Undergraduate Internship Spotlight: Rey Matsunaga, T-Mobile, Autumn 2018-Spring 2020

Image of T-Mobile Headquarters in Bellevue, WA, with Purple Structural Lighting by R90 Lighting
T-Mobile Headquarters in Bellevue, WA, with Purple Structural Lighting by R90 Lighting

Despite initial challenges getting into the field of software engineering, geography student Rey Matsunaga found an "incredibly rewarding and educational" internship in summer 2018 when a recruiter invited the student to an internship networking event for T-Mobile! Rey says, "... I think that my success at this internship and the geography coursework has helped me recognize and understand how important it is to develop lifelong skills such as resourcefulness and drive as those can help anyone learn the hard skills necessary for any job, especially in the age of an abundance of online courses!" Here, Rey describes the internship duties and responsibilities, how to prepare for an internship in software engineering, and the ways that the study of geography has helped Rey succeed in the workplace.

A “day-in-the-life”: "[M]y internship includes building projects and features for my team. Some essential duties include working on adding in features to microservices (or building them from scratch) and REST points for client-side applications to consume as well as building out mobile application features that the team and project managers believe would benefit the project best. I spend my time working on them by finding ways to do certain tasks through taking online courses, follow along tutorials, reading documentation, a lot of exploration with a lot of failures between successes, and asking my peers on my team."

Connections with coursework: "The connections I found in my coursework in geography and the work I do in my internship include learning about databases, the different ways to design them, as well as the basics of front-end web development, later serving as a transition into back-end and mobile development (GEOG 465). I believe that the humanities aspect of studying geography has helped me understand the importance of client-focused software development as I can recognize potentially problematic developments in technologies that can [replicate] underlying prejudices and inequalities in the world today. I believe my time in my major has provided a solid transference of skill with my internship as it provided an intro to the technologies used. I think it had an  incredibly powerful effect on my overall understanding of people that I think holistically helped me become closer to the person I want to be in the future as well as allowing me to see the inequalities and issues present in the tech industry today. All of this contributed to my motivation to take online courses to supplement my learning with the technical skills required for the jobs I wanted, and attend coding meetups in Seattle to explore the industry further. I think without studying geography, my views on the world and career would be vastly different and I couldn't be happier with this decision."

Advice for others: "For geography students who want to get involved in software engineering, I would recommend spending time building out projects (this helps you understand what software engineering really comes down to, while learning about how coding outside of the classroom works), relentlessly applying to internships (personal projects are great, but a real work environment can  help you stretch your perspective-as well as that of biased recruiters who review your resume), and practicing coding interview questions. Treating the interviews like standardized tests [studying a little bit every day with weekly mock interviews] has helped me learn a tremendous amount about succeeding in interviews (although T-mobile did not include a white-boarding portion in the interview, they did ask a variety of questions about the projects I put in my resume) as well as a more solid understanding of data structures and algorithms. To get started on the personal projects, I would recommend following along a variety of tutorials on YouTube, medium, and online (paid) courses on Udemy. This can help anyone get the basic understandings necessary for the job as well as understand if this is the right career path for them."

What’s next? "As a graduating senior, my focus is to continue finishing my coursework and requirements for geography, specifically the 400- and 300-level classes, as I believe they give me the freedom to truly find my perspective on a variety of matters. For my career development, I plan on continuing my internship, applying for full time opportunities, and taking online courses to help me study exactly what interests me without the stress of any class negatively affecting my GPA."