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Stuart Gavidia ’24 majored in computer science while interning at Amazon, Cannon, and Pierce County

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Student looks into the camera and smiles while standing in front of a whiteboard.

Image: PLU Computer Science major Stuart Gavidia poses for a portrait for his Senior Spotlight, Wednesday, May 1, 2024, at PLU. Gavidia interned at Amazon and Pierce-County, and is already working part-time as a software engineer. (PLU Photo / Sy Bean)

June 13, 2024
By Mark Storer
PLU Marketing & Communications Guest Writer

Stuart Gavidia is a first generation Latino student and spent most of his life in Lakewood and then Spanaway, about 10 minutes from PLU, and he knew he wanted to come here for college, so he could remain close to his family.

From an early age, he also knew he wanted to be a doctor. “Before my freshman year, I did a multicare nursing camp, and I was already working in a pharmacy, about to receive training to be a pharmacy technician,” Gavidia says.

Gavidia knew he wanted to take a non-traditional path to medical school. “I wanted to impact people’s lives in a positive way, but I also didn’t want to major in biology or chemistry, so I entered my freshman year as a computer science major,” he says. It was a choice that would radically change his chosen path.

In his first computer science class at PLU, Gavidia learned how quickly software can scale and impact people around the world. “Just one person, or a small group, can accomplish so much,” Gavidia says. That moment was key for him: he realized he didn’t have to go to med school to have a profound impact. Gavidia decided to major in computer science, redirecting his career trajectory toward tech instead of medicine.

Gavidia immersed himself in his new field from the start, becoming a computer lab teaching assistant during the spring semester of his first year. “It was rewarding getting to help students and having them get to that ‘ah ha’ moment.” He continued to tutor other students during his sophomore and junior years. In the spring of this sophomore year, Gavidia gained his first experience in technology at Pierce County as a Software Development Intern. “I worked as part of the I.T. department, and I got to work with many front-end and back-end technologies.”

Gavidia interned at Amazon on the Alexa Notifications team during the summer following his sophomore year. He contributed to a project involving cutting-edge facial recognition technologies. “It was a complicated project, but it was very rewarding, too,” Gavidia says. During the fall of his junior year, Gavidia’s career took another significant step forward when he joined Cannon as a full-stack software engineer, working on an open-source tool for managing smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain.

Gavidia’s internships allowed him to establish mentors, which was vital to his learning and something he recommends to other students. At PLU, his mentors were Professor Jeff Caley, an assistant professor of computer science, and Professor Justin Lytle, a professor of chemistry.

“Dr. Caley was so proactive, and he gave me, and other students, opportunities. He gets you connected with the right people,” Gavidia says. “Dr. Lytle, though he’s not in computer science, was instrumental in helping me navigate college experiences and having interesting discussions about the intersections of life science and technology. He opened up that pathway to me.”

Gavidia also was part of the College of Natural Sciences Mentoring Program. “Everyone should use that program. Those alumni are super motivated, and they answer any questions you have. It could be related to your major or not, and you can just have good conversations with them.”

Amazon has already offered him a software engineering position. Eventually, he wants to start his own software company after gaining more experience in the field.

Student works on a laptop in a classroom with other students.
Four people look into the camera.
Student works on a laptop with blue light.