Student Spotlight: Rachel Weber ’19 Views UCI as a Land of Opportunities

March 27, 2018

Software engineering student Rachel Weber has secured a summer internship with financial services company Northern Trust, setting herself up to have a full-time job in place when she graduates in June 2019. She’s confident that her UCI education and experiences are preparing her for a successful career in software engineering and cybersecurity.

Can you talk about your path to UCI and decision to study software engineering?
My acceptance to UC Irvine was an unexpected but exciting turn in my career. After two years at my local community college, where I had decided to major in computer science after taking a programming class, I applied to a few top universities. UCI was a last-minute addition when I realized that I qualified. Curious about UCI, I researched its history, including its recognition of the significance of computer science and related fields, reflected in the creation of the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences. When touring the campus, I saw the prosperity and liveliness of the students and knew I wanted to come back. I was so excited to receive the enrollment offer that I accepted it the same day. Upon transferring, I researched the classes taken for different ICS majors and found that I was most interested in software engineering. Changing my major gave me the flexibility to explore what I liked best about computer science.

Have you had a favorite professor or class at UCI?
My favorite professors have been Raymond Klefstad and Sergio Gago-Masague, who have both been very supportive. Klefstad not only gives quality lectures mingled with humor to make them memorable, but also encourages students to seek internships and advises them on how to do well as job applicants. He wants students to succeed in their careers after they leave his class. Gago-Masague also cares about the well-being of his students. He happily provided guidance to me and others struggling with homework assignments, and he was always kind and considerate.

What activities are you involved in at UCI?
I am primarily involved in the Cyber@UCI club, which educates students about cybersecurity and encourages participation in cybersecurity competitions. I especially enjoy participating on our Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) team. The CCDC lets participants defend against hackers in a safe environment while providing an incentive to learn new technical skills. In addition to competing in CCDC and playing cybersecurity games, I attend club workshops on basic cybersecurity topics — such as the anatomy of hacks or the various algorithms of encryption. Cybersecurity is my favorite hobby, and the Cyber@UCI club is one of my favorite places to go during my free time.

What has been the best part of your experience at UCI?
The CCDC has been the best experience, because it presents an engaging way to learn both teamwork and technical skills. During competitions, I have experienced the constant excitement of trying to secure the network while also collecting information to address certain business injects (tasks). Time management and team coordination are essential. In practicing for the competition, I have worked with computer network management tools that I otherwise never would have learned. Participating in the competition has exposed me to new problems, and I took notes on what to learn to further improve my skills. The CCDC has let me learn through a realistic experience while engaging in the fun of playing a game. I am thankful to the team captain and supportive faculty who enabled us to participate in the competition. I also thank the School of ICS for sponsoring our team. The CCDC is one of the most rewarding experiences I have had at UCI.

What are your plans for the future?
I have accepted a summer technology internship with Northern Trust, a financial organization. If all goes well, after obtaining my bachelor’s degree, I will work for Northern Trust and go into their rotational development program, working within the enterprise technology division.

Do you have any advice for prospective students?
I urge them to choose UCI and take full advantage of the school’s resources. From among the hundreds of clubs, find one you are passionate about and start to participate your first year (see the list of ICS clubs here). You can gain competitive experience to go on your resume. Also, take advantage of resume review and mock interview opportunities, especially the latter. Let the volunteering companies and professional clubs help you polish your interview skills. Meanwhile, make use of Handshake, which enables students to apply for jobs and internships with just a few clicks. If that is not enough, go to the quarterly career fairs and interact directly with recruiters from hiring companies. By combining every one of these resources with perseverance, you will graduate with the skills, experience and accomplishments necessary to prepare you for an exciting career. UCI is a land of opportunities, so take advantage.