Graduating students reflect on their transformative time working at Decision Theater
At the beginning of their educational journey, the class of 2020 likely expected this time of year to look different. Like the rest of the world, student workers at Decision Theater have had to undergo major changes to their daily lives. This time of transition can bring about an air of frenzied uncertainty. During a virtual graduation party for DT graduates, one theme proved consistent — student workers deeply cherished their time at DT, even in the face of a pandemic.
In May 2020, DT celebrated 13 graduates via an office-wide Zoom session. Although employees could not physically gather, the sense of camaraderie within the screens was palpable. Staff introduced their graduating students one by one, reflecting on each individual's contributions to the team. Students were also given the opportunity to say a few words about their time at DT. All graduates took this work completed and the overall culture that DT instills. Director Jon Miller summed up how DT values its students by stating, "Student employees are just normal employees that come to work less often."
Across the separate teams within the theater, graduates were united in believing that DT provided an invaluable space for educational and professional growth. Students found the project-based work structure especially beneficial. Anay Gupta, who is earning his bachelor's in computer science, remarked that DT "has enabled me to apply a wide array of concepts taught in a classroom towards unarguably useful and at many times, extremely impactful, projects."
Gupta's work over his year and a half at DT includes creating an analysis tool for the Conservation International Environmental Foundation and educational attainment visualizations for the Arizona Board of Regents.
From the 2019 master's of computer science cohort, Kiran Teja Sittepalli stated, "A unique aspect of working at DT is that the projects here are aimed at solving real-world problems in a broad range of domains. It gives me a great sense of accomplishment and pride to design and build something that would benefit millions of people around the globe."
Countless other students echoed this sentiment; Decision Theater provides avenues for young people to make an impact early on in their lives.
A recurring point brought up by students, especially software students, was that employment at DT was a coveted position to have Several graduates humbly recalled applying multiple times before eventually landing the job. Ripudaman Teja remarked, "Working for Decision Theater is a wish for anyone in a software engineering field. In several interviews, I was asked about the frameworks and tools that I used here and multiple database questions. I was able to answer them because of the experience I gained here."
He has since accepted an internship as a software developer for CYR3CON.
Sittepalli further emphasized that his time at DT greatly strengthened his technical skillset. "I cannot emphasize enough the level of impact it has on my full-time job search. The skills gained helped me secure a job as a software development engineer at Amazon," he stated.
From the testimonials, it was abundantly clear that the students were able to accomplish brilliant work because of the confidence they had gained from being a part of the DT community. During the virtual party, Radikha Bhati stated, 'Work becomes a second family. My work at DT was the highlight of my day."
Nicole Cox, a sustainability graduate and long-time research aide for DT said, "I am so grateful that DT saw my potential and that I have been able to make so many meaningful connections with the incredibly friendly staff."
Murtaza Rajagara reflected on his time by stating, "I realized this place became my second home, where everyone was as close as a family and where I not only gained experience and honed my skills, but grew as a person."
The appreciation between staff and students at DT seems to radiate from both ends; the collective nature in the workplace inspires employees to develop their skills and create meaningful solutions with one another. The lessons learned and connections made from the Decision Theater will undoubtedly stick with students long into their future careers.
"DT is an amazing place to grow — the staff nurtures their students to explore meaningful work and places an emphasis on transdisciplinary solutions. I learned so much so quickly and will forever cherish how the staff has inspired me."
April Kim, BS in Public Policy, Sustainability 2020
"I was lucky enough that I got a chance to work here."
Ripudaman Teja, MS in Computer Science 2020, Internship at CYR3CON
"It has been one of the most professionally rewarding experiences in my life."
Anay Gupta, BS in Computer Science 2021, Internships at Intel and Visa
"The brilliant student crowd coupled with very capable leadership makes it one of the best places to work at ASU."
Kiran Teja Settipalli, MS in Computer Science 2019, Full-time at Amazon
"Working at Decision Theater was one of the greatest opportunities that I was given at ASU, and I will always be grateful for how much I was able to grow and learn through my work."
Nicole Cox, BS in Sustainability 2020
"It couldn't have been harder for me to leave the amazing team and awesome colleagues who always helped and supported me."
Akash Nigam, MS Computer Science 2020, Full-time at Amazon
"I got the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. to see our project go live in front of stakeholders. Overall, I felt DT was a rewarding and challenging workplace where individual opinions and creative thinking were welcomed."
Srividhya Swaminathan, MS in Computer Science 2019, Full-time at Facebook
"I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to work part-time at Decision Theater. We were given the freedom and flexibility to choose projects and technologies to work on."
Mahender Reddy Bommireddy, MS in Computer Science 2019, Full-time at Microsoft
"The always positive attitude is something which always kept me motivated. All this created the perfect balance between learning and developing something meaningful in a friendly environment."
Viken Parikh, MS in Computer Science 2020, Full-time at PayPal
"This was one of the best experiences of my graduate life and I would not have done it any other way."
Murtaza Rajagara, MS in Computer Science 2020