Alumni Spotlight: Erica Wu, '14
Erica Wu '14 in front of the Facebook sign, working as a software engineer there.
By Jacqueline Y.
April 23, 2019
This issue’s Alumni Spotlight features Erica Wu '14, a current software engineer for Facebook. As a sophomore at Westridge, Wu represented Team USA in table tennis at the 2012 Olympics. In this Q&A, Wu discusses her current job, her past as a table tennis competitor, and what she looks forward to in the future.
Q: What are you doing currently? What is keeping you busy these days?
A: I’m currently working as a software engineer at Facebook. I started back in September, and I’ve been working on growth and emerging markets. Our team’s goal is to bring people online who have never been online before. In college, I was trying to decide if I wanted to go work at a smaller company after graduating or at a larger one, and I ultimately thought it would be cool to work at a larger company and get a sense of the global aspect of what a large company can do.
Q: How did you end up in engineering?
A: I always knew that I liked math and science and wanted to go down something related to that, and tech always seemed like a cool career because everyone uses technology. It’s so easy to scale and build something and have it reach so many people. When I went to college, I went in as an undecided engineer. I actually wanted to do mechanical engineering at first because I had a friend who was doing mechanical engineering who was a senior at Princeton at the time, and she had a job lined up for ride engineering for Universal Studios, helping them design roller coasters. But I took Intro to Computer Science in college, and I really liked the problem-solving aspect to it. It was one of the classes where I really wanted to stay up and finish the work I was assigned, whereas in other classes, I wanted to go to sleep if I was up really late at night. I enjoyed programming, and I liked the idea of being able to build things that millions and millions of people could use.
Q: What is your favorite part of your job?
A: I really like feeling like I did something that will make someone’s day better. Right now, we are working on a lot of things that will connect people who have never been online before, and feeling like I’m a part of that is really cool. I really love my team, so anytime I can get lunch with them and hang out with them has been really fun as well. Right now, I’m really focused on learning because I am still so new, and just realizing that I’m becoming a better engineer and learning is overall a satisfying feeling.
Q: How has Westridge affected your career and where you are today?
A: So much of what I’ve been able to do stems from table tennis and using that as a launching pad into the next steps of my life, and a lot of it came from Westridge’s support. Westridge places a really big emphasis on developing you as a person and not just you as a test taker or you as a one-dimensional student, but really you as a person. Westridge also places a big emphasis on focusing not just on academics but knowing you are valuable for society, helping you realize that your voice has power, [and] standing up for what you believe in. Talking with a lot of my friends in college, not every high school takes the time to help their students realize this, and so for that, I’m also very grateful for Westridge.
Q: What advice would you give to students who want to pursue a career in engineering or as a high-level competitor?
A: I think one thing I would say is most things worth doing is not very easy. I think the most frustrating part for me is seeing someone who really wants to pursue something and just feeling they’re not good enough, or they made a mistake or they feel discouraged because they feel other people are better than them. For example, when I went to Princeton and took computer science classes, I looked around, and it felt like everyone there was smarter than me. I felt I had spent my life competing in table tennis, and now I was starting over, and everyone else was already halfway down the path that they had already chosen for themselves. For a long time, I felt really discouraged by that. This is a lesson I took from table tennis: If you just tell yourself to keep going when things are difficult and trust that you will keep making progress if you work hard, eventually you’ll get to where you want to be. If you keep going and you see failure as just another opportunity for you to learn, that attitude will take you really far.