“I needed to be somewhere I could really focus on my studies and somewhere I could develop and foster those really close relationships with professors.”
Having come to the College interested in biology and Chinese, Steffie Ochoa ’20 instead found herself drawn to her computer science courses. “I thought the problem-solving was really awesome,” she says. Although biology and Chinese remained a significant part of her experience at the College, she ended up majoring in computer science.
Ochoa also worked at the IT desk all four years, where she gained many skills she was eager to continue using after graduation. “I wanted an opportunity to learn more and grow my skills but be paid,” she says. She found that opportunity as an IT resident at Google, where she spends most of her time resolving people’s technical issues and is training to be a project manager.
Trust and Comfort with the Unknown
In high school, Ochoa was scared and intimidated by coding. In college, she was still scared and intimidated by it. She did, however, find a supportive community of faculty and students who made her less so. “Did I fully overcome my intimidation? No. But [that community] helped me really manage it,” she says.
In many ways, these feelings actually helped Ochoa. “I think [computer science] made me more comfortable with the unknown. It made me more comfortable with taking risks,” she reflects. This is essential in her current role where she says, “ultimately, you just got to take a risk and … often times it works. You’ve just got to trust yourself.”
Diverse Skills, Unexpected Uses
Like most students, Ochoa couldn’t predict every way she would use the diverse skills she developed and the knowledge she gained at the College. Less than two years out, she is beginning to find out. Her Chinese has been helpful when she speaks with people who have names most non-Chinese speakers struggle to pronounce. When she pronounces their names correctly, the tone of the conversation immediately lightens.
Ochoa was a representative of the computer science student educational policy committee, in which she liaised between faculty and students. The leadership skills she developed in that role will be essential to her project management.
With those skills and others, she is destined for more success. She looks forward to the feeling of accomplishment that accompanies that success. She describes that feeling: “Instead of it just being ‘I did it,’ now it’s, ‘I helped lead a team [to] do it.’”