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Sergio Bernales ('09, '14)

Alumnus Sergio Bernales

Sergio Bernales
Software Engineer, AWS
Class of ’09, ’14

I joined Amazon seven years ago after graduating with a master’s in computer science in 2014. I’m currently a software engineer at Amazon Web Services (AWS) Hyperplane, a network function virtualization platform inside AWS. Prior to this role, I was at AWS MediaConnect, a transport service for broadcast-grade live video. And even before that, I was in the Amazon Vendor Systems team! Fun times. I still have a long way to go in this career, but I feel privileged to even be part of it--especially during these times.

I was born in Bolivia. My mom raised us half there and half in Virginia. In high school I took a few C++ courses but didn’t think much of it. After high school, I went to the local Virginia community college to save money and figure out what to do. After three years, I took a coding class again which renewed my passion for coding. I applied as a transfer student into Virginia Tech’s bachelor's of science computer science program and was accepted.

Virginia Tech blew my expectations. At a minimum, without my summer 2012 internship obtained through Virginia Tech, I would not have met my wife. And we probably would not live in beautiful Portland, Oregon with our two kids, two dogs, and with the means to give back to our families.

How did the department equip you for the ‘real world’?

Virginia Tech helped me have a foot in the ‘real world’ door by graduation. With a varied curriculum, a career fair full of top-tier companies, and a constant flood of opportunities offered by the department during the school year, it was hard NOT to have experience in the real world. Internships, teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and mentoring programs-- I tried it all, and they each taught me something, as well as kept me from being in too much debt at graduation time.

Being a Virginia Tech alumnus means…

Community. We stay strong together. Blacksburg may be a small town, but it has all the wonderful Hokies you need to make it feel BIG!

My fondest memory of my time in the department is…

The undergraduate Operating Systems course. That struggle cemented how much I wanted to succeed in this field.

My favorite memories as a GTA and GRA are…

As a graduate teaching assistant, it was office hours. It was fulfilling to see students leave with some clarity.

As a graduate research assistant, there are a couple. One was helping build and display SeeMore, a parallel computing art sculpture built with Dr. Cameron. We displayed it both at the Virginia Tech ICAT’s grand opening and SIGGRAPH 2014 in Vancouver, Canada. The second was working on low-level Android security with Dr. Clancy for Summer 2011.

It was important to me to be a transfer student mentor because…

Transfer students sometimes feel like imposters coming into this community of folks who were here from the beginning (freshman year) and possibly already have established groups of friends and peers. It can be overwhelming (though exciting at the same time) and it was certainly my experience. Being a mentor I could be, at the least, a few hours of company to let the transfer student feel welcome. It definitely helped me when I was the mentee.