Seniors Macy Jiang and Michelle Liang Win Amazon Future Engineer Scholarship

Macy Jiang and Michelle Liang win the Amazon Future Engineer Scholarship

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Seniors Macy Jiang and Michelle Liang won the competitive Amazon Future Engineer Scholarship, awarded to 100 underserved high school seniors interested in pursuing a computer science (CS) related field. The scholarship provides seniors with $40 thousand for college and a paid programming internship at Amazon for twelve weeks during the summer after their freshman year at college. Through this internship, students receive the opportunity to work with managers and mentors to build impactful projects at Amazon.

Jiang and Liang applied for the scholarship for the chance to receive a significant monetary prize and further their programming experience by working at one of the biggest companies in the world. “It would be a great experience to learn from working [at Amazon] and to really learn what people do with CS in a professional setting,” Jiang said.

Both Liang and Jiang describe the application process as fairly straightforward, consisting of a recommendation letter from a STEM teacher and a few essay responses. The questions tested their problem-solving skills and asked for descriptions of their leadership and CS experience, as well as their reason for pursuing this field. “One of my answers was [that] I wanted to use CS to help biological research in terms of bioinformatics as I wanted to build off of the data research scientists use,” Liang said.

Though both scholarship winners have an aptitude for CS, their passions for CS started in different ways. Jiang began programming during freshman year at Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization that aims to support women pursuing CS, and sought to expand her education later on. “In sophomore year, I took Intro to CS with [Mathematics/CS teacher Topher] Mykolyk and I really enjoyed the class, so I started looking for opportunities outside of school,” Jiang said.

Meanwhile, Liang first became involved in CS in middle school through Scratch, a free visual programming language widely used to teach children basic coding skills. “I first got involved in CS in sixth grade. I had joined an afterschool activity where I basically played around with Scratch, where I put together [block-like] pieces of code to put together a game or a visual interface,” Liang said.

The courses offered at Stuy, including Intro to CS and AP CS, helped Jiang and Liang amass the skills required to improve in CS. “The most important thing I learned from those classes was how to problem solve, because I think it is really easy to learn the syntax of a language but it is difficult to know how to put it together in a way that’s functioning but also efficient,” Liang said.

Jiang echoes this sentiment, emphasizing the importance of learning problem solving skills to pursue CS. “What I got from these classes [was] mostly the foundational skills and coding. I think it is important to have these basic skills and to be able to build something functional and to also think from a coder’s mindset about what you could use these skills for in the future,” she said.

Beyond programs and school courses, Liang and Jiang both worked individually on projects and browsed CS-related websites online to further their programming knowledge. “Other than the Girls Who Code experience, I participated in smaller outside opportunities and right now I am doing [a] Beaver Works Institute challenge [as part of a STEM program at MIT],” Jiang said.

With the Amazon internship the scholarship grants, Liang and Jiang hope to discover which CS subfields they’re most interested in. “My plans from interning at Amazon are to basically get experience working in CS and figuring out what I want to do in CS because right now I don’t know whether I want to go into software engineering or a more artistic aspect of CS,” Jiang said.

Liang has similar aspirations, showing an interest in software engineering and game design. “My future plans are to get experience but also to see if I would enjoy the environment of Amazon. I know that Amazon specializes in things like software engineering and I would like to see if I would like to go into software engineering or something like game design or consulting,” she said.

To Stuyvesant underclassmen seeking to win the scholarship and pursue a career in CS, Liang and Jiang share encouraging words and advice. Liang suggests that future applicants write genuine responses. “Don't be intimidated if you lack experience you think others may have. I did not have much experience to show in terms of official internships but I got in anyway and I think that’s because of my essay answers and me being truthful in them,” Liang said.

Jiang agrees with Liang and emphasizes the importance of believing in oneself. “I would advise [future applicants] to take the risk of applying in the first place and thinking you [will] get it. It doesn't hurt to try,” she said.