Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Outliers was one of the more interesting books I’ve read, filled with its own real stories and reflections. Gladwell does a good job of showing how the outliers that we see today aren’t exactly outliers at all, but products of a well-conditioned environment and luck. As a Computer Science major, I’ve come across a contrasting term called the Imposter Syndrome, in which people doubt their own skills despite achievements, making excuses such as “I was lucky” and downplaying their own skills. Many women are widely encouraged to credit their innate skills instead. However, in Outliers, Gladwell shows exactly not that — people are outliers because they had a lot of luck. Hard work plays a big deal as well, but not completely. From Outliers, Gladwell illustrates different factors of culture, timing, education, different intelligences, even down to your birthdate that contributes towards a person being an outlier (though an outlier does not necessarily equate to being successful, as two are both different things). Overall, Outliers was a great read that I would highly recommend.

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My 4 Year Plan (Always Tentative)

With coming back to school and all, I thought I’d share my 4 year plan on here. It’s a product of hours of research, planning, and consideration. It’s still ongoing and tentative as well. Here it is:

4year

X denotes non-CSE courses. With some extra room, I thought I’d take some interesting classes not related to my major. Classes in music, social issues, business, finance, performing arts, and psychology are all fair game. Basically whatever that is interesting. AS denotes Warren Area Studies which I will take P/NP.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

lean-in-book-review

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In was truly a wonderful read that I would recommend to anyone, both in the workforce and out of it. I first listened to Sheryl at the Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing back in October 2013, and only until this summer was I able to find time to truly appreciate the views presented in her book. She presents a very relateable case of the setbacks that women experience in the workforce, and provides wonderful and useful views on how to combat these obstacles to achieve equality and representation. I’m happy to have read this book — and now, I am also leaning in!

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Things To Know About 4-Year Planning

Making plans and lists are surprisingly two of my favorite hobbies because I like set organization. Over the summer before my first year in college, I drafted out my first four-year plan, making extra notes of deadlines I set for myself, accomplishments I plan to achieve, and things I plan to do around a specific time. From my daily time schedule (which constantly does not go to plan) to my long-term schedules, I am always making plan readjustments, though there is still a plan. 

So anyway, here in this post I have organized a list (yay!) of things to know when making 4-year plans:

1. Nothing is set in stone. (Have a constantly changing plan)

You’d be surprised by how many times I’ve drafted an hourly schedule for my week thinking “I am going to follow my brilliant plan”, but then things come up (decide to sleep in, hanging with friends, last-minute conflict) that changes my schedule. Likewise, you’d be surprised by how different my four year plan was back in Fall 2013 to how it looks like now in Spring 2014. My adventures in course planning takes on new directions pretty much with every week, and things change constantly so you need to make those adjustments. The bottom line is that a 4-year plan should be kept as a guide for future endeavors, and not as set rule. Having a constantly updated plan is important because it gives you flexibility to enjoy your time, and at the same time keeps you well-informed of what you’re going to do.

2. Be Well-Informed. 

If you’re drafting a 4-year plan for CS at UCSD, take into account the required courses and their individual course load. Coming into UCSD, I knew nothing about any of the CSE courses, but in just two quarters, I’ve heard so much about different courses and course-loads (from hanging in the labs!) that I know all the required CSE classes by heart plus their approximate difficulties. Reading and searching the department website definitely helps, and also UCSD’s Virtual Advising Center. I also definitely encourage in-person academic counseling. By learning of all the different opportunities and courses that you can take, you evidently expand your options of how you write your college career. Making a well-versed, well-informed 4-year plan therefore makes for a smooth and successful college career.

3. Prioritize.

Just because plans change so constantly doesn’t mean that you should let them. There are some things (like the courses that you are taking right now) that you have to work with, and slacking off on a major class or any other priority may be detrimental to the overall plan. There will be plans that you have to drop in priority for another, and just goes on with constant plan updates. Bottom line is to remember the goal and purpose of your plan and don’t lose that focus. From that goal, you can simplify and prioritize the steps that you need to take in order to achieve that goal. Because when it comes to huge accomplishments (like graduating college), a well-organized plan or schedule is ideal to make the ride as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

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So that was my speal on the importance of making plans and schedules. They key is to actually have a plan to follow, so that last minute you’re not frantically worrying about what you’re going to do next. Having a plan comes a long way when it comes to organization and keeping yourself well-informed. So if you don’t have any other plans at the moment, then make one now! It’s never too early (or too late) to start. 

5 Summer Opportunities for CS Majors

With summer quickly approaching, I thought it’d be a good idea to lay out the options and opportunities that many Computer Science and Engineering majors generally take over the summer that will strengthen their relevant skills in the field. The gap between the end of Spring quarter and the beginning of Fall quarter is 15 weeks, and I generally believe in making good use of one’s time. Here they are:

1. Getting an Internship

Internships are probably the best way for engineering majors to apply their skills learned in school. Interning at a big company, a small company, or at any institution that allows you to apply Computer Science knowledge can build up the experience you need after you graduate. Most people at UCSD look for internships; that’s why we have so many job fairs. Also, one internship counts towards a technical elective requirement, CSE 197 by CSE advising, which is a very nice benefit that gives incentive to intern.

2. Taking Summer Courses (Summer Session)

Taking summer sessions at UCSD to take classes is a great way to stay ahead of things, and graduate earlier. UCSD has two summer sessions, and like two quarters, you’re allowed to take two sets of classes that can help accelerate your graduation path (or maybe catch up on dropped classes). Each summer session is a lot shorter than one quarter, though, so learning material will be more fast-paced.

3. Doing Research

Working in a CSE faculty member’s lab is another great way to apply learned skills and learn even more than what you already know. You get to build lasting professional relationships, and explore a new field of interest. Research opportunity programs out there, such as the UCSD Academic Enrichment Program (AEP), the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), and the Pacific Rim Undergraduate Experience (PRIME) are great programs to try out if you’re an undergrad looking for research experience. But then again, there’s also the option of knocking on a professor’s door to ask, if there is someone in mind. It would never hurt to ask, because the worst that can happen is that they say no.

4. Become a Tutor

One thing that I really like about the CSE department here at UCSD is the tutor program. Once a student finishes a CSE course with high marks, they are given the option to tutor for that course the next quarter. It is either volunteer or paid, and tutoring is a great opportunity to not only improve communication skills, but also help other students who are struggling with concepts improve their learning. As there are CSE summer courses offered during summer session, many of the CSE courses are looking for tutors to help out with lab hours.

5. Do a Personal (or Group) Project

…Because during the school year, most likely you won’t get those 15 weeks of time. If there was any project, any app that you’ve ever wanted to make, summer is the time to do it. If there are any old high school friends majoring in CS that you’ve wanted to make something with, then summer is the time to do it. You got 15 weeks to make something cool; make it count.

Of course, there are many other things to do over summer as well (travel abroad, visit family, become a tourist), so don’t limit yourself. Do something that you’ve always wanted to do, because chances are, you don’t get those 15 weeks back to spend the time.

 

LA Hacks 2014

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My first LA Hacks hackathon was quite an experience. With provided buses to UCLA, 36 hours of hacking at the Pauley Pavilion, and lots of food (albeit some internet connection problems), LA Hacks according to LA Times was the biggest hackathon ever with the most participants.

It was an overall great experience because I got to allocate 36 hours towards Android development that I probably wouldn’t have found time for over school work if I had stayed at UCSD. The beauty of making apps on your phone is the ease of demonstration; ever since I came back, people have asked me, “How was LA Hacks?” and I would show them the app I made on my phone.

LA Hacks was generally full of small company sponsers. The beginning and ending keynotes and presentations encouraged start-up culture and going against the majority flow of things. ‘Hipster’ would be a good term to coin the values that the hackathon speakers promoted, I guess. But it was still very inspiring nevertheless.

Officially a CS Major!

So maybe you didn’t know, but I wasn’t actually admitted into the CS major when I came to UCSD, mainly because CSE was impacted. I have always told everyone that I was a CS major, solely because I identified myself as one. I was actually admitted into EE, and over my past two quarters here I had that little nagging voice in the back of my head to do well in all my classes so that I can finally be an official major.

This post is basically to celebrate, because I made it! Woohoo the department offered me a spot in the major and I can finally declare myself as a legal citizen in the CSE department! :)