Andrew graduated Drew with a B.A. in Computer Science in 2019. He worked as a Software Engineer for AWS Transit Gateway in Washington, D.C. before moving to Amazon FinTech Spectra in New York City, where he’s worked as a Software Development Engineer since March of 2020.
THE VALUE OF DREW
Andrew always knew he wanted to study something related to technology or computer science and considered attending a large tech college but he loved Drew’s beautiful campus, and the smaller classes and knew he would get a more personalized experience at Drew. He said, “I thought it would be great to get more of an exposure to a wide range of subjects and people instead of dealing only with those strictly focused on technology and computer science.”
He attributes his interest in technology to his father who was always into the latest TVs, computers, and video games. Andrew said, “Like with many other kids I started with an interest in making video games but I took some coding courses and I realized I could do more than this.”
Andrew worked as a computer science tutor and a Research Software Engineer when he was at Drew. One of his mentors was Computer Science professor, Dr. Emily Hill. He said “She was great throughout my whole experience at Drew. I met with her early on and told her I was having an easy time in these courses, really enjoyed them, and was looking to do more so she got me involved in research. I had an opportunity to be involved in the Drew Summer Science Institute. It was a really cool experience where science students from different fields came together for the summer. Everyone had specific research topics to drill down on and we gained experience while also learning about other scientific fields.”
His favorite memories involve his times with the Robotics Club. He said, “We put together a “Hackathon” where people came together to create projects together. We ordered t-shirts, food, and got a pretty decent turnout. This club also put on other events, including teaching students how to use coding in their daily lives. It was a lot of fun. Also tutoring in computer science was great because I loved teaching students about something I’m passionate about.”
I asked Andrew how Drew had helped him get to his current career and he responded, “Opportunities! The professors always received emails from outside companies with different offers for internships or research projects. Being able to get involved in research and tutoring really helped me. Coming out of Drew I didn’t have the amount of technical knowledge others had but I feel my soft skills were better. Going through Drew I did a lot of writing and speaking for classes. Now at Amazon every time we propose a new project idea we do a large 5-page write-up that other people critique, so having the soft skills to write, debate and explain my work has actually been more helpful than I ever expected. In this way a liberal arts education was actually very beneficial.”
What do you do as Software Development Engineer for Amazon FinTech Spectra?
I write computer code and when it’s run our team creates tools that help the accounting and business teams do their jobs easier. Amazon is huge and there are tons of transactions going on at every moment. Specifically, we handle allocations, how money gets allocated to different teams. I attend a lot of meetings where we discuss how we can expand our product; how can we make it easier for customers to use. We are currently only serving internal customers but eventually we want to expand to other companies where they can buy our product and use it to manage their accounting. A lot of the job is trial and error. I get a task and do research to see if other teams have done it, and try to implement it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. We are trying to find a solution then we get it critiqued. The fun thing is you can write something, test it, and then find out it works on millions of entries. “Think Big” means always think about big data and how your solution applies to a bigger set than what we’re working on.
What attracts you to the field of software engineering?
The most exciting part is that software is everywhere now. Almost everything will eventually be done through software, for example, it is likely that cars will eventually drive themselves. It’s really cool to be in on this business because I have a better understanding of how software works. I can look at a website and can figure out what they’re doing behind the scenes. Some people see it as magic and some of it is magic. There is so much of software engineering that is evolving so quickly. You learn something new every week. There are always better ways to do things and improvements to be made. It feels like there is a lot of room to grow in this field and it’s a way to gain understanding of what runs our world.
What do you think is the key to your success in this field?
I think part of it is seeking out opportunities. I’m trying to get involved in hiring and mentoring. I had a mentor when I started at Amazon and now I want to mentor someone. I don’t just sit all day and write code. A big part of the job is just talking to other people and seeing how you can help others. Whenever I see an opportunity, I try to get involved. I am always willing to try things that seem difficult.
What advice would you give a student who is interested in a career as a software programmer or software engineer?
My first piece of advice: If you want to work for the biggest and best companies, you have to do some additional work while you’re in college. Do research, do an internship, tutor other students, or create personal projects. Do anything you can do to stand out because the field is getting saturated. Also when you go for coding interviews, the questions they ask are always similar so do practice interviews for this field. The other piece of advice, for people who don’t want to get into big companies, be creative in your job search. Other companies, like banks, stores, etc. all have software departments. Always be open to learn new things. Always accept advice from others. Remember your way may not always be the right way.