Computer Science Major

My name is Nicole. I am blind, and I’m a senior majoring in computer science at Stanford University with a focus in human computer interaction. In college, my favorite classes have been those with a human computer interaction focus and covered topics such as innovative design and interesting user interfaces.

Why are you interested in computing?

Computing interests me because I like to know how things work, I use technology a lot, and computing skills give me a way to independently solve certain problems, such as being able to design my own calculator when my current one did not have a required function. I have some personal traits that make computing a natural fit for me: I like to learn, I like math, I pay close attention to detail, I like a challenge, I have a good memory, I am good at breaking problems down into smaller parts, I am good at thinking about how the end user will use a product, and I complete projects that I start.

What have you done in college to prepare for your career?

As a student, I have interned twice at Microsoft, once at the University of Washington under Dr. Richard Ladner, and once at the Yahoo! Accessibility Lab. As part of my various internships, I learned about testing for accessibility of software, how to work in and report to a team, how to produce detailed write ups on my projects, and how important it is for departments that depend on each other in a company to communicate well with each other.

Does your disability affect your education?

Being blind has affected my studies in several ways. First, it has made working with the visual components in programming harder. Sometimes, I have had to depend on others for help or not take a certain class because of visual components. Second, being blind often can cause certain tasks related to programming to take longer. Third, when the accessible way of doing a task is different from the most common way of a task, it can make teamwork logistics a little more complicated.

What are you going to do with your degree?

As a career, I would like to work for either a company that specializes in making assistive technology or help a mainstream company, such as Google, incorporate accessibility into their products. I can make an impact in the world through computing by designing useful applications and helping others understand accessibility in computing. I plan to pursue more education in the future, but, first, I plan to work for a couple of years.

What can I do while I’m in high school if I want to pursue a career in computing?

Three things that I think that a high school student should do to prepare for a career in computing are:

  1. continue to study related subjects, such as math;
  2. use the resources available at your high school, such as taking computer science classes; and
  3. attend any camps or networking events for computer science students, such as those that are hosted by Microsoft and other companies.

Why should I study computing?

Computing jobs are plentiful. Many students who graduate with a degree in computer science have accepted a job offer by the time they graduate; students who complete internships the summer before they graduate may even have a job offer at the start of their senior year.

Try out computing! Although computing can be a lot of work, it can also be fun and gratifying.