7 Reflections of a recent Computer Science graduate

A few months ago I completed my computer science degree. I am so grateful for the past four years and the wonderful experiences I’ve had. While Dubai is no Silicon Valley, there is certainly a lot of opportunity for a computer science student to shine. The city is growing everyday and the need for technology and innovation is now more on the rise than ever. I wanted to do a blog post on some of the things I’ve learnt along the way, so here it goes, 7 reflections of a recent CS graduate.

1. Don’t get discouraged by “brogrammer” culture

Barbie’s “I can be a Computer Engineer”. This is an actual book.

It is entirely possible that the girl to guy ratio in your class is uneven. You may be one of the few girls in the class, but that’s no reason to get intimidated. Some of the finest programmers in the world have been women! If you find that “brogrammer” culture persists, don’t be afraid to create your own tech club and get inspired by organizations like Girls Who Code.

2. Keep a WTF list

Prior to computer science, I was studying architecture. My only coding experience was an HTML website I made using Notepad when I was 13. I jumped into the field thinking how much I loved doing that, only to find out there is so much out there left to learn!

If you’re like me and you’ve entered into the tech world blindfolded, the list of acronyms, jargon, and abbreviations can be overwhelming. I read this great advice from Lady Loves Code on keeping WTF lists. Keep a list with all the terms and phrases you don’t understand (WTF?), and make sure to check them off as you learn about them.

It also feels intimidating sitting around experts who know 10 programming languages. I’ve learnt over time that the best person to compare yourself to is you. A few years ago I just created my first “Hello World” program, today I can make apps. I still have so much to learn, but I am hopeful about my progress.

3. Plan your subjects

  • Take your time and choose some really interesting electives. If you have a computer science degree, your employer will already know that you’ve studied core courses like algorithms, OOP, etc. But he/she may ask “What are some of the interesting things you’ve learnt?” Whether its artificial intelligence, search engine or human-computer interaction, studying different dimensions of computer science will definitely set you apart from other candidates. Personally, my favorite electives were the two game development courses (Unity and Unreal) I did in Uni ☺
  • I once took a bunch of 300 level courses together and regretted it immensely. Be sure to throw in easy elective subjects along with the hard ones to balance it out.

4. Start a blog

I wish I had started a blog earlier! Blogging about the things you learn will ensure they stay in your memory. If you’ve solved an interesting problem, learnt how to implement a new feature in an app, made a small game, fixed a bug, blog about it! No matter how silly it is, there is always someone in another part of the world struggling with the same problems you’ve faced and can really benefit from what you’re learning. Not to mention, having a tech blog with a huge following looks great to your future employer.

5. Get social

The stereotypical image of a lone, geeky developer working in a dark room with a computer all day has to go. A lot of professional software development happen in teams- knowledge is passed around in a fluid and dynamic way. Being a good communicator and being a software developer is not mutually exclusive. I’ve often seen programmers brush off business communication or liberal arts courses. But taking unusual classes or joining a student club can give you a perspective you’ve never had. When I was the president of the Bangladesh Student Association at uni, I organized cultural events, public speaking competitions, wildlife environmental trips, fundraising for charities and much more. (At the time I often wondered — would this ever really help my “IT” career?) But those experiences helped me to be a better leader and get over my tongue-tying fear of public speaking. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

However, if your interests are solely in tech, that’s perfectly okay too. Join a tech club, share your knowledge, contribute to an open source project, network at techie events ( still working on some of these myself!) If you’re programming with friends and having fun, you’re likely to do it more frequently.

Here are two student techie networks active in the region:

  1. Microsoft Student Partner Program: I had the greatest time at Microsoft being an MSP, developing apps, taking part in hackathons, Imagine Cup, working in internships and more. There is a natural high you get from being around people who are so passionate about technology. I would highly recommend any IT student in the MENA region to join this program — it is totally worth it.
  2. Google Student Ambassador Program (Since I was a Microsoftie I did not join this program BUT) I hear its a great experience too! They are also active in the MENA region and you get to interact with Google employees, host fun events and evangelize Google technologies.

6. Take part in a competition

While what we learn at school is important, it isn’t everything. Hackathons and competitions are a great way to ideate and learn from more experienced software developers. Many competitions expose you to mentors, professionals and great resources. Winning isn’t always the goal, but learning and getting constructive feedback is! As they say, if you don’t succeed the first time, call it version 1.0.

Here are some technology competitions that happen regularly in the UAE .

  1. Microsoft Imagine Cup
  2. Gitex Student Lab
  3. UOWD Software Development Tradeshow
  4. Angel Hack Dubai
  5. NYU Abu Dhabi Hackathon
  6. Gulf Programming Contest
  7. Decode Dubai

7. Do projects you love

I remember being bored in certain classes thinking, “I am never going to use that in my life.” The best way to close the gap between what you are taught and what you like doing is to start working on projects that you love already, while you’re in school.

Take any problem you’re passionate about and start thinking about how you can solve it with technology. While we were brainstorming for Imagine Cup Competition, we came up with the idea for Heroes, a niche social network catered to the cancer community. It eventually won us a few awards and accolades, but most importantly, I felt like I found my purpose. Joining back all those dots, I could see exactly why things happened the way it did, and why I came to study computer science. Since then I’ve always seen things differently and gotten the chance to work on exciting projects with brain sensors, gaming, and more.

heroesofcancer.com

That’s all — 7 reflections from my journey. I hope you find your true passion in the exciting world of technology! Did I miss out on an important tip? Do leave them below ☺


Originally published at techiepolitan.wordpress.com on May 13, 2015.