Jeffrey Chu, a postbaccalaureate computer science student at Oregon State University, had a perfectly fine career as an attorney. After earning a law degree in 2016 from the University of Texas at Austin, Chu worked first as a felony prosecutor, then as a civil litigator.
He liked his job but came to realize that it wasn’t his passion.
Outside the courtroom, Chu’s time was occupied not only with preparing his cases, but also with a ton of monotonous data entry tasks.
“The worst was tracking billing hours,” he said. “I had to keep track of what I was doing every six minutes.”
Chu, who lives in Houston, was working every weekend and didn’t get many days off. In order to make better use of his time, he decided to teach himself to automate some of the mundane tasks. That’s when he fell in love with programming.
Around the same time, one of Chu’s friends completed a six-month coding boot camp and told him about job offers he had received, which motivated Chu even more to make a career switch. Though he could have chosen to attend a boot camp, Chu researched his options and decided he needed a computer science degree.
“I thought the best opportunity for me was to pursue a CS degree, to get a strong foundation and give myself more time to absorb the concepts,” he said.
The degree and the foundation, Chu believed, would help him develop a career as a software engineer, not just a coder. He also realized that a computer science program would give him the opportunity to pursue internships, which would in turn give him an advantage in obtaining a full-time job.
Making an informed decision
Chu dove in to researching online computer science programs.
“One thing you learn in law school is the ability to look for things and do it efficiently,” he said. “So I was pretty confident in my ability to make an informed decision after I did all my research.”
Chu liked Oregon State’s program because he wouldn’t have to take, or retake, core curriculum classes. He could dive in to computer science classes right away. He also perused LinkedIn and found that Oregon State alumni had jobs everywhere: big tech companies, small companies, and startups.
What really convinced him to choose Oregon State was the online community he found in the student-led Slack channel, where anyone can ask questions and many will share their perspectives. Students and alumni constantly interact over a wide range of topics — including classes, interviews, career choices, and professional development opportunities.
“There were great reviews about the program there,” Chu said. “And people were so helpful, building each other up and giving advice. Other programs I looked at didn’t have that sense of community.”
A funny thing happened on the way to a degree
Though Chu quit his job as an attorney to become a full-time student in 2020, he landed a full-time cybersecurity job in 2021, while still pursuing his computer science degree. Chu thought cybersecurity would be an interesting path, and a friend connected him with another friend who worked in the field, who ultimately offered him a job.
Chu has since decided that cybersecurity isn’t the field for him. He anticipates graduating in December 2022, two years after beginning the program. In the meantime, he recently finished an internship at Amazon in Washington, D.C., and is currently on a second internship at Ford in Dearborn, Michigan.
“I’m the type of person who just likes to try multiple things and see what sticks,” he said.