- Stella Su

Term : January, 2013
Department : Engineering
Program : Software Engineering & Quality

Stella Su had been working as a technical account manager at Google for a few years when she decided it was time for a shift.

“When I quit, I wanted to take a long break and figure out what I wanted to do for a career,” Su says. She had a lot of customer service experience, but she wanted to be “somewhere close to the product team. Google is such a big company, [and even though] my old position was technical, I did not work very closely with the product team.”

A UC Santa Cruz alum, Su turned to UCSC Extension’s Software Engineering and Quality program because she was attracted to the unique way it blended software programming courses with project management techniques.

“The SEQ program [offered] a lot of software-related project management, QA techniques, tools, processes…things that I really wanted to learn. The [UCSC Extension] faculty is very excellent, the campus is not that far from where I live, and the building has a very nice study environment. I enjoyed spending my time there, studying. When I worked at Google it was in post-sale support; I wanted to learn more about pre-production.”

Su benefited from courses in the SEQ program and also supplemented her study with courses from other Engineering programs. One of her favorite courses was an  elective, Linux Based Web Application Development, which offers training in Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP.  

“I learned [how to] build a Web site from scratch, using an Open Source server to host my site. We also worked with data manipulation, and I got to learn how to create a database schema and make it connect to the Web site I built. It was really nice to have the whole experience,” she says, emphasizing the appeal of the course’s hands-on approach.

She also recommends the Software Testing: Techniques, Tools and Practices course, which taught her how to write and use testing codes, learn programming and testing script languages, and “play around testing simple Android applications.”

The SEQ program was a good fit for Su, whose interest in computer science was first piqued years before, when she successfully programmed her first program.

“I like how the program gives flexibility; you can focus on programming or software project management,” she says. She especially appreciated the focus on the software development cycle. “QA engineering requires a very focused skill set; [you have to be] a liaison between QA and the product team. This is a great, great program.”

Su interviewed for her current job as a technical support manager at a Bay Area start-up while she was completing courses for the SEQ certificate. She was thrilled to find a position that blended her interests in computer programming and product development, and feels that she can put many of the skills she developed at Extension into practice.

“Because we’re a start-up, I wear many hats, and have to work closely with the software development and the QA team,” Su says. “My job is to ensure that the quality of our product is good, and make sure that the product team is aware of user feedback, to shape the product to users’ preferences, and to make sure that the support issues are being taken care of.”

She acts as a resource both as a programmer and a project manager. Most importantly, she says, she collaborates with software engineers, and feels that she truly “understands what the most popular software development cycle is out there, what it should be, and what is the most useful” for her team.

Su completed her SEQ certificate in summer 2012, and recommends that aspiring computer scientists and engineers find ways to develop specialized skills in their field.

“Computer science is very broad,” she says. “The most challenging thing [about it] is finding the skills that you can focus your time on, that will also be in demand at work and in the market. It’s tough, because the industry wants to hire someone with experience, and if you are new to a programming language, it can be hard to get started. It changes rapidly; five years ago it was C, and four years it was Java, and now there are all these Internet languages. Depending on what you want to do, it is always nice to have a certificate or another advanced degree. Computer science is a very good foundation to start a career in high tech.”

Visit our Software Engineering and Quality program page to learn more about UCSC Extension’s unique offerings. Browse upcoming Software Engineering and Quality courses.

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