By Christine Albers
CA: What was your driving force to come to the USA?
Luwam: In 2018 I was living and working in Dubai as a customer service agent but knew I could do better. My cousin lived in Dallas, Texas and she encouraged me to move to Dallas because there were more career opportunities in the USA.
CA: What was it like when you arrived in the USA?
Luwam: I liked Dallas. Texas is a very welcoming state with many people from different countries. The weather is good and I stayed with my cousin for some months. I worked in customer service, but all the time I was looking for ways to gain more education for a professional career.
CA: How did you hear about MIU?
Luwam: In Texas, there are lots of tech jobs, and I met several people who graduated from the Computer Professionals Program at MIU (ComPro), and the MIU Master’s in Software Development Program (MSD). They told me that MSD was a one-year program that didn’t require a background in computer science. They had good jobs in financial institutions and banks as software developers, so I thought, why not try this? I came from a completely different background, in psychology, with no experience in computer science, but I thought if they can do it, I can do it.
CA: Why did you choose this particular program?
Luwam: I looked at the curriculum and saw that the courses are specific to the demands of the market. With that kind of focus, I thought I could succeed if I worked hard on my studies. I decided to do it! And here I am.
CA: What was it like when you arrived in Fairfield?
Luwam: People were incredibly welcoming. The Resident Advisors and Admissions Representatives were wonderfully helpful in assisting me. They had smiles all over their faces. They have to meet lots of students in a few days and they might be tired or exhausted, but these people were always smiling. I asked them, how do they do it? They said it’s because we meditate. Being happy is part of them now.
CA: What did you think of Fairfield after living in Dallas?
Luwam: The first thing I noticed is that Fairfield, especially the MIU campus, is very quiet and peaceful. Dallas is a big, busy city with a large population, but Fairfield is small. Small is beautiful. I like that I can have some alone time, where I am not disturbed at all.
CA: As a former psychology major, how was the transition to software development?
Luwam: It wasn’t easy at first. It was challenging, but not so difficult that it could not be done. Of course, I had to work hard, and I didn’t have lots of spare time. I’m on the Accelerated Track (12 months) and it’s very busy because it’s just 12 months. We don’t take the foundational classes that students on the Standard Track (18-month program) take.
CA: What’s a typical MSD day like?
Luwam: Every month we have a new course, and every course has a project, something meaningful, that is similar to the work we would do at a real job. We attend class during the day, and then in the afternoon and evening, we work on an assignment that we have to submit that same night. Sometimes we work as individuals and often we work on teams, and it gives us a chance to get hands-on experience. There are times when we lose our patience, but when we accomplish something, we are so happy. We get our energy back and are ready to strive for something more. When the next course starts, it may start out a little difficult, but we have the attitude that we are ready for more, and let’s go.
CA: I notice there are a lot fewer women than men on this program. Why do you think that is?
Luwam: I asked myself that same question, “Why are there fewer women compared to the men in the class?” My classmates and I discussed it, and I learned that computer science has been dominated by men for some time. But now it’s getting better. More women joined us at the February entry, so our dorm is fuller now. More companies are hiring women, which motivates women to join this program.
CA: What would you say to women who are interested in the program but are shy about applying?
Luwam: I would say, please don’t hesitate and listen to what your heart truly tells you. Sometimes we ask for advice, but at the end of the day, our decisions should be based on our own pure feelings and thinking. Some women are intimidated because there are only a few in the program, but they should listen to themselves. If they are motivated and ready, they can’t lose anything. The program takes you from zero experience in software development to getting a great job. That’s what it does. All they need is motivation.
CA: Do you feel you are getting the knowledge you need to land that great job?
Luwam: Yes, because the knowledge base is very strong. The topics and selection of courses are crucial parts of software development. Of course, everything is important, but we are learning up-to-date technologies and the frameworks and libraries that companies use among their software development teams. I’m especially enjoying Angular development because there are many ways to use it. It’s a technique that is in demand right now and it’s the latest framework, so yes, we are up to date on the current knowledge.
CA: How do you feel about the faculty?
Luwam: They know what they are doing and they are kind and helpful. It’s not easy to take someone without any prior experience and train them to be skilled developers. For example, when I look at the curriculum at the beginning of each course and see the final project, I think I’ll never be able to do it. But within 3 weeks of intense work, my classmates and I surprise ourselves because we learned it. We have to work hard, but the faculty members are good at training new people. They start slow, and they are always available to answer questions and want to help us succeed. Some even help us over the weekend and in the evening, which we appreciate so much!
CA: Has your Transcendental Meditation practice helped with your studies?
Luwam: TM was something I never heard of before. It is a relaxation technique that brings my mind to a calm state so I can learn better and not be anxious. I really like the yoga asanas because they help me be more flexible after sitting at a computer for so many hours.
CA: What is the greatest benefit you’ve gained from the MSD program?
Luwam: In just one year, the MSD program has taught me how to become a competent software developer with a skill set that is in demand.
CA: That pretty much says it all, Luwam! What advice would you give specifically for women who are applying for the Masters in Software Development program?
Luwam: I would tell them that I understand if they are wavering, but they should just decide to come. I worried that I might not succeed. I was afraid I would suffer because it would be too much of a strain for something I couldn’t achieve. At the end of the day, I told myself, if you are willing to do your best, and have the motivation to put in the hard work, to be persistent and not give up, then you can do it. I would tell other women, you have to believe in yourself and the faculty here, who will help you.
CA: Is there anything else you would like to say, Luwam?
Luwam: I would like to thank all the MSD faculty at MIU for their dedication and for encouraging and pushing us to become better developers. We work very hard but we are so happy when we complete the final project for each course. I encourage more women to join this program so they can get a great job. I would tell anyone, “You can do it!”
WATCH HER VIDEO HERE:
The Masters of Software Development is a 12- or 18-month training program for U.S. Citizens, Permanent Residents, and Asylees, to become software developers. Previous software development training or experience is not necessary to enroll in this program and any bachelor’s degree in any subject is eligible for admission.