Sara Martinez

Current Software Systems Student


Feeling at home

Sara describes the Software Systems (SoSy) program, offered at SFU’s Surrey campus, as a “very welcoming small community.”

An admittedly shy student in high school, Sara blossomed in the program’s supportive environment and smaller class sizes. “The SoSy staff and students were so helpful and welcoming and that made for a smooth transition from high school to university,” she says.

Strength in numbers

She “clicked instantly” with many people in her classes, partly because of their shared passion for programming, and also thanks to the numerous opportunities for teamwork offered by the Software Systems program. “Tackling a project and working towards a deadline together is great practice for the work environment,” she says.

By taking part in team projects, she also discovered that often many heads are better than one. “When it comes to coding, you might think, ‘I have no idea how to do this,’ but then you work with other people and develop ideas together,” she says.

Childhood dreams become reality

The software development seed was sown when Sara first developed a website at age 14.

“From then, I knew I wanted to work with computers when I was grew up,” she says. “I loved the challenge and had a real feeling of accomplishment when I finished that project.”

Through SFU’s co-op program, she recently wrapped up a work placement with the programming team at Touch Squid, who developed a remote app that converts Android smartphones or tablets into a universal remote control.

“The co-op placement was a really good experience and helped me hone my skills,” she says. “It really boosted by confidence for interviews – now I feel like I can speak with experienced people about important topics in the tech industry.”

Like many budding software developers, Microsoft is one of Sara’s dream companies and she hopes to complete a co-op placement in the future at the its headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

There could also be post-graduation opportunities even closer to home, as Microsoft is slated to open the Microsoft Canada Excellence Centre in 2015 in Vancouver. “That would be a real dream come true for me,” she says.

Breaking out of the comfort zone

Eleanor Roosevelt is often quoted to have said “do one thing every day that scares you,” the idea being that the more you push yourself out of your comfort zones and confront your fears, the more you experience life, branch out and make new connections. University is the perfect time to take this challenge, says Sara, because it’s a time to “find out who you are and what you like.”

When asked her for her greatest achievement, she replies, “opening up more.”

“In high school I was shy and at the start, I found it hard to speak up in class,” she explains. “But when I spoke to my professors and the TAs (teaching assistants), I found them so helpful.”

Sara has been an orientation team leader and an instructor with Blast Off, an outreach program with SFU and the Surrey School District that gives elementary students a taste of engineering through hands-on demonstrations.

She was also involved with the Software Systems Student Society as the director of activities and sat on the FROSH committee. Perhaps it’s no surprise that her top three tips for new students are: “Get involved, don’t be afraid to ask questions and think outside the box.”