On his one-on-one with CACI International: " I had a crazy mustache for a tournament with ultimate frisbee and wore bright pink pants to stand out. The mustache was a great conversation starter."
"If you can work with computers, you’re set for life. They can have the biggest impact on the world around you," said Jared Cooper, who recently graduated in May 2021 and joins the ranks of the Hokie alumni nation.
Virginia Tech's engineering introduction course freshman year opened Cooper's eyes to the possibilities of computer science. He had taken computer science courses in high school and done pretty well, but didn't understand how broad the field was until college. “I wanted to prove to myself that I belonged here," said Cooper. "There’s a stereotype around computer scientists that they’re introverts and I’m an extrovert."
Cooper is now working full time at CACI International, a national security technology and software company. He had a smoother transition than most, as he had the benefit of interning with them the previous summer. "I made it my priority to be the first in line at CACI," said Cooper, reflecting on the last in-person CS|Source career fair in February 2020 before COVID-19. " I had a crazy mustache for a tournament with ultimate frisbee and wore bright pink pants to stand out," he said. "The mustache was a great conversation starter."
The 30-minute one-on-one session proved to be invaluable, as he was offered an internship opportunity to work in the program management office in the intelligence sector. His internship manager at CACI fought for he and two other interns to be in the office. He was one of seven out of 350 employees to be in person.
Cooper said one of the more challenging aspects of computer science was deciding which courses to take. “I tend to like to be a jack of all trades, but I know I needed to focus on one or two specializations. I think it's all interesting."
Cooper said he has had many positive interactions with faculty both inside and outside of computer science, including Ron Poff, assistant professor of practice in the Pamplin College of Business. "He introduced me to a lot of different opportunities. "I am thinking about starting a business with some friends a few years out of college so I look forward to running ideas off of him," said Cooper.
In addition, he served as a teaching assistant for Stephen Edwards, professor and associate department head for undergraduate studies, as well received some sage advice from William McQuain, senior instructor. “You don’t have to be perfect to make those connections, you just have to be willing to engage," said Cooper. As for advice for his freshman self, Cooper offered. "Join clubs and make new friends. Make more connections with people and don’t get stuck making connections that don’t add any value."
And Cooper speaks from personal experience, having made tremendous connections with his peers on the Virginia Tech Burn Men’s Ultimate Frisbee Club. In fact, he completed a project called AerialBurnCam for both his computer science senior and entrepreneurship capstones that stem from the ultimate team. "We built a drone to record and live stream tactical footage of amateur sports from a birds-eye view giving coaches access to high quality film."
Cooper said he is hopeful he can expand upon this concept into a business, with of course, the help of the many connections he has made while at Virginia Tech.