If I could go back in time…

Lake Pokegama Sunset
Photo Credit: Malvern Madondo

P.S. “If I could go back in time…” is an article I initially wrote on LinkedIn and if you want to read the original post, click here.

Recently, I was part of a group of 50 students selected nationwide to participate in a weeklong program geared towards helping Black and Latinx Computer Science and Engineering students navigate their way and thrive in the technoverse (yeah I made that up – think technology and universe combined). Throughout the entire week, I had the opportunity to meet with various leaders in the tech industry, from recruiters to developers, engineers, managers, photographers, and insert-illustrious-profession-here…

Most of the people I interacted with seemed well-established in their careers and quite frankly, I got the impression that they had everything figured out, maybe almost everything. Being one currently on the college rollercoaster where grades fluctuate like stock exchange rates and where success is anything but permanent, I was curious to find out what these folks wish they had done earlier in their lives, years back as college students. For obvious reasons, I will not mention their names lest you start snooping around for what is not necessary and let your curiosity overshadow the three most important lessons I gained from these conversations:

  1. On time management: Knowing how college is, it wasn’t surprising to find out that a good number of the folks I talked to actually struggled with time management as college students. Some wish they had known how to slow down and go with the tide. One individual I talked to said if they could go back to their college years, they would learn to not get overwhelmed with mounds of work, especially unncessary work. Knowing your priorities is not enough if you don’t know how to act on those priorities. I learned that it is important to not try to crawl, walk, and run at the same time. Bite what you can chew! Time management means knowing what to do, when to do it and get it done, how to do it efficiently, where to do it, with who, etc. It’s not just about setting a timer for 30 minutes of undistracted studying and resume after every 5 minutes of bliss and fun.
  2. On learning: If you are expecting to find nuggets of wisdom on how to learn, I advice you to stop reading at the end of this sentence. Now that you are not expecting to be told how to learn, I will continue sharing what I learned, not tips on how you, dear reader, can learn. One engineer I talked to emphasized that learning is not as important as having the ability to learn. A circus lion can learn to do tricks, but can never ask questions or challenge its teacher. Having an ability to learn means having the temerity to not only ask questions, but to admit to not knowing. One professional said they’d rather have someone on their team who is motivated to learn than have one who is reluctant to learn.
  3. On being uncomfortable: There’s this quote that I came across that pretty much summarizes all that I learned about daring to venture out of the norm and stepping into the storm, “There is no comfort in the growth zone and there is no growth in the comfort zone.” Most of the people I talked to attributed their current and past successes to pushing themselves and having friends and mentors who pushed them to do more than average. They didn’t find it fun walking the extra mile or even introducing themselves to strangers without feeling being judged. Because they did that, and oftentimes gained nothing but experience, they prospered. In the end, experience is what matters most.

So there, the ball is now in your court and I hope you will take something out of this and step out of your comfort zone, even if it means sharing this post (haha self-advertising), and grow your potential and abilities! If you have any thoughts and ideas on what you wish you’d done or what you would like to do if given a second or third chance, please share below or DM!

Classroom Culture 101: Just Do It!

Are you afraid of being on the spotlight in class? Asking questions or answering them? You are not alone!

guilty_raised_hand

Image Source: Fitletes.com

Have you ever heard of the Harkness Method? If not, do not worry  my friend, Wikipedia has got your back!

The Harkness table, Harkness method, or Harkness discussion is a teaching and learning method involving students seated in a large, oval shape to discuss ideas in an encouraging, open-minded environment with only occasional or minimal teacher intervention.

My former high school(s) encouraged more of a ‘Speak when you have something to say – not when you have to say something’ attitude where students were expected to speak (hopefully) when they had something to say. However, students could raise their hands to draw attention if necessary or just spit out whatever question they had – in a respectful and polite manner of course. Now in college, CSS to be particular, its quite different – depends with the instructor really. Most of my college classes have been, fortunately and unfortunately, lecture based and with a few occasions of open discussion. I often find myself hesitant to raise my hand. I sometimes actually take more time debating whether to raise my hand or not than I take to think about the question I am responding to.

Often, I notice a few classmates with the same issue – they want to participate so much but the first step of raising their hand or speaking out freaks them out so much that you can almost see them sink in their desks. Shia LaBeouf made a great motivational video called ‘Just Do It’ and you can watch it here. I find that this is the most effective way when in doubt – just do it, even when you think your question or answer is not relevant or is off topic or ‘silly’. Once you do this a number of times, your confidence levels will be off the ground and you will actually start to enjoy class more. I often use this learning technique in my not-so-easy classes i.e. the ones that kinda threaten to distort your logic.

So, instead of keeping to yourself, be more active in class and your energy is most likely to rub onto other students and the whole class might catch fire and the instructor will have to stay up longer to prepare for class because the students are just on top of the game!

Just do it!