From first-gen student to Fortune 500 company

By Kyle Hobstetter on May 9, 2019

Saraubi Harrison ’19 is going from Towson University to a dream job at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters as a software engineer

Spring 2019 Graduate Saraubi Harrison
Saraubi Harrison '19 spent most of her time at Towson University in the Center for Student Diversity. After her graduation this spring, she will be moving to Seattle to start as a software engineer at Amazon. 

When she first came to Towson University, Saraubi Harrison was a pre-nursing major. Then a psychology major, which was followed by a switch to sociology, criminal justice and, finally, biology.

But while she tried these different majors, she couldn’t find the right fit. Not until she was taking a class for her computer science minor, General Computer Science/COSC 175, with the late Shiva Azadegan, Ph.D.  

After finishing that class, and talking with Azadegan, Harrison finally found her academic path with computer science.

“She really saw something in me,” Harrison says of Azadegan. “She thought I was really naturally talented and she kind of took me under her wing and persuaded me to switch one more time. And I’ve been successful ever since.” 

Successful would be an understatement, as switching to computer science has provided some exciting opportunities for the Washington, D.C., native. 

This past summer, Harrison completed a software engineering internship at General Dynamics. There she teamed up with other interns to help build an artificial intelligence-based intrusion detection system. 

“It’s AI based so you don’t have to constantly update your system,” Harrison explains. “With cybersecurity there are always new exploits there and new ways to hack into things. So within our AI-based system, you never have to go back in and fix every little thing.”

It was at General Dynamics where she also learned about the Grace Hopper Celebration, the largest conference for women in STEM professions. There she entered her resume in a database for conference attendees. 

And while she wasn’t expecting to hear from anyone, one company reached out to her almost immediately: Amazon. 

The world’s largest internet company, a mainstay in the Top 10 of the Fortune 500, wanted to interview her for a rotational program for recently graduated students. 

After several intense interviews, including one six-hour in-person interview, Harrison learned that she got the job. So after she graduates this spring, she will pack up her belongings and move to Seattle to start at Amazon as a software engineer.

“When I saw the email I just started crying,” Harrison laughs. “I didn’t expect it at all. I had several job offers after the conference, with several coming on the spot. But this is working for Amazon.”

When she makes the move cross country, Harrison won’t leave TU without memories. That’s because she made them with numerous clubs, activities and organization. During her time at TU, Harrison was involved with, or a member, of many organizations.

This includes being a member of the Lambda Beta Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, TU Orientation Leaders and the National Pan-Hellenic Council. She’s also served as co-chair of the Council of Diverse Student Organizations, the undergraduate representative for the Fisher College of Science and Mathematics Council, as well as student director of Assessment and Training for New Student and Family Programs. She was also a member of the Honors College and will be graduating with the University Scholar distinction. 

She also won the prestigious Critical Language Scholarship, a United States Department of State cultural and educational exchange program which offers students the opportunity to participate in an intensive language study abroad, which led her to study Punjabi in Chandigarh, India. 

When asked what made her want to get so involved during her time on campus, her answer was simple: It helped make Towson University feel like a home. 

“It’s very important to me to be involved because it helps builds me as a person, but also helps me reaffirm my identity of who I am as a black woman at a predominately white institution,” Harrison says. “I feel like have to be involved with these things so I can stay in touch with who I am, but also learn new parts of myself.” 

I know everyone (in the CSD) by name and everyone knows me…it really is my home. ”

SARAUBI HARRISON '19

Where Harrison felt the most “at home” was through her time in the Center for Student Diversity (CSD) and being part of the SAGE Program

In fact, she feels like she spent time in the CSD office almost every day of her college career. 

With graduation right around the corner, the relationships she developed with mentors and friends through her time in SAGE and the CSD is what she’s going to miss most about TU. 

“If I’m ever in a bad spot the CSD is the first place I go, and if I’m in a good spot they are the first people I tell,” Harrison says. “It feels like I have a family here. I know everyone by name and everyone knows me…it really is my home.” 

Her time in CSD and SAGE has even helped her learn about her true passion: mentoring. Through the SAGE program, she mentors six students at TU. She’s also a part of Thread, a Baltimore-based community service program, where she gets to mentor a high school student.

Harrison’s experiences both socially and academically have even given her a plan for later in her career. She wants to start an after-school program for inner-city kids and teach them how to code. 

As a first-generation student, there was a lot about college that Harrison didn’t know. Now it’s her goal to help others like her not only understand college, but get a leg up as well. 

“Never in a million years did I think I would get the experiences I’ve had here,” Harrison says. “I feel like I was so fortunate to be here, especially coming from a low-income family, that mentoring and giving other people the knowledge I have is just the biggest accomplishment I could do.”

MORE INFORMATION

Studying computer science at TU

Computer science majors develop specialized knowledge and skills highly valued by employers. The curriculum is focused and flexible, with options that will prepare you for careers in government, business, industry and education, or further study in graduate school..