Flatiron Prompt: Why did I decide to Study Software Engineering
Last summer I tried to teach myself computer science for the first time by embarking on the online Harvard CS50 course. At first the program was off to a great start. The speaker was engaging and the content was exciting. The lectures were very long, however my enthusiasm and excitement to begin this journey propelled me through slight bouts of boredom. I made it to the third week out of ten, riding the wave of newfound passion before suddenly falling off and crashing head first into the cold water below. Inconsistency, poor discipline and feelings of frustration and loneliness, I soon realized, accompanied a large part of learning computer science and hindered my ability to dive deeply into the subject.
I didn’t think Computer Science was easy or hard before I began to learn it. Quite frankly, I wasn’t even sure of what to expect, but I knew that it was a dynamic and powerful skill that once acquired would open doors and new opportunities. However, I quickly realized that acquiring these skills would require diligence, resilience and most of all the discipline to practice the active learning and active recall required to achieve mastery in the subject.
After frustratingly closing my computer for the last time and ending my journey on the CS50 expedition, I let out a large huff and told myself I would simply try again in the fall when I began college.
Later that fall, as a bright eyed first year college student, I shopped Computer Science 201. Shopping is a yale term which means I attended a few classes to decide if I wanted to enroll in the course for the remainder of the semester. However, the online format, mind-numbingly boring 70 person lectures, poor TA support and generally impractical curriculum pushed me far away from pursuing the course. After facing more adversity, I felt confused. I knew that I wanted to develop these skills but I felt as if I didn’t possess the discipline, focus, and when I really felt down in the dumps, questioned if I was smart enough to pursue this skillset. It often felt that everyone I talked to who did computer science was excellent at what they did or had started their journey way before me, making me feel left behind before I even really started.
I decided this summer that I would not give up on myself or on my drive to develop and master skills in this new area. I know that developing this skill set, and particularly becoming exceptionally good at it, will expand horizons of opportunity while fostering and honing on one of my passions: creating new things.
I simply realized that I would have to learn computer science differently from other people. A strategy I have implemented is modeling my studying after the HIIT (High-Intensity-Interval- Training) workouts I complete. Some may also call it the Pomodoro Technique. The way I learn is inspired by my youtube fitness coach Heather Robertson. Upon starting her videos, she always remarks “Hello Team. Get ready to give it your all”. What ensues is a high intensity workout in which I work hard for 45 seconds with a 15 second break between circuits. The interval training is similar to how I study. I study for 20 minutes very intensely and follow that period with a 5 minute break. Increments of hard work followed by frequent breaks enables me to study much longer and with greater intention, clarity and purpose.
Another element of my training regime I have adopted in my computer science education is rooted in the simple line “ Your weakness is your greatest strength.” Whenever I feel unable to complete another set of burpees, push presses, or tricep extensions, I remind myself that I am made strong because I can push through weakness, I am powerful because I can move beyond pain and that the best way to something is through it. I have since discovered that the greatest arsenal of weapons I have to overcome the challenges I encounter is not found in my biceps, glutes or calves, but rather the muscle helping me to write this blog statement right now: my mind. Armed with this fact, I know that in times of great stress, difficulty and fear, I too unlock great resilience, grit and growth.
My experience in the program thus far has reflected these sentiments in more ways that I can express. The first two weeks felt like running the last 100m sprint of a cross country race over and over and over again. Each day I learned a new concept that built on top of itself and then further on top of that self the next day. However, familiar feelings of isolation and loneliness have yet to creep back. The labs are challenging but not impossible, the work is heavy but not unbearable, and the instructors are patient and kind. It reminds me of another day on youtube, with Heather welcoming me back to complete another brutal workout, “Hello team. Get ready to give it your all.” I truly feel like I am on a team, working alongside others, individually giving it my all, while collectively expanding our skills, our strength, our discipline and most transformatively, our minds. I am proud to be on this team, and I am proud of what can be accomplished when we work together. This bootcamp has been a damn tough HIIT workout, but I am confident I have the endurance and strength to push onwards alongside my team, and sprint to the finish line with flying colors.