Student Spotlight: David Salazar

After David Salazar x’24 was gifted video game consoles like the Nintendo64, Gameboy, and PlayStation, he became deeply curious about the mechanics behind video games like Super Mario, Pokémon, and Spyro.David Salazar

Some online searches lead Salazar to the world of programming.

“While my initial start to computer science centered around video game development, the world of computer science unveiled its vast potential to me, showing that its applications stretched far beyond just gaming.”

From Raritan, New Jersey, the senior in Computer Sciences selected the University of Wisconsin-Madison Computer Sciences program because of the many opportunities and large number of computer sciences courses offered.

After graduation, he will pursue a career in data engineering and continue training in Brazilian Jiu Juitsu.

Salazar encourages other Latinx students to pursue computer science, regardless of what field they are pursuing.

“I 100% advocate for other Latinx students to learn more about the world of computer science, says Salazar. “Computer Science will remain in every industry, and possessing even a basic grasp can significantly boost one’s skillset and productivity in various professions.”

For students interested in computer science, he recommends starting with introductory Computer Sciences courses offered.

“Although Computer Science has a large learning curve, I think the vast resources offered at the university such as TAs, passionate professors, and mentors ensure a smoother learning experience,” says Salazar. “One of the university’s greatest strengths is its vast array of courses and allowing a student to explore many options.”

However, the path was not always smooth for Salazar, as he faced feelings of imposter syndrome and survivors’ guilt while starting his professional career as an intern at Meta. During his internship he often felt less accomplished than his peers.

His perspective began to shift after attending an Latinx Circle group and conversing with Latinx engineers who navigated similar struggles.

“Their stories showed an important point that I carry throughout my career: I was there not just because of my ethnicity but because of my dedication and hard work. Realizing that I earned my spot as a hard-working engineer who was Latino reshaped my perspective, influencing both my academic and professional aspirations,” says Salazar.

Salazar says being part of organizations like ColorStack at UW-Madison, a student organization whose mission is to increase the attraction, retention, and success of Black, Latinx, and Native American Computer Sciences majors and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers has helped him feel more welcomed in the industry.

“As a Latino in Computer Science, it was important to break down numerous barriers in an industry where Latinx representation is notably underrepresented. My professional experiences within tech industries illuminate the great Latinx contributions and why we need more of this representation within the industry through DEI initiatives,” says Salazar.

Connect with David Salazar on LinkedIn

This story is part of a series of Latinx Heritage month spotlights. Learn about Computer Sciences student Aaron Torres and Assistant Professor in the Department of Statistics Alejandra Quintos.