Student Spotlight: Rachelle Cha
Updated: Aug 25, 2020
Where Computer Science meets Entrepreneurship
Welcome to Student Spotlight, a series where I interview my peers about their passions and ventures. Today I'm talking with Rachelle Cha, a good friend of mine who is majoring in Computer Science and Statistics. Rachelle is currently working on the Civil Miller-Watkins campaign for Tennessee district 26 state senate as a data analyst!
I met Rachelle last year when we were competing (on separate teams) for the Hult Prize Competition and now we're both this year's Co-Campus Directors! I was pulled by her fascination for data and business. Rachelle is one of the most ambitious, experimental yet humorous people I know, making her all the more captivating. Today I want to ask her about how her interests and activities tie into her goals for the future!
Janice: Hello Rachelle! Glad to see you've been doing great this summer. Can you give us a brief explanation about how you're involved with entrepreneurship and business as a computer science major? How did you get involved and what pushed you out of your comfort zone?
Rachelle: Hey Janice! Last school year, I participated in Hult Prize where my team and I created a business called SeaWe: a saran wrap alternative made out of seaweed. We placed first at the OnCampus competition and then went on to get Top 6 at the Toronto Regionals. Unfortunately, that’s where my run as a competitor ends but this year, I took on the role of Co-Campus Director! I’m really excited to be a part of this organization from the other side of things.
I got involved with all this by pure coincidence. Some of my first friends at Rutgers were in the business school so I would tag along with them to business school events. One interest meeting I got dragged into was Road to Silicon Valley. I wasn’t fully set on joining but my friend Ashley pushed me to sign up anyway. The rest is history! Without RSVP, I wouldn’t have known about Hult Prize and I wouldn’t be Co-Campus Director!
What is one passion project you're working on or something you'd like to work on in the future?
I’m currently working on bringing the synesthetic experience to people without synesthesia! I’m developing this website called Chromesthesia where people can put in their favorite song and it will output a color depending on what people with synesthesia have said. This was my first time using machine learning and it’s super exciting how a computer can learn like that! My goals with this are to make it faster, more user friendly, and accurate.
Do you think any of your previous experiences (or high school experiences) helped kindle your journey with coding or business?
Honestly, I can’t really think of much. Growing up, my sister was always the entrepreneur. She was always on that hustle making things and selling them since elementary school. Once we got to high school, my sister was the engineering major who excelled at math and science while I was the architecture major who really enjoyed history. I will admit, I was a huge video game and technology nerd. I was always playing the latest video games and I always kept up with the latest news in tech whether there’s a new Apple device on the market or a new technological advance like the Asus Zenbook Duo, but I never really felt inclined to tinker with actually coding or anything like that though.
What advice would you give someone wanting to pursue a track similar to yours?
I guess my advice would be to not be afraid. It sounds silly now, but I was really intimidated going into a space meant for business students as a computer science major. I was also nervous that my extracurriculars and leadership wouldn’t tell the story I wanted it to but I’m really glad I stuck with it. My resume tells a story of passion for entrepreneurship and computer science/data science. There’s nothing wrong with joining clubs and orgs that are outside of your major. Just do what makes you happy and I’m sure you’ll learn something that you can apply to your future career path.
What have you learned from the Entrepreneurship spaces on campus that applies to computer science?
Being a part of Road to Silicon Valley and Hult Prize has either taught me or helped me refine all the soft skills necessary in life. It helped me develop skills in team work, time management, critical thinking, and creativity. I think the biggest skill I was able to refine is public speaking. At the time, the regional competition was still set to be hosted in person so my team and I wanted to get practice speaking in front of large crowds. We decided to ask Business Forum professors if we can present to their class which they happily accepted. I’ve always been a pretty strong presenter and was never really afraid to speak in front of people until that day. From what the professor told me, depending on the section, the class size is anywhere between 200 and 500 kids. It definitely has to be the biggest lecture in the whole business school. After presenting to a large crowd like that, I feel like I can present in front of anyone and everyone.
What are the best resources that have helped you along the way?
I don’t really have any resources in particular that helped me get where I am in the traditional sense, like a specific blog or book, but I think something that helped me pivot is being a part of events on campus and meeting people who are passionate about what they do. I went to HackRU (my first ever hackathon) and had a great time. Even though I didn’t know how to code, I was able to contribute to the group and learn a lot from it! Here, I realized how much I enjoyed creating things and being a part of this community. Similarly, I didn’t really care for entrepreneurship before Hult Prize and RSVP but seeing everyone talk about their businesses so passionately made me want to put in the same energy with my entrepreneurship journey.
I guess the main takeaway from this is, even if you’re only a little bit interested, try immersing yourself in the community. Meeting people who are passionate and becoming an active part of the community will allow you to accurately gauge your interest. I feel like it’s a cop out to just sit on the sideline and say “I can’t do that” or “I don’t think I’ll be interested.” If I did that, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.
I guess you can say I’m a real “trial by fire” type of person :)
What are your goals for the future? Is there a dream company you would like to work for or make one your own?
Yeah I actually get asked this question quite a bit since I’m part of a mentorship program called Built By Girls. My goal for the future is to become a data scientist or data analyst! I love statistics and computer science so this is the perfect intersection between the two. There are many different stories one data set can tell but it’s the data scientist’s job to choose which one should be heard. I’m so excited to jump into that kind of work.
My dream company is Spotify! I’ve always loved music and I grew up around music. I even host a radio show for 90.3 The Core: a college radio station at Rutgers University! I especially love how data science and machine learning plays a big part in the Spotify experience from the music recommendation to which advertisements you get.
I’ve had some ideas for my own business but I don’t think I’ve thought about it hard enough to talk about yet hahahaha. Be on the lookout for my name in 10 years!