I started at Illinois as an undeclared student, which was a difficult journey for me. I came from an art background in high school, thinking of continuing on that path; however, I didn’t really get into any schools that I wanted as an art major. I was very open to trying something new, and an undeclared major sounded like something that would give me more flexibility to explore what other majors and career paths I might want to pursue. So, for the first two years I was at Illinois without a declared major, just trying lots of new things. Freshman year, I thought of transferring into engineering, but I didn’t really like a lot of the science and math classes that I took. But, while I was in those beginner engineering classes, I met a lot of my friends who were in engineering majors, and they suggested that I transfer into Computer Science (CS). It’s a very a flexible major, where you can integrate different knowledge areas, including some that I was more interested in than the more traditional engineering paths. Illinois has a lot of options for “CS-Plus” majors, and I learned about Computer Science + Advertising from Professor Steve Hall, who taught the introductory advertising course. I really enjoyed advertising and I thought blending that focus with a computer science knowledge would be a great path for me. So, after spending some time as an Advertising major, I applied to the CS + Advertising program my junior year and got accepted.

As a student, I was a member of the American Advertising Federation (AAF) for all 4 years which was very meaningful for me. AAF was the RSO that opened me up to look into the advertising world. I had this interest in art and wanted to express my creativity, but in a more applied way. I wanted to explore how art could be used as a revenue resource, and that was how I saw advertising. It was really fun because that’s how I came upon this CS + advertising route and how I met a lot of my friends. As a CS major, I found it difficult to meet people outside of engineering, so interacting with other advertising students and the AAF allowed me to be introduced to all kinds of different people.

During the semesters, I interned at Research Park with Motorola Solutions, which gave me a lot of experience and knowledge that I needed to land my current job. What I learned there has also helped me settle into my current full-time job, especially support from my supervisor there, because he helped guide us through how the real world was going to be, and how we could adjust to the changes. I’m really thankful for that guidance and support.

Like many other CS majors, I jumped into recruiting my first semester senior year. I applied widely to software engineering jobs and got rejected by like 50% of them – which is pretty normal. For my final round, I had a few of options to choose from, which I narrowed down by looking at location. I wanted to live in a big city, somewhere I hadn’t lived before, and Gap had a Software Engineer position in their San Francisco office. Moving to the Bay Area sounded super fun, so that’s how I chose it.

I also like the fact that it’s not a traditional tech company. Since Gap is a retail company, we have designers, marketing representatives, people walking around with fabric and giant notepads, and doing things that people do in retail. It just feels very open, fun, and welcoming. I feel appreciated and supported as a new employee, and my coworkers did not hesitate to hold my hands a bit through the adjustment to full-time work and the corporate world.

In the future, I look forward to graduating from a junior engineer to becoming a senior engineer, so that I’ll have more responsibility and more power to own a project. But I also really want to launch my own brand in the future, because I’m still very interested in art and I’ve been getting more interested in fashion recently, so I’d love to conjoin fashion and tech.

I want other undeclared students to know that you don’t have to find your major right away. Similarly, if you’re in a major, it’s okay to change it. I changed mine twice, and I was still able to graduate on time, and it was very manageable. You might have to put extra work in, but that work is going to be worth it. And don’t be scared if you don’t know what to do after graduation; take time to explore different careers and majors. Don’t get stuck in your own box because of a major or your background, because you can be and do whatever you want to do.