LSU computer science junior Sam Maloney says he never had the chance to learn much about computer programming while in high school, so he’s helping Baton Rouge students explore coding at a younger age than he ever could to provide early insight into an exciting and potentially lucrative career.
The Tennessee native says he was always interested in computers, but that interest took off in seventh grade when he starting playing Xbox games. By his senior year in high school, he was dabbling in game design, creating simple browser-based games for a class using development kits.
“Everyone else would just get through the project,” he says. ”But I would try to make it perfect and make the coolest game in the class — way more advanced than it had to be.”
His school, however, didn’t offer actual programming classes, which meant he didn’t truly start coding until he arrived at LSU. The learning curve was initially steep, so he reached out to classmates for help.
“I was struggling for the first week or two, [saying] ‘what in the world have I gotten myself into,’” he says. “Once I found a study group, it made things a lot easier because at least someone in the group always understands everything.”
Today he’s paying that help back by mentoring the next generation of coders and recruiting potential computer science majors to LSU.
Ambassador of Computer Science
Maloney says it didn’t take long after he arrived on campus to realize that he needed to limit his idle time to maximize his college experience. “I kind of learned during my time here that being as busy as possible is the way for me to be most successful,” he says.
In that spirit, he says that when he first saw a flier for the LSU Ambassador program he jumped at the opportunity.
Maloney is the only computer science engineer in the program, so he often finds himself representing the department to prospective students and their families. He stresses that programming isn’t as difficult as a lot of people assume. “I always try to sell people to major in computer science,” he says.
Mentoring in High Schools
Maloney has also served as a coding mentor to students at McKinley High School through LSU’s Geaux CS program, designed to promote enthusiasm for computer science in local communities. This year he is taking over as administrator for the program, which means he will coordinate the team of LSU mentors and choose the school where the group will work.
Maloney says it’s rewarding to offer young students an early look at the possibilities of programming, particularly when he didn’t have similar opportunities.
“I didn’t have anything like that at my high school, and if I would have seen that, it would have made me understand how much I love coding,” he says. “You go in and show the students this is not that hard to do and they can do this. They see that and they’re like, ‘wow, I can do this and make some good money at this.’”
Music City Internship
The Nashville native returned home this summer for an internship with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, where he worked in the IT department. He landed the position after applying for about 30 internships over his Christmas break, with a focus on his hometown.
His duties included setting up computers for new employees. “I learned a lot of about corporate IT and how everything runs in the corporate system,” he says.
Maloney calls the internship a positive experience but says he remains undecided on a precise career path heading into his junior year at LSU. He says he has an affinity for software solutions but could end up in game design or another field.
“I haven’t really narrowed it down,” he says. “I like it all.”