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Alum of the Month – March

Passion and Work Ethic Lead Stakeem Young ’09 to Exciting Career

Virtual reality – technology in which users have fun, immersive and engaging interactions – has arrived in a big way. And Stakeem Young ’09 is at the forefront.

Working for Facebook’s Oculus, as a quality assurance analyst, Young spends his days in the thick of VR headsets and next generation touch controllers that allow users to feel as if they are using their real hands to manipulate objects.

“If there is a bug in the program we must find it,” Young explains. “And when developers push out updates in the program we have to make sure they are as clean as possible.”

From the Kitchen to Alternative Reality

Just four years ago, while he was majoring in graphic design at Cal State East Bay, Young was working as a shipping and receiving clerk at Home Depot and tackling freelance graphic design projects on the side.

His brother worked for the company that provides culinary services on the Facebook campus, and learned of a shipping and receiving position in the cafeteria there. “I’ve always been into technology and he thought I would fit in well in the Facebook environment,” Young said.

Young landed the job, and during his breaks and before and after work he began to frequent the campus Arcade, playing Street Fighter games alongside software developers. “Those guys were really good. I decided to put hours into practicing with the goal of being able to beat them in the games,” he said.

He also struck up a conversation with one developer in particular, who worked at Oculus, telling the developer of his interest in technology. “The developer offered to help me learn code. I ended up meeting with him regularly, and was always studying and asking questions,” Young said. “I was so blown away that he gave me so much of his time. I learned that people are willing to do that for you if you are passionate and willing put in the time and effort.”

Young became convinced that he could land a positon at Oculus if he worked really hard. “I just started coming into work up to six hours early to work on projects that my mentor gave me and to do some self-study about making video games, animation and comic books,” he said.

People began to take notice of Young as he studied frenetically, fueled by coffee and almonds, at all hours of the day and night.

Soon, he was invited to apply for a position at Oculus, and he’s been working in his current position – the lead quality assurance analyst for Oculus Arcade – since March 2016.

Young loves the way VR combines technology and art. “Most people think they are complete opposites,” he said. “While VR is very technical it’s also very artistic and creative in the way it delivers immersive experiences.”

Looking to the Future

The male student voted “Best Techie” for O’Dowd’s Class of 2009, Young has his sights set on becoming a software engineer, and eventually would like to own his own company and produce video games, animation and comic books. “I want to be able to lead content generation,” he said.

He says his O’Dowd experience had a major impact on him, particularly the encouragement he received from art department chairperson Thien Pham. “He was the one who taught me how to draw,” Young said. “He really encouraged me and I just kept getting better and better.”


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