Michael Leung holding an Amazon Echo device

Michael Leung ’21

After multiple internships during his time at Brandeis, the Class of 2021 graduate found immediate success in securing a role at Amazon and is one of the engineers behind Alexa.

"Alexa," Amazon's virtual assistant technology, has become an American household name. This cloud-based tool provides helpful insight and personalized everyday services. Michael Leung ’21 is one of the Amazon software engineers behind this incredible tool.

So how did the recent graduate go from Brandeis to Amazon so quickly? Leung credits his internships and courses as a key to his success. "My Brandeis coursework gave me the fundamental knowledge needed to succeed in my role today."

The former computer science major recalls, "One of my first classes was Data Structures and the Fundamentals of Computing with Professor of Computer Science  Antonella Di Lillo, I learned core skills in that class that I use every day in my job."

But, Leung recalls, building his skill set took time. As a first-year student, Michael eagerly applied for multiple internships, but didn’t get accepted during that first summer. "My resume was empty. I realized if I couldn't participate in an internship, I needed to fill it with other valuable experiences," he said.

So Leung decided to increase his campus participation. Though Leung was already a member of the track and field team, he joined the MakerLab and became an undergraduate departmental representative for computer science as well as an eboard member of the Japanese student organization. He also started a double major in film, television and interactive media because he was interested in the program's courses. As his experiences at Brandeis grew, he found himself presented with even more opportunities in computer science.

Leung participated in two internships while at Brandeis. After attending the computer science career fair on campus during his sophomore year, he was recruited to intern at Payscale in Burlington, Massachusetts. With this valuable experience he applied the following year for his dream role, a software engineer internship at Amazon.

He worked with the internal system team for Alexa, creating the software behind this popular device. He quickly fell in love with the fast-paced environment, responsibilities and ownership of his work. "I loved getting to see how things went from an idea to a finished product," said Leung. "It felt even better getting to say that it was my personal work."

As the summer came to an end, he sat down with his manager at Amazon. In recognition of his hard work, Leung was offered a full-time role, which would begin after his graduation. Leung completed his degree requirements in the fall of 2020, then began his role as a software engineer at Amazon in the spring of 2021.

“My Brandeis coursework gave me the fundamental knowledge needed to succeed in my role today.”

In his current role at Amazon, Leung loves being on the cutting edge of new developments in the world of software engineering. "We've come such a far way in the world of computer science," he said. "But there is still so much to discover. Who knows where computer science will be in 100 years?"

Recalling his first-year worries, he advises current students to get involved and have faith in the process. "Don't be afraid if you don't have anything on your resume right now. The opportunities will come when you put in the time and effort," said Leung. "But don't forget to believe in your worth, because that is just as important as knowing the skills."