Computer Science: Three steps for success

Posted March 24, 2011

Earlier today, I attended my Technical Writing class to listen to a speech that I have to write a short technical essay about. The essays are never really difficult. The goal is to keep them short and simple, but informational at the same time. Out of all of the speeches that I attended for this class, this is probably one speech that reached out to me, stole my attention, and peaked my interests the most. To just write a short technical essay where I can’t truly express my mind about it is not enough.

James Caverlee is a TAMU Assistant Professor who spoke to us about the history of information: the origins of organizing information, how it has evolved over centuries, and how the internet has played what is possibly the biggest role in evolving it. If you need the answer to a question, where do you usually go most of the time? Yeah, Google, duh. The internet has made an astounding impact on the way that we spread ideas, puslish content, buy products, and share memories. He also talked about potential dangers of sharing your information which reminded me of a very recent cover story for TIME that I read. I have always known this, but Caverlee does such an amazing job of actually explaining it. I’ve written essays and talked about such things from time to time, so everything that he spoke about went hand-in-hand with everything that I believed in. At the end, Caverlee gave some of the best personal advice that I have ever heard a Computer Science speaker give. Though I feel that most of this advice may be better geared toward Computer Science majors, it’s still good advice for anyone striving to be successful. His advice consisted of three simple steps:

1. Go to talks

I get a lot of annoying emails from the university that invites me to different types of talks and seminars that are on campus. I get so many of them that it feels like spam. Anytime I receive them, I immediately delete them. But why? Because I’m apparently too busy doing other things that are much more important. Yeah, of course I am. But in all seriousness, a lot of these talks don’t really seem that interesting to me. Why should I go to a talk about Aerospace Engineering if that isn’t even my major? That’s such a horrible question to ask myself. A better question should be: Why the heck wouldn’t I want to go and listen to an astronaut who has taken the time to come here to speak about his experiences? Experiences such as… well I don’t know… being in space? I mean, that doesn’t sound epic? Perhaps I should be asking myself this question too: Why should I throw away the opportunity to be inspired? What makes me believe that I can inspire others if I haven’t even been inspired myself? I need to attend more talks and seminars. This is free knowledge and information that I’m literally ignoring and throwing away. I know that I won’t have this type of opportunity after I graduate.

2. Own your education

You probably get most of your education from school, right? How does that process work? You attend a lecture, study the material during your spare time, and then just get tested on it. That’s really it? If you don’t even care about the class, then what makes you think that you won’t forget everything that you learned from it as time passes? I’m not judging your ability to retain data or anything, but does that really sound like you own your education? The classroom is important, of course, but what makes you think that all of your education has to come from it? What makes you think that everything you learn for your major has to be from a classroom or textbook? Why not learn about something that’s popular in the development community such as iOS/Android development or Python? There’s so much abundant information out there that you can educate yourself with for free. Just grab it, literally. Now, I don’t really need to be schooled on the ability to get things from the internet for free, but if I really want to take control and expand on my education as Caverlee explains it, then I should stop being so oblivious to the about what I can genuinely learn from outside of the classroom.

3. Write, write, WRITE!

Who cares if you hated writing essays for English? I hated that too and you’re not alone! But that’s not what writing is all about. Of course, it’ll help with your grammar, spelling, and even speech along the way, but why not write to document your memories, experiences, inspirations, or findings? It’s not hard at all and you don’t have to write an entire 5,000 word essay in order for it to be considered writing. I mean, come on. You have the internet at your disposal and so many different services to choose from that can actually help make writing easier. Tumblr? Blogger? Even Twitter! Writing isn’t limited to just essays, blog posts, or tweets either. Write programming code, or a song, write anything. You can be inspired by others and take control of your education, but what is the point of doing all of that if you can’t prove it by giving some of it back in your own way? If you can make an effort to be inspired, there’s no reason that you can’t make an effort to at least try and inspire others. In today’s world, it’s nearly impossible to be successful without having good communication. Writing helps. I’m not really the biggest advocate of writing, but I write because I want to share my experiences, document milestones, and hopefully inspire people. I have a problem with maintaining a good balance between speed and accuracy while writing, but I’m adamant enough to believe that it can change and improve with more practice. I’ve always known that writing is important, and I want to write more whenever I can.

Oh, and thank you

Dr. Caverlee, I want to sincerely thank you for what you shared today. Your presentation and advice really meant a lot to me and I hope to use it to become more successful not only in college, but in everything else that I do in life. Oh, and I love search engine optimization by the way. Just for kicks, I’m going to plant the word Quksace Agjke in this post and see how far up I can climb. Not expecting much, but lets see. Don’t know what Quksace Agjke means? Let me help you out with that.

Credit: James Caverlee

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