If you’re thinking about participating in one of Hack at UCI’s events, whether it be a hackathon or workshop, chances are you’ll bump into fourth-year computer science major Ruslan Manoharan. He organizes and puts on these events as the club’s logistics co-director, making his mark with his unwavering enthusiasm for creating community.
Ruslan’s journey to UCI and decision to study computer science are rooted in his passion for creating, solving problems and helping others, which are values that come from his childhood and parents — values he kept in mind when thinking about careers he wanted to pursue.
“I considered many paths, like law and journalism, but [computer science] really spoke to me because the idea of creating something from scratch that can reach people on a scale other fields can’t — it sounded so fulfilling,” he says. “This field spoke to what I wanted to do with my life, so I went for it!”
Ruslan’s time at UCI has been full of new experiences and accomplishments. One of his favorite memories is participating with his friends in the UCI Machine Learning hackathon as a freshman because it was his “first big team effort at UCI.” Together, they created a machine learning model that detects COVID-19 misinformation on Twitter.
“Surprisingly, we did end up winning one of the awards at this hackathon, which was such a validating and motivating experience for us! Shoutout to Will and Randy,” says Ruslan, adding they had competed against upperclassmen and graduate students.
He’s also been active in the ICS community through his involvement in numerous ICS clubs, including Commit the Change (CTC) and Hack at UCI. Ruslan says his extracurricular experience contributed greatly to his growth as a student and aspiring technology professional. CTC, for example, taught him agile methodologies and refined his technical skills as he worked on “impactful projects.”
Meanwhile, Hack at UCI developed his teamwork and leadership skills as he worked together with his peers to organize large-scale hackathons. Ruslan says Hack at UCI was the “best experience” that prepared him for his software engineering internship at Fannie Mae because he had the skills he needed to collaborate on a team working “on a huge, large-scale project.”
“Working at Fannie Mae this summer was a great, insightful experience for me as it was my first internship! I got to work with my team on three different projects, all in fields that I wasn’t too familiar with,” says Ruslan. “Despite my unfamiliarity, companies will look for their software engineers to pick up on unfamiliar things quickly.”
He also says it’s important to collaborate and communicate frequently alongside being a quick and open-minded learner because “there are a lot of people skills needed to navigate this work dynamic.”
Now that Ruslan’s senior year has begun, he has some goals laid out for himself.
“In my time so far at UCI I realized that I really enjoy learning more about machine learning concepts,” he says. “I want to further my knowledge in this and start working on research projects in the field, so for my post-graduate plans, I’ve decided to apply to graduate school!”
With Hack at UCI’s 10th anniversary coming up, he also plans to “work hard” so the club can be “bigger and better than ever and provide students with the best experience possible!”
Ruslan will certainly be busy, but he makes a point to prioritize his mental and physical health, such as engaging in his hobbies, from “trying to cook and bake without starting a fire” to “practicing taekwondo and working out.” He advises all ICS students to practice self-care to prevent overwork because good results follow good health.
“I’ve done the occasional all-nighter here and there for a class and it does mess me up, but of course, I felt that it was necessary sometimes to do well in my classes. As soon as I decided to prioritize my sleep instead, however, I found that improvements in the quality of my work and my performance in class followed quickly after,” he says.
To make the most out of their time at UCI, Ruslan says ICS students should also take advantage of the resources that the School of ICS provides and engage in ICS student life. He admits it may be “overwhelming” at first glance, but he promises it’s worth it.
“I think ICS students will never have the problem of having too little to do, but rather, they’ll have the problem of having too many things to do,” Ruslan says. “That’s a good problem to have though. UCI, especially the School of ICS, is full of resources and opportunities that can really provide students a higher caliber college experience academically, professionally, and socially.”
— Karen Phan