Senior Spotlight

By Jason Ho (Q24)

It’s March. The white walkers have begun to melt and cool breezes blow upon us. In light of this wondrous time of the year, another phenomenon has also commenced; the rollover of this year’s graduating class of QUEST! As their names are etched into the alumni books and their cohort photos mysteriously disappear from the labs, the QUESTees of Cohort 23 & 24 pack their bags and bid their farewells. However, it is not without a few words of wisdom. In this article, we shine a light upon two budding seniors, Andrew Lee (Q23) and Michael George (Q23), as they lay upon the QUEST community their stories of how they got to where they are today and what they have to look forward to in the next chapter of their lives.

Tell us a lot about yourself.

Andrew Lee: I’m a senior Computer Science major in Cohort 23 currently TA’ing 190H. I’m originally from the Philadelphia area, but I came to UMD because of the great computer science program. After going through the STS Scholars program, I wanted to be a part of another community and applied to QUEST. I like to eat, travel, play board games, poker, tv shows, football, go to concerts, ultimate frisbee, video games, music, exercising, and golf.

Favorite food: Sushi (check out Daikaya in DC if you haven’t been)
Favorite place I’ve travelled: Taipei
Favorite board game: Catan
Favorite poker: Texas Hold ‘Em
TV show: West World *waiting on Game of Thrones to come back

Michael George: I am a senior Computer Science major in Cohort 23 and I am also a member of QUEST Recruiting and a PM on QUEST Dev. I love technology and that’s part of the reason why I decided to become a Computer Science major. Otherwise I really enjoy sports, especially football, baseball and basketball, and I’m slowly getting into soccer. I also really enjoy listening and creating music. I play a little guitar, drums and bass and I enjoy singing as well. For this last year, I’ve gotten very fond of Chance and have been listening to Coloring Book almost all of the time.

A lot of QUEST students are hungry and ambitious for the road ahead. Once before in those shoes, can you tell us now about your experience as you applied to different jobs?

Andrew Lee: Going through QUEST really opened my eyes up to all the different roles I could do outside of a typical software development job. After interning 2 summers as a software engineer, 1 summer as a project manager, and 2 QUEST capstone projects, I applied to a variety of jobs within the consulting, product management, and software engineering fields. Getting rejections really sucked at first, but after the first few, you become sort of numb to it. Gradually, a few offers started to come in, so I really had to ask myself what I really wanted to do after college. It was easy to show enthusiasm during interviews at all these different companies for different positions because I actually was interested in doing a variety of roles. During October-November, I had at least 2 interviews a week and it was almost like taking another class. In the end, I figured that even if I eventually wanted to go into consulting, management, or product management, it would be best to first hone my computer science skills at a software development position. I chose to go with the software position with IBM because it touches on 2 technologies I’m interested in going further with: AI and Cloud.

Michael George: Honestly, as a Computer Science major at Maryland, they prepare you well to be a software developer, but I remember realizing that I was not very passionate about it and that I couldn’t see myself doing that for a career. Thankfully because of QUEST and the Silicon Valley trip, I learned about Product Management and I was instantly infatuated with the idea of becoming a Product Manager. I started looking for full time positions as a Product Manager, but most companies usually promote you to that position after working as a Software Developer or proving yourself in some other area first. As I did not see that many options, I started to apply and interview for Software Engineering roles but nothing was really working out and I remember feeling discouraged. It was at that point where I received some of the best advice/encouragement that I’ve ever had and the timing of it made it impactful. A QUEST alumnus told me to never settle and not to worry because at some point it will all work out. Finally, I got an interview with Microsoft for a Program Manager position and thankfully, I was extended an offer to do something that I am very passionate about.

So now that you’ve made it, enlighten us about which lucky companies will be taking you in and what you’ll be doing there.

Andrew Lee: I’ll be working as a Cloud Software Engineer in the IBM Watson space. This means I’ll be working on developing cloud infrastructure to support Watson applications. IBM is currently focusing on really expanding their Cloud and Watson cognitive capabilities and services, so I’ll be in the middle of all that. I’ll be based out in the Astor Place office in Manhattan if anyone wants to come visit me.

Michael George: I’ll be working as a Program Manager at Microsoft, and I will determine the team that I will be on in the next few months. As a Program Manager, you oversee a specific feature or application and you are constantly working with engineering, design, and business teams to refine and improve your product for your target users.

If there is one thing about your company that made you go there, what is it?

Andrew Lee: The opportunity to build out their services, infrastructure, and applications. IBM is rapidly expanding the products they’re offering, and this is a great opportunity to be a part of creating their new flagship products. IBM is also doing some really cool things through Watson such as cancer research and sentiment analysis.

Michael George: Microsoft is at an awesome place as a company right now, with a relatively new CEO that has changed the culture of the company and new products that are revolutionizing the markets that they are in, and I am very thankful for the opportunity to be a part of that.

What advice do you have for students looking to find positions like yours?

Andrew Lee: Network, network, network. QUEST, friends, and mentors are all excellent ways to meet new people that are already in jobs that you’re potentially interested in. Just applying online has maybe a 10% response rate, but during the fall semester interview season, there were so many opportunities to network and do interviews. If possible, try and get your job search done in the fall when most of the opportunities are still open. Don’t be afraid to take as many interviews as possible and study up for appropriate interviews (whiteboard coding, case interviews, etc). For those of you interested in software development, I recommend Cracking the Code Interview and the website Leetcode. Also, try to plan your interviews around classes, and keep in touch with professors when you miss class. Definitely try any company you’re interested in. The worst they can say is no.

Michael George: Network and get involved. I can’t stress how important networking was for me during my job search. Take advantage of all the QUEST events and meet not only alumni but also students from other cohorts. There is so much talent within the QUEST program and you never know when you may need to rely on that one senior you met from cohort 23 to get you an interview at a company that you are really interested in. In addition to that, getting involved in different organizations can help you with talking points and just gaining relevant experience. With Recruiting, I learned a lot about giving a good elevator pitch and being a PM with QUEST Dev was a great talking point during my interviews. I also using Cracking the PM interview because it provides a lot of great insights for preparing for a PM interview. Most importantly, just relax!

Now that the hard part is over, let’s talk about the fun stuff. What’s the plan for when you graduate?

Andrew Lee: My start date isn’t until late August, so I’ll probably try to travel, golf poorly at the UMD golf course, and see friends until then. I’ll probably bounce between my Commons apartment and my parent’s home in Philadelphia. After that, I’ll be in New York City.

Michael George: Currently, my start date is early July so most likely June will be spent catching up with friends and family. I’ll be moving to Seattle, WA and I expect that there will be a QUEST to Seattle trip at some point (@Jessica Macklin).

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