An Interview with a Former HTU Student

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An Interview with a Former HTU Student

High Tech U (HTU) has reached thousands of students since its inception in 2001. Recently, the program observed a milestone as several of its early students began graduating from college.

SEMI Senior PR Manager Scott Smith had a chance to chat with Katherine Riester, a former Silicon Valley student, who participated in the third California HTU installment back in 2003. Katherine recently earned her Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

SS: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today, Katherine, and congratulations on earning your degree! Why don’t you tell me a little about your situation before participating in the HTU program.

KR: Well, this was one of the early HTUs, and I was actually in good academic standing. I had always taken school very seriously, and when an opportunity such as HTU presented itself, I was very excited to participate. I wasn't a straight A student, but I was pretty close.

SS: You were part of the early groups to take part in the HTU program, and I believe you have been involved as a staff member in subsequent programs. What did you take away from your participation in the program, and have you noticed any changes as the program has matured?

KR: I did participate (I believe) in the second or third ever HTU [in California], and after participating in the program I took away a better understanding of the high tech industry, as well as a different perspective of the working world in general. Meeting with industry professionals who were giving us advice and insight into their lives was a unique opportunity, and one which I believe prepared me more for internships, and eventually my future career.

After the program I was in, I was offered the opportunity to help run subsequent HTU events years, which allowed me to help encourage others who were in the program to take the unique knowledge that we were given and use it in their lives. I think the program has matured in the sense that it is now focusing on students who may be struggling with their academic goals and not quite sure of the future. I think that has made the program all the more important and valuable to the students. I do think the program has held true to its goal, to enlighten and encourage youth to explore the high tech industry, and of course to think its "cool."

SS: What element(s) of the program did you find most interesting and helpful?

KR: For me, the resume information was the best. Ever since then, I have heard the resume talk many times, and it is always the same. The benefit though, was that I heard about the importance of your resume years before others. I also took from the program another very important aspect of the working world, which was networking. I learned the importance of making connections and taking opportunities to meet people, and I feel that skill has helped me to get the job I have today.

SS: Would you say that participating in HTU affected your eventual decision to pursue a major in statistics?

KR: I do feel that my participation in the program helped me to make the final decision. I had originally thought I would go into Biomedical Engineering, but during the program we had a module on statistics. The following year I took an AP statistics class, and realized that with statistics I would be able to work in many different industries, and have a very important role in helping a company succeed.

SS: Do you feel as if your ongoing involvement in the program had a role in preparing you for said major, and your subsequent move into the professional workplace?

KR: The simple answer is I do. Having the encouragement and incentive to continue with my education definitely helped on the late nights when you wonder why you are working so hard. I also feel like when it came time to finding a job, I would be able to find the job that I wanted. I had experience with industry professionals, and I had experience meeting people and networking with them.

SS: So what are your next steps? Education, career, etc.?

KR: Currently I am working for Amgen Inc. in Thousand Oaks, California. I have been able to combine my knowledge of technology with statistics, and I work to find solutions to needs within our company, such as a new tool which will help improve our forecasting patient enrollment in studies, or a new database that will store resources for reporting and simplify the reporting process. I am also currently pursing my Masters in Statistics through an online degree program through Texas A&M.

SS: Through your experiences with the HTU program, and your relationships with the program staff, what advice would you offer to students who may be hesitant about taking part in this?

KR: I would have to tell them what I have learned over the years, and what my mentors, the program staff, have helped me to actually do—take any opportunity that you are given.

Chances are you will learn something, and opportunities rarely hurt you. When HTU was presented to us in my tech class, I took the opportunity and participated, and it turned out to be a great experience that helped me learn more about myself and clarify my future goals. When someone from Amgen was going to give a talk on campus, I took this opportunity to introduce myself and express my interest for working at Amgen. This ultimately led to an internship, and then to a full time offer after graduation. I have never said no when someone offered to teach me something, and that has helped me to learn more and have great experiences that I will always remember.

For more information about, or to get involved in, SEMI HTU or the SEMI Foundation, please visit

SEMI High Tech U is an industry-driven math and science-based career exploration program for high school students and teachers.