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Graduating computer science major Santiago Martin had no trouble transitioning from Orange Coast College to UCI, perhaps because he’s an Orange County native or perhaps because he’s the third in his family to attend UCI. He quickly joined the Power Lifting Club and put his computer science knowledge to good use, developing an iOS strength training app. He’s now ready to transition to something new as he graduates this spring and leaves the OC behind, moving to Seattle to start work at Google.

Can you talk a bit about your path to UCI and your decision to study computer science?
I went to Mater Dei High School and after being exposed to a little bit of programming, I knew I wanted to study computer science. I started over at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, which has a really solid computer science program, and I ended up transferring here. It was a smooth transition. I’m an Orange County local, and UCI is a bit of a family thing. My sister went here, class of ’14, and my aunt went here back in the ’80s, so it’s like I’m home.

Have you had a favorite professor and class at UCI?
I’m really digging the class “Formal Language and Automata Theory” [CS 162] with Professor Michael Goodrich. I typically like the more theoretical CS classes, and this one takes a very math-based approach to computability. It’s fun.

Can you talk a bit about the Press Strength Training app you developed?
It was pretty cool. I originally published it for Android just before I transferred here. Then, when I got to UCI, I joined the Power Lifting Club and showed it around to all the people on the team. They liked it, but most of us are iPhone users, so I had to learn how to develop it for iOS. It was mostly self-taught in terms of the iOS programming, but that was a worthwhile experience, and the practices and conventions I learned through school helped.

I’m now revisiting the fitness app idea. We have a surprisingly big population of ICS majors in the Power Lifting Club, and I’ve been working with another friend on the team. We’ve been throwing ideas back and forth for another fitness app, and we recently met with the directors of UCI Applied Innovation to discuss our ideas.

Do you have any advice for prospective students?
Take your time and see what you like. Get some hands-on experience on your own or with a friend, with a project like the app I did. It was just an idea I had, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. We all have ideas; try pursuing one of yours.

You can also get experience through an internship. Last summer I interned at Amazon, but prior to my junior year, I hadn’t considered an internship. Up there in Seattle for the summer, I was mostly working on a big data team, adding new features to a client interface. It mostly involved full-stack web development, and it gave me a good peek at what it’s like in industry. Even though it was an internship, I really felt like an engineer over there.

What are your plans for the future?
After graduating, I’ll start my job at Google in September. I chose to work in Seattle after falling in love with the city when interning at Amazon. As part of Google’s residency program, I’ll have a training period where I move around on a couple of teams to see what I like. The Google job should be a pretty solid stepping stone, with good networking opportunities, and I definitely plan to learn a lot. From there, I’d like to one day start my own business, maybe something in the fitness area. That’s the dream.

— Shani Murray