For Tamim Rahman, it all started with Transformers.
“Robots and stuff like that lit a spark within me as a kid,” says Tamim, a 22-year-old student at Stony Brook University. “And that’s what got me into robotics in my early years and high school.”
Tamim has steadily been exploring his passion for Computer Science (CS) since that first spark, advancing to AP CS classes, participating in FinTech Focus —a two-week immersive coding program run by Giant Machines (GM)—and eventually becoming a Teaching Assistant himself.
We sat down with him to chat about how GM has helped him grow his career, why the shower may be the best place for a problem breakthrough, and why it’s important to learn how to share your code with others.
Transformers and Beyond
For the Jamaica, Queens born and bred Tamim, it was a combination of his love for robots and his first general CS class in 7th grade that secured his path toward software engineering. After noticing Tamim’s interest in computers, his 7th grade teacher told him about Code Academy, a site that provides free coding courses.
For his first lesson, he built a solar system. “I was, like, wow you just type some stuff down and you see it happen at your computer,” he says. “I immediately thought about going into CS and was in the STEM program in my school. Then, in 10th grade I took an Intro to CS class and I fell in love with it. Then I took AP Computer Science.”
Tamim honed his skill by building an AI robot on the robotics team (which placed first in 2019 in New York state) with his CS teacher Emmanuel Suriel as his mentor.
Tamim was not only being supported to follow his STEM passions by his teachers but also his fellow high school classmates, including one who showed him an application for FinTech Focus.
The rest is history.
Focusing on FinTech
In 2019, as a rising college freshman, Tamim spent four weeks in the New Jersey Goldman Sachs office. After completing the program, he kept in touch with the GM team as he started college. Then Covid hit—halting any plans for the summer of 2020. But Tamim didn’t give up on his goals, eventually applying to be a FinTech Focus Teaching Assistant (TA) in the summer of 2021. Joining FinTech Focus as a TA helped him discover his own strengths.
“Coming into it my first year I kind of thought, ‘I don’t know how much I should step in and how much I should bring my voice up to tell the students what might be beneficial to them’ so… I was a little more nervous,” he says. “But then I realized that as a TA, I was still one of the instructors and my opinion was valued as much as anyone else’s.”
In his role as a TA, Tamim found freedom outside of his comfort zone and how having this direct impact on the future of CS was both enlightening and rewarding.
“Being able to teach younger students to code is a very powerful thing to bring potentially more software engineers into the world,” he says. “Software engineers are needed everywhere and getting younger kids involved is the first big step into creating some great engineers.”
Tamim felt strongly about passing along his own learned experiences to his students, using real life examples to help them feel more comfortable with noticing the signs of burnout.
“I tell my students all the time, if you need a break, go ahead and take it. We have designated breaks, but if you’re feeling tired or mentally not there, then take a break and look away from your computer,” he explains. “I would tell my students stories of when I had an intense assignment due in college but I’d go take a shower or something. Then in the shower, with shampoo on my head, I’d rush out to write down something I thought of just because I gave myself the space to step away.”
Research shows high burnout rates in tech, and Tamim feels strongly about avoiding that himself and helping his students do so, too.
“I learned through my mentors and programs that you know, take a break, step away from it, do something fun,” he says. “You need a fresher mind to be able to think about it and your quality of work will decrease if you’re continuously burning yourself out.”
Additionally, he tells his students to not shy away from making personal connections with their teammates; something that he saw firsthand at Giant Machines. “This past summer really instilled that in me, I really got to meet the team,” he explains. “ I got to meet Ty [Curry, Program Manager at Giant Machines] this summer and he’s been a great mentor to me and we’d sit during lunch and talk about stuff that isn’t work and that was a great culture [to be] a part of.”
“Representation matters greatly, and working alongside individuals like Tamim, who are devoted to fostering a space for student exposure and advancement within the tech domain, brings me immense joy,” Ty says. “Like many of our other TAs, Tamim is also seeking greater opportunities within the tech realm. It’s my sincere pleasure to support them however I can.”
The Giant Machines Experience
A large part of Tamim’s work and drive comes back to his experience with Giant Machines. Getting to know the team on a level beyond being a program participant has given him a stronger sense of what kind of engineer he wants to be.
“Everyone has that same great energy. That culture was great and I felt very accepted and I learned a lot from everyone,” he says. “At GM, everything you do and say is so valued and it makes you feel like you belong and this is a group of people who, if you say something to them, they’ll really respect your opinion.”
Having knowledge shared with him from professionals at GM helped him develop a foundational belief in sharing knowledge.
“Computer Science can be so competitive and I don’t think it should be like when people hide their screens because they don’t want anyone else to see,” he explains. “In the industry, when you’re coding, you’re not coding by yourself, you always have a team with you. So sharing your code and sharing your ideas makes it a learning experience for everyone. CS can be hard and you don’t want to go down that path alone.”
When it comes to the next generation of engineers, Tamim hopes they can realize how many resources are actually available to them.
“I think what’s lacking a little bit in the CS world is just the knowledge out there that this is available,” he says. “I’ve met some people in college who said they’ve never seen code in their life. And if someone had told them all of this was available, it could have been introduced to them a lot earlier. Hopefully I can be part of the movement that spreads these resources.”
Luckily, he already is part of it.