Get to know Coursera Engineer Bryan Rivera
To introduce, I started as an intern at Coursera during a summer break from the University of Florida, and now I am a software engineer on the Growth team. One of my biggest passions is creating products that serve underrepresented communities.
Tell me about your role at Coursera. What do you do?
Currently, I am a Front-End Software Engineer working to expand and optimize our degree and MasterTrack™ products.
What led you to Coursera?
Access to high-quality education was limited for my parents, who grew up in Puerto Rico. They always instilled in me the value that education brings opportunity. Especially as a Hispanic American, I saw how challenging it was for those in my community to access affordable, high-quality education. There has always been a huge racial disparity among college completers in America. So when I first heard of Coursera, I was astonished — I thought, “It’s great to find a company whose mission and values can help close this racial gap in higher education.”
What do you value most about working at Coursera?
What resonates with me most about working at Coursera is our emphasis on Betterment. Growing up, it was hard for me to come to terms with my sexuality. By the time I was in college and finally coming into my own, my knowledge about sexual health and education was zero to none, especially about the LGBTQ+ community. There were a lot of taboos and myths that I grew up believing simply because I was not aware. Once I started working at Coursera, I was blown away by the initiatives to help raise awareness and improve access to education for LGBTQ+ people and allies across the world. This company cares deeply about providing high-quality education about various subjects to learners globally who may not have the same access in their communities.
What made you choose a career in software engineering?
I studied computer science so that I could create and provide high-quality, inclusive technology to people all around the world, especially underrepresented populations. Technology has the chance to empower humans everywhere in such a meaningful way, and I wanted to help influence how this industry is shaped.
What do you enjoy most about your current role?
I enjoy being able to create comprehensive and easily accessible pages so that users all across the globe, no matter their background, sexuality, or gender, can express interest in our educational products. Obtaining a degree can open many new doors in one’s career path. That’s why I enjoy being able to create, firsthand, better web experiences for our learners who are interested in pursuing an online degree.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
The best career advice I’ve received is to take every failure as a lesson. When it came to interviewing for full-time roles, I received more than one or two rejections. However, with each interview, I gained experience and ideas for how I could improve for next time. Even now in my current role, there are times when I might make a mistake in our codebase that will cause a failure in our system. These failures happen to the best of us — what you learn from those mistakes is the true test.
What advice would you give someone who is preparing for their technical interviews?
It only gets easier with time and practice. Technical interviews can be nerve-wracking and stressful, especially for people who are newly coming into the tech sector. As you complete more problems, learn to practice timing yourself to get into the rhythm of an actual interview. Your confidence will start building after getting more and more exposure to different technical questions. It took some time for me to gain confidence in my coding abilities. Only after months of practice and interviews did I build up the confidence to perform well in a technical interview process.
What advice do you wish you could have given yourself back in college or earlier in your career?
Never forget the reason why you developed a passion for technology. In college, it was hard to resonate with my peers or professors because there were not that many queer people of color like myself. I was not someone who started building a computer when I was in middle school or loved playing video games. I cared about creating innovative products to help enhance people’s lives, especially underrepresented communities that are often overlooked. It is good to self-reflect at times to make sure that your career path is aligned with your passions and values.
What’s your favorite course on Coursera?
Right now, I have had the desire to enhance my personal financial planning. I am learning a lot about this in the Personal & Family Financial Planning course on Coursera from my alma mater, the University of Florida — Go Gators! I hope to be able to take charge of my personal finances now and invest in my future success.