When student Hua Yang began at Rutgers, like many first-year students, he wasn’t certain what he wanted to study. Trying different classes, he found a subject he loves and opportunities to start on a great career.
Room to Explore
When he began at Rutgers, Yang’s parents suggested starting on a premed track.
Yang, now a fifth year senior at the School of Arts and Sciences on the New Brunswick Campus, thought, “Why not?” After all, he had liked his science classes in high school. So, at the start of his first year, he signed up for "Chemistry I" and "Intro to Biology".
It didn’t go well. Yang quickly realized he didn’t like the subject as much as he had anticipated. And he wasn't as prepared for the demands of college as he thought he was. “In high school, teachers had allowed students to turn in homework late and retake tests. I knew going in that Rutgers wasn’t going to be like that, of course, but it was still a shock,” he says.
Following other interests, Yang took some introductory engineering courses. He liked the subject better, but didn’t love it. Then, in one class, "Introduction to Computer Science", he got his first taste of computer programming. “I was completely engaged. This light went on—I knew this was what I wanted to pursue. I realized I wasn’t an engineering hardware person, I was a software person.”
Yang's computer programming instructor [Pradip Hari] “was terrific. He would explain a concept and then demonstrate, writing the code as we followed along. Taking that course with him was inspiring. You could see immediately the impact that a line of code had in a program.”
Yang continued to take computer classes, declared Computer Science as his major, and began attending Friday “Cookies and Codes” gatherings of student programmers, who would meet to share ideas and best practices. “There are so many talented coders here and no two people write the same way. Writing code is a very creative endeavor. I’ve learned so much from them,” he says.
Hitting His Stride
As Yang took more classes, he became a serious student, managing his time better, developing better study habits, and refining his own coding techniques.
One of Yang's goals was to raise his G.P.A. after his tough start at school. “I’ve really had to apply myself, it’s easy to get a poor grade, but once that’s happens, it takes a lot to pick up your average. So far, though, it’s going well.”
The hard work is already paying off. Yang is working in the computer lab in the Department of University Communications and Marketing, helping develop and maintain web sites. Through his supervisor, Eve Burris, he learned of a summer internship position at Adobe Systems in Manhattan.
"I didn't hesitate to recommend Hua because he's extremely talented and has a strong work ethic. I knew that he would be an asset to this project," Burris said.
Yang landed the position. “It was great. I was part of a team developing a module to bridge Drupal [website content management system] and Adobe Folio Producer platform. My teammates asked for—and really valued—my input. I gained a lot of confidence, and it was a joy to be paid to do something you love.”
Yang is staying on for a fifth year at Rutgers to complete extra coursework for a B.S. rather than a B.A. degree in computer science and “get some more practical work under my belt.”
“Rutgers is big and has so much to offer. I’m grateful this place gave me the room and the flexibility to discover what interested me. If I had to do it over, I would have gone in for some academic guidance a bit sooner. Even so, it is working out all right in the end.”