Student Spotlight: Dreaming Big with Lynne Okada
Lynne Okada decided to take a year off from her bachelor's program at the University of California Santa Cruz after completing Make School's Summer Academy. She became part of Make School's inaugural Product College class. "I didn't want to lose the momentum of non-stop building that I had going for me," Lynne said. "And experiencing the life of a Silicon Valley engineer--living in Palo Alto and studying in San Francisco--with like-minded, ambitious, and passionate students was very appealing to me. Much more appealing than heading back to the traditional university lifestyle."
Lynne explained, "At university, even within the computer science realm, there are so many students who aren't motivated or don't know what they could be creating at any given moment. They just aren't in the hackathon mindset."
For her biggest project at Make School, the project that she presented at the end of her program, Lynne took inspiration from the conversations she used to have with her father about dreams. "My most interesting project was DreamShare. I wanted a platform for people to record their dreams from the previous night. I included a social network so users could tag friends in dream posts, and I added hashtag functionality similar to Instagram so users could possibly find similar dreams happening to nearby friends or people from across the nation. Perhaps they'd find hidden dream trends happening in the world."
Lynne went on, "This was a fun, curious project of mine that I was able to implement my own backend for and complete social network features, like a feed of dreams to scroll through. It was rewarding to build a product that I've always wondered about--a social dream journal platform."
One of Lynne's favorite instructors at the Product College was someone named Captain Rainbow. Laughing, she recalled, "He had us call him that. He would always come into our office in a rainbow tie dye cape and bright neon shorts, and his hair was dyed pink, green, yellow--it would change." As for his teaching ability, "His expertise was algorithm analysis, so we would solve interview problems with him and learn how to give great coding interviews. He's a super friendly, energetic guy. Very supportive. I tend to be shy with professors or mentors, but with him, I went through a lot of interview questions, and he was a very available, nice resource. You don't get that kind of accessibility at a big university."
College Part Deux - With Computer Science Upgrades from Make School
After completing her time at Make School, Lynne went back to UC Santa Cruz to complete her degree, but she's doing things differently this time around.
"Engineering is a very competitive field at university, but coming back from Make School, a lot of the courses were things I'd already learned, so I've had a lot of time to delve deeper into the things that interest me. I can look at different complexities. I recently took an advanced programming class and I got an A, and things like that have helped me feel more empowered."
Lynne explained, "I grew up always playing with the boys, playing video games and talking about superheroes, so I was always comfortable around men. But at university I didn't always feel like my skills were up to the level of my male peers. Make School took that away. Now I feel much more comfortable in my classes and like I belong there just as much as anybody else."
"I recently added cognitive science to my degree" in addition to computer science, Lynne continued, "so I'm more focused on AI and machine-human interaction. I'm shifting gears away from programming into this more cognitive side of things, and Make School is the reason I was able to do that. Without my Make School experience, I would have had to focus on coding the whole four years, but my gap year let me get ahead, and now I can focus on this new field that I find really exciting."
Lynne is currently working on an app called Mobae - platform for couples to organize a list of movies they'd want to watch together. You can keep track of your history of movies watched together and get achievements for watching increasing amounts of movies together. The app uses the Movie Database API, Facebook SDK, and Firebase.
Lynne was also recently offered an internship at Google which she'll be starting this summer. To learn more about Lynne's current and upcoming projects, check out her personal website.