Shuya Wang on CS Career Satisfaction

MCS alumna Shuya Wang, LinkedIn software engineerShuya Wang (M.C.S. ’17) finds new problems appealing. The LinkedIn software engineer said, “I enjoy working on new projects because I can help shape the solution.”

She said building consensus with her teammates requires a lot of discussion, as well as a deep knowledge of design to ensure that the system is reliable and scalable.

“Currently, I am building a system to calculate service costs across the company. But LinkedIn has several different service stacks, so one of the most difficult parts is to make the calculation model compatible with multiple, different service stacks. As a result, we’ve had numerous internal and external meetings to discuss the design, and I leverage my knowledge and related context to contribute to its architecture,” said Wang.

Her current job satisfaction is exactly what she hoped for when she left full-time employment to return to school. Wang had interned with Microsoft in Shanghai and was working as an iOS engineer for Tencent when she decided to change the direction of her career path.

“When I was an intern at Microsoft, I had the opportunity to work with people in other countries and I saw different perspectives. I was impressed with their knowledge and foundation. Although I enjoyed my role at Tencent in Shanghai, I wanted to expand my base knowledge and try working in a different country.

“Rice’s professional master’s program in Computer Science (CS) offered the opportunity to explore different cultures and improve my career options. I talked with a friend who had started Rice’s MCS program in 2014 and he gave me very positive feedback. He felt almost all the alumni had gotten ideal jobs after graduation.”

Wang said the courses offered through the Rice MCS courses were appealing as well as beneficial for re-starting her career in the technology industry. In fact, one of her first Rice courses helped her identify her new career direction.

“In my opinion, Web Development and Design – COMP 531 – had the most significant impact on my career,” she said.

It was one of the courses she took in her first semester at Rice, and she realized web development and design was where she wanted to work. In addition to finding her new career path, the course also gave her skills and projects to talk about in her interviews.

“COMP 531 taught me how to be a full-stack engineer, and it helped me develop skills that are in high demand. The workload for the course is quite high. To start from scratch and develop a fancy website, you will need to spend a lot of time on the project, often staying up late to meet deadlines.

“However, as the old saying goes, ‘no pain, no gain,’ and my web application development skills improved enormously in that course. When I started working at LinkedIn, my first three projects were all related to web development. Thanks to my previous experience at Rice, I ramped up very quickly, maintained high code quality, and finished all three projects.”

Wang also ramped up very quickly in her first recruiting season at Rice. She said, “I arrived at Rice in August and went to my first career fair in October. I prepared my resume for the recruiting experience by prioritizing my full-time work experience with Tencent, followed by my internship with Microsoft. Then I looked at the participating employers and created a list of the companies I wanted to talk with at the Rice event as well as Grace Hopper.”

The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) was held in Houston within a month of Rice’s fall Career Expo. Wang was juggling interviews with employers she met at both events, while trying to stay on top of her homework for web development and other courses. Although it may have been a stressful month, she values the time she spent talking with recruiters about their company culture, mission, and work life balance.

“It took me three days to get to all the GHC recruiters on my list, but the time I spent talking with them helped narrow my preferences. I also learned about different aspects of the companies by talking with CS alumni who visited Rice to give tech talks and encourage us to consider their employers.

“I remember doing several mock interviews with my friends in order to be mentally prepared and technically ready. Although I had a lot of interviews lined up, I withdrew from a few because I wanted to focus on a smaller group, perhaps only two or three employers. Then the only thing that I needed to do was to prepare for those interviews as best I could.”

Wang still readies herself to achieve her best performance at LinkedIn, but she also enjoys social activities with her colleagues. She said a good day begins with an early arrival and a cappuccino from the coffee bar. Once she’s processed her email, she reviews previously written code until lunch and tackles her current projects after lunch.

“I may have one or two meetings, and also interview prospective candidates and provide feedback. After work, I always look forward to the personal training sessions I share at our gym with two colleagues I met at LinkedIn’s new hire boot camp.

“The workout helps me remain healthy and it clears my head. A lot of us meet every other Thursday for ‘Happiest Hour’ – where we gather to enjoy various foods and drinks, share our work and life experiences with coworkers, and just generally be social.”

In both her work projects and social activities at LinkedIn, Wang values clear communication. She equates its importance with solid programming skills.

She said, “It is very common to experience conflicts about how to solve problems. Every person has their own opinion about design and you need to be very clear, to be able to explain what you are thinking and why your proposal might be the better choice.

“But after the discussion, it is just as import to reach agreement and to move forward in the process. If everyone is invested only in her or his own proposal, the project can’t proceed. We are all blocked if we can’t reach agreement.”

Wang also believes in strong communication with external stakeholders. For example, if a customer asks the team to implement a feature, it is critical to have several discussions with the user to better understand their requirements.

“Only after you have all the details can you begin coding,” said Wang. “Starting to work on the project before you have the details is not a good idea. You may implement a feature that is not what they really wanted because you didn’t ask enough questions or the right questions.”

Her advice for current or prospective CS students is simple. She said, “Have a clear goal for your future career (e.g., would you prefer to work in industry, or to do research?). Start preparing as soon as possible, because ‘chance favors the prepared mind.’ If you feel like you are getting lost, speak with your instructors and schoolmates, as their opinions might suddenly enlighten you.”