Former Teaching Assistant and Student Embark on OMSCS Journey Together

Originally meeting at GSU prior to the pandemic, these friends recently reconnected as Georgia Tech online students.
Amber Wells is a student in Georgia Tech's OMSCS program

Dhara Shah and Amber Wells, once a teaching assistant (TA) and undergraduate student respectively at Georgia State University (GSU), are now tackling Georgia Tech’s Online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMSCS) program together. 

Although their individual paths are different, their support for one another has been invaluable as they pursue common goals of advancing their computer science (CS) skills.

Their journey began amidst the Covid-19 pandemic when universities worldwide grappled with the sudden shift to remote instruction. 

Shah and Wells connected in a system-level programming class, where Shah served as a TA.

"Two weeks later, we were all quarantined because Covid hit," Shah said. "Amber sent me an email saying, 'Don’t worry, we’re in this together.' As a student, you can relate to other students, no matter what level they are."

The pair supported each other throughout the class. In December 2021, Shah graduated with her Ph. D. while Wells graduated with a bachelor’s degree in CS.

A couple of years later, the two reconnected over LinkedIn and discovered they had both decided to continue their education. Their synchronous paths converged again, this time in Georgia Tech's OMSCS program. 

For Wells, the decision to pursue further education stemmed from a desire to bridge the diversity gap in artificial intelligence (AI), a field she became increasingly passionate about. 

Shah says she missed school and wanted to keep up with cutting-edge CS knowledge.

“For me, it’s not about the degree,” Shah said. “It’s more about belonging to a crowd I can grow with, where I can accept my mistakes and learn.”

Wells works as an application developer at Georgia Tech, while Shah is a data scientist at Cox Communications. With shared challenges of balancing demanding work schedules and rigorous coursework, both found solace in their shared journey and new online community.

“You can make friends along the way, but joining the program with someone you know, someone you’ve seen talked to before really helps,” Wells said. “I’m also really enjoying being involved in the Discord chat, hosting study sessions, and working with my peers.”

Despite the virtual nature of their interactions, both emphasize the importance of community and support networks in navigating the OMSCS program. They have found ways to foster connections and camaraderie, transcending the digital divide.

"Amber is my accountability buddy and the best one that I have," Shah said, highlighting the pivotal role Wells played in guiding her through tasks like class selection. Meanwhile, Shah is helpful with nuances of code and edge cases.

As they finish their first semester of the program together, Shah and Wells advise prospective OMSCS students to take time off from work for exam days, spend at least 30 minutes a day on coursework, and have accountability buddies.

“Go ahead and try it. The program is much more affordable than others out there,” Wells said. “It’s been really nice to meet other people doing this program to reach their goals.”

OMSCS will host its annual conference virtually and in person from April 29 – May 1. This year, the program is celebrating its 10th anniversary. More information about the conference can be found here.


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