Field Work Term, Student News

Coding for the Future

After Zalkar Ziiaidin ’22 graduates, he plans on becoming a full-time software engineer. However, as Ziiaidin pursues his studies at Bennington College, he’s not waiting to make his mark on the ever-evolving world of computer science.

During Ziiaidin’s final year of high school in Kyrgyzstan, he co-founded UniCode School, an afterschool technology training program for schoolchildren designed to supplement Kyrgyzstan’s public education system.

“Through UniCode School, I wanted to provide high-quality, affordable, and accessible technology education for students in Kyrgyzstan,” said Ziiaidin.

Since its inception in 2018, UniCode School has proven to be popular. Retention for students enrolled in the program, said Ziiaidin, remains high—over 90%.

“We also conduct regular meetings with parents to see how they’re feeling about the kids’ progress,” said Ziiaidin. “Our goal is to be truly customer oriented and let them design an organization that suits personalized needs.”

Ziiaidin plans to continue developing UniCode School during his Field Work Term this winter with support from the Iftekhar Entrepreneurial Fellowship.

“During my first year at Bennington, I realized that I could study anything I want, and that Bennington has resources for people willing to ask the right question,” said Ziiaidin. “It made me consider expanding UniCode School, so computer science is viewed as a technical background that allows students to explore whatever field they want.”

Students at Unicode school
Students at UniCode School
Students at Unicode school
Students at UniCode School
Students at Unicode school
Students at UniCode School

Faculty mentorship is an advantage at Bennington. We can have more personal relationships with faculty members. That’s not as possible at a larger college.

Zak Ziiaidin '22

Ziiaidin first discovered Bennington in connection with data center startup Vapor IO, co-founded by Andrew Cencini.

“I found an article about Vapor that mentioned that Andrew taught at Bennington College,” said Ziiaidin. 

Now, Cencini is Ziiaidin’s faculty advisor, a close-knit relationship that Ziiaidin sees as foundational to his educational experience and helpful to his future career. 

“Andrew and I understand each other and work together, and he definitely helps consider my professional career and adjustment to the United States,” said Ziiaidin. “Faculty mentorship is an advantage at Bennington. We can have more personal relationships with faculty members. That’s not as possible at a larger college.”

In addition to his computer science studies, Ziiaidin has branched out to explore other disciplines, as well. He’s brushed up on his English language and writing skills with Camille Guthrie, taken calculus and physics, discovered an interest in politics at CAPA, and dabbled in guitar lessons.

Through Cencini, Ziiaidin has also discovered professional opportunities through Packet Host, Inc., a New York-based infrastructure provider for developers.

Ziiaidin joined Packet Host directly following his first year at Bennington, working both remotely and at the company’s headquarters in New York City. 

“Packet was established in 2014, so it’s a relatively young startup,” said Ziiaidin. “When I first began, I expected to be assigned to specific projects, but instead I got a chance to work with different teams and departments. I enjoy the dynamic and flexible work culture we have. More importantly, it is amazing how much impact I can have on the final product as an intern.” 

When Fall term began at Bennington, Ziiaidin was offered an extended contract to work as a software engineer intern for Packet throughout the school year. Ziiaidin remains interested in Packet’s work and plans to rejoin the company full time after his graduation.
 

By Natalie Redmond, Associate Writer