5 Things I Learned from Stony Brook

I recently graduated from Stony Brook University in New York with a degree in Computer Science. I still haven’t gotten my degree in the mail, so it’s almost like I didn’t really graduate. Now’s a good time to reflect on what I learned in college. A lot of my college experience was influenced by Stony Brook’s size and it’s location. It’s a huge school with a large administration, set in a quiet town on the north shore of Long Island.

1. I learn best by doing

This is something I almost take for granted now. I was lucky enough to go to a high school with a FIRST robotics team. That’s where I learned a lot of what I know about electronics. It’s also where I got my first real start programming practical systems. I wasn’t just programming a loop to say “hello world” twenty times.

Stony Brook is a great school if you’re like me and learn by doing. The Computer Science curriculum has a strong theoretical backbone. Most classes I had started with the professor going over the syllabus and then laying out a few different tools and letting us choose which one we wanted to use. I was like a kid in a candy store.

This is of course the last time this will happen to me. Most jobs have tools already in place that you have to use. Unless the job is you creating your own company, in which case go ahead and use Node.js.

2. I have to be my own advocate

This is kind of a basic skill of being an adult. It’s something that a lot of people don’t seem to know, even at the end of college. Stony Brook is a big school. Really big. Dealing with the school really taught me how to advocate for myself.

3. Work as hard as you can, then work harder

This is my favorite quote from my uncle. Whenever I’m stuck on a project, which is often in software engineering, I think of this quote. It helped me get through the toughest classes in my major. I should put it on a motivational poster, I’ll make millions.

4. Prioritizing is everything

This is another “real adult” skill that I didn’t really have before college. Senior year of high school I put building robots over everything. This worked out quite well when I could do all my work in one day. This doesn’t work so well when you’re working on large projects that take weeks or months.

In college to-do lists became my best friend. I had to learn to really prioritize tasks. It’s something I still struggle with, but by senior year I think I got decent at prioritizing. I (usually) didn’t go out on Saturday nights until my work was (mostly) done.

5. Your friends are a reflection of you

The people I met at Stony Brook are some of the most interesting and intelligent people on the planet. I had friends who ran record labels in Brooklyn. I had other friends who started teams for machine learning. I don’t entirely believe the famous quote “you are the sum of the five people around you”. But, surrounding yourself with driven people can push you to do more.

Part of why I enjoyed college so much was because of my friends and what they did. That’s also one of the reasons I chose to work at 1010data.