Kwam Kassim’s love of coding inspired him to pursue a bachelor of science degree in software engineering, and he accomplished that last week through the hard work and his mom’s dedication.
The Gilbert resident earned his degree at Arizona State University’s spring graduation ceremony May 8.
Once a high school athlete, Kassim received a football scholarship that would have enabled him to earn a four-year degree. But shortly after starting school, he realized he’d lost his passion for the sport.
Withdrawing from school, he took some general education classes, worked at warehouses and call centers, and tried to discover his true passion in life.
Not long after relocating to Arizona, he discovered coding. What began out of curiosity quickly developed into a major pursuit.
“One day, I picked up coding and I just never let it go,” Kassim said. “A year passed by and I coded every day. I decided to take a real chance at engineering. I hadn’t even thought about majoring in STEM because I was afraid of the math, but I decided to take a chance and not be afraid of it.”
His mother, a driver for Uber, approached him with an opportunity: Earning his degree at ASU Online.
Through the Uber Education Partnership, a tuition-coverage program for qualifying Uber drivers and eligible family members, Kassim was able to apply to ASU Online and take the first step on a new life path.
“She’s the reason I was able to attend ASU,” he said. “This partnership was incredibly helpful as it allowed me to focus on my studies without worrying about the financial burden of student debt. It provided me with the opportunity to pursue a great education, which I truly appreciate.”
Going back to school felt different this time around, Kassim said.
While he had struggled before to find a focus in school, his educational goals had become clear, he explained.
“ASU made me realize how much I love and enjoy engineering and computer science,” he said. “ASU showed me all the possibilities and how fun this field actually is, especially when you’re working on solving real-world problems. … ASU really helped transform my life in a major way.”
Kassim explained that his “aha moment” came “when I stumbled upon an advertisement for coding.”
“Out of curiosity, I decided to try it out and quickly found myself captivated by it. However, my true ‘aha moment’ occurred when I created my first web application that assisted users with budgeting.
“I was so engrossed in the process that I did not even realize I had spent about 30 hours that weekend working on it, because of how much I enjoyed the process.
“It was then that I knew for certain that I wanted to pursue a career in software engineering. So majoring in the (computer science) software engineering field was a no-brainer.”
He said that while he was at ASU Online. “I was surprised to learn about the strong correlation between math and software engineering, which ultimately changed my perspective.”
“Initially, I was taken aback by the sheer number of math classes required for a software engineering major and could not fathom why they were necessary. However, after taking a course in discrete math at ASU, I came to understand the critical role math plays in software engineering.
“It opened my eyes to the fact that mathematical concepts can be used to tackle complex software engineering problems, and this realization altered my perspective on the importance of math.”
Kassim is particularly grateful to ASU Online database Professor Diego Del Blanco, who “taught me the most important lesson.”
“He emphasized the significance of having the ability to solve problems, even if there is limited information or assistance available. He also stressed the importance of being exposed to various technologies and having the skill to read and comprehend documentation.”
For those still in school, Kassim advises they “persevere through the difficult times.”
“There will be moments when the workload seems overwhelming and you may feel like giving up,” he said. “However, it’s important to remember not to quit and to keep pushing forward, the end feels so much sweeter.”
Kassim will continue working as an engineer for Starbucks.