Xo Wang’s CV might be the envy of many an engineering student. He’s at Georgia Tech, has interned at Apple, and is heading to Google later in the year to start work. He tells us about life at his university, the amazing Invention Studio, and how having a website helped him get ahead.
What would you say to someone thinking of studying engineering at Georgia Tech?
I’d say it’s probably the best place to go right now. It prepares you to get a job, but much more it gives you, while still at school, the kind of experience in design and prototyping nowhere else can offer right now.
Is that because of the Invention Studio?
The Invention Studio gives students access to some of the most advanced equipment available. Young people graduate out of here having already had hundreds of hours experience on machines actually used in the manufacturing process. That’s invaluable for an engineer. There’s a practical application of the knowledge you’ve picked up in class.
You’re the president of the Invention Studio's Makers Club - tell us more!
The Invention Studio is completely run by students
. There’s a culture built up of ownership of the studio by the students. It’s transformed the way people think about education. We don’t need to monitor every movement, because there are students who are self-aware, can teach themselves, and help each other learn how to operate the equipment.
Has this helped students get jobs?
Yes. People in years above me have found it a lot easier to go in to great jobs. It’s still young, though. The Invention Studio only started when I became a sophomore here. But we have seen folks go on to work at some of the biggest firms around, from oil companies to start-ups.
Your CV is packed with studies, activities and super work experience. How do you find the time?
I was going to do a double major, but I'm now concentrating on computer science, so I can finish my degree within four years. A lot of it is discipline, but having said that, it’s not work. I work hard but it's my passion, my hobby. ‘Work is more fun than fun,’ as they say. The Invention Studio is a passion for me. Also, you have to take breaks to succeed – as paradoxical as that might sound. At high school, I burnt out because I studied all the time. I've learnt the necessity of time off.
Also, I don't feel pressured to get good grades. I'm a C student, yet almost no employer has asked me about my GPA. At any rate, I was confident that no company driven only by top grades would be a place I'd want to work at.
Can you tell us how you got these amazing internships?
Don’t try too hard! I’ll be honest, I didn’t send in applications. For example Apple contacted me, based on my website. As a software engineer, one of your most valuable assets, in addition to your resume, is your GitHub account, which stores all your software work and all the changes. Your employer wants to see your portfolio – it’s the same as design or art students. Also my work on circuit boards, which I do as a hobby, is all documented on the website.
One of my most memorable internships was at Solid Angle in Madrid, helping create software that drives many visual effects firms around the world. It let me travel around Europe while gaining technical experience on big name movies. Cool as it was, I got the job because I just happened to show up on a Google search.
What plans for the future?
A short break from everything, probably travelling to Australia and Japan to take a breather. And then I’m going to Google, where I’ll be building the server hardware which runs Google.