Q: Tell me a little about growing up in Bangladesh and how you got into computer science?
I grew up in Chittagong, the second-largest city in Bangladesh and famous as the country’s only port city I was admitted to Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology, and I was drawn to computer science because it aims to solve real-life problems and underlying puzzles, making human tasks more accessible and more efficient.
During my undergraduate years, I was involved in programming contests, specifically the ACM ICPC. My team and I did exceptionally well on the national level, which helped me find a job when I graduated in 2017. I worked for AppsCode, a San Francisco-based software company with offices in Bangladesh, and moved from Chittagong to Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, for the job. While there, I spent two years working on technology and tools to improve our experience in cloud environments.
Q: How did you end up at Baylor?
When I decided to further my studies, I began looking for schools specializing in cloud technology or professors researching cloud technology. I found Dr. Tomas Cerny at Baylor and received an excellent response when I contacted him. I was awarded a fully funded scholarship and moved here in 2019. Another reason I chose Baylor is because it was the headquarters of ACM ICPC, and members of the Baylor Computer Science Department were essential to conducting ICPC contests around the world.
I also felt drawn to Baylor because I grew up in a missionary school called Saint Placid’s High School, which also had a disciplined lifestyle and Christian values, similar to Baylor’s.
Q: What made Dr. Cerny and the Baylor Computer Science master’s program particularly appealing?
Over the last few years, the trend of software engineering has evolved into adopting microservices architecture. At AppsCode, we predominantly worked on cloud native applications, with a focus on microservices architecture, which Dr. Cerny was also working on. His research covered how it evolves, the obstacles associated with migrating older systems to microservice-based systems and what developers should be aware of while developing them. Since there was that established link, he was quite interested in my work that I sent him.
Q: Was graduate school always in your plans?
Honestly, when I graduated, I was not fully sure about graduate school, but while working at AppsCode, I found that the microservices field is quite new and underdeveloped. That made me interested in researching more stable and user-friendly ways of implementation.
Q: What was Baylor’s program like for you?
My first observation was that Baylor’s campus is beautiful which helped ease my transition. Regarding the coursework, I must admit that it is of a very high standard and quite hard. This proved tough during my first semester here, as I struggled to balance everything. I compared my coursework to that of my friends who attended other universities, and I found that it was much more strenuous and required extra effort. I had a hard time balancing course work and research when I first started and this took a toll on my research.
But under the mentorship of Dr. Cerny, I was able to get back on track, eventually publishing five journal papers and 10 conference articles while maintaining a 3.9 GPA during my two years on campus. I also received the Outstanding Graduate Student Award because of my research contributions and GPA.
Although I had never published anything before, I was able to overcome my inexperience with Dr. Cerny’s mentorship. He went out of his way to ensure that my publications were the best they could be and even went as far as reviewing them line by line. Dr. Cerny was also great at giving me the freedom I needed to think and experiment, which is something I have missed.
The number of journals and articles I was able to publish reflects how research-focused Baylor’s Cloud Hub Labs are, as well as how dedicated the professors are to helping us succeed. This is the standard the Computer Science Department has maintained over the years, and although it was hard for me to keep up at times, I knew the work we did was in line with industry expectations, as well as the theoretical and research aspects of computer science, a balanced combination that well equipped me to go into the workforce. Baylor’s coursework and research experience helped me a lot to onboard my current job. Specifically, the software engineering and cloud computing concepts that I learned at Baylor really helped me to tackle the assigned tasks smoothly.
Q: As an international student, I am sure it must have been hard to be without your family. What was that like for you?
Yes, it is quite hard to stay away from your family for such a long time. Bangladesh is more than 10,000 miles away, so it takes nearly two days to travel to from the US. I had plans to visit Bangladesh last December but due to Covid, everything changed. The main thing is that when you are with your family, you have some responsibilities to take especially when your parents are aging, you have to take care of them.
The people in the Indian subcontinent are a lot more social in terms of family bonding, so they tend to stay together across generations when family members are in their late age. My parents also want the same, so it is hard to maintain this type of social bonding when you are far away. Technology enables me to stay in touch with my parents and cousins in Bangladesh and friends in Europe, where some are doing their graduate studies.
Q: Talk a bit more about your research.
All of my publications focused primarily on microservice architecture and the issues that developers need to be aware of, and how to automate tasks that are hard to do manually. If I had to pick any of my published work as my favorite, it would be my first paper, which I worked on for a year. It focused on the security checks of microservice architecture, especially the authentication and authorization system that needs to be manually inspected or debugged to check if there are any secret defaults. The problem arises when your software grows large, and you have thousands of microservices, which makes it hard to manually check for all those issues. That was the core motivation that drove us to develop an automated system to check those issues.
Because it was my first article, it had quite a lot of errors, but Dr. Cerny was very patient to review the whole paper, which was about 20 pages. He also involved researchers from other universities to review the paper and give their suggestions. It turned out very well and was accepted in a computer science journal called Engineering Research Journal (ERJ).
Q: What did the job search process look like for you?
I began the process in the spring before my August graduation. I began the process by finalizing my resume with Tom Brooks in the ECS Career Center. It was during the Covid-19 shutdown, and I was frustrated after applying to many positions and not hearing back, but then I was encouraged when I started hearing back from companies such as Goldman Sachs and Amazon. I interviewed with both companies and received job offers from both before choosing Amazon.
One thing I learned from this process was not to get frustrated because it takes time to spread your rèsumè around and have it reviewed by the companies because they have a lot of candidates. I recommend starting early, especially for international students who need to have a job within three months of graduation to remain in the United States. I also recommend making use of the resources available to you, such as the ECS Career Center because they make all the difference and help you stand out against the rest.
Q: Tell me a bit about your job at Amazon and how Baylor helped prepare you for it?
I currently work as a Software Development Engineer in Phoenix, Arizona. I am a part of a team within Amazon’s Customer Trust and Partner Support (CTPS), which works to identify fraudulent activities and make Amazon a safe place for buyers and sellers. We collaborate with the Machine Learning teams to process data and identify common patterns that help filter out and ban illicit activities.
Q: What advice do you have for those either thinking about going into the Baylor Computer Science master’s program, or who are already in it?
I would say that they will inevitably find the coursework hard, but just stay patient because all the hard work pays off. I found most of the graduate students, especially international students, can lose their concentration in the beginning. But I believe they should not get discouraged as it will only get better when they finish their first two semesters at Baylor.
This article was originally published at Baylor University School of Engineering and Computer Science.