than half your life working, so might as well do something you actually enjoy, right? So if you’re in the boat where you don’t know what you want to do, go to community college and take the time to try different classes that sound interesting. Don’t let the negative stigma of community college deter you from going there. In the end, whether you go to community college or a 4-year university right away, you’re still going to end up with the same piece of paper. So, honestly I recommend just taking a variety of classes and seeing which one interests you the most.
10. What do you love about your major?
I love the problem-solving aspect of it. I just like how there’s always problems to solve, and many ways to solve it. The fact that there’s always new problems to solve, new programs to build it just doesn’t get “boring” to me.
11. What are some things you don’t like about your major?
If there is anything I don’t like about it, I guess it would have to be how there aren’t many “good” professors as you get towards your upper division courses. Like you can tell when a professor is passionate about a topic, and cares about the students understanding of it too, but as you get towards your upper division courses, there tends to be a lack of professors like the ones I just described. Moreover, it also kind of sucks how everyone is very introverted or keeps to a small group, it’s not a very social major so it’s hard to make friends or study groups.
12. What classes do you normally have to take each term?
Once you finish your lower division GE courses, each term kind of looks the same. I tend to take 12-15 units per semester, so I usually take 2-3 CS classes and 1-2 Upper Division GE or Math courses.
13. What is the most challenging thing about being in your major?
I guess the most challenging thing for me in this major is the same thing I love about it which is the infinite problems there are to solve. Specifically the programming assignments from professors tend to be very complex, and takes some time to figure out and program. But it’s the feeling of completing it that I live for and love hehe.
14. What is the hardest class in your major?
I hear it’s between: Analysis of Algorithms and Automata & Computation. I’m taking the Analysis of Algorithms class this semester, so we’ll see!
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15. What is your favorite class that you’ve taken in your major?
I’m taking the class this semester and am really excited for Security & Information Assurance (AKA a CyberSecurity course).
16. How do you study for your classes? Is there a lot of homework or mostly studying for tests?
I need to study earlier than I usually do, but usually when I study I spend a lot of time handwriting code because when you take tests most of the time you have to hand write the code, and it’s totally different from programming it on a computer and having help from your Operating System knowing you did something wrong, versus handwriting and having to be confident that it’s correct and it’ll work if the professor put it into a computer. But besides handwriting code, I also have to study definitions and concepts, but a good 70% of each test I’ve taken has either been writing code from scratch, filling in code, or fixing bad code or all 3 of these. Honestly, I’ve noticed that there tends to be more homework than studying for tests. Usually there would be around 6 assignments each semester in a CS class, because programming assignments tend to take a while to do so there aren’t a lot but they’re very time consuming and complex. So I would say there are more homework than tests.
17. Would you say people in your major and classes are competitive or supportive? What is the community like?
Honestly, I would like to say that people in my classes are supportive, but they tend to be very shy and introverted so it’s not easy to converse with them. However, once YOU start the conversation, they’re very nice people who could be just as confused as you, or understand something you don’t, but regardless I think they’re supportive when it comes to classwork, homework, concepts, and even recommendations for which classes to take with which professor.
18. Are your department/professors supportive? What are they like?
I would like to say that the CSUEB dept and professors are supportive, based on my experiences. The department has major advisors that are very helpful in helping you plan your classes while not being too overworked. They warn you about challenges some courses may have, like maybe one being “math heavy” or “group project oriented” as a type of “heads up”. Just like anywhere you go, you have some nice people in the department, as well as nice and caring professors. However, there are also the ones who aren’t so nice or helpful, it’s all based on opinion, but from my experience the dept/professors always had a goal of their students succeeding.
19. What is the most defining thing you’ve learned as a computer science major?
“Just Google it”. Literally any problem that professors or tutors can’t help you with, or even if they can, you’ll find a solution to help you with your problem or question on Google. I always hated when my old professor told us to “Google it”, but looking back at it now, Google really helps a lot more than some professors. Obviously don’t copy code, but there’s always someone who had the same problem or error in their code, that has already been solved. GeeksForGeeks, StackOverflow, and YouTube will be some of your best resources in answering your programming questions.
20. Have you ever felt like switching your major or just giving up? If so, what made you stay? What keeps you motivated?
Yes, I’ve had my doubts about this major due to some of my not-so-pleasant experiences. I stayed not only because I have to due to my contract with my scholarship, but also because I try to remind myself why I changed majors in the first place, and I look at my old group picture from that CS101 group project, and I remember how much I loved that class and CS, and that’s what keeps me motivated to continue learning even when I feel like I should just quit.
21. Do you feel like there is a certain stigma being in your major or career path?
Besides being labeled a nerd/geek… I think the main stigma about being in this major is the stigma against girls being in CS or any STEM field for that matter. Due to STEM being very male dominated, especially from what I’ve seen in my CS classes, there’s not many girls, and I believe it’s because of the stigma and stereotypes that STEM isn’t for women, and that’s why there’s such a big gender gap in STEM fields.
22. Has being a female affected your experience in this major?
Oh for a fact!! There aren’t many females in the CS field, or even in the STEM field in general. In a class of about 35, there tends to be at most 7 females including myself, and that number gets smaller the more further I get into my upper division courses. I’ve literally once only had 1 other girl in class besides myself. Personally, I find it a bit hard because I want to appear like I know my stuff and am just as good of a programmer than my other male peers. I do like how females in CS tend to stick together during CS classes, like we help each other out a lot in class and in the field. On the DL, I believe professors tend to be more empathetic and a tad bit more helpful to their female students than male.
23. Is there any advice you wish you had when you started college?
To be honest, the biggest thing I wish I knew was that in high school, I could’ve taken community college classes during the summer and not only have it count towards credit at our high school credits, but also can be used as credit for your GEs at your university or community college once you graduate. Other than that I don’t think there was any advice I wish I knew when I started college, because it’s a time to explore and figure out what I wanted to do with my life.
24. Are you involved in any extracurriculars or student organizations?
At my school, I’m involved in the Transfer Asian Pacific American Student Success program (T-APASS), Student Equity And Success program (SEAS), Sankofa Scholars, the Vice President of our Asian Pacific Islander Club (APIC), the Treasurer of our IEEE branch, and a member of our school’s dance team.
25. Do you currently have a job or internship? What do you do?
I still work at my part time job from high school at a kids party place called Pump It Up, well I used to before COVID. It has nothing to do with my career, but it’s hard to get a tutoring position at my school, so I continue to stay at my current job. That’s not to say I don’t gain anything from working there, I mean I want to work with computers not kids but the soft skills I learned here has made me a more viable candidate for internships and job opportunities; my communication skills, flexibility/adaptability, team work, etc are not very common skills amongst the stereotypical, but lowkey true, antisocial nerds like me and my CS peers.
26. What is the work environment like?
I can’t personally answer this since I haven’t worked in the field yet, but from what I have heard it’s just like it is in the classrooms when it comes to the lack of women in the field. I won’t sugar coat it, it’s a male dominated career path and you have to understand that there can be sexism in the workplace, but you have to learn to stand up for yourself. But as for the work itself, they will teach you what you need to know, college won’t 100% prepare you for the field but wherever you end up they will retrain you to best fit their company.
27. What advice do you have for those looking for a job or internship in the computer science field?
My advice would be to give it a try, because you never know if it would be a field you’re actually really interested in. Personally, that happened to me as I mentioned above, I never thought I would end up in this field and enjoying it as much as I do, but here I am because I gave it a try. As cliche as it sounds, I feel that you’ll know if it’s right for you. If you really like the field, just keep applying and keep trying 🙂
28. What advice do you have for people on the same career path as you?
My advice would be to actually try to understand the material. Chegg, Slader, and applications like those could have helped you in high school but it’ll only hurt you in the long run. Material builds off each other as you progress through college and get deeper into the subject, so it’s best to learn and understand the fundamentals early on. When I would network with professionals in the field, they don’t expect you to know everything, but they expect you to know the fundamentals.
29. Are there other career path opportunities for people in your major?
Of course! There’s so many other career paths for people in Computer Science! You can be a Software Developer at a Tech Company, you can go into Video Game Development and design if that’s your interest, become an Information Security Analyst (AKA Cybersecurity) for the government, or even go into the medical field and be a Health Information Tech Specialist. There’s so many paths to choose from.
30. Are you planning on attending graduate school? If so, what should people keep in mind to do to prepare for applying?
I do not plan on going into grad school, but that may change in the future. Don’t be afraid to talk to your professors during office hours, classmates, or advisors if grad school is something that you plan on doing. They always have a lot of helpful information and connections to help you better prepare for grad school and just your future in general!
31. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’m here to answer any questions or concerns about the major for people. I’m not super nerdy though, so I won’t have all the answers but I can try to help. To be honest, even if you’re like 1% nerdy like me, you can still be fine in this major as long as you put the time and effort into learning! Sometimes I feel a little out of my comfort zone, but by being yourself you’ll still make some great friends like I did 🙂
Conclusion on 30 Questions With A Computer Science Major
I am convinced that Brandy should start her own blog! Her answers and advice on what it takes to become a computer science major were really insightful and inspiring! Brandy and I have been friends since high school, and I am so proud to see her breaking down barriers and achieving her dreams. We need more female role models in the computer science field, and I am honored to be friends with one of them! If you have questions or need advice from Brandy, feel free to reach out to her on her Instagram @candyy.brandyy. Brandy is one of the friendliest people you’ll meet, so don’t be afraid to DM her!
Thank you so much for reading Brandy’s interview! I truly hope that you enjoyed it as much as I did! Come back next week for an interview with my friend Tara who will be sharing her experiences as an engineering major!