Applying Lessons Learned to the Digital Workplace

September 27, 2019 


Lily Tang

Since graduating with a Computer Science bachelor’s degree and then landing a position as a software engineer with Google, Lily Tang says she is learning at the outset of her career some of the ways working in industry differs from her undergraduate experience.

“In school, it’s about ‘Can you do this?,’ it’s about the technology. ‘Can you build  this thing?’,” she said. “And here, the question is, ‘Should we build this thing? Will it improve peoples’ lives?’.”

Answering those kinds of questions has become part of Tang’s routine as a member of the Google Assistant team, and she credits professional development opportunities such as clubs and societies at the College of Engineering for preparing her to do so.

“I was involved in a lot of the student organizations related to computer science and technology,” she said, adding that faculty support for student activities was helpful.

“The department chair and the professors are very open to using their connections outside academia to help clubs. They don't do things for us, they provide opportunities.”

Tang held leadership roles in USF chapters of the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers, and Women in Computer Science and Engineering.

Organizations like WiCSE are especially important for women students’ success because they can address some of the challenges they face and serve their interests, said Tang, who worked to rejuvenate an existing chapter.

“We needed a club like this because I noticed women who were taking the programming design classes were dropping out at a much faster rate, and I wanted to find out the reason why and I also wanted to start a support system.”

Tang was also a member of the USF Whitehatters computer security club and was one of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering’s Fall 2018 Outstanding Graduates. A summer internship at the Google home office in Mountainview, California led to her first post-graduation job, in which she works to develop Natural Language Understanding capabilities of Google  Assistant. She says working on a platform that answers peoples’ questions or helps them interact with the Internet of Things is a big responsibility.

“As technology becomes a bigger part of our life lives, we need to be aware of the ethical implications of what we do, and tread carefully and make sure whatever we build is in peoples’ best interests.”