The Coding Whiz

March 16, 2021

Zakiya Sims ’18 is a computer science major on the NYC Campus and vice president of the Pace Computing Society (PCS), which has seen an increase in membership by a whopping 50 percent since she took the helm. This was a personal goal of hers that began all the way back in her first year. At the time, Sims spearheaded efforts to connect with and invite industry leaders to the club’s weekly meetings. Representatives from BuzzFeed, WeWork, General Assembly, UNICEF, IBM, and many others responded, beginning a storied academic career for Sims that would continue throughout her time at Pace.

“I did a lot of promoting [for PCS],” Sims explained to us. “I created flyers and posted them around the school. Starting out, we went to all of the orientations with a huge display board, put a bunch of questions on there, and gave out swag—t-shirts and stickers. People love free stuff. It also helped that we told them there’s free pizza. That’s how we really got out name out there and promoted the club.”

Since then, she’s interned for Bank of America and Harris Corporation, worked with Black Girls Code, and volunteered extensively for Tech Kids Unlimited. But at first? “When I was little, I wanted to be a writer,” Sims explained. “I really liked writing and coming up with stories. It was in high school that I got into technology and coding—I had a Myspace account, and I liked altering the backgrounds, and all that customization was done in HTML and CSS. I thought that was really cool and tangible—altering different stuff in a webpage and seeing it change in front of your eyes.”

Last year, Sims interned for Bank of America as a technology intern, and this year, she’s interned at Harris Corporation—two very different companies. “The financial industry is really fast-paced and it’s stricter when it comes to guidelines and what’s expected of you,” Sims told us. “Working at the defense company was more laid-back, but still really cool because I was working on products that the Armed Forces are actually using.”

All of that began with a trip to Career Services. “I went to them and sought out help on how to make my resume better and how to write a good essay,” Sims said. Not long after, she landed her second internship by attending one of the many career fairs offered on both campuses. “I met an organization there called INROADS. They pretty much help students get jobs in any field they want, and they guide you through the whole process. I followed up and eventually got matched with Harris, interviewed with them, and that’s how I got the job.”

For such a large company like Harris, which has multiple locations around the country, one might assume it would be easy to get lost in the shuffle. Not so for Sims! Recently, she was given an opportunity to pitch an original idea directly to her supervisor. “He allowed me to create my own independent project—something that he wanted to implement at the company. That was a great experience; it made me feel valued, that they actually take your ideas and listen to you and care about what you think.”

Sims also volunteers her time with Black Girls Code, a nonprofit organization working to provide education in the STEM fields to young black girls all over the US. “I helped the girls when they needed help with any lines of code and gave them motivation when they thought they couldn’t do it,” Sims explained, having participated in the nonprofit’s hackathons before becoming a mentor. “It was definitely really fun—seeing the girls learn code and come up with their website all from starch. It’s really impressive.”

As a mentor and a tech wiz herself, Sims had a few words of wisdom for any would-be coders out there: “I would say definitely explore the different options out there and be open. Grasp everything with an open mind, and if you’re into something, don’t be afraid to try it. Don’t think that this is way too hard for you—just go out there, explore opportunities, and do it. That’s really the main thing: thinking about something you want to do and just doing it.”

What motivates someone like Sims? “I would say knowing that I’m going to be making an impact on someone. Knowing that I’ll be making a positive impact and really contributing to something that’s bigger than me is what motivates me.” Wise words!

She recently accepted a job at the Walt Disney Company as a software engineer, and we couldn’t be happier to hear the news.