From famous theme parks to sunny beaches, Orange County, California has it all. The charm of this county is precisely what drew alumna Devin Held to the University of California, Irvine.
“I grew up in a very small town in Canada and was always fascinated by the beauty of California, in particular Orange County,” said Held, who attended UCI as an international student and is also an avid travel blogger with almost 20,000 followers on Instagram. “I knew I wanted to live there and came across UCI during my research. I became obsessed with the school as I read more about it and knew I needed to apply!”
Held graduated from UCI with a B.S. in computer science in 2015. During her time at UCI, Held was involved in a number of activities, from co-founding the Application Development Club to participating in research alongside ICS professors and graduate students.
“One of my most notable highlights from UCI was the friends I made who also were specializing in computer science,” Held said. “They made classes more fun and inspired me to develop the motivation and drive that I have with technology today.”
Although Held loves programming and has an impressive career in the technology industry, she said majoring in computer science wasn’t her original plan when entering the university. She was initially interested in accounting but realized that it wasn’t the right path for her.
“After a quarter or two of weighing my options and meeting a new friend in [computer science], I decided to give it a try,” Held said. “Once I took a programming class, there was no turning back — I loved it! Loved it so much that I decided to pursue a master’s degree at Western [University] to learn even more.”
Held furthered her interests in computer science at Western University, located in Canada, by specializing in software engineering and researching the effect of different hardware accelerators and their performance on 3D image reconstruction algorithms for her thesis.
Since receiving her M.S. in computer science in 2016, Held has worked as a software developer at Deloitte Canada. She soon became a lead developer and manager at the company and was also one of the first developers on dTrax, Deloitte’s award-winning AI-enabled contract lifecycle management application. In 2020, dTrax was spun out of Deloitte as an independent business and was rebranded as Arteria AI. Held currently works at Arteria AI as a technical product manager.
“I am focusing on how to improve the app both from product and technical perspectives, along with managing a team of developers,” she said.
Aside from working on the nitty-gritty, Held’s other experiences in her professional life include mentorship and advocacy, such as her participation in women in STEM programs. Held was also named a role model for women in STEM in 2019 by See it • Be it • STEM it, an initiative that empowers young girls in STEM.
“My love for programs that focus on Women in STEM really came from being one of a few women in my computer science classes at UCI back in the day,” Held said. “Since then, I’ve joined programs to teach different STEM subjects to younger children and represented my previous company at recruiting events for Women in STEM.”
Held added that without her education at UCI, she wouldn’t have enjoyed the success she’s experienced today because the coursework and projects she engaged in “taught me that I enjoyed [software development] so much.”
“I think about my education [at UCI] quite a bit as I attribute my thought process and approach to problems to how professors structured assignments and the type of work we did,” Held said. “[UCI] is where I learned how to strategically approach a problem, breaking it down into small components and planning upfront, which has helped me significantly to get where I am today.”
She advises current ICS students to also be involved in side projects or internships so they can not only expand their knowledge, but also apply their education to real life and build their resumes. And of course, students shouldn’t forget to enjoy the college experience.
“Try to find a circle of friends in your major. They become a support system that will help you get through challenging classes, stay up late studying, and make your classes even more enjoyable,” Held said.
— Karen Phan