RICH1 Hidden Genius Alum Usean Redic is a quick learner. When he found himself falling behind on coding projects a few weeks into the Intensive Immersion Program, he knew he needed to make some changes to the way he was approaching the work. With the guidance of his mentors, Usean strengthened his problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. Now as a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of California, Irvine majoring in neurobiology, Usean shares how he applies what he learned in the program to his college coursework and beyond.
How have you been holding up over these last few months, dealing with a pandemic and social injustices?
I have been holding up pretty well despite all of the changes and adjustments. I’m back at home with my family while taking classes at UC Irvine online as a full-time student. Moving back home in March during one of my toughest quarters was a challenge because I was taking chemistry, writing, calculus, and physics and chemistry lab — real heavy courses.
At school, I had a great routine set up with my friends who were taking similar classes as we would study together on an ongoing basis. But you’re really on your own when attending school online so I had to rely on outside resources such as YouTube and Khan Academy to help me get through those classes. At times, some courses would get more attention than others, but I eventually made it through.
Plus, it’s funny because my family had to adjust with me being back at home. There would be times where I’m in my room studying or listening to a lecture and they would barge in during my ‘normal course hours’ and ask me to do this or do that. I had to have a talk with them and tell them just because I’m in my room on my computer all day doesn’t mean I’m just chilling or watching shows, I’m actually studying and putting in work. We laugh about it now as they respect my time and space so it’s all good.
What was your experience in the program like?
My experience in The Hidden Genius Project was great. I’ve always been interested in video games and how software design and creation is all connected to computer science. It was really cool to work with people in the program who enjoyed learning about coding and programming, especially since my dream job was to become a computer scientist. In the beginning, my family was hoping I’d pursue a career in the health field or development since my mom was a nurse and my grandpa was into architecture, but I didn’t like any of those things. I truly feel that computer science is one of the best ways to express yourself because you can create whatever you want.
I loved learning about computer science, but it wasn’t one of my biggest strengths. In the beginning, I often struggled with understanding the different coding languages and programs and that bothered me. From middle school to early high school, I was used to being a quick learner and top performer in my classes, but once I got into the program and started to code, I realized that I wasn’t grasping the material as fast as I normally do and was falling behind. The Hidden Genius Project was one of those first moments where I was actually being challenged and pushed to excel. Luckily, I had David who helped me think critically through my coding errors and assignments, plus my brothers stepped in to support me too.
Another great part about the program was the opportunity to visit the big name companies such as Facebook, Google, and Andreessen Horowitz as I’ve never been there before. From those trips, I was able to learn more about the economy, entrepreneurship, and how to market and brand yourselves for internships and jobs. I enjoyed being able to make connections with other people and working in something I am passionate about.
Even though I’m a biology major, I am still passionate about computer science. To this day I build computers and watch coding videos. Being a part of The Hidden Genius Project helped ignite my interest in computer science and the fire still burns.
Describe the app designed during your time in the Immersion Program.
My tech project was Super Scouter, a web recruitment app for college scouts and high school athletes. This platform would give high school athletes the opportunity to showcase their highlights and stats, while listing the colleges they wanted to attend, in order to attract scouts.
How is The Hidden Genius Project different from other mentorship or training experiences that you have been involved in?
I have been in other mentorship programs and The Hidden Genius Project is the most generous organization, as they are the only ones that continue to reach out to me years after I graduated. The program continues to give their alumni opportunities to grow and make new connections. Many of the mentorship programs I have been apart only focused on the people who are currently in the program, but The Hidden Genius Project community follows you for the rest of your life.
What specific skills learned in The Hidden Genius Project have been most beneficial for you?
Thanks to David [Richmond Site Coordinator and Innovation Educator], my critical thinking skills have been the most beneficial for me, especially as a biology major. In this field, you’re always put into situations where you have to think critically. I learned pretty quickly in The Hidden Genius Project that sheer memorization of every command or function in computer science won’t help you become a better coder. You really have to know what’s the best code in that situation to insert to fix the error.
Critical thinking applies to biology in the same way it does to computer science. Knowing this really helped me in my courses since we get presented with scenarios all the time. On the health side, it’s even more critical to find the best solution with minimal impact as you’re dealing with people’s lives and health.
My communication and self-branding skills definitely improved after joining the program and they are helpful now whenever I communicate with people in higher positions or roles. If I’m networking with my professors or looking for an internship, I make sure to cater to the skills they’re looking for in an ideal candidate. Our business trips prepared us for moments and conversations like this as we often hear what employers are looking for in their employees.
What was the most important thing you gained on a personal level (development, relationship, community, etc.) from participating in The Hidden Genius Project?
Besides developing my critical thinking and communication skills, I think the most important thing I’ve gained is learning how to work and collaborate with others. Collaborating with my brothers in the program on various projects helped prepare me for college. I’ve had several group projects and it’s a process of understanding how to work with one another, especially with everyone’s various studying habits and styles. By being able to work with other people and having to come up with ideas on the spot, I have become a more well-rounded individual that has the ability to cooperate with others.
When you imagine yourself before starting The Hidden Genius Project, what’s different between that version of you and the current version?
The previous version of me didn’t have the mental skills that the current one has today. Before I joined The Hidden Genius Project, I was only doing it because my mom made me apply and I did not realize the significance of being in a program like this. Now I realize that this program has opened up other opportunities for me and I am able to make connections with other people based on what I learned in The Hidden Genius Project.
If you could talk to yourself just before you applied, what is one thing you would say?
All I would tell myself is to get serious from the beginning, ask for help when you need it, and take advantage of this opportunity as best as you can.
What words of encouragement do you have for future Geniuses?
Don’t be afraid to share your creative ideas, being able to come up with ideas will play a big role in the future workforce. Establish long-lasting relationships that will allow you to receive opportunities so that you can help yourself and others around you.