Final Year Projects: Fears You Project
So, I have been to make this post for quite a while now.
This is for students who will now be selecting their Final Year Project or FYP (specifically of CF) ideas or have submitted it but would like to know where to start working from. This will usually take you a week of complete dedication and team work, trust me you will reach a good decision and with lots of knowledge.
SELECTING AN IDEA:
This is one of the toughest parts of the whole FYP process. Most students want someone to just give them an idea, so they can start working on it. Usually, you people come to us (alumni) or other professionals with a very generalized idea or a broad domain and want us to give you some amazing idea. Well, that is something no one will do for you. Unless you are picking up a project from a company [will discuss that as well], no one will give you an idea just out of the magic broad domain. Here’s why: the whole crux of a project relies on your learning and understanding the practical implications of the theory you learned in those four years. The idea doesn’t have to be something that has never been worked on, but it can be a modification of an existing project. But where do you find that from?
- Narrow down domains: Some domains that are directly related to CF include but are NOT LIMITED TO Insurance and Actuaries, Asset Pricing, Trading, Algorithmic Trading, Capital Markets, Derivatives, Investments, Financial Technologies, Currencies and Cryptocurrency Evaluations, Portfolio Optimization, etc. [Accounting and Supply chain are NOT our direct applications. Optimization and OR are.]
- Research Papers: read research papers. They are the best and the most authentic sources of theories being brought up in the domain, ideas being proved wrong and right. Most of us still don’t know how to read research papers [see here on how to best read a paper]. Once you read a couple of research papers, you will develop a decent understanding of the chosen domain to decide whether or not to pursue the domain further. See latest innovations and news related to your domain.
- Videos and Tutorials: Some people find it easy to understand a concept by reading about it while some prefer visualizations. Surf the internet. There are gazillion resources out there on almost everything you can imagine and a lot of them are free. Go through tutorials and videos to understand a concept you might stumble upon while reading a research paper.
- Assess Yourself what skill you need. Remember, if you are dedicated enough, it will take you barely a month to learn any new skill be it programming, a new software or a new concept. Trust me, 1 hour a day on weekdays and 2 on weekends with NO DISTRACTIONS and you will have a good head-start with the chosen skill.
- Brainstorm: Brainstorm over the topics and key learning from the research papers with your group members. Put on the table even the wildest ideas don’t discard just yet. Give it a couple of hours of sound un-divided attention. Once you have exhausted your creative juices take a break then begin logical reasoning on the viability of your ideas. Some ideas may be great but require more than 6–8 months for implementation. You usually have 8 months tops to cover the entire project, so if a project is too big, better to break it down and work on initial stage. You can always continue and build upon your project after graduation. It only adds up to your profile and skill-set.
- Picturize it: visualize what you would like your product / results to look like. This actually helps you to align your efforts and know you are on the right direction. If you are making a product, understand how you would like it to look like, what controls it would have, color aesthetics, functionality, everything! It keeps you motivated and on track.
Afterthought: Once you go through the selection process, list down your ideas and discuss, not only with your group members but your classmates as well. This not only enhances your understanding of the topic but you will also get a critical and unbiased review from your peers as well. Sometimes, you might get caught up in the idea, and don’t consider the downsides or the magnitude of it in terms of implementation. Discussion helps you rule out problems and even find better alternatives.
Where the industry at: Now about projects picked up from industry, what helps you the most here is your network. Talk to professionals in your circle and discuss domains. Talk to them about potential projects that their firm might have. In case not, you can suggest a probable problem along with a solution that you would be interested in working and discuss if they would like to sponsor the project. People are more interested in listening to solutions than problems. It is not so hard to point out a problem, but it takes certain bit of intellect to suggest a viable solution.
In most cases, all that is needed to get you a project from the industry is starting a conversation. Talk to professionals in a professional manner discuss your views and ideas on latest happenings and understand their views. It is always good to be in touch with pioneers in the field of your interest. No one knows you exist until you introduce yourself to them and give them a reason to remember you.
Usually, you would still require some rudimentary understanding of the domain the company is working on, to discuss and understand the project you are taking on. So, if you think you can skip through steps mentioned above and get directly in touch with someone from the industry and pick up a project, I would advise you not to do so. Better to be ready and well-equipped with knowledge to tackle and understand problems than end up over-committing to something you would eventually hate. In most cases, your FYP defines the sub-domain you would be following along after graduation. It is not impossible to try some other domain, but think about it, for a certain domain say Insurance, a person with a project experience oriented in domain actuaries would be preferred or someone with project made in domain asset pricing and no idea about domain insurance?
As a concluding note, I would emphasize firstly on the importance of reading literature. We usually get scared of weird looking complex notations and fancy languages in research papers, but trust me, if you beat your fears and give it a go, you will definitely find it rewarding. It will take you at first a 5–6 hours to read through a paper properly, but eventually, you will be able to grasp the concepts in just a couple of hours.
Secondly, and most importantly, discussion with peers. We are often so scared of sharing our ideas that they might be copied or stolen. That is a legit reason, it is after all, your intellectual property. But that should not become an obstacle in learning for yourself as an individual and a community. Learn from the open source freeware community that works together to build solutions and solve problems. Working alone will suffice your personal goals, but working as a community, sharing solutions and coming up with ideas to work on will help you grow as a society.
Learn to appreciate ideas, give credit where due and contribute to the system that helped you grow, no matter how small the contribution.
All the best!