What’s it like to pursue your dream career at your best-fit university? For Cyrus Hung, an eager and passionate student with an interest in coding and technology, matriculating at UC Berkeley was a chance to truly realize his long-held career aspirations.
With a resilient mindset and open to new opportunities, he is making his way into the software industry. In this inspirational feature, the Class of 2021 Concordia alumnus shares, in his own words, stories of his college life and how his time at Concordia has helped set him on the path to a career in computer science.
Life at UC Berkeley
What are you studying at UC Berkeley? What do you like most about the university?
I am in the College of Letters & Science, and next semester I will declare the Computer Science (CS) major. I think what really stands out about UC Berkeley is its philosophy. Rather than simply teach you, e.g., how to make a website or make a game or make an app, they also teach you the theory behind what makes a good app, game or website. And the classes are structured to be really interesting. Homework and projects are all super cool and very fun. It makes you really want to keep learning and keep trying.One example is: in my 1st semester class, we were learning about the structure of computer programs. And for our last project in this semester, we basically made a copy of Plants vs Zombies. Over the course of a week, we slowly built different plants and zombies. You can really see the effects of your labor and effects of your coding slowly built up from a small game into a big game.
Do you think UC Berkeley is your best-fit School?
Yes. UC Berkeley was one of my top choices when I applied for college, and I don't regret my choice at all. For the most part, it is amazing. Classes are really fun. The general culture is pretty great. The large number of students and their diversity really allows me to experience different things and meet new people every single day. And the weather is super nice. However, sometimes resources are a little bit scarce because of how many students there are in this big public school, and you need to be more active in searching for those resources and searching for help from teachers or advisers and stuff like that.
Tell us something about the tech projects you did in university.
I joined a club called Codebase at UC Berkeley last semester. I had the pleasure to work for a company called TruEra (a company that does AI model diagnosis) on a project. What TruEra seeks to do is they have an algorithm, and their software is supposed to analyze your AI or ML model and explain to you the internal workings of your algorithm. However, it's really computationally difficult and takes a long time for algorithm to run. In a team of six people, in the end, we were able to contribute directly to their code by implementing cloud computing, and distribute computing processes into their code, which helped speed up their algorithms by around 200%.
An Interest Sparked in High School
You were passionate about CS during your time at Concordia. How did you become interested in this field?
As a kid, I really wanted to be an engineer and build things, but as I went through middle school, I found out that I enjoyed programming and making software even more. I remember back in Concordia, in 5th grade, we had iPads where we could make games for block programming. But my interest in programming was really sparked in the high school game development club, which was a part of SMS (Student Media Services). It helped me explore whether CS would be a good career choice for me.
What activities or programs at Concordia supported your interest in CS during high school?
In my sophomore year of high school, we had a Career Day event where Mrs. Tsang, a Concordia parent, came to do a speech and I expressed interest in her company, Visual Concepts China. In junior year, I was able to land as the first high school intern for Visual Concepts China. So for 12 weeks in my junior summer, I worked at her company. The entire internship was really enriching and enlightening because I was able to work alongside real industry engineers and senior developers. I had two amazing mentors who really taught me the ins and outs of how to write a code and how to design an application/software. Through the entire process, I was able to really mature, and learn how to communicate better in teams. The experience really made me understand and know for certain that computer science is definitely the major that I want to go with for college, and that it is something that I can see myself doing for the next couple of years at the very least.
What do you miss most about Concordia?
I haven't come across a high school community as close as in what I felt with Concordia. One thing that I’ve missed the most is those bonds that I've made at Concordia: friends, teachers, etc. don't go away. All the personal relationships I have had with the teachers – how much they were willing to help me in achieving my goals, how friendly they were, and how dedicated they were in providing me resources and support – to make sure that I grow as not just a student, but also a person.
Mr. Paulson really helped me with speech and also how to be a better reader; Dr. Tong, helped me a lot with exploring different areas in tech and aerospace; Mr. Klammer helped me understand what makes learning engaging, as he was able to make physics, engineering and all those things fun… All these teachers really helped me learn more about who I was and where my interests lay.
Any advice for current Concordia students, and those interested in STEM?
It's really important in high school to try out different things and not be afraid of failure. If there's something that you're even remotely interested in, don't be scared, because even if you fail, that is a huge learning opportunity. For STEM students, you're never alone. Starting the process in high school, developing a vision for what you want to do in the future, and then constantly looking for resources, opportunities and help in order to reach those goals, is obviously the best advice I can give.Don't be afraid to reach out, look for opportunities, and never stop thinking about what your goals are.
Thanks to Cyrus for sharing his experiences to inspire Concordia students. Watch this space for more stories from our alumni and alumnae from across the world!
If you are interested in sharing alumni updates or stories, please contact our Alumni Relations Coordinator, Irrey Zhang at email@example.com.