The following article about Ava DeLaCruz, a 2018 graduate of West Hartford’s Conard High School, was submitted by Conard computer science/mathematics teacher Jackie Corricelli. It was originally published in the Conard newsletter and republished with permission.
By Jackie Corricelli
If you are looking for another reason to take AP Computer Science here at Conard, check out this story!
We are super happy to report that we have heard back from Ava DeLaCruz, Class of 2018. Ava is a freshman at the University of Southern California (USC). As a former AP Computer Science student, Ava was eligible to apply to one several coveted spots in Amazon’s Future Engineer program. This is the first summer that the program maintains spots for students who took AP Computer Science in high school.
Ava recently learned that she was accepted as an Amazon Future Engineer!
I had a chance to talk with her about the program, how she is doing as a computer science major, and what advice she might pass on to current Conard students. Here is what she had to say …
- How did you learn about the Amazon Future Engineer program? I learned about the program online during my fall internship hunt. Prior to starting college, I had no idea how to get an internship, so I was trying everything once I got to USC – career fairs, company events, the works. At one point, I just googled “Computer Science Internships for freshmen” and the Amazon Future Engineer (AFE) Software Development Internship came up in the search results. I was really excited to find an internship opportunity geared towards freshmen/sophomore students because especially in Computer Science, it can be really difficult, if not impossible, to compete against upperclassmen applicants since they likely have already had prior software engineering experience in the “real world.” After I read through the AFE job description, I found that I had a lot of the skills they were looking for so I decided to give it a shot and send in an online application. This was around October 2018, and they reached out to me at the end of December to notify me that they wanted to do a Skype interview in January. After that interview, I had a second interview, also online. After that, I got my offer!
- Can you summarize what this opportunity will involve? This year, all of the Amazon Future Engineers (AFE) interns, myself included, are going to be working at Amazon Headquarters in Seattle, WA. It’s a 12-week program which takes place from May to August in which interns work with technical mentors and managers to ship real code which contributes to some component of Amazon. I’ll be working with the Consumer Division, which is considered “Amazon Classic” – the organization works towards improving the customer experience in accordance with Jeff Bezos’ vision of Amazon as the most consumer-centric company in the world. More specifically, the consumer division works on tasks such as building and innovating upon the technology infrastructure that supports the world’s largest online retailer, managing retail categories, creating tools to help sellers offer their goods and services, and pushing the eCommerce industry forward by focusing on innovations in mobile, social and community shopping.
- What are you most excited about with this program? I’m really excited to be participating in this program because of its focus on freshmen and sophomore students and its commitment to diversity. I know that this focus will provide a supportive environment and I will be surrounded by like-minded, innovative thinkers from many different backgrounds, which I strongly value. I’m also excited to be getting “real-world” work experience so early on in my college career because I know that this opportunity will help me not only improve my programming and problem-solving skills but also give me a leg up in job applications in the future. Honestly, just having this opportunity has already been invaluable as it has validated my place in Computer Science; being in the minority of engineering and Computer Science students as a woman can be discouraging at times and occasionally invoke Imposter Syndrome, but this offer has helped reassure me that I belong and I’m (really) doing it!
- What advice would you give to students in Conard right now who want to break into the Computer Science industry?
- Ladies first: I know that it can be scary or daunting or intimidating but you CAN do Computer Science; it’s not this impossible subject only weird/socially awkward/brilliant people can handle. Also, there are so many scholarships and programs specifically for women in Computer Science which I wish I could’ve applied for, especially during my senior year. The National Center for Women in Information Technology (NCWIT) is an amazing resource, as is Mrs. Corricelli. Finally, you got this – we need more STEMinistas in the world!
- More generally: If you’ve never coded before, try it! AP Computer Science Principles is a great introductory course which I helped pilot during my time at Conard and would highly recommend. If you don’t have room in your schedule, try out Scratch, Code.org, or Code Academy online (from most beginner-friendly to most advanced, left to right). Block-based coding is a great place to start. Personally, I learned Blockly then Java and now I’m learning C++, and each language has made learning the next one so much easier.
- For those who already know they want to pursue Computer Science, do what you’re interested in, whether that’s research, a personal project, STEM outreach, hackathons, or an internship. I would say most of the standard advice applies; apply, apply, apply, and apply some more. Don’t get discouraged when you get that first rejection letter – 9/10 of my applications ended in rejections or no response at all. At the end of the day though, it’s the one acceptance which matters.
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