Thomas Lauerman ’21 didn’t come to Trinity to write computer code in some dank basement lab by himself.
He came here to unleash his problem solving and creative skills, line up a job as a Google software engineer, and rollerblade across campus with his favorite computer science professor.
“I wanted a school with a good computer science program, but all the schools I was looking at were just that: just a good computer science program,” Lauerman says. “The well-roundedness of Trinity, that’s what I felt would give me an edge.”
But the moment that really sold Lauerman was meeting computer science (CS) professor Mark Lewis ’96 on his first campus tour. Lewis is hard to miss—in addition to being a figurehead of the CS department, he’s a towering, dominant presence at Trinity’s noon pickup basketball games, rocks a mean ponytail, and glides on both indoor and outdoor roller skates.
“When I think of a software engineer, or at least what I used to think, was a dude sitting in a dark room, coding away all the time,” Lauerman says. “But when I met Dr. Lewis on my first tour, he embodied everything that I wanted to become in the field: he was a skilled communicator, and just a friendly person.”
Now a senior at Trinity, Lauerman has come a long way from being a kid known for his love of solving programming puzzles in middle and high school. After getting hooked on CS for good by taking intro classes at Trinity, Lauerman also appreciates how every aspect of Trinity’s liberal arts approach has enhanced his experience with the CS major.
“At the core of computer science are people that just enjoy problem solving: the satisfaction you get from solving something in a clever or new way that someone might not have thought of before,” Lauerman says. “And that’s what Trinity has helped me develop.”
Beyond the rigorous CS curriculum, Lauerman says he’s been able to build up his communication and creative skills, too.
He actually points to the art classes he’s taken at Trinity as instrumental tools in exploring the design and user interface aspects of software and re-thinking how apps and websites are laid out. Lauerman has thrived in design classes and drawing classes, too: “All of those helped me think in a different way about computer science. Math is a large part of this field, yes, but so is creativity, and that gets overlooked sometimes.”
“I wanted to expand my knowledge from app and software development in general,” he adds, “So I have some knowledge from all areas as to how you create a large piece of software, all the way from the back end and algorithms to how it actually looks and feels to the user.”
A Collaborative Experience
Faculty like Lewis have played a key role in many of Lauerman’s best experiences at Trinity. Lewis wasn’t just a face on Lauerman’s first visit—he quickly became Lauerman’s favorite professor. “I took as many computer science classes with him as he could, because I just learn so much from his classes, and he has such an awesome way of teaching,” Lauerman says. “And when I see him in the hallways, you can just go up and talk about computer science stuff. And afterwards, we just go roller skate around campus and hang out.”
At Trinity, students like Lauerman play hard, and they work hard, too. Right now, he’s enjoying classes in web application design and mobile application design. “Those are my two favorite fields, and I get to do a lot of the stuff that I’ll be doing when I leave for Google after graduating. It’s cool to me to think about writing a piece of software that people are going to actually get to use, and the classes I take at Trinity are walking me through the process of how to meet the needs of the user.”
But that’s not to say that learning how to socialize and develop bonds with others isn’t also a key experience for students like Lauerman, who says collaboration is another vital skill Trinity helps you develop.
“We think of this as an individual field, but if you want to work for a big company, you’re going to end up working with a team. At Trinity, they’re so good at preparing you for that,” Lauerman says. “That’s so important for when you reach one of these huge companies, you have to know how to collaborate and work with people in that environment.”
Lauerman can back that statement up—he earned a Google internship as a student, and eventually he turned that into a job offer. As anyone who’s spent time applying for these types of CS jobs knows, that’s an incredibly competitive accomplishment.
Fortunately, Lauerman had a secret weapon during his application process: Lewis’ Technical Interview class actually spent an entire semester covering interview prep for CS jobs, which are notoriously intense.
“Interviews in our field are pretty rough,” Lauerman says. “You go through multiple phases before you ever speak to a person, and you’re basically ‘shotgunning’ your resume until you hear back, which luckily I did from bigger companies like Amazon, Twitter, and Google.”
After completing a coding assessment—still not talking to a human yet—Lauerman eventually made it to an in-person assessment. Going back over Trinity’s curriculum, and “stressing myself out,” Lauerman finally prepared for three back-to-back-to-back interviews, which he calls the “most stressful three hours” of his life.
Imagine having your teacher or boss look over your shoulder as you complete a task. “You're in a Google doc working through a problem meant to take you the whole 45 minutes, so you just have to do your best,” Lauerman explains.
Ultimately, the best advice that Lauerman says he took from his Trinity classes into the interview process is that these assessments are really more about the questions you ask; being able to identify what you don’t know is more critical to success than how fast you solve the problem.
“Getting the perfect solution on your first try is unrealistic, and you might not be ranked for the job as highly as someone who actually knows how to engage with the interviewer, ask the right questions, and be more insightful,” he says.
All this stress was worth it, as Lauerman ended up being selected for an internship working with Google Maps. After that experience, he had more confidence when he repeated the process to earn a full-time position as a Google software engineer. This time, he’s hoping to work with app development specifically.
As Lauerman prepares to leave Trinity, he’s taking away invaluable skills in computing, design, problem solving, and collaboration.
But for Lauerman, the most valuable collaboration has ended up being the friendships he’s made here. He urges future Trinity CS students to take the time to get to know their faculty outside of class: “I don’t think I would have roller skated with any professor, anywhere else, except for Trinity,” he says.
And Lauerman also urges future Trinity CS students to take advantage of their most valuable resource: each other.
“At Trinity, you’re surrounded by so many other smart and dedicated people, so you’re going to make friends that are going to push you to be the best that you can be. My freshman roommate, we’re still such good friends that we’re moving out to Silicon Valley together to be roommates again” Lauerman says. “I don’t think I would have gotten to where I am without my friends.”