Florian ZitzelsbergerCaption: Computer science graduate Florian Zitzelsberger landed a summer internship at Pixar Animation Studios. Photo by Karen Tapia

Landing A Dream Job

Computer Science Grad Lands Summer Internship at Pixar

WITHIN DAYS of finishing his studies and earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science, Florian Zitzelsberger started work as an intern at his dream company: Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville.

Zitzelsberger started the paid, 11-week internship May 23 at the San Francisco Bay area computer animation studio, known for the “Toy Story” films, “Finding Nemo” and “WALL-E,” among others.

A self-described video game fanatic and animated film aficionado, Zitzelsberger moved to the United States in 2007 from Schrobenhausen, near Munich, Germany, to study computer science at Cal State Fullerton.

During college, Zitzelsberger participated in the Video Game Design Club on campus and served as a tutor for the Computer Science Department. He conducted research in the area of computer vision and computer graphics and has created his own video games. Most recently, Zitzelsberger worked part-time at an Irvine-based video game design company.

In the fall, he will start a computer science graduate program at the University of California, San Diego. After graduate school, he wants to work in the software industry, focusing on computer graphics.

“What I am looking for in a potential employer is an innovative product line, interesting projects and a challenging work environment that will allow me to continuously develop new skills and improve on existing ones,” he said.

Why study computer science?

I have always had an affinity for technology. I remember my parents telling me that as a toddler, I would press every button and flip every switch I could find just to observe what would happen. Luckily, my parents quickly identified and nurtured my interests. But when they purchased the first family PC in the mid-1990s, I was free to use it — as long as I would not play any video games! I learned my first programming language when I was 11, and I turned into a little nerd when I was not even in high school. Since then, I have never had any doubts that this is what I want to do professionally. Bill Gates was probably my biggest role model, and I made plans to take his spot as the richest man in the world.

Why did you choose to study at CSUF?

During my childhood, I closely followed the development of the mid-1990s dot-com bubble in Silicon Valley and I knew that California was the place to be for anyone who was serious about innovative software development. As I became older and about to graduate high school, I realized that my dreams were achievable, and with a lot of effort and dedication, I could apply to colleges in the United States and make the move from Germany to California. I identified a number of potential schools and decided that Cal State Fullerton would be the right place for me.

How did your college experience help you achieve your educational goals?

The staff and faculty in the Computer Science Department were extremely accommodating and always more than happy to help. All of my professors took their teaching responsibilities seriously and were always available outside the classroom. I worked with Dr. Michael Shafae (assistant professor of computer science) for an undergraduate independent research project. He not only taught me how to effectively conduct academic research, but was a great mentor in my area of interest: computer graphics. He helped me to further my knowledge and skills — outside the classroom. He also gave me valuable advice regarding my academic and professional goals.

Working in the video game industry sounds fun! Why did you choose this area?

The video game industry is a lot of fun: The work is very challenging. As a programmer, I have to deal with a lot of math and programming; a gaming console is a lot more demanding than developing software for the PC. Unfortunately, contrary to popular belief, we do not play video games all day. Although, I am not going to lie: Being able to play new games at work for the sole purpose of “research” is a pretty neat perk. I am specifically interested in developing highly optimized software that can produce photo realistic graphics in real time. This is one of the critical aspects of game development and I find it a very rewarding experience. It’s like solving a really difficult puzzle, and once you find the missing pieces, everything falls into place. The beautiful thing about computer graphics is that you can literally see your progress. For my future career, I do not want to limit myself to game development. Fortunately, I can utilize my experiences and satisfy my interests in other industries, as well.

What are looking forward to at Pixar this summer?

I hope to gain a better understanding of the process that is involved with making animated movies. The technology is what excites me the most. I am also looking forward to meeting new people. I have interned at other companies and the wealth of information and knowledge I received by conversing with my co-workers is astonishing. Even at my recent workplace, I learned new things every single day from the people I worked with. At Pixar, I am hoping that I will also be able to network with other interns and employees. Ultimately, I hope this opportunity will increase my chances of making Pixar my future employer.

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