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Dublin High School Alum Kaylee Moser Discovers Computer Science and Silicon Valley Success

May 26, 2015

Kaylee Moser

Kaylee Moser

Our latest entry in the Life in College and Women in STEM series profiles Dublin High School Class of 2010 and Santa Clara University Class of 2014 computer science major Kaylee Moser. Kaylee’s story highlights that there are many paths to landing a job at a Silicon Valley tech company in the hot field of software engineering. Kaylee shares her experiences switching majors (and colleges) to follow her passion while still staying on track to graduate in four years, and offers advice to students managing the transition from high school to college, and from college to the “real world”. When sparked your interest in computer science?

Kaylee Moser: “My interest started in college. I was really into filmmaking in high school and was actually a film major for my first year and a half of college. I decided to switch into computer science when I started doing a lot of editing, 3D animation and visual effects. I realized how much I missed math when I began using the software that editors use, and learning more about the math behind the software. Even though I thought I hated math in high school, I really missed math in college! I left the 4-year college I was attending and enrolled in Chabot Community College for one semester where I took a Python course, and loved it – the logic that was involved, the challenging fun of the course, and the feeling of making things with code. And from that point out I was a computer science major and ultimately graduated from Santa Clara University.” What makes coding fun? For many people the idea of coding is hard to grasp.

Moser: “In a lot of professions you have to study a really long time before you can do or make anything cool, fun or interesting, something that you can show people. I encourage students to start with an easy language like Python where you can make code you’ll actually use without that much experience. The more experience you build up the more you can do and make.

“Even though getting started can be easier than people expect, I also like the challenge of coding. Coding is a different way of thinking about things. You’ll have an end result in mind and literally start from nothing, just a computer in front of you. You have to think about the big picture – the end result – as well as all the detailed steps and logic to get there. Coding is also very engaging. In college and at work I can get really sucked into a project for hours – I’ll forget to eat! And it’s not like staying up late for a test, it’s engrossing. Coding helped me realize how much I like math, and when you are in college math is much different from high school for some reason.” How did you manage to graduate on time despite the change in majors (and colleges), and did that leave any time for internships?

Moser: “I completed an entire computer science major in two years by taking a lot of summer classes; it wasn’t easy. I did work as a student network engineer at Santa Clara University. Looking back on it now, it was really hard, especially compared to starting out as a film major. You have to focus on what is really important to you, whatever that is. I wanted to be challenged, to have lots of opportunities, to have job security and for me that led to computer science. I was always good at math and knew there were many opportunities for computer science majors in a time when many college graduates are struggling to get hired.

“After switching majors, and colleges, I was determined to stay on track and graduate in four years, I really didn’t want to take extra time. That was even more important given that Santa Clara is an expensive school and I wasn’t offered any financial aid so it was necessary to graduate in two years or be swimming in debt more than I already am.

“But once I arrived at Santa Clara, and I worked hard to get into that school, I pushed myself. There were points where I was taking all upper division classes, really hard math and computer science classes, where I was in the lab into the middle of the night, but I knew it would all pay off in the end. I look back and I’m not sure how I did it!

“I did have a job while at Santa Clara. I was in charge of the wireless network and Cisco products as a result, which helped me get my current job. I helped people with wireless connectivity and also worked on a project to upgrade wireless access points on campus. While that job wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do after graduating it provided me experience in another facet of computer science. I recommend computer science students get some kind of job or internship, even if it’s just on campus, while still in school. Anything you can add to your resume can help you later.

“You need to know what you want and the steps you need to take to get there. Once you’re in college your parents won’t be there as much as they were in high school to push you, it’s all up to you.” Talk about the transition from college to the “real world”, which can be scary for some students.

Moser: “Santa Clara provides a lot of opportunities for students looking for jobs. They have a dedicated website where companies in the area can post jobs, there’s a career center on campus where you can be interviewed by local companies; it’s how I landed my job at Cisco.

“I was one of the people who was ready to be done with college! Starting a full-time job is very different from jobs or internships you’ve done in college. Once you are working full-time you become aware of what it would mean to lose that job, and how that would impact your life. There is more pressure, but you’re never alone. You have your friends and family around you, and you make friends in the office, so while it’s different you don’t need to be afraid.

“The structure of working full-time is very different from college. In college you have a couple of classes per day and more free time in that you don’t have set obligations to be somewhere, but more homework and labs to complete. In a work environment while my boss is there to help me and set priorities, he isn’t checking every assignment or test, I’m expected to get my work done. I’m trusted to do my job which was the biggest difference to get used to as compared to college.

“I love being in the ‘real world’ – you have so much more time and freedom. You can invest in yourself, and of course having a paycheck is nice.” How has the transition been from living in a campus environment to living on your own?

Moser: “It’s been easy for me. I like supporting myself and having the independence while still being able to drive and see my parents. I did realize at some point that where I’m living now, with friends in a townhouse, is my permanent residence. During college I was still going home many weekends, and my parents home felt like home; now when I go to my parents home it feels like I’m visiting them. I don’t have a bed there anymore!

“On the weekends I prefer to be at my house in Santa Clara. I like being able to support myself, I like being able to treat my parents to dinner, to pay them back a little for everything they gave me while I was in high school and college. They’ve been awesome and I’m really grateful to be where I am.” What advice would you have given to your high school self if you could go back in time?

Moser: “I would tell high school juniors and seniors to enjoy themselves. It’s a part of your life that’s different than any other time. I know it can be a struggle to get up and go to school every day, I remember having bad senioritis, but you have to appreciate Dublin High School. It’s an amazing school with so many opportunities and great teachers. Work hard in high school, take advantage of sports and clubs, and try to be involved. Not only will doing so make your experience more enjoyable, but you’ll also look better to colleges.

“For graduating seniors about to enter college my advice is to take full advantage of what your college has to offer. I spent my first two years very distracted, I was in a major I was unsure of and didn’t take full advantage of everything college had to offer at that time. My advice is to live your life in the present, really try to soak up and enjoy everything college has to offer because college is so much fun. You get to hang out with your friends all the time, you have all this freedom, and you can literally do anything. You get an opportunity in college to just learn. While the ‘real world’ is fun in its own way, it’s nothing like college.”

One Comment
  1. Brenda Thompson permalink
    May 27, 2015 6:13 pm

    Thanks for sharing your experience Kaylee! I’m happy to hear about your success.
    Miss Thompson

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