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Siham Hussein juggles work, volunteerism with graduation

Siham Hussein

For Siham Hussein (BS ’15, MS ’20), earning a master’s degree in computer science was just one item on this month’s very busy agenda. The senior software engineer was juggling finals, full-time work at Google, and computer-science-related volunteering.

Hussein, who finished her bachelor’s degree in computer science summa cum laude, returned to UIC for a master’s to delve into research areas she didn’t explore during her undergraduate years, including theoretical mathematics, natural language processing, and machine learning.

“I went in knowing that it wasn’t going to directly impact my job, but I wanted to pursue something outside of work,” she said.

Hussein never stops learning at her job, either. She recently was promoted to senior software engineer and said that growth opportunities are readily available at Google, a large company with a vast product line.

“If you’re interested in learning a new thing, there are people to teach you that new thing,” she said. The company also allows staff members to explore via “20-percent projects,” which allow you to “do your primary role and still take on another project.”

Hussein primarily works on privacy products, including Google Takeout, a tool to allow users to download their data to another device. This can include photos, documents, contacts, and other files. She works on the team that is handling the back end, or service-integration end, of the project, which is leading the development of the open source code.

Inside and outside of Google, Hussein is an active volunteer. This month, she participated in Computer Science Education Week, an annual community-led effort whose mission statement is “to inspire K-12 students to learn computer science, advocate for equity in computer science education, and celebrate the contributions of students, teachers, and partners to the field.” She sits on the community engagement committee at Google, which visits area high schools and middle schools to show students what a software engineer looks like. Finally, she works with Girls Who Code, a group that aims to close the gender gap in tech by offering coding clubs and summer camps for girls in secondary school, as well as college programs.

Hussein feels strongly about mentorship and reaching out to encourage women to find careers in tech.

“I think the biggest blocker that took me to come to terms with is the imposter syndrome,” she said. “Everyone feels it at some point in their career. You have to recognize it and overcome it, or it can completely cripple you.”

Hussein almost didn’t pursue a career in tech. She came to UIC as a chemistry major, intending to pursue pharmacy. She excelled in chemistry and AP calculus in high school but realized in college that she didn’t enjoy chemistry as much as she thought she did—the memorization required in organic chemistry wasn’t for her. Searching for other options, she recalled an introductory tech class she took in high school, and switched majors.

“The tech class in high school involved a little programming, Excel, word processing, and designing web pages,” she said. “What I liked about chemistry was the math behind it. CS was the perfect blend of theoretical and application.”

With her master’s degree behind her, Hussein will have more time to enjoy her hobbies, which include crocheting and knitting, baking cake pops and all things chocolate, and wasting “what would be productive hours” on Animal Crossing.

To learn more about the CS master’s degree program, visit