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CodePath Instructor Spotlight: Allison Chan

Blog Banners 2024 SeriesGrowing up in the Bay Area, computer science and the tech industry were always present for CodePath instructor and Meta software engineer Allison Chan. When she was applying for college, her dad encouraged her to try computer science. She says, “I’ve always been interested in puzzles, brainteasers, solving problems, and activities of that sort, which is why he encouraged me to go for computer science.” She was hooked. At the University of Southern California, Chan would go on to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science.

The experience was challenging, though not just the coursework. Chan says, “The competitiveness between students and the pressure [at USC] was a lot. The hardest part was professors not believing in me. I had a professor tell me to consider switching majors.”

While at USC, Chan found mentorship and a very different atmosphere in CodePath’s Technical Interview Prep pathway, which she took in 2019. “I had a [CodePath] mentor who stuck with me while I was transitioning into finding a full-time job. They helped me bridge the gap of what I was learning and what companies needed.” After the course, she volunteered with CodePath, then became a teaching assistant, and now a full-fledged instructor.

As a Technical Interview Prep instructor, Chan remembers what it was like to be a student in the same class only a few years ago. “The biggest thing is being relatable: knowing exactly where students are, how they feel, what struggles they have.” She wants them to feel seen and to give them tools to help their confidence to succeed. She’s not done learning, either. “The questions students throw at me or how they make me reexplain something in a different way, they bring a new perspective and new approaches to ideas.”

Outside of her teaching with CodePath, Chan has worked as a software engineer at Amazon and Meta. Amazon was her first role after her undergraduate studies. She worked on the internal data pipelines team to store data at scale. The change between college and the workplace was night and day. She says, “The collaboration was the big difference. Learning how to communicate effectively and advocate for your ideas was the most difficult part of the transition.” 

Now at Meta, Chan works in the business messaging team. This is another big shift: from an internal facing team to a public product team. She now must be considerate of what the public will see and understand. She says, “There’s a magnitude of scope, and I have to learn how to handle that scope.”

A typical day at Meta starts with breakfast, followed by catching up on messages and responding to her colleagues. Chan says, “Then I spend a good couple hours coding. Most of my meetings are after lunch, then I wrap up my day with coding.”

Looking to the future, Chan sees herself at a startup where she has heavy ownership of the work she does. When asked if she could go back in time and give advice to herself when she started CS, she’d say, “You’re doing nothing wrong. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Whatever place I’m in right now, I’ll keep attempting those steps forward as long as it’s a step toward learning.” 

When it comes to her students, the advice she gives is practice, practice, practice and to remember that “things are just a numbers game – go for it.” She sees them take her advice to great success. “My favorite part of teaching is hearing their success with internships and jobs and seeing their lightbulb moments.”

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Interested in taking one of CodePath’s no-cost courses? Learn more here.

The deadline to apply for Fall 2024 courses is August 25th, 2024 by 11:59pm PDT.