Computer Science major Natalia Arzua graduated from San Diego State University in May 2021 with minors in Spanish and Sustainability. Hear a little bit about how her experience at SDSU prepared her for her current position as an applications software engineer at Workday.

What did you love about SDSU?

Right before the pandemic, the basketball team was doing amazing and I looked forward to going to games and cheering on Aztec Football. Plus San Diego is gorgeous! I miss San Diego and the beaches, especially the warm beaches.

Why did you choose to major in computer science?

I really liked math so my dad encouraged me to try engineering. I took some engineering classes in high school but they were really broad. That’s where I started doing computer science and realized “This is what I like to do.” 

SDSU doesn’t have the stigma of everyone doing computer science, so it doesn’t feel like you’re competing against the whole world with huge classes of hundreds of people.

Plus, you can do so many things with it. Right now I’m doing applications development, but you can go into data science, cybersecurity, web development; you could go into a defense contracting job or go to Facebook and work on Instagram. I like that there are so many different languages and they’re all very learnable.

What were some of the best parts of being a computer science major at SDSU?

Hanging out in the corridors during office hours and all the study rooms, learning from my classmates and making friends is definitely a core memory. Going through the highs and lows of taking all the same classes together, even through the pandemic, we still were able to keep in touch.

Finding and taking courses that offer different languages was really helpful. I took machine learning and I learned that I don’t want to do it ever again, but I’m really glad I took it in retrospect. Switching languages can be kind of hard, but it’s helpful. Once you learn one language really well, you can switch more easily. I felt less overwhelmed having to learn the proprietary language at my current job.

What did receiving a scholarship from BMC mean to you?

It felt really nice to get a scholarship! Luckily I’m a California resident so I had in-state tuition, but it was great to get a little bit of help. I was able to focus on school and enjoy my time at SDSU, pandemic and all.

Any advice for other women in computer science?

I think the biggest thing is to not let anything affect you and reminding yourself that you haven’t been a computer scientist your whole life so it is okay to ask questions. Finding other women and finding a community in computer science really helped me. If you really love it, you can stick it out.

Any advice for students on the job hunt?

One tip is to find a rotational program so you get exposure to working with different people and seeing a variety of product areas. If you really like a programming language, look at where it is used and just keep looking for a job you like. I have friends who don’t really like their first jobs out of college, so I feel very lucky that I absolutely love where I work now. Don’t be afraid to keep searching; you deserve to love your job.