Computer Science: A Career in Programming?

Computer Science: A Career in Programming?

Companies struggle to hire enough developers

Sam Jennings (pictured) got his start in computers playing video games. It helped being inspired by a relative who worked at Nintendo. And, he excelled in math.

“If you have kids, definitely try to encourage them to look in to computer stuff. The earlier you encourage them, the more time they have to learn it at their own pace. That really helped me,” Jennings said.

When his family moved from Spokane, Wash., to Curry County, a great counselor at Gold Beach High School got him into an internship with the school district’s IT department. That cemented it – Jennings wanted to work in computers.

Now, the 18-year-old is enrolled in Southwestern’s Computer Science program, speeding down the path to an inspiring career. Get this: He and classmate Brayden Harlon have landed an amazing paid remote internship opportunity with a California company specializing in marine technologies thanks to Jamie Mason, SWOCC computer science professor. Mason consults with the firm. He knew they could not hire enough developers, and he had two highly skilled students who needed a challenge.

“My mission is to ensure students are properly challenged,” Mason said. “For some, solving real-word industry problems is the right level. Everyone wins when the right match is achieved.”

Brayden Harlon

For Harlon, that fascination with computers started with a writing assignment in 7th grade, suggesting what classes he wanted in school. Soon he was researching programming languages and learning programming on his own. Like Jennings, he eventually scored a year-long internship with Reedsport School District’s IT specialist.  

Real-life work experience

Students of all skill levels enroll in computer science classes, but with advanced students like Jennings and Harlon, Mason wanted to challenge them. He connected them with Desert Star Systems, a company that develops systems for divers and trackers for fish and marine mammals, acoustic recorders, acoustic modems, and underwater geolocation systems. 

“Brayden and Sam are fantastic additions to the Desert Star team. Training new engineers and developers is often a laborious and time-intensive process, but these students are already contributing substantial usable code and documentation after only one month on the job, and part-time at that!” said Desert Star founder and CEO Marco Flagg.

Jennings said being immersed in a real-life professional environment is challenging. They have had to do research and learn fast. They work with smart people. They love it.

Harlon sees a computer career with NASA in his future, or maybe a small game development company. Jennings? He plans to graduate from Southwestern, join a professional programming team and work on his bachelor’s degree.


Both Harlon and Jennings wanted to attend their local college. Harlon relied on his advisors to help guide him in classes. And, with opportunity grants, tuition assistance and other aid, both say SWOCC makes sense financially.

They also recommend others pursue computer science classes, and want people to encourage their children and students they know to learn about computers.

“Give it a shot,” Jennings said. Programming “seems really intimidating at first. … There’s an initial learning curve, but once you figure it out, it’s not intimidating.”

And, “if you get an internship, take it,” Harlon said. “There are no negatives.”

Learn about Computer Science career pathways: Connect with an advisor at 541-888-7636 or email SWOCCbound@socc.edu


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