From Duke Kunshan to Silicon Valley

Written by Gao Ge

Four students graduated from Duke Kunshan’s Master of Engineering in Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) program in fall 2021 and a further 31 will graduate this spring. Many graduating students have already received job offers from leading Internet companies. Among them, five students have been hired by Google, 15 by Meta (formerly Facebook), seven by Amazon and others by industry leaders such as Intel, Microsoft, ByteDance, Tencent, JD and Baidu.

The success of Duke Kunshan’s inaugural ECE students in finding employment shows that working hard pays off.

Switching career to coding: tackling a master’s degree in ECE after earning a bachelor’s in a different field

When Wenchao Guo received his first job offer he felt a sense of relief, but it was to be followed by many more. During campus recruitment season, Guo received job offers from Meta, ByteDance, Tusimple, Tencent and Baidu, and accepted one at Google.

If the journey of studying and job-seeking while on the ECE program is a car rally spanning two years, Guo started the race driving an unmodified vehicle. Having majored in materials engineering in his undergraduate studies, he faced a steep learning curve compared to his classmates from a computer science background. For students who earned a bachelor’s degree in a different field, Duke Kunshan’s ECE program offers an open curriculum, which allows them to quickly catch up with other students.

“Duke Kunshan’s ECE program curriculum is very well designed and helped us build a solid foundation in the first year. Courses like ECE 550 Fundamentals of Computer Systems and Engineering and ECE 650 Systems Programming and Engineering gave us an overall view of computer systems,” said Guo.

“Other courses are more focused on the industry. For instance, the software development process I learned in ECE 651 Software Engineering matched well with the processes used by mainstream Internet companies, so I got some extra points during job interviews by talking about my programming experience,” he added.

Wenchao Guo

A two-year program split between China and the United States

Yilin Li is also a student with a non-computer science background but received multiple job offers from leading Internet companies.

In addition to the open and learner-friendly curriculum, Li considers the prominent advantage of Duke Kunshan’s ECE program to be a special arrangement that allows students to spend their first year in China and second in the U.S. during the two-year program. In his first year, at Duke Kunshan University, Li quickly adapted to the English-language environment and the learning pace of his new field, while during his second year at Duke he took advantage of the university’s resources to search for jobs in the U.S.

Yilin Li

Spending a year at Duke, students enjoy access to the university’s large elite alumni network, which is especially important when searching for jobs in the Internet industry, where internal referral is highly valued. When talking about their job application experiences, both Yilin Li and Wenchao Guo emphasized the help they received from Duke alumni, who, backed by the strength of Duke’s ECE program and reputation, often find work at leading Internet companies. The Chinese proverb, ‚ÄòWithin the four seas all men are brothers’ is apt for describing the Duke network in California’s Sillicon Valley, where alumni have each other’s backs. Whether through direct contact with Duke alumni or seeking help from the alumni network, students benefit a lot from being a part of Duke University’s student body.

Sustained, specific career support

While students everywhere solve countless algorithm problems on their way to landing jobs at top Internet companies, Duke Kunshan goes a step further, preparing them beyond theoretical exercises.

In their first year, students are required to seek summer internship opportunities at leading Internet companies, implementing their career planning as early as possible in their graduate studies. By doing summer internships, students add valuable experience to their CVs while developing a clear understanding of their future career direction.

Chuyue Zhang, a graduating ECE student, recalled visiting four leading companies in the first semester, as well as attending several campus seminars hosted by high-profile industry experts. In addition, at the beginning of each semester, every student has a one-on-one discussion with their advisor about career planning, which serves as a basis for course selection.

Hanwei Wang, who received job offers from Meta, Google and Amazon, said, “The University has helped us in many ways with our job search. In addition to the learner-friendly curriculum, what impressed me most was the detailed career planning for each student.”

Hanwei Wang

The ECE program’s career support places great emphasis on job interviews and preparing job application materials.

Advisors organize mock interviews, help undergraduates sharpen their resumes and invite seniors to share their experiences with new students. Once campus recruitment season begins, advisors follow the job search progress of each student closely and give out recruitment information from major employers. Sustained and specific support helps students remain free of confusion and clear about their future career path.

Study mate today, alumni resource tomorrow

Two years of training on Duke Kunshan’s ECE program, arms students with much more than just a great job. Highly intensive interview preparation during campus recruitment season also helps students adapt to the pace of a real work environment and accumulate new knowledge and skills, according to Wenchao Guo.

Of course, each student has their own way of relaxing amid intensive study. Hanwei Wang likes to play ball games with friends every now and then, while Yilin Li, who considers himself good at coping with stress, thinks that going out to dinner with friends is a good way to unwind.

The nature of coding, which often involves working alone for long hours behind closed doors, can sometimes lead to anxiety. Sitting down with peers to share issues can both help students improve their technical skills and relieve stress.

For students, the most important gain is always related to people connections.

For both Chuyue Zhang and Wenchao Guo the care and assistance offered by ECE faculty during their job search helped them feel comfortable in a foreign country as members of the Duke Kunshan community. For Hanwei Wang and Yilin Li development and growth came faster through sharing their experiences and knowledge with classmates.

Chuyue Zhang

Campus recruitment has mostly ended and graduation will soon come around. Before that, students will continue to benefit from Duke Kunshan’s alumni resources, and afterwards they will become valued members of the university’s strong, global alumni community, helping future students with their knowledge and experience. With Duke Kunshan’s ECE program behind them, no matter where they end up working, their careers have a head start.

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