Sarah Belter’s checklist

By Victoria Sandmeyer, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

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Sarah Belter graduates with a degree in Computer Science from The School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science on May 10th. Two weeks later she starts her first job at Microsoft as a test developer. “Are you just a born winner; how does this happen?” I ask. As I spoke more with Sarah it became apparent that coupling a good education with social skills will take you far in this field.

Sarah first became interested in computer science after taking an introductory web development class in high school. “I found HTML code mystifying but cool, and I wanted to know more,” she says. As a child Sarah enjoyed solving puzzles and working on projects with her dad. “My Dad is a big Do it Yourselfer and we always had home improvement projects going on. I always wanted to help him, even if it was just holding tools for him when I was young. As I got older he let me help him do the planning and the math for the project. For example, when we moved to our new house, we were installing a sprinkler system and he let me help design the layout and had me do some of the measurements for pipe lengths and a number of joints. Although it wasn’t always a complicated project, him letting me do the real work and trusting me to get it right made me work that much harder, as well as made me double and triple check my own work.”

Sarah talks about her experience as a student being positive. She mentions the “atmosphere” and the “college community”. She mentions two teachers specifically: John Schneider and Andy O’Fallon, describing them as “excited, easy to understand, and available.” How did your education here at EECS help you through the interview process at Microsoft? I ask. “My internship interview at Microsoft as well as other companies seemed frightening, but most of the time it came down to the basics that we learned in our first few computer science courses. I had John Schneider and Andy O’Fallon back and forth my first three semesters. Their teaching abilities and passion for computer science helped me learn some of the most fundamental but invaluable information that led to my internship, and which ultimately led to my first job.”

Sarah is easy to talk to. She seems like the type of person who makes a goal, works hard, and does not make a big fuss about it. I ask her about computer science in general. “There are so many jobs out there for Computer Science majors,” she tells me. “Computers are widely integrated into our everyday lives and it has become beyond important that technology become a topic across all fields of study. Even if it is just advanced word processing, everyone can benefit from not just learning about computers but understanding what (and why) things happen the way they do. Ultimately, computer software is still written by people, and those people have to make decisions on how programs work and what they will do, so understanding the process that occurs to create computer programs could help reduce the frustration of many people.”

Throughout my interview with Sarah it becomes more and more apparent that her study of computer science has been more than just job training. There is a contagious passion for discovery that is evident in all of her explanations. The exciting thing about computer science is, in her words is: “[That] it’s never going to stop, it will always progress.”