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A TechGuide interview with professor and coordinator, Dr. Aaron Wester 

How did you get into computer science?

I’ve always had a passion for computer technology. The first computer I ever used was hand delivered by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs to my magnet school. I remember the chirping and beeping bootup sounds and how the screen went from pitch black to monochromatic with a green text prompt awaiting my command. 

I begged my father for a computer, and woke up one Christmas morning to an amazing Tandy 1000EX PC. Years later, I heard that Earthlink Network, a new ISP based in Pasadena was hiring technical support specialists, and I saw my opportunity. The only problem was that I had no idea what the “Internet” really was. AOL was the hottest tech company around at the time, with smaller ISPs making a splash by offering unlimited access to websites that were outside of AOL’s “garden walls.” 

I spent two weeks learning everything I could about the technical end of managing Internet connections, and I took that knowledge into my interview and got the job. I made twelve dollars an hour, which was a lot for a non-college graduate who had only held part-time jobs in retail that made about six dollars an hour.

I discovered very quickly that I didn’t know nearly enough about troubleshooting internet connectivity issues, so as this was a new company with so many new hires it was a shamble of disorganization. I noticed there the job of billing agent, across from the technical support team, looked easier, so I got up, walked over to their section, sat down, and started fumbling around with the computer terminal. 

Eventually, a supervisor with a clipboard walked by and asked who I was. I confidently and boldly stated I was the new billing support representative. I was asked how much I made per hour, so I went out on a limb and said $18 an hour. The supervisor said okay, jotted my name and hourly wage amount down, and walked away, giving me a raise and promotion faster than I had ever experienced.

I soon noticed that the Web support team had Nerf guns, inflatable toys, pizza boxes lying around, and tons of soda, not to mention lots of cool job-related technology gadgets. I knew this was where I was meant to be. So, I Learned how to make web pages using HTML, JavaScript, and back-end CGI code. One day the team asked me to build a fully functional website from scratch and troubleshoot a broken CGI script. I passed and got the job.

Here I gained tremendous hands-on real-world experience building and debugging website code, both on the client-side front end, and the server-side back end. I was attending college and had an internship at the United States Congress for Congressman James Rogan. While I was an intern, his website designer was going on maternity leave and I was asked if I wanted a contract to work on the site. I jumped at the opportunity, and when Congressman Rogan became appointed to lead the impeachment trial against former President Bill Clinton, the website received millions of views from all over the world and was spotlighted across global media. 

This got the attention of a hot web technology incubator called Idealab!, which was known for launching new venture-funded pre-IPO startups and transforming them into Wall Street darlings such as eToys, Overture,, Citysearch, and Netzero. Idealab! saw my work and reached out to me and asked if I’d like to work for them and the rest is history. 

I moved up the ranks quickly across various tech companies, but when I received my first promotion into management, I discovered I was like a fish out of water without a college degree, so I doubled down on school as a priority and graduated with a bachelor’s in business management, then an MBA in technology management, and finally a PhD in organizational leadership and information systems technology.

My career in technology has spanned nearly 30 years. I experienced first-hand the exhilaration of the DotCom boom, and then survived the devastating effects of the DotBomb bust. I’ve worked on projects for practically every major technology company, with a focus on data science. After I received my master’s degree, I discovered I thoroughly enjoyed statistics and business intelligence more than most sane people, so, I pivoted my career to data analytics. I’ve led multiple teams and projects for top-ranked tech companies to high revenue success through data-driven key performance evaluations and actionable engaging recommendations for conversions-based optimizations.

Why get a bachelor’s in computer science and why now?

Completing a technology-focused STEM degree at a bachelor’s level is a primary stepping stone that you can use to open new doors of opportunity, gain perspective on how to approach business and technology process challenges, and learn the tools of the trade that you won’t otherwise have immediate access to. You’ll experiment with various programming languages, build end-to-end dev projects that you can showcase in your portfolio, build the confidence you need to lead projects and people, and develop the ability to pivot across multiple paths as you experiment with different types of technology-based opportunities, As for “why now?”, well, there’s no time like the present. There is a great proverb, “Do it. Do it right. Do it right now.” by Spencer W. Kimball. This is your time to make your mark in the tech field.

What’s the best way for students to prepare for a bachelor’s in computer science (what kinds of skills or knowledge do they need to be successful?

Touch typing (e.g. blind typing) is a must as you can’t write thousands of lines of code without knowing how to type accurately. Set up a GitHub account and start building your portfolio with stand-alone projects you create on your own or as part of a team. Become familiar with version control systems and IDEs such as Visual Studio, Eclipse, NetBeans, PyCharm, Android Studio, and AWS Cloud 9.

What kinds of other topics, electives, or majors fit well with computer science?

Data science, cybersecurity, data management, project management with an IT emphasis, artificial intelligence, machine learning, UX/GUI/Visual Design, web development, and mobile applications development.

What computer science topic are your students interested in right now?

My students are fascinated by machine learning and artificial intelligence projects such as how to build that learning context through interactions. We’re also exploring how to create dynamic prescriptive relevant goal-oriented insights that can easily be customized based on dynamic automated evaluations from ranges of behavioral traits, characteristics, and role-level decision-making within organizational hierarchies. AI art is emerging where digital imagery can be integrated into console and computer gaming or application interfaces for stunning high-resolution visualizations or high-fidelity concept ideation for pitching projects to clients. And large-enterprise platforms have been releasing SaaS (software as a service), enabling exciting new distributed product capabilities, new features, and fast-to-market deployments.

What types of jobs are computer science graduates finding? Is there a favorite company or organization where students like to look for a job? What do entry-level computer science jobs look like?

Digital marketing agency opportunities are highly sought after by new graduates for entry-level consulting which helps build out their CVs and portfolios with team projects for top industry names. I’m based out of the Alliant International University San Diego campus, so prominent companies in the area that are most desirable for our students include (but are not limited to) Ignite Visibility, Qualcomm, Sony, Petco, Scripps Health, and Ilumina.

An entry-level job in computer science looks like this: coding, discussing features with stakeholders, coding, planning, coding, data extracting, coding, data transforming, coding, resolving bugs, coding, providing support, and did I mention coding?

If you had to choose one or two books, articles, documentaries, podcasts, etc. to be included on a required reading list for computer science students, what would it be?

  • The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman
  • iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It by Steve Wozniak and Gina Smith
  • Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
  • Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance



Dr. Aaron M. Wester is a professor and Coordinator for the Master of Science in Data Analytics (MSDA) program for the California School of Management and Leadership (CSML). Dr. Wester holds a BS in Business Management, an MBA in Technology Management, and a Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership, Information Studies and Technology from the University of Phoenix. He has led innovative global analytics and business intelligence initiatives for clients including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Paypal, Sony, Intel, T-Mobile, Apple, The Walt Disney Company, Intuit, Intel, Allstate, Anthem, NBC News, Bonneville International, and a number of other Fortune 500 organizations. Dr. Wester has previously instructed at Brigham Young University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Tianjin University in China. Dr. Wester is a published author and public speaker. His research interests include calm analytics strategies in Internet-of-Things (IoT) device constructs, organic owned media optimization tactics and behavioral user engagement influences in predictive machine learning environments.

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