College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

Emily Anderson’s code for software engineering success launched from support

Emily Anderson holds a cell phone with a space background

Coming into Iowa State, Emily Anderson (’23 software engineering) had 0 coding experience, but she had 1 goal: helping others with software engineering. With the support of professors and community support in Digital Women, Emily wrote her own script in software engineering with internships at NASA and Apple – and is now starting a career focused on improving the world for those around her.

When I visited Iowa State, one of the software engineering advisors told me I could do anything I wanted with software engineering – send people to the moon with software, save people’s lives with software, really anything I could imagine. And I loved that sense of limitless ways to make an impact on people around me.

My first coding class was during my sophomore year, and I never did coding or software engineering before college. I didn’t know if I was cut out for it.

I remember being in my first coding classes and seeing the people around me. Some people would go code for fun in their free time, but I never really did that. That made me wonder if I was in the right space. But I had one mentor who was just like, ‘you don’t need to do that as a hobby to be capable of making this a career.’ Just hearing that and being able to get over that hump of looking like everyone else was big for me.

Many lines of software engineering support

I’ve had two professors that really stuck out as supporting me – Dr. Simanta Mitra and Dr. Ashraf Gaffar. Having those professors that took the time to work with me one-on-one really let me know that I can do this.

Since then, I’ve been involved in Digital Women, attended the Grace Hopper Conference, and been a part of Cyclone Rocketry club. Plus, Software Engineering Student Advisory Council has helped with my personal skills and thinking critically about the curriculum, what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it.

I’ve done two internships with NASA and one at Apple, and I’ve found that internships help with your school life because they give meaning to the classroom and a context to apply the abstract things. I was able to transfer a lot of skills back to Iowa State.

An endless loop of opportunities

Like my advisor had shared, I discovered that the possibilities of software engineering are pretty unlimited. Every company, every industry, needs software in some respect. I never felt pigeonholed into picking this one job in this one industry.

All the skills are really transferable, and there’s a low barrier to entry – all you really need is a laptop to learn how to code. It’s really open to everyone. There’s no other feeling like when you troubleshoot something or build something from scratch. It’s a magical feeling.

But really, it’s so meaningful to be able to see the impact that you can make with software. I feel the reason to live life is to be able to help other people. Software engineering is a really good way to be able to do that and bring in those engineering skills. It’s the reason I wanted to be an engineer and my goal as a Cyclone Engineer.

Want to see how else you can impact the world as a software engineering major? Check out these software engineering stories: Patrick DemersSaffron Edwards and Erica Hollander.