Fun facts about my time at university

In my past life I took a MSc. and a BSc. Degree in Telecommunications and Informatics Engineering. A couple of days ago I was asked to write some words about my experience at my university as a way to inspire new students to apply to my Degree. While writing it, I started recalling a couple of fun facts about my experiences with university that did not fit the purpose of what I had to write, so I’ll write them here instead.

Upon finishing high school I did not have a clue about what I wanted to study. The idea of taking an Engineering Degree in Computer Science actually came from my mom because "I spent too much time on my computer and I liked Maths and Physics". To be honest I did not even fully grasp what Engineering or Computer Science meant on my first day of my BSc. In short, I travelled ten thousand kilometers to study something I did not understand or wish based on an hunch.

In my first year, I was enrolled at the Information Systems and Computer Engineering Degree and I ended up taking some classes with the good people from the Telecommunications and Informatics Engineering (LETI). In my second year I enrolled in LETI. My official reasoning for the change was: the programs are similar, and LETI is a mash up of two areas – Telecommunications and Informatics – which could give me better opportunities on the job market. Yet in hindsight, I think my biggest motivation for the change was the fact that I really enjoyed hanging out with the people from LETI. I had found a peer group with whom I could share fun moments, but that also pushed me to be better.

3 years into my "student career" I started getting extremely involved in extra-curricular activities. These activities took so much time from me that I even jokingly considered myself a part-time student – for instance, on the last year of my MSc. I was spending 2 weeks per month abroad, while doing my Master’s Thesis. These were fun times and I learned a lot about myself: I managed teams and projects, I travelled the world, I met tons of people. Anyhow, this also came with a price, my GPA tanked and I graduated feeling like an incompetent engineer. Born out of this frustration was a dedication to improve myself which has been a major driver for my career ever since.

During university I used to find programming utterly annoying. I remember having these weird bugs when learning the C programming language that would take me 5 hours to fix due to the silliest mistake ever. A couple of weeks before finishing my Degree I had a moment in which I realized that "I wanted to make things! Things that nudge the world a little bit in what I hope is the right direction.". That brought me to where I am now, a career in software engineering. The fun fact is, I am way more committed to programming now than I was during my entire time at University.

At times this just feels like a random way to have spent 5 years (it probably is) but a couple of things were deliberate then and still are:

  • making an effort to be among people that are smarter than me and make me happy;

  • learning, learning, learning and then learning more;

  • when there isn’t enough information to make a decision, just going with my hunch and then making it up along the way.