A University of Washington graduate who landed a tech position at Starbucks shares his journey battling for a computer science diploma whilst battling most cancers

a couple of people that are talking to each other: Trey Tamaki graduated from the University of Washington this year. During his school years, he had to go through chemotherapy treatments. Trey Tamaki

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Trey Tamaki graduated from the College of Washington this yr. All through his university decades, he experienced to go by chemotherapy remedies. Trey Tamaki

  • Whilst he was learning at the University of Washington, Trey Tamaki was diagnosed with cancer and experienced to consider time off college for chemotherapy solutions and surgeries.
  • Tamaki in the meantime fell in appreciate with pc science, but when he tried using to declare it as a major, his advisor informed him he most probably would not get into the application since of his GPA.
  • Tamaki persevered on the other hand and graduated this year. He lately started out his first task as an affiliate specialized product or service supervisor at Starbucks.
  • Tamaki’s journey is an inspiring tale of using grit and willpower to realize ambitions. 
  • Go to Small business Insider’s homepage for extra tales.

A few weeks into his freshman calendar year at the University of Washington, Trey Tamaki obtained news that would alter his lifestyle.


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Physicians identified Tamaki with phase 2 testicular most cancers, kicking off a cure method that despatched him as a result of a hellish bout of chemotherapy and surgeries all through college or university, forcing him to acquire periodic leaves of absence from school to recover. 

Meanwhile, whilst Tamaki was equipped to show up at classes, he promptly fell in love with personal computer science and hoped to declare it as his important in his junior yr. On through his junior calendar year, an advisor dealt him an mental blow, telling him to pick out an additional field, for the reason that his grades likely would not be good sufficient. 

“Absolutely everyone informed me it was going to be a nightmare,” Tamaki advised Small business Insider. “I listened to from a lot of persons, ‘It’s so competitive to get into CS. It would be really really hard to get in.'” 

But instead of providing up, Tamaki determined to double-down. Remembering what designed him tumble in enjoy with laptop science to begin with — “the plan of making anything new” — bolstered him to uncover a different advisor and persevere by way of the program. This calendar year, he graduated from the University of Washington with a laptop or computer science degree and is now proudly doing the job as an associate complex products supervisor for the API and commerce platform team at Starbucks. 

Here is the tale of how his tenacity and grit served him obtain his goals:

Tamaki had to stability coursework and treatment throughout his time at the College of Washington

When Tamaki 1st arrived to the University of Washington, he experienced no thought what he wished to do when he graduated. He also had no programming encounter to talk of. Prior to he experienced time to begin sorting by those people questions, he gained his diagnosis. 

Tamaki had three chemotherapy remedies in the course of his freshman year that consisted of one 7 days in the hospital and two months out of the healthcare facility — he had to fall out through his 1st quarter because he was missing way too substantially school.  All those were “three rather bad months,” he mentioned. 

By the close of the quarter, he started off limping because of the chemotherapy’s side outcomes.

When he returned to college in the next quarter, he took his initial computer system science program and it was a revelation: He knew that he wanted to pursue a occupation in CS. 

However, the strain wasn’t over. Tamaki had to get equally of his hips changed all through his sophomore 12 months, so he had to fall out for two quarters to get those surgical procedures finished. 

a person standing in front of a refrigerator: While Trey Tamaki was studying at the University of Washington, he had to have chemotherapy treatments. Trey Tamaki

© Trey Tamaki
Although Trey Tamaki was researching at the University of Washington, he experienced to have chemotherapy treatment plans. Trey Tamaki

Through this time, Tamaki often carried minimized study course loads or took time off for health and fitness factors, which also gave him much less options to join extracurricular activities or research groups. He skilled “chemo mind,” exactly where he felt “very foggy” and struggled with everyday tasks. As a result of it all, he continued to just take personal computer science courses, but by his junior, he was even now guiding on some programs, like math.

It was at that stage that his advisor told him that he couldn’t declare the major due to the fact his GPA was not large plenty of, and gave him a list of other majors that he could opt for as an alternative.

The conversation created him cry. 

“I was a junior thinking, ‘I worked so really hard to get here,'” Tamaki claimed.

The base of the advisor’s suggestions was audio: Tamaki actually did have a minimum likelihood of remaining recognized into the software since of his grades. But the way that the advisor offered it — not as a extend goal to shoot for in any case, but as a misplaced induce — is what irked Tamaki. 

“Any person can body it in a good way or destructive way,” he explained. “It lacked so much empathy.”

The good thing is, Tamaki tapped one more advisor who advised him to create about his encounters in a individual assertion and make clear to the school why he deserved a spot in the laptop or computer science application even with his grades. Positive plenty of, he landed a spot in the plan and graduated efficiently. 

Tamaki claims that he particularly preferred his lessons on human-computer interaction, which scientific studies how persons use technology, as perfectly as a class centered on accessibility. 

That 1 hit near to house in aspect simply because he experienced particular working experience with disability. 

“There are ableist parts of society where by we don’t take into consideration a large amount of men and women with disabilities when we code,” Tamaki mentioned. “The regular man or woman who codes is not wondering about how someone blind or with a actual physical disability interacts with a web page. That was the 1 factor I identified.”

a man standing in a room: Trey Tamaki, now an associate technical product manager at Starbucks, gives a talk about an accessibility project. Starbucks

© Starbucks
Trey Tamaki, now an affiliate complex product or service supervisor at Starbucks, presents a communicate about an accessibility venture. Starbucks

Tamaki now performs on Starbucks’ tech team and hopes to do additional operate in accessibility

Through his junior and senior year, Tamaki interned at Starbucks in Seattle, in which he was capable to function on accessibility-connected assignments in the actual world. For illustration, he labored with a product supervisor who focused on accessibility to test whether or not folks with disabilities could entirely entry Starbucks’ website, and make adjustments appropriately. 

Right after Tamaki’s graduation, the organization presented him a occupation. Starbuck’s aim on accessibility made doing work for the enterprise so appealing, Tamaki claims. For case in point, in June, Starbucks opened its very first signing shop in Japan, wherever staff use indicator language to connect with customers. 

a person wearing a pink and purple flowers: Trey Tamaki graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor's degree in computer science in 2020. Trey Tamaki

© Trey Tamaki
Trey Tamaki graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s diploma in computer system science in 2020. Trey Tamaki

This 12 months, Tamaki also strike his four-yr most cancers remission date. There are still a several troubles that he bargains with: Chemotherapy impacted his lungs and psychological overall health, and he’s also immunocompromised. All through the coronavirus pandemic, he’s trying to be as watchful as feasible. 

“One thing I’ve acquired a lot is, remission is just not treated by any implies,” he claimed. “You will find so quite a few issues I have to figure out.”

Now that he’s kicked off write-up-grad lifetime at Starbucks, Tamaki also hopes to possibly get a master’s diploma in human laptop interaction in the foreseeable future, whilst retaining a aim on accessibility. 

“If it can support some sort of people today navigate their existence less difficult, I will discover a whole lot of joy in that,” Tamaki reported. “It could be just a compact challenge in terms of accessibility. It’s quite everyday living transforming. If it helps make obtaining espresso much easier for a single man or woman in terms of building them feel usual, it’s a quite gratifying predicament for me.”

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