Geovon graduated with an MS in Technology specializing in Innovation. After a couple of great years with Mongo DB, he is starting a new position at a large company whose name may or may not begin with G. Here is his advice:
Find the right advisor
Grad school is a journey, and you’ll need someone to guide you through it. So quickly and carefully seek out an academic advisor who has the following:
- a stellar reputation among current and former undergraduate and graduate students
- a personality and work ethic that aligns with yours—or what you hope to become
- a schedule that’s focused on student interaction
Treat grad school like it’s a training ground for your dream job
Be self-motivated, work hard at everything you do, and aim to succeed—to be the top of your class, field of research, etc. If you don’t do this in grad school, you likely won’t in your post-grad professional career.
Join clubs, attend socials, and take electives in different departments or schools. Use your free time as an opportunity to meet your peers, grow your professional network, and increase your chances of landing a job.
I’ve asked some of my very successful students who graduated recently to sum up some advice for succeeding in graduate school. The first guest post comes from Zhihua “Emma” Dong. Here is her advice:
I am flattered to be invited to write this blog post. Before you go ahead to read whatever advice I give, probably it is better for you to know who I am and the scope of this post so you can decide how much you buy in.:)
I spent 2011 to 2014 in two graduate programs here at Purdue: Industrial Engineering and Computer Graphics Technology. After graduation, I got a job with Microsoft as a program manager (similar to product manager in other companies). When I thought about “advice” I should give, I included both those made my graduate life smooth and relatively successful, and things I could have done better to be more successful. In addition, I decided to list only 5 most important ones from my point of view, to not look like a grandma. So here you go:
1. Make wiser choices
I say “wiser” because I assume you are here because you made wise decisions.:) This is something I didn’t intentionally train myself doing in graduate school, but just realized its importance recently. It applies to both career and graduate life. I hope you come to graduate school with a relatively clear goal to achieve, whether it is finding a job in certain area, or prepare yourself for PhD study. Let your goal(s) serve as a filter when you make decisions. For example, what course should you take? Check out those dream jobs, find the skill gaps you need to fill, find corresponding courses, and talk to course instructors to verify if it is something you need. Another example, who to hangout with? Find someone who shares similar visions and has a plan. I am not suggesting that your party friends are not important, but redistribute your time to connect with those who are in the same camp, and can inspire and motivate you. Never make random decisions because master study is very short, and you don’t have unlimited bandwidth to try out everything.
2. Don’t procrastinate
After you make decisions, execute well – don’t wait until deadlines hit you. This is much easier said than done, as procrastination is very much like gravity, which is difficult if not impossible to escape from. However, still make honest efforts to overcome it as much as possible. I too, suffer from procrastination sometimes, which really hurts. It hurts your performance, your emotional status, and eventually your physical health. Discipline yourself, do your work with friends in the library, find a time-management technique that works for you (e.g., GTD, and Pomodoro), and prepare to be happy and successful.
3. Talk to your advisor
It’s not difficult to reach out to families and peers if you are in trouble, but your advisor might not in the list while he/she should. Your advisor might be hands-on or hands-off type, but you should always be proactive in communicating with him/her. There are several major things you should be constantly communicating with your advisor:
(1) What are the expectations for each other. It’s crucial to clarify and understand each other’s expectations rather than guessing them. Ask you advisor how he/she defines a good student and constantly check if you are progressing towards it. At the same time, let your advisor know if you need from him/her: wether it is more of his/her time, or his/her coach on certain aspect. Make sure your ask for things you need as it is the most efficient way.
(2) Address his/her feedbacks timely. I found this super important because the mentor/mentee relationship can be prosper only if the mentee takes feedback seriously and react on it.
(3) Discuss any confusions or difficulties you have. Your advisor has much more experience since he/she oversaw many graduate students and himself/herself was one before. Don’t be afraid to expose personal vulnerability because school and advisor might be the last resort…
Whatever topic you have in mind, take the action to schedule regular one-on-one meeting with your advisor – even though they are very busy, if you ask, there is always time for you. Be responsible for your own graduate life and career.
4. Find an internship
If you are job-oriented, find an internship. If you are not job-oriented or plan to do a Ph.D., find an internship. You are all familiar with benefits of an internship: resume builder, industry connections, real-world experience, and much more. What I want to add here is: spend your time research different positions, apply those can help you get closer to your dream job. I interned with Siemens UX group one year before my graduation, which is not exactly my dream job but certainly a step towards one. In addition, it serves as a test for your to re-examine your career goal – you might confirm something is exactly what you want to do, or you might find another practice is your true passion. In any case, give it a try before your land a serious full-time job.
When you find the internship, practice 1~3 during your internship.:)
5. Take graduate-level courses seriously
You might think graduate study is more about research rather than taking courses. I would like to remind you that is simply not true. I benefited a lot from graduate-level courses, especially those project-oriented. Courses loaded with projects are essentially resume- or portfolio-builder for you. Keep detailed notes on the process, deliver good results and presentations, and put them up in your personal site – boom, You have a portfolio ready for job hunting! Treat these mini-internship seriously, also apply 1~3 throughout the process.
I hope you find the above helpful in one way or another. Take this journey mindfully, you might be surprised to find your career passion, friends who speak the same language, and life-long mentors coming out of this 2-year study. That happens to me and I am grateful for the experience.
Feel free to reach out if you have any question! My email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lastly, wish you all a happy and successful graduate study.
Most teachers, including those like me who absolutely LOVE teaching, consider grading a chore. It is repetitive, and it takes a lot of time. Here are some tips I learned from Linda Nilson at Clemson University that can help make grading more effective:
1. Begin by sorting
Look over all the assignments quickly and sort them into categories such as: excellent, very good, OK, not so good, poor. Now that the harder decision is made, you can further save time if you:
2. Use a grading rubric
The more detailed your grading rubric, the less comments you have to write on assignments. All you have to do is highlight the category that applies. Just Google and learn how to create good grading rubrics. Even after providing feedback on a grading rubric, you feel you want to say more. In this case, consider doing the following:
3. Provide collective feedback
Write a note to the entire class and provide overall feedback without identifying any individuals. You can structure it like this:
Overall, excellent assignments showed these features, and had these kinds of mistakes:…… (make lists).
Overall, assignments that did not meet expectations did these things well but had these kinds of mistakes: … (make lists).
4. Outsource the grading onto students
One brilliant tip I remember from Linda is a win-win situation. If an assignment has lots and lots of minor errors (e.g. typos), return the graded assignment to student but do not point out every minor error. Tell the student that if s/he identifies X number of errors, s/he can get X number of lost points back. This is a very good learning experience for the student, and saves the teacher time.
There are many other tips out there, but these are the ones I know that have helped me a lot. If you are interested in learning more from Linda, check out her book:
This last one is from me:
5. Trust your first instinct
Beginning teachers spend a LOT of time double-guessing their decisions. You think this assignment is a B+, then spend 45 minutes arguing with yourself, only to arrive at the same decision that it is a B+. Trust your first instinct. Be confident. You’re usually right. If you’re not, be on the student’s side and try to see how they can do better and earn a higher grade. Usually tip #1 above helps reduce agonizing time.
What other tips do you have that can make grading more effective?
The book doesn’t disappoint. OK, that’s an understatement. It’s one of those books I wish I had written.
Even though this is a book about the dangers of technology use, it is not one of those panicked, hopeless, technology-hating arguments. It is a guide for making the best out of technology – for using it rather than being used by it.
The book’s premise rests in the idea of the extended mind, a concept Alex reframes as entanglement with technology. At its best, entanglement is a state of feeling the body and mind being pleasantly and seamlessly extended by technology – perceiving technology as part of oneself, just like a skilled skier perceives the skis as part of herself when zooming down a slope. This kind of entanglement has been happening since the beginning of history and tool use. Whether you use skis, an axe, a bicycle, a pen, a car, or a computer, you can have that sense of it extending your human abilities, being a part of yourself. However, there are times when entanglement goes wrong, and technology feels like a pair of broken, uncomfortable, awkward high-heel shoes. Then, it becomes an extension of yourself that hinders movement, an arm that doesn’t obey the brain’s commands; a cause of frustration and stress.
The book is grounded in solid Western empirical research as well as Eastern thought and practice. It combines the two to propose a guide for the positive kind of entanglement. In the last chapter, it offers 8 principles for doing so:
- be human
- be calm
- be mindful
- make conscious choices
- extend your abilities
- seek flow
- engage with the world
- restore your capacity for attention
The book ends beautifully and hopefully:
“You are the inheritor of a contemplative legacy that you can use to retake control of your technology, to tame the monkey mind, and to redesign your extended mind. Connection is inevitable. Distraction is a choice.”
The question remains, how easy and feasible is the plan proposed in this book? I find it feasible, but not necessarily easy. It requires some training of executive attention (aka mindfulness) that might take a while to develop, and demands commitment to regular practice.
While I’m a technology lover, I do agree with the point of view that by using technology (especially cell phones) so much we miss out on or plain avoid the opportunity to be alone.
There is a lot of self-knowledge to be gained from being alone and free of incoming information. But it often hurts and is scary. So we avoid it by reaching for connection (aka cell phone). Sherry Turkle argues that the kind of connection we get this way is not always authentic and satisfying. It is a cheap replacement, like a cheap “nutritional” drink is a replacement for a healthy, nourishing meal.
Anyway, arguments like the one above are boring. But this comedian explains it much better on Conan:
Can you try to pay attention and notice when you are using your phone to avoid being alone? Can you try practicing being alone, just sitting there, without music or any other stimulus, for maybe 5 minutes every other day, and see what happens?
As I was getting ready to leave my first ever grown-up academic job for a brand new academic adventure, a dear colleague gave me this piece of advice:
Remember this: You know what you know.
It’s one of the best pieces of advice I was ever given, and I find myself passing it on to young professionals, and many women who, like me at that time, might not yet have enough self confidence.
I’ve turned this around into:
Know what you know.
First, know your stuff. Don’t bluff. Don’t cut corners. Do the work. And then, remember and trust that you know it. Have confidence in yourself and what you know.
What is some very good advice that you were given early in your career?
I am fully behind the theory of active learning, but I struggle with putting it in practice. It takes a lot of creativity to engineer situations that stimulate active learning, and I am not entirely trained – I don’t know the toolbox. But I try.
I’m pretty proud of what we did in my HCI graduate course tonight, and I don’t want to forget it, so here we go:
Discussion on GUI history ended with question about where future interface paradigms are headed. We experimented with tangible computing. I gave each group some items (toys, boxes, trinkets) to use as starting points for designing a communication system that uses those items for interaction.
The students had read 4 articles on various types and aspects of HCI design (UCD, participatory/value sensitive, critical, and a comparison article). We started by ranking the reading is terms of: ease of understanding and favorites. This gave me a feel for what reading(s) were harder to understand. I asked question to tease out the essence of each article and then each team got post-its of 2 different colors. On one color they had to list activities the authors undertook as part of the design process, and on the other, concepts that were new to them. One item per post-it.
I then asked 2 groups to combine their activities on one board and their concepts on another, and then organize them into categories and name each category. We heard brief presentations of the categories on each board, and I interjected points meant to link everything together.
Ended class with some questions meant to integrate the material and 2 minutes of reflection for students to note down their take-aways.