Meet Shorelight Alumni: After FIU, Joussef Starts His Dream Career as a Software Engineer

Florida International University
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By Bhanujith Wijesinghe
Last updated on October 31, 2023

Joussef, an FIU graduate from Venezuela, shares his journey to landing his dream job as a software engineer at world-renowned IT company Microsoft.

JoussefVenezuelaFlorida International University

Joussef, an international student from Venezuela who graduated from FIU, smiles for the camera.

Joussef, an international student from Venezuela, recently graduated from Florida International University (FIU) with honors, earning a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering degree. With the support of FIU’s expert faculty, Joussef took advantage of the newest technologies across campus as well as career development opportunities. Today, he’s working at his dream job as a software engineer at Microsoft!

Read on to learn more about Joussef’s journey toward becoming a successful software engineer. 

Studying Computer Engineering at Florida International University

Florida International University, located in Miami, is one of the largest public research universities in the US. Ranked #72 in National Public Universities and #137 in Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs by U.S. News & World Report, FIU offers expert faculty support and state-of-the-art laboratory facilities, which especially appealed to Joussef as an intended computer engineering major.

He also was impressed by FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing, South Florida’s leading engineering degree program. With close to $20M in external funding, research is an integral part of the college’s mission and its success; computer engineering graduates have secured positions at top companies in the US, such as Boeing and Intel. Joussef could see a clear pathway from FIU’s degree program to professional success. 

FIU’s computer engineering degree covers a diverse range of specialized subjects and supporting courses, such as data structures, economics, hardware architecture, instrumentation, philosophy, and software engineering, all skills that employers seek out.

“I enjoyed every single minute of [the] course, and … they have formed me into the engineer I once strived to be!” Joussef said. 

Joussef recalled the English-language curriculum in Shorelight’s FIU Global First Year program, which helped him grasp discussions and technical concepts taught in class with ease. “I was [a] student in one of [the] English composition classes, and I [want] to express my sincere gratitude for all that [the professors] have done for me during my time at Florida International University,” he said. 

FIU professors inspired Joussef to think creatively and stay focused on his career goals while cultivating expertise in his field. “I learned so much, and [their] passion for the subject matter truly impacted me,” he said. 

Preparing for a Software Engineering Career

In addition to his coursework, Joussef was able to work at two jobs while studying at FIU: one role at the Office of the Provost, and a stint as an undergraduate research assistant. “These opportunities allowed me to gain valuable experience and helped shape my career goals,” he said.

Through Joussef’s on-campus work experience, he was able to enhance his communication skills and ability to think critically, work alongside team members from different cultures, and refine his leadership skills. 

He also cited FIU’s top-tier research facilities and funding programs, which allow students to participate in real-world research projects, either with industry-leading companies or for solo entrepreneurial ideas.  

Joussef emphasized FIU’s diverse international student community as the most valuable part of studying there. He explained that the university experience in the US is completely different from Venezuela, as he was able to learn from many different cultures and people. Even better, FIU professors have extensive experience teaching international students, and often pair them with students in similar situations to create a supportive environment that nurtures students and encourages academic success. 

“[That support] was key in my success at FIU, which ultimately gave [me] the experience needed to get to where I am now,” he said.

Networking and community are key, too. Students at FIU can also participate in campus clubs and organizations such as the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) club, Break Through Tech Miami club, Women in Computer Science organization, and more. 

“I was part of the executive board of the largest student organization in technology at FIU,” he said, referring to Upsilon Pi Epsilon, which was recently renamed INIT – FIU. INIT is a community dedicated to elevating underrepresented communities in technology through weekly workshops to develop skills actually used in the industry, such as frameworks, programming languages, concepts, artificial intelligence, cyber security, robotics, and more. He also joined the Venezuelan Student Alliance, a club that allowed Joussef to make friends at FIU who were also from Venezuela. 

Participating in extracurricular activities helped Joussef build professional relationships with students from different departments, as well as learn from real-world tech simulations, STEM conferences, guest lectures, and workshops. 

“[FIU’s] support and teachings have been essential to my success,” Joussef added.

Joussef’s Journey to Microsoft

While at FIU, Joussef had taken part in two internships. His first was at Cummins, a Fortune 500 company and the leading diesel engine manufacturer in the world. He came across this internship opportunity while attending the annual Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) career conference. The SHPE, which has chapters at universities across the US, is dedicated to fostering opportunities for Hispanics in STEM fields, but Joussef said that the conferences are so large that people from all backgrounds are welcome to attend. Many of the biggest companies come to the conference looking for new hires, either for internships or full-time positions, which was how Joussef came to land a project management intern position at Cummins. 

After completing his internship at Cummins, Joussef wanted to get into the tech field, specifically consumer electronics. At the next SHPE career conference, he made sure to apply for roles at multiple tech companies that were attending, including Microsoft. 

Initially, however, he did not hear back from them. But through all the networking he had done at FIU, especially with INIT, Joussef was able to connect with a Microsoft recruiter. He sent an email asking about his application and received an immediate response. 

“He immediately got back to me and said, ‘actually I don’t manage this job posting, but if you’d like to apply to [another] position, I sent you a link in this email.’” He applied, then sat through several rounds of interviews — and got an internship as a software engineer working on Microsoft’s Surface series of laptops. Joussef said that interning at Cummins, on top of the experience he gained at FIU and his involvement with INIT, gave him the skills and tools he needed to get the Microsoft opportunity. 

Immediately after completing his internship, Joussef got even better news: “I got a full-time offer [from Microsoft], saying, ‘we want you to come back to work here when you graduate,’ and now I am in the OneDrive organization.” 

The software engineering industry is expected to be valued at $123.5 billion by 2030 with a growth rate of 11.26% annually, increasing employment opportunities for graduates. Job roles within the industry offer rewarding average salaries starting around $109,020 per year. The fast-pace of technological innovation has always inspired Joussef — but the skills he cultivated and the support of his FIU instructors helped him make the leap from dreamer to doer. 

With a computer engineering degree from Florida International University, Joussef is prepared to work with diverse teams and has the technical and professional skills to manage working in a challenging industry environment. 

“This accomplishment would not have been possible without FIU’s guidance and support,” he added.

[The FIU professors’] dedication to their students is truly appreciated, and I will never forget the impact they have had on my education.” — Joussef Abdul Salam, FIU alum, software engineer at Microsoft

Joussef’s Advice for International Students

Joussef encourages international students at FIU to approach professors and take advantage of every guidance resource, event, or offering. Sharing ideas with professors, discussing current developments in the field, and asking questions can ensure students make the most of the in-person support FIU’s faculty are keen to provide.

“[The professors’] teachings and guidance have played a massive role in my success, and for that, I am forever grateful,” he said. 

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