I’m graduating soon (hooray) and boy do I have a lot of thoughts! Here are some of them, in no particular order (will probably update if something else comes to mind).
- I spent the first year of college worrying over the idea that I’m not good/cool/great enough. I wished I could do X, Y, or Z! I still do sometimes, but now it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. Why? a) I guess over time I have a better idea of what I want, thus I also have a better idea of what’s important, b) as I started to get to know more people, I also learned that we’re all pretty much struggling over the same things. It’s just that some people might be better at concealing it, whether purposefully or not.
- … still in the idea of “being cool” (I don’t know how else to put it. Self improvement?): there are many, many other ways to improve yourself (or to “prove” yourself) other than getting straight-As, or any other specific idea you’re thinking of. For example: there was a time where I wanted to be someone like Steve Jobs. Then I thought, “should I drop out!? Elizabeth Holmes did it too! There’s a pattern!” but I learned that there were many entrepreneurs who didn’t drop out too, and there were many drop-outs who didn’t turn into Steve Jobs after all. There is more than one path to become anything.
- Early on, I was worried sick with the fact that I don’t come from a competitive programming background, because at the first glance—at least here—it seemed to be the only thing that mattered. Over the years, after being surrounded by such diverse peers, I learned that interests in CS do not necessarily only revolve around competitive programming. There’s room for everyone: gamers, analysts, creatives… and I personally think tech is better when everyone’s included.
- I worked on a number of side projects throughout college, and not all of them turned into something I initially wanted it to be. Things happened. I used to agonize over this fact, thinking that all of my efforts and time were for naught. However, one thing I’m really glad about is the fact that I got to know a lot of people. Some of these people have become close friends, inspiration, or have been a tremendous help later in life—even way after the supposed “projects” wrapped up (or more like, abandoned).
- Probably still connected to the point above: networking matters. In my case, even just by knowing the right people can be a game-changer.
- … networking doesn’t have to be in the form of “physically, explicitly introducing yourself to someone”. That could work too, but what I’ve found to really pay off is doing what I like and putting myself out there. I’ve had people reach out to me and there have been many interesting opportunities because I decided to put myself out there, such as blogging or just by sometimes announcing that I’m working on a side project no matter how trivial I might think it is (hint: it’s probably not that trivial to other people anyway!). It made people remember me as “the person who did X”. I’ve been on the other side as well (as the person getting asked for recommendations), and here’s how I did it: I’d first try to think of people I’ve worked with directly, and if I couldn’t find anyone that fits I’d try to recall the people I know who have told me/said/posted on their social media profiles that I’m following that they’re writing a blog on X, or working on Y, or was once involved in Z. Another alternative is I’d ask someone I know, and they’d probably go through the same workflow too (think of someone they’d worked with, then proceed to think of someone they’ve heard about).
- Over the years I’ve really come to appreciate failures. Now instead of seeing them purely as failures, I see them as either one of these: a sign that I’m not ready yet or a sign that it’s not where I’m supposed to be. Looking back now, it all made sense.