Bio: Yuliya Astapova is currently a Software Engineer at Netsmart, a tech company in the healthcare space that builds EHRs (Electronic Health Records), which are used by clinics and hospitals to keep track of their patients’ data. Netsmart specifically caters to the mental health and human services industry, developing their products for businesses that provide mental health services, addiction management, long-term care, and many others.
Yuliya’s team developed a web app that collects a wide variety of data on how their clients use the EHRs and provides vital business analytics. They analyze all the data they collect, create graphs and reports, and display it all on their web app. Both clients and Netsmart associates can access this information, which gives them insight into how the clients are doing, who needs more support, and in what areas Netsmart can have the greatest impact.
Job Title and Company: Software Engineer at Netsmart
Degree from SBU: ’17 BS in Computer Science, Applied Mathematics and Statistics
What piece of advice would you offer students looking to get into your area of interest and expertise? Don’t limit your knowledge of programming and technology to only what you learn in class. Computer Science is a field in which you have to be constantly learning, acquiring new skills, and reinventing yourself. Make time for personal projects that give you opportunities to explore languages, frameworks, and other technologies that you wouldn’t learn in class. This is what will set you apart from the masses, as well as help you in the future by developing your ability to learn things quickly.
How do you think experiential learning (internships, service-learning, volunteering, etc.) impacts career success? Have you ever participated in experiential learning?
I think that internships are the single most important thing that a student can do during college besides graduating. Internships teach you so much about what it’s like to apply your heretofore theoretical and academic knowledge in a professional and “real life” setting. Everything is different at work compared to classes, and internships help you prepare for that and learn how to navigate the professional world.
Internships are also great because they give you something to put on your resume for when you apply for full-time positions post-graduation. Interviews will be easier to get because you have a track record and references with which to impress employers. Internships are the real entry-level jobs, because that’s the level at which employers don’t actually expect you to have any experience.
In summary, don’t waste your summers, get an internship! If you can’t get an internship, then look for research on topics you are interested in or volunteering opportunities for a cause that’s important to you. I had one research stint and two internships under my belt by the time I started applying for full-time positions, and it made it much easier to get replies from recruiters.
How did you decide to enter into your field of work?
I kind of always figured I would go into the field of computer science and be a software engineer, because that’s what my dad does and it’s the job I had the most exposure to when I was a kid. I always liked technology and was good with computers, so I figured that programming was the way to go.
I’ve played a lot of video games ever since I was little, but my first steps into tech happened when I was about 8 or 9 years old, with a website called Neopets. Neopets was a site where you could own up to four virtual pets that you could feed, dress up, and battle with, and it was all the rage back in my day. One of the interesting features on Neopets was that you could create web pages for each of your pets. They allowed you to design them yourself and code them using HTML. That was the first time I touched anything remotely related to programming. I didn’t do anything else until taking AP Computer Science in my junior year in high school.
It wasn’t until I actually got to college and started majoring in computer science that I saw how many different things you could do with it. Should I do software, mobile apps, web apps, video games, research…? The list goes on and on. Ultimately, I decided to aim for a career in data science and work as a software engineer while I pursue my data science Master’s. I chose data science because it’s an intersection of many of my favorite topics: machine learning, programming, and data visualization.
In what ways can students make the most of their free time?
There are so many things students can do in their free time. You can join a club for something you’re interested in (shameless plug of the Women in Computer Science group I used to be Vice President of). I encourage everyone to try for a leadership role in the club, because it helps you learn how to make decisions that will impact other people. This is useful for when you start working, and you can gain experience in it while you’re in a low-pressure setting.
You can volunteer in a cause that is important to you. You can ask if you can do research with your favorite professor. You can work on personal projects like programming projects, writing a blog, art pieces, music, etc. You can get a part-time job or internship. You can take extra classes online in topics you’re interested in, such as on Coursera or Udacity. You can learn a new language.
There are so many things you can do to fill up your free time, but all these things do not necessarily “make the most” of it. Sometimes you just need to sit back and relax, have a fun night with friends, or just sleep in. It’s very important to stay healthy, especially on the mental side. College life can be overwhelming, especially with the constant reminders to “make the most of your time”. Take it from someone that was doing almost all the things I listed, most at the same time, that you really don’t need to be doing every productive thing imaginable all the time. Sometimes it’s good (and necessary!) to take a step back and breathe.