Carnegie Mellon University

Director's List Scholarship Winner | Ka Wai (Edmond) Tsoi

Ed Tsoi discovered his passion for education while earning his bachelor’s degree in computer science at the University of Michigan. In his senior year, he was an instructional assistant for EECS 494, Computer Game Design and Development, a capstone course in which teams of students work together. In addition to the experience of teaching, he was exposed to students from different backgrounds, which helped to inform his understanding of the education industry. “I was really privileged to have my parents help me with tuition. I've been very fortunate. Early in college I realized that a lot of people in the world don’t have enough money to go to school. Even if they really want to learn, they don’t have the necessary resources.”

Attending both public and private universities has given him insight into how different institutions function. For example, “the class sizes are different. I had undergrad classes at U Mich of 200 plus students; right now in MSE, the classes are 15-20 students. Which is great. I’ve been able to build stronger relationships with my peers and instructors.”

Ed’s interest in education led him to pursue graduate teaching assistant (TA) positions in the MSE Professional Programs. In the first half of this semester he was a TA for 17-615 Data Structures and Algorithms, and is currently serving as the TA for 17-625 Design Patterns and API Design

Being a TA has given him a different perspective of the courses. “I’m really impressed with the classes [and the curriculum in the MSE programs]. As software engineers, it is really important for us to understand the whole infrastructure of the systems we build. This is something that I would not have been exposed to if I had attended another master’s program. I think the MSE program is preparing me very well. Not just in terms of becoming a software engineer, but it will help me to distinguish myself from others by exposing me to all kinds of devs in the software world, including infrastructure tools and cloud tools. That exposure will be beneficial to me in the future to implement highly scalable systems.”

While the classes are at the core of his experience at Carnegie Mellon, Ed has also found the career and educational support available to him outside the classroom to be quite valuable. “There are a lot of resources available at CMU, like the Career Placement and Development Center, and within the MSE, that give me opportunities, not only to land a job, but to become a better software engineer and build strong relationships with my peers and alumni. The events with MSE alumni have been insightful and helpful.”

Being awarded the Director’s Scholarship has had its own, perhaps unexpected, benefits that extend beyond financial assistance with tuition. “I’m really grateful. It’s not only a recognition but it will also motivate me to become a better software engineer and leader. In the future I will definitely be motivated, and encouraged, to take on more leadership roles, more teaching roles, and to do all the stuff I’m passionate about.”

The next step for Ed in his planned career path is to join Google in their ads organization to “gain more software engineering experience in industry, and learn more about how those companies work internally. I’m really interested in building scalable systems so being able to work in companies of that size, I will be able to see how things work in a production setting. I’m particularly interested to see how a company of that size handles failure, such as server down time, or latency of systems.”

Looking even further into his future, Ed can envision a career path that would eventually lead to him starting his own educational learning platform. “I’m really privileged to be part of the MSE community; I know that the tuition is really expensive and a lot of people around the world could not afford the tuition. In the future, in the very long run, I might consider working on an educational startup to help everyone in the world gain access to knowledge without having to pay crazy expensive tuition. I would like to build something that would revolutionize the education industry. This is something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s still a long way off. I’m still learning and growing. It’s really just a dream right now, but it might no longer be in the future.”