juwuan turner howard career chats

Michael Mercier | UAH


Juwuan Turner-Howard is a Computer Science major from Mobile, AL who talks about what it was like working for Google and how important the support of others is in making it in the professional world.


1.) What made you choose your major?

My junior year at C.F. Vigor High School I got involved in the Cisco Networking Academy and our school system’s joint T.L. Faulkner program in which I learned Windows Operating System Fundamentals. I became one of most requested IT students at my school for troubleshooting computers, and one day - I’ll never forget - I looked at my instructor, Mr. Large, and said “What is the best major to do this ‘stuff’?” He replied, “Computer Science.” I made my decision based off that and went all in.


2.) What made you choose UAH?

Around the time of junior year of high school, I thought of myself to be behind in terms of intelligence when I compared myself to peers at wealthier schools. I love my high school and my community because I would not be “Howard-Turner” without them, but there are times when I would look over the fence and wish I had opportunities and resources students in the other neighborhoods had.

The University of Alabama in Huntsville was the challenge I wanted and a chance to get what I wanted in high school. Someone told me that “Students [at my high school] who go  [to UAH] don’t make it.” I wanted that challenge. A chance to compete, work, and excel with the elite and learn at the best engineering university in Alabama. That’s the biggest reason I chose UAH. Other factors that contributed to my coming to UAH include Kimi Fletcher’s awesome recruiting spirit, having Dr. Waddell, Juvawn Parker, and Jonathan Shields talk to me with my best interest at heart before I even enrolled as a student, the energy of discovery days, in-state tuition, and most of my scholarships requiring me to stay in-state.

3.) What has been the biggest lessons you have learned from your co-op or internship?

I will probably never be the developer that I want to be anytime soon. This points directly to my past insanely high expectations of myself with regards to being a developer. There is a level of software engineering and efficiency that can only be achieved through countless learning experiences and time. I have to give myself time to become better. Now, I just think back to when I did not know how to write a “Hello, World” program in any language. That puts things in perspective. Give it time.

4.) What surprised you, if anything, about your co-op or internship?

The lifestyle afforded to me from my hard work. Growing up in low-income neighborhoods most of life and then experiencing life as a Google intern shocked me. Free food, a stipend for housing that does not come out of my salary, micro-kitchens (snacks), nice pay, extremely flexible hours, and tons of dope people was like a dream. There are times the first summer where I would look at my roommate and ask, “...Yo… [Do] we work at Google,” because it seemed so surreal at times.


5.) What is one thing you wish you would have known before you started your co-op or internship?

For my internship, I wish I would have known to remember there are some things that are not learnable outside of the company and that ramp-up time is real. It is okay not to know everything coming in. In fact, it’s impossible to know everything coming in. Companies do things differently. Teams within companies may do things differently than other teams within the same company. There are lots of adjustments. Give yourself time to get acclimated. Do not be afraid to ask questions, and try to find the balance of independent problem solving and asking good questions.

6.) How has your co-op or internship grown you as a person?

It’s helped me figure out whom I am. Having gone from working in the Bay Area to New York City, I have seen many things and met many people. I feel that I have grown the most in this sector through my experiences as a result of receiving lots of advice, being pushed tremendously past my comfort zone, and being content with my work and skill level. Seeing that I can perform at a high level has provided me the comfort to comfortably work on other areas of my life such as fitness and mental health without worrying about my career. I know what is important to me and have done enough to know things will be okay with my natural work ethic. The internships helped scale down my perfectionism and anxiety.


7.) What has been the funniest thing that has happened to you at your co-op or internship?

My host strongly encouraged me to go to the company’s offsite at Coney Island, so like a good intern, I went to Coney Island. While I was there, I played this basketball game. I made a shot and won a big stuffed dog. While riding the subway back to the office, with my new oversized friend, I had the great idea of putting a sticky note on the stuffed dog saying “I went. - Juwuan” and putting the stuffed dog by my host’s desk. I did it. The next day I came into work, my host had put a large colorful stuffed ball by my desk saying “I did too -[HostName].” I had a magnificent laugh. I was not expecting that.

8.) What is one lesson you had to learn the hard way?
What people think is best for me may not be what I want even if it makes sense logically. I have learned to be more independent in my decision making and to be more comfortable with the possibility of my decision being “wrong.” If I mess up, it is not the end of the world. I have lived my life through accumulating tons of knowledge from myriads of wise, older individuals and energetic, youthful peers. This has proven extremely successful for me, but now, I need to be more vigorous in planning my own life and deciding on things without too much counsel. It feels a lot better. I feel a lot stronger.

9.) What is one fun fact about you that most people don't know?

I started cornerback my 8th grade year on my middle school’s (Elizabeth S Chastang) football team, and we went undefeated, winning the championship for the third year in a row I think.


10.) What's the best "hidden secret" at UAH?

Others’ support and willingness to help. Everyday I wake up, I know I have people at UAH who will listen to me and/or try to help guide me along this journey of life. This comes in the form of friends, other students, professors, and mentors. When I first came in, I remember hearing something like “You can’t do UAH alone.” After being here for two years, I cannot think of a reason why I would want to do it alone.