Member Highlight: Samay Nathani
It all started with a book.
After receiving the lowest score on an Introduction to Computing exam freshman year, Southern-California native Samay Nathani dusted off an old textbook in his garage and began to study Python. With persistence, he caught up and succeeded in advanced computer science courses. Now, he’s researched graphics, facial recognition technology, and eLearning platforms. He’s also interned at Cisco, Amazon, and Square in software engineering and machine learning roles. But that’s not all — this year, he’ll graduate from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, work for both Robinhood and Snapchat, and begin graduate school.
What helped Nathani pass Introduction to Computing and build his multifaceted career in computer science? Mentorship. “Every professor knows me by name, because I’m always going to office hours,” he said. He was lucky to have supportive professors who would constantly “point him in the right direction,” and a close advisor helped him apply to graduate programs in computer science.
While mentorship is critical for success in college, it can be difficult to ask for, said Nathani. “For students who come from either a first gen background, or are an ethnic minority, or feel like they can’t identify or relate or connect with their peers, I think that’s the biggest challenge.”
Nathani, who loves to teach, is a mentor himself. He’s been a teaching assistant for six quarters, and he’s the campus director of Cal Poly’s newly minted Percentage Project Chapter. Hard at work coordinating survey distribution, data collection, and photoshoots, he hopes that Cal Poly’s data-driven campaign will illuminate student experiences in the computer science department.
In Nathani’s experience, studying computer science is not without sacrifices. He works long-haul days when classes, research, and internship responsibilities collide, and declining invitations to spend time with friends can hurt. But every ounce of effort brings him closer to a dream career at the intersection of AI, ethics, and human-computer interaction.
“When you put in the work — when you put yourself first — a lot of your biggest goals and dreams can come true,” he said.
This article is written by Tanushri Sundar and edited by Luna Ito-Fisher.