Thar Soe may still have a semester to go before earning undergraduate degrees in both computer science and mathematics from California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), but he already has been offered jobs from two major aerospace companies.
Soe received the job offers while attending the 31st Annual Great Minds in STEM (GMIS) Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Conference (HENAAC) on Sept. 25-29 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The conference offers thousands of students from across the United States a chance to access cutting-edge technologies, participate in professional development competitions, explore internships and graduate schools, and the opportunity to interview with top STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) companies.
Prior to the conference, students submit their resumes for review by participating company representatives, who then select candidates for on-site interviews based on their academic and work credentials, and how well they performed during conference sessions.
Additional CSUDH students who received job offers during the Great Minds in STEM conference:
Wendy Ortiz Contreras, computer technology major
Jonathan Smart, computer science major, mathematics minor
Felipe De La Torre, computer science major
Kevin Acosta, computer technology major
Soe kept his expectations in check when he arrived at the conference. “I went to the conference thinking that if I don’t get any jobs offers, that’s fine. Then I got a call from Northrop Grumman and got a job offer. I didn’t expect that and starting tearing up,” Soe said. “When I got the Northrop call, I already had an interview scheduled at the conference with Lockheed Martin, and then they made me a great offer that I couldn’t refuse.”
During his interview with Lockheed Martin, Soe learned that the position they had in mind for him was a software engineer. He had other ideas.
“I told them that I really wanted to work in their space program. She [the Lockheed Martin recruiter] then told me, ‘I know exactly who you should talk to,’” said Soe, a Torrance resident who currently works as a tutor teaching calculus and chemistry to high school and college students. “I had two more interviews with them, and got to talk to someone from the space program. Now I will be working on satellites and new space-related projects, or maybe Orion, the spacecraft that will be going to Mars.”
Soe was part of a CSUDH cohort of students from CSUDH’s Computing Alliance of Hispanic Serving Institutions (CAHSI), the campus chapter of Great Minds in STEM. Although Soe is not a CAHSI member, he joined the team at the conference with sponsorship from the California STEM Institute for Innovation and Improvement (CSI3), a CSUDH program that addresses the shortage of STEM teachers in high-need schools.
The CSUDH team ran the Hackathon cybersecurity competition at the conference and participated in other sessions: STEM Civic Service Leadership, the GMiS Scholars Program, MentorNet, a research poster competition, and the College Bowl, which features five engineering challenges.
Soe’s team also worked with IBM on the College Bowl, where they came in second place and each received a $300 scholarship. Soe was named “Most Talented” during the awards ceremony for his leadership in the competition.
“The award meant a lot to me,” said Soe. “The STEM trivia segment of the competition included a physics and a calculus question. When I saw the calculus question I thought, ‘I’ve got this.’” We weren’t one of the bigger groups, but we were a pretty grounded team.”
Soe will graduate from CSUDH in spring 2020 and travel to Colorado to begin his new position at Lockheed Martin. He would like to work in artificial intelligence in the future, and is interested in green technology.
“Getting paid for doing something you’re really passionate about is wonderful,” he said. “Can it get better than that?”