“I’m from Palatine, a Chicago suburb, and I was always cold,” said CS sophomore Jeemin Sim. She chose Rice sight unseen because it was in a warm climate. Plus, the food in Rice’s residential colleges had a good reputation. “Food is an essential part of life and I’m now a food rep at Hanszen,” she said.
When Sim is passionate about a cause, she throws herself into it. And if something isn’t working, she changes direction. “I came to Rice as a MechE, but Gen Chem was rather horrifying,” she said. “I wanted to stay in Engineering because I like math, science, and solving problems, so I looked for majors that didn’t require Gen Chem; Computer Science seemed to be the fit.”
She changed directions after her first semester at Rice, and her roommate decided to try out CS for different reasons. They perceived a need to “catch up” with other freshmen that had already taken their first CS course in the fall. Sim said, “We signed up for both COMP 130 and COMP 182 in the spring and suffered through it [the double load] together.”
Being able to talk with her roommate about homework sets and how to approach them helped Sim understand the importance of community. “Even though I liked solving the problems, when I was taking both those classes at once, I only had my roommate to talk with and I always felt like I was behind.”
Now that Sim has met more CS majors and is following the recommended CS track, she feels more relaxed and is enjoying her classes more. But she has also become passionate about finding and building a community where students help each other.
Sim said, “In computer science, the people you hear from most are the ones who came to Rice with some prior experience. But there are more people on the other side than you think –people who haven’t started a side project or gotten an internship after their freshman year.”
She made an effort to get to know other students in her classes. “I work very closely with my CS project partner, Christy [Warden],” she said. “It’s great having a friend you get along well with and can work closely with. It’s also one of the nice things about this major – instead of reading assignments you do on your own, you get problems to solve and you can discuss how to approach them with other students. Knowing other people in CS is a real asset. I would have struggled if I’d had to go through these classes by myself.”
The more connections Sim made with other CS students, the more she realized how many different ways her peers plan to apply the skills they are developing in their future careers. She grew more interested in the business side of the technical industry and started exploring options beyond traditional software development internships.
“I like working with people so much,” she said. “My friends in other engineering majors often feel the same way about starting in engineering, then expanding their careers into management or other aspects of their companies. So we began looking for more business-learning opportunities.”
Rice now offers a business minor, but Sim was looking for practical tips for the interview process. “The CS Club and CSters help their members learn about the recruiting process, time line, and technical interviews, so I started looking for an undergraduate club that offered similar support on the business side.”
After a Rice information session hosted by a consulting firm, Sim joined several students waiting to catch a campus shuttle bus and heard them discussing how to best prepare for the interviews. “People started pairing up arbitrarily, to try and practice for their interviews,” said Sim. “The employer actually wanted juniors, but it made us realize we had no resources for that particular kind of interview. Everyone was just searching online or trying to find someone else who had done it.”
When Sim found no student club offering the kind of resources she needed, she started her own. She said, “I’m a co-founder and co-president of the Rice Business Society and we collaborate heavily with the Jones Graduate School of Business. Our JGSB sponsors, Rick Schell and Josh Lunow, are great. They agree that without a business major, there is a gap between the demands of undergraduates interested in business and the available resources. Our club helps fill that vacuum.”
The club–which met for the first time in January– is primarily geared towards freshmen and sophomores. The officers are planning to provide technical workshops and information on how to prepare for the application and interview process, understanding the recruiting season time line, and other resources. Sim said, “Our sponsors have been great at connecting us with the MBAs, and we hope to launch a mentorship program that matches MBA students with undergrads.”
Even though her long-term career goal includes some type of business role, Sim is still excited about the opportunity to solve problems as a software engineer. “I work as a CS research assistant for the McNair Center where I’m focusing on web crawlers for accelerators, and I really enjoy it. I think working at McNair Center has reinforced for me how much I love the problem-solving component of CS.”