Zain Raza ’21 developed an interest in computer science while taking a Java coding course at his Boston area high school. On weekends, he put his coding skills to work at local hackathons, working in teams on real-world projects. When it came time for college, the appeal of a hands-on computer science program located within reach of Silicon Valley led Zain to the Applied Computer Science (ACS) program at Dominican University of California.
Now, an internship he gained while an ACS student has helped Zain land a full-time job with global technology company PTC.
Dominican’s ACS project-based curriculum in the Barowsky School of Business balances technical computer science courses and hands-on software product development. The program also provides a solid grounding in the liberal arts so students can develop the communication skills necessary when working on cross-functional teams of tech professionals. This combination has proven successful when it comes to students finding jobs in the tech industry.
In May 2022, 34 students graduated with a degree in Applied Computer Science from Dominican. Twenty-four students are due to graduate in August and 17 in December 2022.
Employers of ACS graduates include: The Walt Disney Company; Microsoft; Buzzfeed; Shopify; Amazon; Netflix; Apple; Bloomberg; Capital One, and DoorDash. The primary title of these graduates is software engineer.
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For Zain, gaining experience in both web applications and data science presentations was particularly valuable in terms of gaining real-world skills, while a course in backend web development led to an internship.
“This kind of work lends itself well to designing the underlying platforms that power software,” he says. “The Web is becoming ever-increasingly embedded in our lives, so I tried to build everything from social media networks to scientific visualization tools at ACS. I like to think this gave me a full 360-degree view of the subject, and now I’m more confident I could apply my knowledge to just about any kind of project.”
Two weeks into the intro to backend course, Zain literally walked into an internship.
“I wandered into a hackathon (taking place in San Francisco on a Saturday morning) and could contribute working knowledge that helped a team win first place.”
Zain interned with that same team from the hackathon – by then they were a full-blown sustainability startup called Carbon0 Games – and led a team of four in developing the first web prototype of their app.
“With the support of peers and instructors, we helped them gain hundreds of new users on the app within 90 days of launch,” Zain says. “At that point they offered to make me their CTO, but unfortunately I had to say no to continue the degree.”
Zain credits ACS Chair Adam Braus and instructor Dan Morse for helping him gain confidence and hone his UX design skills through hands-on software projects. Morse and Casey Spurgeon, Director of Career Outcomes and Talent Partnerships, also provided resume reviews, mock interviews, and networking tips.
Last summer, PTC hired Zain as a software development intern. The internship led to a full-time role as a Rotational Analyst.
“I did well on the internship, so my PTC recruiter reached back out again later that fall to interview for their rotational program. Again, Casey was super supportive during my interview preparation, and gave me feedback during our mock interviews that helped for the real thing.”
The job is the perfect fit for Zain, as it combines his love of software development with his desire to work in a career focused on sustainability.
“What I love about PTC is that we create software that helps industrial manufacturing companies. I’m really excited to see how to contribute code that actually influences the way millions of physical products are designed, built, and shipped so that they are not only better quality, but will help humanity innovate our way out of extinction.”
Zain’s role is part of the company’s Rotational Leadership Development Program, a two-year track that helps new graduates understand the business by rotating through new roles every six months. His current rotation is developing next-gen products for CAD. It’s a perfect fit.
“Since I’m a nerd at heart, I like to think of this gig as building the “developer tools” so that anyone in the 2020s will be able to create new technologies like Tony Stark did in the MCU movies of the 2010s.”
While working full time, Zain also is keen to advance his computer science skills through graduate study, planning to enroll in a program that will provide opportunities for advanced research in artificial intelligence.