by Katlyn Ho

Me: *Submits my resume to a Software Engineering/Data Science position*

Interviewer: “So I see that you are a Bioengineering major and pursuing Computer Science and Data Science minors. That’s an interesting combination. Can you tell me a little more about that?”

Me (who has been asked this almost all the time): “Ya! That’s a really good question.” *proceeds to talk about why tech and CS is so ~cool~*

So then why Bioengineering? Well, to be completely honest, when applying for colleges my senior year of high school, I had no idea what I wanted to major in. I was interested in following the pre-med track, but I was scared that the job prospects of a Biology degree would be very limited in the event that I didn’t get into med school. (But also med school just costs a lot of money and is too much school for me). At the time, I really loved biology and math so bioengineering made the most sense and after looking more into the field, thought that cell and tissue engineering, prosthetics, and nanotechnology were incredibly fascinating.

Now fast forward a couple years to my sophomore fall in 2018, and I’m learning CS for the very first time in CS 61A. It was the most fun and engaging class that I had taken since starting college. The only classes I had taken at that point were Math 54, Physics, Chemistry, and a couple BioE classes about biochemistry. I had no interest in these topics and also just did not understand linear algebra, physics, or organic chemistry (lol) but it is what it is. I loved the projects and work that I was able to do in CS 61A and in CS 61B the next semester even though they were hard and often took days and long nights to complete.

At this time, everyone I knew was getting internships or research positions lined up for the summer. I didn’t think much of it, thinking that they were just incredibly driven people, but it made me reflect about what I had actually learned and done in college thus far. I wasn’t doing research in a lab, and I hadn’t actually learned any transferable skills in any of the classes for my bioengineering degree.. I also actually didn’t really like any of them either. I scrambled to find research, since that was the thing that my fellow bioengineers were doing, but I knew that I wouldn’t love it. I just kept thinking about how much I hated the Chem 1A and 3A labs. I never considered an internship because I thought that my resume was lacking, that recruiting itself was pointless so late in the year, and that I wasn’t good enough. I had nothing to showcase, other than the projects I did in CS 61A and CS 61B. However, one day I was on LinkedIn and saw a job posting for “General Technical Intern” at a biotech startup. I submitted my resume just for the heck of it and two weeks later (during finals week) signed my offer for a software engineering internship.

That next semester, I considered pursuing computational biology, which is a BioE concentration that is essentially the combination of CS and BioE. So I took the classes…and I hated it. Next up on the BioE concentration list was biomedical devices, but I could not understand circuits for the life of me. The other two BioE concentrations were very cellular and molecular focused, which I knew I wouldn’t be interested in. So the only thing left for me was CS. I had considered doubling with EECS or CS but it just wasn’t possible. It was already the start of my junior year, and I was already nearly done with my BioE degree. Thus, I focused on getting the minors and figuring out what I needed to do to become a software engineer.

Ok so now there was recruiting to worry about and man that was really difficult. I had no idea about the coding challenges that came with software engineering applications and LeetCode and Hackerrank were completely unknown to me. But I learned, practiced, went to career fairs, became more comfortable talking in interviews and finally after six months of recruiting got an offer for a software engineering internship. I was unbelievably ecstatic…until covid hit and it got rescinded. I was devastated and had honestly considered giving up on pursuing CS. Luckily, I didn’t and picked back up on recruiting, and, during finals week (again lol), got a data science internship that I was actually able to extend for another 3 months to December. A little bit after that I had signed a full-time software engineering job at an amazing company that I never thought I was smart or qualified enough to work for. I never got an A in any of my CS classes and there were some tests that really made me question everything. I had received so many rejections, been ghosted by companies, and once even had a recruiter straight up tell me that my internships weren’t good enough for software engineer jobs at their company. The entire journey was so unbelievably rocky, but I got the job and I’m looking forward to what’s next.

The UC Berkeley SWE section supports students through professional development, social events and outreach to young women interested in the STEM field.