Bridge Boosts Coding Confidence

March 14, 2017
Writer(s): Kristyn Childres

Today, Rashmi Iyer is a talented project manager at Microsoft. But when she enrolled at Purdue as a freshman in 2013, she wasn’t sure what her future as a computer science major would hold. The Bridge program helped her discover it.

Before her freshman year started, Rashmi came to Purdue for Bridge, a two-week summer institute designed for incoming computer science majors who might not have a background in coding. “I felt apprehensive because I didn’t really know anything about programming. I had never coded anything. Some of my classmates had been coding since high school, making games and graphics. It was intimidating.”

The Bridge program featured morning lectures and afternoon labs where students applied what they learned. Rashmi often finished her labs early and helped other students figure out what they were doing wrong. “That made me a lot more confident,” she said. “Learning something is one thing, but learning it and then teaching it to someone else strengthens your abilities, as well as your confidence. I loved it so much that I came back to Bridge the next summer to be a mentor.”

LIFE AS A COMPUTER SCIENCE MAJOR

The Bridge program set Rashmi up for a successful freshman year. “It was amazing because it covered about 70 percent of our first semester.”

The computer science courseload is intense, Rashmi said, but so is the sense of camaraderie among computer science majors. “Instead of treating everyone else as competition like students in some programs do, we worked together. We had study sessions that lasted for hours, and we helped each other so that we could get through it together. It’s almost like the harder the subject is, the more you want everyone to pass.”

The sense of teamwork she fostered at Purdue has helped Rashmi in industry. “Mapping out solutions on a whiteboard and talking about how you would approach a problem – that’s what we do in industry.”

LIFE AFTER PURDUE

Rashmi graduated in just three years, connecting with Microsoft at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in October of her senior year. She is now a project manager for their Azure cloud platform, serving as a liaison between engineering teams. Her days are filled with meetings, and she helps different teams communicate with each other. “If one of my engineers is having trouble with something, I’ll listen to them. We might brainstorm ideas or talk about what they could do differently.” 

She didn’t apply to be a project manager – she applied for a development role because she really likes coding. But when her interviewers heard about her leadership role in Purdue ACM SIGBots (Purdue’s Vex U robotics team), they thought the project management position might be a good fit.

“I didn’t expect to get a project management position,” she said. “At first I was disappointed, because I’m so passionate about coding. But the more time I spend in this position and the more involved I get in my projects, the more I like it. That’s how coding started for me – at first, I wasn’t sure if I would like it or not, but now I absolutely love it. The Bridge program helped me discover that.”