A Degree in Review- 6 mins
A Degree in Review
Two years ago I wrote a blog post in a similar spirit to this one called ‘a year in review’ – a retrospective on my first year of college. Since then, it’s safe to say that a lot has happened! Here’s just a few highlights:
- Moved out of the dorms, to my first place (a basement 🤪)
- Became a teaching assistant (where I’ve TA’ed 4 different classes) 👨🏫
- Had my first job in software as an intern at Target in Minneapolis 💻
- Moved again to my first apartment (upgrade 😁)
- Turned 21 (woohoo!) 🍻
- Went skiing in Whistler for my first time ever ⛷
- Made multiple fun visits to Seattle with friends 🚗
- Interned at Microsoft during a pandemic 🦠
These past 4 years of my life have been very formative and it's safe to say that I've learned a lot about a whole bunch of things. I'd like to take a moment to reflect on some of those learnings.
Coming into college I felt very prepared to approach my classes. The study habits that I had formed in high school were able to carry over with me for the most part, which made navigating my transition to college much easier. On top of this, I had a bunch of AP credits, which I would highly recommend you get if you can! As a result I was able to take a reduced courseload at times and focus more on the difficult classes I was taking. I'm very thankful to my past self for that.
As college progressed from first year, I learned some important lessons about what to prioritize, not just in academics, but in life. My focus shifted away from grades to genuine understanding of material that interested me. I used the mistakes I made on tests and assignments as a way to gauge what I knew and what I didn't, and figured out how to fill in the gaps when I had misunderstandings. But beyond that I took the time to go have fun. I explored Vancouver and hung out with my friends, and it was just a great time. Being at home right now taking online classes, I really miss the days of walking around campus enjoying the nature around me, grabbing a cup of coffee, and running into someone I know and having a chat. This will be on the list of things I really miss once I leave this place. That second year of college was so formative in helping me to start understanding the things in life that I care about, and for that (although it was a tough year too), I will be forever grateful.
Besides these lessons, I've learned a lot about how to help others learn in my role as a TA. Being a TA was probably one of the best decisions I've made in my college career, as it strengthened my ability to discuss a technical topic with someone who doesn't currently understand it. I've developed new ways of thinking, and it has been extremely rewarding. Seeing a student go from confusion to understanding after you help them out is one of the best feelings, and I'm glad I got to be a part of that!
Both my internships taught me about a plethora of technologies that I had never worked with. At Target I got to work with Java, Python, Kafka, Kubernetes, and MongoDB, learn about Agile development (Jira, anyone?) and what the general day-to-day workflow of a software developer might look like. It was an awesome experience in Minneapolis, especially since I got to visit my parents frequently while I was in town. But it wasn't all work -- there were happy hours, intern events, a baseball game, and so much more. I learned how to have a lot of fun with my coworkers. :)
Fast forward to February of this year and my jaw dropped when I read an email in my inbox that told me I had been extended an offer to work as a Software Engineer intern at Microsoft in Vancouver. I just couldn't believe that I was going to be working at the company I had always envisioned myself at. It was really like a dream come true for me. Now, unfortunately COVID ended up making this internship virtual, but that didn't diminish the learnings I took out of the summer. 'Empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more' is the Microsoft mantra, and it resonated with me throughout my summer. I was working on applications that an insane number of people use from day-to-day. It was amazing to think of the impact I could have with my work, and it felt super fulfilling. Throughout my internship I learned about how to develop desktop applications with C#, UWP, and Cpp/WinRT, and a whole lot more about software development. I really became much more aware of the quality of my code (when it got roasted in code reviews), and started to pay more attention to the little details. I adopted a growth mindset during my time, telling myself when I didn't know something that 'yeah, I might not know it now -- but if I spend some time to figure it out, I will'. I learned how to integrate to a team that you've never met in person. I learned how to face tough challenges and leverage the smart people around you who are there to help. And what a great 4 months it ended up being. It makes me excited to return full-time next summer!
So, it turns out there’s a lot of stuff that we take for granted that our parents handled for us growing up. From laundry, to dinner, and more, I came to realize quickly that I underappreciated the effort my parents put in to handle these things for me as a kid. So I had to learn how to start doing these things on my own. From time to time I still have troubles handling my self-delegated chores, but I like to think that I’ve come a ways since my early days of college. I, at the very least, know how to keep my place looking clean enough such that I’m not embarassed when I have other people over. But I still can’t wait until I have a dishwasher… washing dishes by hand isn’t my favorite activity!