By Aditi Peyush
One year ago in May 2017, Kurt Marcinkiewicz, a College of Computer and Information Science (CCIS) alumnus packed his bags and moved to California. A Bostonian at heart, he pursued his dream to work at Google. We asked him to reflect on his time spent at Northeastern and how those years shaped his current life.
Marcinkiewicz entered Northeastern University majoring in computer science. With no prior knowledge of programming, he recalls being intimidated by his peers who had taken computer science classes in high school. Struggling through Fundamentals of Computer Science, Marcinkiewicz thought he would add to the number of kids who dropped out, but instead powered through it.
The summer after his freshman year, he interned with Confer, a small computer security startup. He remembers “staring blankly at the codebase and having no idea what was going on.” Marcinkiewicz spent most of his day piecing how the code fit together, then going home to practice on side projects. The experience, though rigorous, was rewarding. That summer he had learned enough to enthusiastically contribute to the company and finally catch up with his peers.
Marcinkiewicz acknowledges the co-op program for the different experiences that prepared him for full-time employment. The ability to work in different companies gave him a strong advantage, especially because he wanted to be a software engineer. “I worked…right alongside all the full-time engineers, working on the same projects.” Co-op also allowed Marcinkiewicz to realize which aspects of work he enjoyed and which weren’t a fit. “I learned that I prefer roles that allow me to work closer to the user and how they experience the product rather than deep back end systems,” says Marcinkiewicz.
Marcinkiewicz’s undergraduate experience wasn’t complete without obstacles. He recalls botching his first co-op interview, “I remember being mortified as I responded to questions several times in a row: ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know.’ I called my parents after that interview telling them that I didn’t think I was cut out for computer science.” This experience ended up shaping his outlook on the situation, as he told himself he would work harder towards his goals, which he did. Marcinkiewicz eventually completed his second co-op at Amazon in Seattle, a memorable experience for him. None of this would’ve been possible without his co-op advisor Melissa Peikin who encouraged him to get out of his comfort zone when applying to co-ops. “Melissa is a huge reason why I’m where I am today,” says Marcinkiewicz, “and I’m sure I wouldn’t be working at Google without all her help.”
Marcinkiewicz is currently an engineer for Wear OS by Google, where he works on software that allows users’ smartwatches to connect to their phones and to the internet. He hopes to start his own company in the future, saying “I became interested in computer science because of its connection with entrepreneurship; the idea that you could create something that other people use and find valuable without ever leaving your couch was, and still is, incredible to me.”
Marcinkiewicz encourages undergraduates in CCIS to connect to other students whose interests and skills differ. From participating in the Husky Startup Challenge, Marcinkiewicz says “I learned that identifying like-minded, highly skilled people with unique areas of expertise is paramount for building a successful team…while technical skills are important, nothing beats a diverse perspective.” His top pieces of advice are to not be intimidated by peers, to stay humble and be willing to learn, and to take advantage of Northeastern’s resources.