Passionate programmer and ardent cinephile Annie Song graduates this week with a bachelor’s in computer science and a minor in cinematic arts from USC.
Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Song blended her passion for problem solving and all things entertainment at USC, taking computer science courses alongside classes in screenwriting and video editing. Since January, she has also been interning at Sony Pictures Entertainment working in information security at the famed studio lot in Culver City.
At USC, Song served as the director of communications and alumni relations for Troy Camp, providing mentorship to students in South Los Angeles, and joined the USC Helenes, serving USC and various non-profit organizations across the city, including the Downtown Women’s Center and Comunidad Cesar Chavez. After graduation, she’s setting off on her next adventure to the country’s other entertainment hub – New York – to join Goldman Sachs as a tech analyst in risk and finance management.
We sat down with Song to talk about the advantages of flexing your artistic muscle as a computer science student, her experience at USC and life lessons learned along the way.
What was your aha moment, when you realized you wanted to study computer science?
Growing up, I was always pretty good at math. My parents emigrated from Korea – they would speak Korean to me, but I would speak a mixture of English and Korean back, so it was hard to communicate at times. To bond, my dad and I would take sheets of printer paper and do math problems. That’s how I learned long division and multiplication. Then, I took AP computer science in high school and I realized I really enjoyed it – I like the puzzle aspect and the fact that computer science allows you to tackle so many challenges facing the world.
What’s it like to study two very different subjects?
I like studying varied subjects because you get to flex different muscles. I found it better for my personal development (and my sanity!) to take a minor, a major and extracurricular activities that are all different from each other so I could grow more dynamically. I think I would get burnt out if I just did one thing. Having a minor in cinematic arts definitely influenced my decision to intern at Sony: I had my major to back up my technical skills and minor to show my interest in the entertainment field.
“In computer science, you’re never done—there are so many problems that have yet to be solved.” Annie Song
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
At the end of senior year I counted all the TV shows I’ve seen in their entirety—the total came to 97, and since then I’ve seen more. Parks and Rec is my favorite. Also, I’ve worked for USC Libraries, but I’ve never actually checked a book out of the library. It’s on my bucket list before I graduate!
How have you applied your computer science skills to everyday life?
Computer science can guide how you think through problems: you break down this large issue into little pieces and tackle things hierarchically. That works outside of a computer science context too – you can take any big obstacle that you need to overcome and break it up. That’s been really useful for me, even for mundane tasks: I have to get this mountain of stuff done, how can I do it? Usually, the best answer is one manageable step at a time.
Do you consider computer science to be an art or a science?
There is something to be said about the link between computer science and the arts. In a math problem, you solve for x and it’s done. It’s either right or wrong. But in computer science, you’re solving for a solution and there might always be a better solution. In computer science, you’re never done—there are so many problems that have yet to be solved.
What did you enjoy most about your time at USC?
I will miss the learning aspect and signing up for cool-sounding classes, but I’ll also miss the downtime with amazing people with similar interests. I met so many people by joining two organizations – USC Troy Camp and USC Helenes.
The cool thing about USC is that it’s so big, but the campus is relatively small by comparison so there is still a community feel. By sophomore year, you think you’ve made the friends you’re going to have for your remaining time at USC, then you join a group and meet another pocket of people that are equally amazing.
“I’ve been able to do things I never thought I would do – like intern at an entertainment company!” Annie Song
Is there anything unique about the USC experience?
I think the fact that USC is so well-connected. I’ve been able to do things I never thought I would do – like intern at an entertainment company! I love Grey’s Anatomy and I got to take a class an entire class about Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy creator, head writer, and executive producer), who’s a USC alumna, and she also came and visited the class in person. I also got to appear in a card that was being sent to Steven Spielberg for his birthday, but that’s a whole other story.
What are you most proud of during your time at USC?
I like a challenge. Doing something easy for the sake of it being easy doesn’t show anything about your character. When things are hard, you’ve gotta buckle down and just go for it. When I walked into my first class, it was tough: some students have been coding since they were nine years old! But I didn’t let it discourage me. I think it really proves your character to work on something hard and not give up.
What advice would you give your first-year self?
Take time to reflect. If you’re too busy just taking things class by class, the experience will pass you by. Every semester goes faster than the one before, so if you’re always looking at the next thing to come, you can’t fully appreciate what’s happening until it’s passed. Take a step back and enjoy it while it’s happening. But I would never trade my experience—no regrets!