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I attended Hack the North this weekend — a stellar hackathon which I can’t say enough good things about. This was my 5th time attending Hack the North (2nd time as a sponsor rep), and I’ve always been blown away by the scale and quality of the event, all of which is put together by really hardworking students who selflessly pour months of effort into it.

Even though I’m not a huge fan of some things encouraged by hackathons, such as all-nighters and an ultra-competitive spirit to programming, (I’ve previously written about my preferred way to attend a hackathon), it’s…


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Toronto is an amazing place — it’s diverse, it’s safe, and it’s brimming with opportunities. However, as a fast-growing city, keeping up with its pace is difficult. Challenges arising from its growth, such as affordable housing, transit and traffic congestion, to name a few, are common topics of discussion. And Toronto’s not a special case here — the same theme holds true for many major cities all over the world.

It’s helpful to have a good understanding of hard facts about our city—so we can make more informed decisions and have more nuanced discussions. And there’s no shortage of publicly…


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I just finished off the last internship of my undergraduate career. I was working in the optimizer team at Cockroach Labs, a job I thoroughly enjoyed, and one that also makes the title of this post a fitting word play.

Thanks to UWaterloo’s co-op program, I’ve had the privilege to work 6 internships in 3 different cities, at companies as small as 40 to as large as 350,000, in both suburban and urban settings. All of that has given me a much better sense of what I’d need to look for in a job going forward.

That’s a very valuable…


If you’re a software engineering student at UWaterloo like me, chances are you’ve heard of someone doing this transfer. You might have considered transferring yourself. Or, you might have read Bo’s blog post on why he made this exact same transfer recently.

If you’re an SE student and you’re considering this transfer yourself, this post is for you. If you’re an incoming student looking at the two programs, this post may answer some of your questions. If you’re an SE or CS student looking for reasons to feel superior to the other, you’ve probably got other pretenses to question first.

Ask yourself: What about CS entices you?


Okay, that is a very clickbait (and slightly misleading) title. I apologize.

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I spent the last weekend at Hack the North. This was my fourth Hack the North and the first time where I wasn’t hacking (instead, I was representing sponsor Cockroach Labs, where I interned this summer). That gave me the time to observe other people hacking without being stressed about finishing up my own hack.

What I noticed was that many people went into hackathons with the wrong expectations. Some formed teams with their friends, only to find out that they couldn’t really work together very well. …


I just came across this post on UWaterloo’s subreddit. And while it’s a glaring example, this is not the first time I’ve seen that attitude perpetuated.

Do you find something easy that many others find challenging? Cool — maybe you’ve discovered your strength. Just don’t generalize that to “everyone should find this easy because it is”.

Putting it another way: Are you going to feel good about asking for help in something that’s deemed “easy” by everyone? It’s only going to prevent you from improving your skillset.

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That easy bar though

There’s one SE/ECE course at UWaterloo in particular that I regularly warn lower…


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Over the past few days, we’ve seen a lot of discussion around mental health and stress on Facebook, the UWaterloo subreddit, etc. To add to that, I’d like to focus on one common cause of stress and anxiety — a feeling of not belonging and being left behind, aka imposter syndrome.

UW’s math, engineering and CS circles are super competitive. You don’t need me to tell you that.

It’s very easy to get lost in all of that, and start to question your own self-worth. …

Bilal Akhtar

Currently building great database systems. Software engineering grad, @UWaterloo. Engaged citizen. Urbanist.

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