On Finishing University

As of last week, and pending results, I completed an exam signifying the completion of my bachelors degree in computer science at the UNSW. In this post I will endeavour to ramble, hopefully not too freely, on the changes I have noticed within myself over the past few years.

Now before I started my degree there was a period of time where I needed to make a decision about my future. What do I want to do in the future? What should I do in the future? Should I go to university? Is it worth it? Well, even now I haven’t yet figured out my answers completely however I do now know that I wouldn’t regret a single moment of the past 3 or so years. Initially my answer to the first questions, what I want or should want to do, was very vague and hovered about the fields of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) due to my background in FIRST robotics and the UNSW high school computer science course, HS1917. This vagueness led me to do a lot of research into the different areas I was interested in and without boring you with the details, I chose computer science. This conclusion was both preceded and followed by the same question, should I do computer science (CS) or software engineering (SENG)? These days I, and possibly many readers, note that the two subjects are nearly indistinguishable in a career context (although quite distinguishable in the academic context) however my peers, the media and the job market all continued to raise this question within my mind over the course of my studies. Although I could write a whole post on the differences between the two subjects (and perhaps I will someday), it is important for anyone considering the two to realise that in terms of job prospects, I don’t believe it matters directly which of the two you have on paper but that you can demonstrate an understanding of both.

So was university worth it? Well besides from having a whole heap of debt I don’t want to look at, I think it really was worth the time. My greatest credits to the university experience are not my times in the lecture theatres or the labs but rather the conversations over lunch or the challenges that students set me when I taught. These experiences are unlike any intellectual pursuit one would find elsewhere as there is such a density of knowledge in the same area, fuelling ideas and growth. This being said, I definitely don’t want to discredit the times in class as I know wholeheartedly that if it weren’t for being enrolled I would not have learnt all the things I have not because I’m lazy or unmotivated but because I would not have known about the things I did not know about and hence could not pursue their understanding.

During my degree, one constant that I found through out all my classes was distractions. Now I’m not talking about distractions in the sense of someone doing skateboard tricks out the window or daydreaming about beaches but distractions that were associated with the study that I was doing. These kinds of activities are difficult to class as distractions for myself since I would not be where I am today without them yet they probably took a toll on my grades. I’m not saying it is impossible to keep high grades during university but that it is healthy to start applying your new skills to the real world. In my case these distractions included working on numerous side projects and open source work as well as learning new technologies outside of the university prescribed skills. It is these “distractions” that led me to my first position as a software developer well before the completion of my degree, something that I am very grateful to have begun before leaving university.

So where to next? Well I’m not 100% sure of that answer yet, perhaps I will study some more in the form of a masters degree around pure computer science, cybersecurity, or business. As a life long learner I intend to continue growing my skillset both through personal interest and project requirements as well as pursue more content creation and education though talks and getting involved in the development community be through social networks or conferences and groups.

If there have been any questions I have raised within your own mind, please do not hesitate to contact me in the comments section or on Twitter.

Written on July 9, 2017