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“New Programs Aim to Lure Young Into Digital Jobs”

A wonderful New York Times article on careers in computing profiles UW CSE alumna Kira Lehtomaki, and quotes UW CSE friends Jan Cuny and Alfred Spector.

“’We need to gain an understanding in the population that education in computer science is both extraordinarily important and extraordinarily interesting,’ said Alfred Spector, vice president for research and special initiatives at Google. ‘The fear is that if you pursue computer science, you will be stuck in a basement, writing code. That is absolutely not the reality.’

“Kira Lehtomaki can attest to this. She came to computing by way of art and movies. Art projects, not computers, were her childhood passions. She loved watching videos of Disney movies like ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and ‘Dumbo,’ and wanted to grow up to be one of those artists who stirred life into characters using pencils and paper. She even took a summer job at Disneyland as a ‘cookie artist,’ painting designs and Mickey Mouse faces on baked goods, because she was allowed to spend a few days with Disney’s animators.

“Yet as a 19-year-old college student in 2001, Ms. Lehtomaki saw the Pixar film ‘Monsters, Inc.’ and was impressed by how good computer animation had become. At the University of Washington, she pursued computer graphics, graduating with a degree in computer science.

“Today Ms. Lehtomaki, 27, is an animator at Walt Disney Animation Studios, working on ‘Rapunzel,’ which is scheduled to be released next year. She does her drawing on a computer, using specialized graphics and modeling software. Her computer science education, she said, is an asset every day in her work, less for technical skills than for what she learned about analytic thinking.

“‘Computer science taught me how to think about things, how to break down and solve complex problems,’ Ms. Lehtomaki said.”

Read the complete article here.

December 21, 2009