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Phillip Yee: Alumnus

Degree Program: Computer Science, B.S.

Undergraduate Institution: UC Santa Cruz

Department: Computer Science and Engineering

Hometown: Salinas, CA

Phillip Yee

“If you really understand something, that’s better than a grade. Concentrate on learning the foundations.”

Tell us about your experience at Baskin Engineering.

There were three professors that were really outstanding. Martine Schlag is a great professor and lecturer in the Computer Science and Engineering Department. Gabriel Elkaim is also awesome. He’s a great motivator and a good teacher. His method is to have students work hard and get motivated. When I interview candidates for work, I look for people who took his courses. Then there was Stephen Peterson who was super helpful and stressed learning over getting a good grade.

What are you up to now?

I’ve been working at Joby Aviation for 3.5 years and I like it. It’s a pretty crazy job. We make electric vertical takeoff and landing aircrafts. They take off like a helicopter and the rotors tilt forward and then they fly on the wing like a regular airplane. When I joined Joby there were nineteen people in the company and now there are around 200, which is pretty crazy. The software team was me and one other guy and we just sat in a corner and typed ferociously for twelve hours every day for eight months. After that, we flew our first prototype with the software that we built. Since then, we’ve flown a number of aircrafts and we’re working on our next aircraft now. My team basically does all the systems that run on the plane.

What advice do you have for students?

Don’t just learn for a grade. If you really understand something, that’s better than a grade. You’re not going to get graded on stuff after college. I’d concentrate on learning the foundations rather than getting good grades. And also, just study. If people studied for homework the way they study for exams, they wouldn’t even need to study for exams because they’d already know the information on it from their homework. Read the textbook, write in the margins. Advice for programmers would be to make a better program than what the professors ask for. You’ll learn more. And I try to do all that at work, too. I try not to cut corners and I’m pretty adamant about trying to catch your breath and do it right the first time, versus doing something okay and having to go back and fix it later.

What do you like to do for fun?

When I’m not working, I like listening to records, woodworking, reading, rock climbing, hiking and going on runs. I’m reading a few books right now. I read a lot of nonfiction and it’s usually scientific or history of science, which is really interesting stuff. I’m reading a book about the ocean tides, and also a sci fi book called The Dark Forest. I recently finished a book called Sapiens: the History of Humankind and it was really fascinating.

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