According to Andrea Michael, a senior information science and computer science double major, Pitt’s School of Computing and Information fosters something lacking in computer science departments across the country — a culture of collaboration and support among its students.
“The community of CS majors here is just unparalleled,” Michael says. “At other schools, you’ll have a rat race going on. You have so much competition, so many people just undercutting each other and trying to one-up each other. Here, everyone is just so, so supportive.”
In her four years at Pitt, Michael’s seen how this community of students will support any classmate with whatever they need, whether it be through help with classes or internship insights. She says this ethos, along with other resources and experiences through SCI, have prepared her for an exciting career in the field.
These opportunities include her leadership role in Pitt’s Women in Computer Science (WiCS) club, for which Michael serves as the business manager. In addition to career preparation, skill-building sessions, and social events, the club hosts diversity and awareness workshops, which expose emerging computer scientists to the ways in which the field needs to improve.
“There’s so much that needs to happen in the field, and I think one place we can really start is in our higher education,” Michael says. “How can we better integrate the conversations of, here’s how race and gender play into tech … Really opening people’s minds to that and sharing, here’s what the workplace can look like, as well as here are the effects these biases can have in our work.”
In the spirit of school-wide collaboration, WiCS engages in these conversations with Underrepresented Minorities in Computing (UMC) club and the Computer Science Club (CSC) as well. Michael says both groups have been great ways to engage with other students over a shared interest. She worked with officers of CSC to develop VaccinatePA, which compiles statewide data on COVID-19 vaccine availability in each county and centralizes it on one website.
Michael says networking opportunities through these clubs are a great resource for students looking for an internship or job, as students often advise each other on things such as how to succeed in an interview with specific companies. She also suggests that students utilize the Career Center, which helped her land two of her undergraduate internships — software engineering at DICK’s Sporting Goods and program management at Microsoft.
Her experience with Microsoft began in fall 2019, when the Career Center hosted a panel of Microsoft employees for students to network with, and even deliver a physical copy of their resumé. After establishing this relationship, Michael then applied for the summer internship, passed each interview round — including the first round on campus — and got the job.
“My start was really through Pitt’s engagement with Microsoft and that relationship they had,” Michael says. “Otherwise, it’s online applications, it can get lost in the void.”
Now she’s preparing to head to Redmond, Washington, to pursue a full-time program management position with Microsoft. While she’s sad to be leaving Pittsburgh, she’s incredibly grateful for her time at SCI.
“I would not want to do CS anywhere else other than Pitt,” Michael says. “It gave me the resources I needed to succeed, it gave me the support I needed in the community, and it gave me all of the opportunities I would want.”