Since he was 12, Jason Holmes was obsessed with computers.
In high school, the son of Mathematics Division Chair Kathy Holmes decided he wanted to pursue his studies in a math-science-related field. When he began attending Glendale College in 2007, he figured out he wanted to be an engineer.
Now, he serves as a software development engineer at Microsoft in Seattle.
Holmes took the high school proficiency exam when he was 15 and came to GCC when he was 16, deviating from the typical four years students spend in high school.
“High school was kind of boring,” he said. “The classes I was taking weren’t exactly interesting to me. I wanted a jumpstart into getting into college, so I was lucky to be able to do that.”
The former La Canada High School student spent three years at GCC. He then transferred to UCLA and obtained his bachelor’s in science from UCLA’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science in 2010.
He was recognized for his academic excellence at UCLA by Tau Beta Pi and Upsilon Pi Epsilon, honor societies for engineers and computer scientists.
He went on to pursue his master’s degree in computer science at UCLA, which he received in December 2011.
Rick Guglielmino, assistant professor of physics and one of Holmes’ former teachers, described Holmes as an “outstanding” student.
“What distinguished him, and I think what really makes a difference in terms of students that achieve at the highest level, there’s one common characteristic: not only do they get almost all A’s but they get involved in a lot of extra opportunities,” he said.
In addition to maintaining his grades, Holmes took on internships at Loyola Mount University, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and Qualcomm.
Holmes also received an award called J Plus, from which he received a scholarship and his internship at JPL.
The demands of his major were challenging, Holmes said.
“The classes are fairly difficult and take up a lot of time. Getting that personal balance with doing school is kind of hard, but in the end it paid off a lot,” he said. “The best part [about my job] is getting to work on all the stuff that I really care about and am excited about, and things I would see in the news or in magazines about products coming out. And now I’m actively involved in that process.”
Starting off his academic career at Glendale put Holmes at an advantage in several ways. He said it was easier to get into the UC system as a community college transfer rather than straight out of high school, and tuition was more affordable. Taking general education classes at GCC also saved him from extra work.
“It was great going to GCC first…. It was actually something that helped because I didn’t have to worry about writing papers or anything else once I got to UCLA. I was only focusing on computer science, which is what I really wanted to do,” he said.
Guglielmino said another advantage to pursuing engineering at a community college first is the greater opportunity for one-on-one attention between students and teachers. He said at four-year universities, there may be hundreds of students in one class, whereas there is a smaller student-teacher ratio at community colleges.
Holmes’ mother said she is proud and thrilled for her son.
“He’s worked hard and he’s been lucky because he finished his degree and had a job right away, and at Microsoft, which was his first choice,” she said.
Guglielmino also declared that getting a job at a company like Microsoft is competitive. He said engineering students aren’t only competing for jobs against their peers locally, but are also competing against graduates from universities nationwide, as well as internationally.
Holmes said engineering can be an intimidating major, but that students shouldn’t be discouraged from the onset of their academic careers from pursuing it.