Harsh Shah

Harsh Shah, Graduate of SDSU Web and Mobile Applications Development Program

With a master’s degree in computer science from San Diego State University, Harsh Shah easily secured a job as an Android developer at Yahoo! upon graduation in 2015. But it’s the courses he took through the Web and Mobile Applications Development Advanced Certificate program that enabled him to make a strategic leap forward, literally overnight.

Shah was on a team of four Android developers and three iOS developers when, five months into his new job, one of the iOS developers left the company.

“We were in dire need of another iOS developer,” said Shah. “I just went up to my manager and told him that I had taken a course in iOS development at SDSU and would like to help the team fill the void. My manager was impressed, and overnight I was an iOS developer. Fast forward to today, I happily develop on both platforms, and keep switching depending on the needs of the team. I could not have had the courage to walk up to my manager had I not taken this course at SDSU, since I knew that I was going to write code that is going to affect millions of people.”

Shah answered a few questions about his experience in SDSU’s Web and Mobile Applications Development Advanced Certificate program.

Please give us an overview of your education.
I was a computer science master’s student at SDSU and graduated in 2015. I am originally from India, where I got my B.E. (bachelor’s in engineering) computer science degree. I have always been interested in programming, and at a very early age decided to become a computer programmer.

How did you find out about SDSU’s Web and Mobile Applications Development program?
During my research for selecting and applying for universities in the U.S., I had read about the [College of] Extended Studies courses on the website. These courses played a big factor when I made the choice of coming to SDSU.

What do you think are the program’s biggest strengths?
In my mind there are multiple things that stand out in the program:

– Offering courses in technologies that are defining the current software industry.

– The program is well designed to challenge students to push their understanding of technology by having practical projects.

– The professors (Professor Whitney and Professor Riggins in my case) are very helpful and put forth the material perfectly so as to give enough to the students so they can fish for themselves.

One of the things that sets SDSU’s program apart is that students learn the science behind applications development versus just the how-to. Have you seen the benefits of that firsthand?
Oh, I have definitely seen the benefits firsthand. The course is structured in a way that it doesn’t give students everything required to build an app but just the building blocks. This forces students to make sure they learn the science behind the framework so they can use the building blocks effectively.

Can you speak to the caliber of the instructors?
I don’t think I can put in words how good Professor Whitney and Professor Riggins are. They have such an in-depth knowledge of the courses they teach, they are always willing to listen and even learn from their students, they are always helpful, and just have a very unique way of teaching which amazes me. The more students ask questions, the more involved both of them get — I cannot stress enough for students to take advantage of that.

Did you learn new programming languages or just enhance the ones you already know?
I did learn two new programming languages, Perl and Objective C (something which has helped me immensely in my job), and also enhanced my understanding of Java.

Classes are online, and a hybrid of classroom and online. Which route did you take?
I took the hybrid classroom. I personally like it when there are people around and I can discuss topics with them after class.

How did that flexibility help you pursue the program while meeting your other responsibilities?
While doing this program, I was always a full-time student so it did not really matter for me, but I can see how it can help people who are part-time students and have other work responsibilities.

How long did it take you to complete the program?
I took three courses from the program, one in each semester. So I was part of it for 1.5 years out of the two years of my master’s studies. The only regret I have is I did not take any course from the program in my first semester.

Students spend a great deal of time doing actual programming projects. What were some of yours?
– In the Advanced Web Development course, I built an end-to-end system for inventory management for an e-commerce website along with a customer-facing front-end for selling mobile phones.

– In the Android Development course, I built an app to enable profile-based sharing of photos. Essentially users could create different profiles in the app (e.g. family, friends) and configure each profile to upload photos to specific services like Flickr, Dropbox, Facebook. So let’s say I configure my family profile to upload to Flickr and Dropbox, then I could just select the photos and in one click upload to both.

– In the iOS Development course, I built the counterpart of the Android app.

What do you think is the next big thing in web and mobile?
I think next big thing would be augmented reality. Mobile phones have become so powerful nowadays that I think there is great potential in combining the power of the web (specifically Cloud computing) with our mobile hardware to make a great augmented reality experience.

Would you recommend the SDSU Web and Mobile Applications Development program to others?
Recommend? I would go as far as saying that if you are not taking courses from this program you are missing out. Why? Because of everything I mentioned above.

Anything you’d like to add?
The only thing I would like to add is, if computer science is your passion then SDSU’s Web and Mobile program is tailored for you.