Graduating senior seizes opportunities throughout academic career
Whether your full-time job is pursuing an education or career, it is rewarding to push yourself and seek opportunities for growth outside of your daily routine.
Himank Yadav, a senior in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University, has gone above and beyond to gain a well-rounded education in computing, which included engaging in extracurricular activities outside of the classroom.
In addition to being the director of TAMUhack for the past two years, Yadav has held several internships at companies such as CK-12, Apple, Nextdoor and Facebook. Each of these not only brought invaluable growth for Yadav, but also presented unique experiences.
For instance, holding internships at two smaller startup companies allowed Yadav to work on multiple teams and projects within the organizations.
At Nextdoor, Yadav was able to interact directly with users across the world, hearing their unique use cases and understanding their varying needs. He learned user empathy and used this to inform his engineering decisions that followed. Yadav explained that it was very eye opening to see whether people liked or did not like something that he helped build.
While at Apple, Yadav worked as part of the Apple Maps team where he learned how to navigate a complex product firsthand.
"Mapping is a hard, technical problem because it holds an enormous amount of data," Yadav said. "You are trying to basically fit the whole earth into a phone. It was a phenomenal initiative to be a part of."
During his internship at Facebook, Yadav knew he wanted to be a part of a very technical aspect of the organization, so he chose to work on the infrastructure team. While completing his internship, he decided to participate in an internal company hackathon as well.
For the hackathon he worked alongside his team of fellow interns on a project to integrate political media into Facebook's existing structure. This side project resulted in Yadav and his peers presenting it to Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of Facebook's leadership team, who were impressed with their idea to increase civic engagement on the platform.
"Watching people around you use something that you built from scratch is a great feeling," Yadav said.
Yadav, who will be graduating this May, said that faculty interaction outside of classes was definitely a highlight of his time as a student. He has worked alongside several faculty members in the department, including Dr. James Caverlee, associate professor; Dr. Aakash Tyagi, professor of practice; and mostly with Dr. Jennifer Welch, Chevron Professor II and Regents Professor.
"Getting to understand their research and their angle on how they are contributing to this whole body of computing knowledge has been fantastic," he said. "The reason I am working with Dr. Welch now is because I had a fair idea of what she is working on and I could see myself contributing in the same field."
Yadav believes it is important to get to know people with expertise in a multitude of areas because computing is not just one sphere, but rather multiple parts that come together. From artificial intelligence to robotics, data mining and systems, they are all interconnected.
He also credits attending computing conferences, sponsored by the department, as opportunities to meet even more computing professionals and peers in the field that he would not have had the opportunity to meet otherwise.