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Computer Science Major Hopes to Help Incoming Students See Their Potential

A Computer Science major posing for a photo

David McHugh ’23 was hooked on York College of Pennsylvania when he heard current students share their stories at an Open House. Today, he tries to share his own experience so others can see all York College has to offer.

It wasn’t unusual for David McHugh ’23 to be called upon by his high school teachers for technical help during class. When his teachers or classmates were having issues and the IT department was out for the day, everyone knew McHugh could help in a pinch.

Even then, it wasn’t obvious to the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, native that his future would be in Computer Science. He thought he’d pursue a career in law enforcement until he signed up for an Intro to Computer Science class his sophomore year of high school.

“At first I thought it would be an easy boost to my GPA, but as the class went on, I kept wanting to learn more and push myself,” McHugh says. He ended up taking three more computer science classes in high school, which gave him an advantage going into college.

McHugh visited multiple colleges and was unimpressed until he stumbled upon an Open House at York College of Pennsylvania. He’d end up making four more visits – from Open Houses to sitting in on classes, to the Kinsley Engineering Building – before he officially started as a student. What kept calling him back were the stories he heard from current students, who would share their experiences and the value they found at York College. He learned that York had a real passion for encouraging students to participate in interdisciplinary work with students from all different majors and backgrounds.

“I saw that I wouldn’t just be working with Computer Science students, but engineers and clients, on large multidisciplinary projects to prepare us for our careers,” he says. “That was unique to me about York College. I wasn’t going to be lectured day in and day out, but learn tangible skills, as well.”

Jumping ahead

McHugh was able to get ahead in some of his first-year courses thanks to his early interest in computer science. He already had some of the basic knowledge that is taught in entry-level courses, and Professor Don Hake encouraged him to challenge himself in the upper-level courses. Sometimes, that meant he was a first-year student among sophomores and juniors.

“I was glad that I was given opportunities beyond the first-year experience,” McHugh says. “It helped me push myself beyond what I thought I was capable of. Being the only freshman in class challenged me to not just pass, but do my absolute best.”

Outside of the classroom, McHugh was able to secure an internship by the end of his first semester. He applied for a position as a template engineer with Dataforma, Inc., a roofing management software company based out of the J.D. Brown Center’s Business Incubator on the York College campus.

Unsure if he should apply at first, Professor Hake encouraged him again to push himself. Thanks to his reinforcement, he got the internship and spent a year and a half developing client-facing infrastructure and streamlining departmental operations. He finished up his sophomore year by completing the senior design radio telescope project.

His next internship was with Becton Dickinson, a fortune 500 federally regulated medical device company. David is spending his time with the DevSecOps department creating and maintaining tools and infrastructure integral to the success of the other teams around him. The features allow developers to spend less time bottlenecked and more on software releases in a safe, secure, and timely manner.

He will return to York College in Fall 2021 and will continue his internship with Becton Dickenson. He will also lead the team working on York College’s Radio Telescope Project, making him the youngest to take on that role. He’ll oversee the software team’s seamless integration with the telescope’s hardware team, while keeping up with the clients’ deadlines.

McHugh also will be organizing YCP Hacks, a weekend-long, student-run hackathon where the area’s best and brightest students bring their ideas to the table and create something special. While the event was put on hold in 2020 because of COVID-19, McHugh is the Team Lead for the 2021 event scheduled for November 5 to 7 at the Willman Business Center. He was able to secure a high-profile keynote speaker with a system engineer from one of the world’s largest tech corporations.

Giving back

McHugh sees the many opportunities he’s been given at York College and still remembers what led him to want to attend the College in the first place.

Hearing the stories of current student’s successes and the multidisciplinary opportunities made the biggest impression on him. Now, he’s one of several students who share their personal experiences with potential and incoming first-year students.

“If you’re motivated enough, York College will help you succeed in about anything you put your mind to,” he says. “Pursuing a career in Computer Science doesn’t mean I’m just the guy behind the curtain. I’m right there next to the engineers, business representatives, and clients to ensure the success of anything I put my mind to.”