Minh Anh Nguyen

Merrill ’20, computer science

Minh Anh Nguyen (Merrill ’20, computer science)

It was a big change for San Jose resident Minh Anh Nguyen to move across the country to New Jersey last summer for an internship with defense contractor Lockheed Martin.

She struggled to adjust to the new location, meet people, and adapt to the demands of the assignment, which included updating software in a confidential pilot program.

But because of her experience she was able to land a job working with the C programming language at Lockheed Martin’s Sunnyvale location. The new position starts in August.

“I feel lucky,” she said, adding that she learned last fall that she would get the job. “I feel very relieved. I don’t have to be searching on the job market. I don’t have to stress over that.”

Nguyen is grateful that UC Santa Cruz and the Baskin School of Engineering opened doors for her to meet people who could help her on the way to building a career.

The 21-year-old landed on computer science as a field of study in a roundabout way. She knew she didn’t want to study chemistry or biology and was wavering between accounting or computer science. But when she took a few computer science classes, she was hooked because she liked how it involved problem-solving with a group.

“I feel like if I’m stuck, I can talk it out with someone else,” she said.

She applied for the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Internship Program as a freshman but wasn’t accepted. She was going to give up on the idea until her adviser encouraged her to try again. When she finally did get accepted, it was a huge boost to her confidence. She ended up working as a peer mentor helping with community building for the University of California MESA Engineering Program.

Nguyen said it wasn’t always easy being one of the few women in her computer science courses. She appreciated the support she got from groups to promote women in STEM like Rewriting the Code and Built by Girls.

Not only is Nguyen the only person in her family to pursue a career in computer science—she also holds the distinction of another first.

“I’m the first to go to college in my family,” she said.