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A CS student's thoughts about the tech industry and getting a CS degree

Sigma School
15th April 2024

Watch the full interview here : 

In this episode of Stories of Hackers, we talked with Min Hao. Min Hao is a student from Monash University studying in Computer Science degree with a passion in Machine Learning and Cyber Security. We hope you guys can learn some new insights from Min Hao’s story and his experience, enjoy!

Can you tell us more about your background?

Hey guys, my name is Min Hao and I am a Computer Science student from Monash University studying advanced computer science. What I've done in relation to computer science is web development, a bit of cyber security and also data science and machine learning.  I learned things bit by bit in general and I had done some hackathons and some internships, currently participating in 2 or 3 projects at the same time and that’s pretty much all about me. 

Did you know in the beginning, before you start your degree that software or programming is something you want to do? Or is it something more like a gamble to you?

I was actually juggling between choosing  Economics or Computer Science when I was about to finish high school, but my passion was for math so anything that's related to it, I am always down to try. It was around that time, I got into the ICT subject and since then I kind of developed an interest with I.T. field. The other main reason that I finally decided to go for computer science is that, yes, business or economics is important but I feel that in the future, the world needs more specialization in terms of the computer world. 

Ok, so your first passion is math. Maybe can you share with us whether that math is an important part for software engineers, or is it only for computer science research level you need math?

Well, I will put it this way. The level of math you need in different computer science areas varies. For software engineering, you just need to know the basic logic towards it but if you decides to go for data science or machine learning, they will usually requires more statistical math and for research will requires a more complex math in terms of induction, more of a decision-based kind of math because you’re developing algorithm or researching about them.

As a math geek yourself, where do you see yourself focusing on in the next three to five years?

I am not entirely sure what I want to do in the next three to five years but I will still have a fixed place in my heart that I want to do software engineering. I am not sure if i will pursue it as a deep passion but i know it's something that i am very down to do anytime. 

Well, what’s your career goal for yourself in the next three to five years, maybe become a senior developer or you know start your own startup or something?

Personally, I will opt for creating my own startup. But in the end, my main goal will still be to be able to really put what I've learned into doing something official in a sense, maybe for example working in a big company or being an intern in a big company, something like that.  The idea of creating my own startup can come anytime, maybe after my graduation, after I finish my internship or when I find jobs. 

What’s the key difference that distinguishes a very good computer science student from an average one?

I think it all comes down to how you interpret a good software developer and  a bad one. In my opinion, if you have the drive, passion and the ability to further self learn in software development then I will take you as a good software developer even if you maybe don't have the experience or knowledge compared to others that've been in the field for a long time. 

Did you see this common problem among your friends or maybe in the software world in general where people just lack the passion to self learn and go deep into the topics?

I think this is a common thing even among my coursemates where many of them already lack the passion to continue studying computer science and are considering dropping out or already dropped out.  To me, it is a sad and disappointing thing to see, especially if someone had an initial passion towards computer science but only later gets washed away by the perception of academics. I don't blame them, it's really because our education system right now is not intuitive and does not provide a lot of initiatives for students. 

What’s the good and bad of universities? In terms of computer science since you experience it first hand.

Well, in terms of academics, sometimes there’s no proper planning in the syllabus where sometimes ends up pressuring the students into bad situations where they get physical stress, emotional stress and put them into the mindset they are restricted by their own academic performance.

The good thing about university is , it itself is kinda like a playground where you can go and experiment many things. You can try different things, start a project and even if you fail, you don't really lose much except maybe your time. 

Is that a big factor in your own experience that a lot of people go to uni just to get a cert because without it, it will be much harder to find a job? Or maybe because of peer pressure?

For my own experience, back in internship when we apply to some jobs , many companies out there require you to have at least a diploma to get an IT related job. 

Well in terms of peer pressure, I don't really think it is a case for a Computer Science degree because this is really not your stereotypical choices but some of my peers actually come in, not knowing how deep computer science can go. Many of us started only because of our love of computing or gaming, without fully understanding the depth of this course and which is also why the majority of them take a step back. 

What will you say about the syllabus of universities? Can they catch up with the pace of technology or do they always fall behind by 1, 2 years, or are they very just fundamental?

I guess this is really subjective and it really depends on the staff or the leaturers.  From my own experience, there are lecturers who are really passionate and willing to teach us about the latest technologies which are not included in the syllabus, which makes things more interesting. But in general, the universities need to do a lot of things to catch up with what is being offered as fundamentals, but of course there's no way university can provide everything and make everything to be updated to the latest technology because there's gonna be no end to it. I would say in the syllabus, about 40 percent of it can conduct more research towards it, the more recent variance of the technologies  and make it more interesting and more relevant. 

Before we come to a close, can you share with us, what’s the thing in coding or in the computer science world that excites you and maybe able to excite others as well?

For me, I actually get excited for the very fundamental thing because if even a small program that successfully runs can excite you, then this field is really a go-to for you. Even if it's just a small program, if I am able to get it to run after some debugging, it's still very motivating for me and I want to go for more.  

The very fundamental things you have to realize before you decide to change your career in general things is, even if the smallest thing from what you ought to learn about, if those excite you, then in a sense, the field/job is your calling. 

Any message that you want to share out to our audience or community?

I would say, especially to The Hacker Collective(THC) which is a good community for me to really start talking to people, realize what I was short of, realize my strength, and to get to talk to amazing people. And if you really are not sure of where to start off in terms of improving as a developer or an engineer, I would strongly recommend THC because I, myself, i am not a very vocal person when it comes to large community, THC is a great start for me when it comes to have the experience of communicating with developers or learning new things.

Thanks for the awesome interview!

Hope you enjoyed this series!

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