Student to Unemployed: the Transition from Sandbox to Reality

Posted: July 1, 2010 by ralliart12 in academia, Mnemonics
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Housekeeping

Let’s get some housekeeping done before delving into the main content of this entry. Needless to say, the first thing you would have noticed is the radical departure from my previous blog design. This will be the 3rd time I’d changed the visual appearance of my blog (the 1st 2 themes employed were “Quentin” & “Spring Loaded” respectively). The impetus for this revamp is the significant influx of theme releases by WordPress. Another driver for this change is to coincide with the 1st post upon my graduation (more on that later), signifying a new beginning. As a matter of fact, originally I wanted this entry to be the 1st entry of June, but alas, the iPhone 4 was launched & that took the priority simply as a reasoning of relevance. Short-listing the themes took a very long time, & I even seeked the opinion of a few members of the public. I literally went through all the themes available, & narrow the list down from thereon. The final 2 candidates, Greyzed & Notepad were equally matched in my favour. I would have chosen Notepad for its extreme readability, but Greyzed won the hearts of the public. In addition, I’ve also restructured the side-bar & I believe the underlying “theme” would be apparent if one pays attention to the widgets’ header. The individual widgets in the side-bar as well as the bottom of the page are carefully selected to enrich the content on my site with what’s happening in Singapore & the rest of the world (mostly technological news). There are also RSS subscription links if you prefer to follow my entries in that manner, as opposed to email subscription. Nonetheless, I hope the new design is much, much more “palatable” (pun intended), & a lot less morbid than the style of my previous version.

These themes were the few to made it to the last round of elimination.

In addition, starting from this entry onwards, photos for this blog will be hosted on my official Photobucket account & organized in folders according to which post they belong to. To streamline publishing, I’ll no longer apply the feather effect (don’t think anybody noticed) to my photos as that took too long. However, I found some nice Photoshop actions legally free from the Internet & I’ll be trying them out as we go along; so please bear with me if the touch-up of my photos are inconsistent in the near-future. I’ve also tacked on a Rating component for my posts, pages & comments, so feel free to air your perceptions whether you think my content is garbage or indeed worthy of your time. The only censorship here is effected on spam & crude remarks.

In other news, I’m not sure many may recall that I launched a bounty a long time ago to seek assistance for fixing up my jigsaw lamp which I bought from Thailand. I’m grateful to receive many guidance both from the web & in real life but I’m most pleased that in the end, I persevered & delivered the finishing touch to complete the lamp. To be honest, most of the comments on that bounty post (& the rest of the web) are actually from online-sellers of those type of lamps & since their instructions are the same (same supplier mah), when I couldn’t understand the final step of one, the rest are equally be-fuddling to me. The challenging part was never about joining the inner pieces together, but the final step of linking the “exterior edges” in the correct orientation.

Stack of uni notes (left); assembled jigsaw lamp (right)

Well, that’s about it, i.e. explaining the updates, announcing the changes, etc. With that out of the way, let’s move onto the main entry…

Main

At least the ending was a pleasant surprise

So I finally graduated. After 4 arduous years I managed to earn my degree & perhaps gained a little bit of academic education. Unfortunately, due to my unfamiliarity with my school’s module system & also my inadequate planning, I did not manage to secure any complementary Honours class along with my degree. However, at the very least, I’m relieved that I have something to show to my parents for the past few years that they have put up with my nonsense & attitude. Come to think of it, I would have been terribly upset if I were to be retained. It was a pretty close call though, as 4 years (8 semesters to be precise) is considered the maximum term of my study & a failure in any one of the last 3 modules of my final semester will result in an unfortunate extension.

A bit about my final 3 modules in NUS

Talking about those last 3 modules…the final grades I achieved was a pleasant surprise. It seems like yesterday when I have to “beg” to take the module CS4361 Service Systems simply because I have never taken its pre-requisite, CS3361, before. Luckily, logic prevailed & I was admitted to the class. It was pretty smooth sailing & I have the honour to work with another team of responsible achievers in NUS. So Team CS4361, I’m forever grateful for the collaboration opportunity bestowed upon me. I hope my commitment  to our assignments can only be surpassed by your fond memories of working with me. The assignments were thoroughly fulfilling as a result of every member’s dedication. As for my individual performance, not to brag, but this module is definitely manageable. Which is why I’m surprised by my final grade. This is because I was expecting the competition to be extremely stiff, since more than half the class have taken CS3361 before/has SSME specialization. What’s more, the final paper was open-book & I believe most of our answer scripts will be  quite similar to one another. None the less, I still remembered the night before the paper, I found the  extra reading materials so engaging I literally couldn’t put them down & go to sleep! & so I went to the exam hall, & shown my calibre.

As for MA1312, well I finally cleared 1 of my tougher Calculus module required to fulfill my degree. I was fortunate enough to encounter a truly passionate Calculus teacher after so many years in NUS. He is Professor Goh Say Song & when Mr. Ng Wee Seng (another effective & humorous calculus lecturer) described him as a “benevolent spirit”, Mr. Ng was spot on. Prof Goh proved to be extremely caring, patient, kind & understanding. Many a times he went out of his way to ensure the students really understand what the syllabus is about, even though such sessions often eats into his lunch time. He has achieved a miracle that few, if no other lecturers have been able to accomplish: ignite a genuine interest in me to explore Calculus. I find myself returning to him time & again, to learn more about Calculus. I actually witnessed the immense amount of time he forked out as consultation sessions for his student, & I can assure you: nobody will do this if he is not passionate about truly making the students learn. Even though when I attempt the final MA1312 paper, I wasn’t entirely confident about the outcome, he approached me directly after the paper, & comforted me that I have nothing to fear given my routine performance. Given my “brilliant history” with MA1505, naturally I was skeptical, but I didn’t end up with a borderline pass for MA1312. Instead, I scored a “B”! This kind of grade for MA13xx may be nothing to any one else, but “B” for my math module? B-ravo!

ST2334 is simply amazing. In the sense that a module that officially requires a MA-level Calculus module as a prerequisite, I have absolute difficulty finding even a single bit of calculus involved in the module. Perhaps it’s a secret level, that only the brightest student can unlock? Perhaps I didn’t pay for the “Calculus-flavored” version? Nonetheless, I was pretty glad I survived the course, given the fact that I’m not very proficient at Probability & my term test performances were below average. The final paper was terrifying as the opening question was on Probability & I find myself second-guessing my own answers. I got the luck of the draw when I realize there was a specific formula that I decided to include on my help-sheet at the last minute & it is this formula that helped me solved the bulk of another question. Excitingly, time ran out & I was only able to complete 3 of the 4 questions issued. What’s worse when the 1st question about Probability was pretty shaky & my solution for the last attempted question is simply derived from pure instinct (no kidding, that was the fastest speed I’d ever written for an exam paper); I dun even know what I’m writing halfway through the solution except to keep calculating & keep churning out hypothesis & percentages. Which is why, I was once again, thrilled to find the grade “quite a fair bit better” than borderline passing the module.

The NUS Experience

And that, is how I emerged from the NUS experience. Will not bore any one with the trials & tribulations I’m encountered over the 4 years, but perhaps some thoughts after completing this chapter of my education?

I’m very lucky to qualify for an university education after completing my polytechnic studies. At the university, I ran into many interesting people, mostly nice; as well as loads of modules that has cumulated in some of my knowledge regarding my field. I’m an Information Systems graduate from the School of Computing. The computing degree is a challenging one, for me at least. Most of the foundation modules (level 2000 & below) are indeed extremely low-level & I’m always awed by the immense amount of understanding my professors for those modules exhibited. In fact, sad to say, I would have preferred to take fewer modules simultaneously over the same period of time. This is because even though I cleared those modules, i.e. CS2102, CS2105, etc, I strongly believe it’s the grading system, the bell curve & relative performance of other students that enable me to “pass”. I cannot honestly in my heart say I’m a master of those topics but perhaps I’m too hard on myself ? In any event, I have those professors to thank for choosing the appropriate textbook for newbies like me to embark on. At the foundation level, completely grasping the “recommended” textbooks will really go a long way to cement one’s framework of understanding. The lecturers’ teachings may account for 30% of my understanding? I believe their role is simply to design assessments to challenge our grasp of the subject at hand. Most of their slides are “retro-fitted” versions of textbook materials anyway.

I’m not one of those “memorise-&-regurgitate” student. I believe my average performance at those foundation modules reflect this fact. It is when I entered my level 3000 (& above) modules that I feel the kick. A genuine passion, a primitive need to crack the challenges that the professors threw at us, to gain a firm grasp of the subject matter & one-up the other teams in project submissions. This stage is where the individual specialization of degrees occur, i.e. forking of module branches. I must say I’m thankful to have some of the better lecturers for the level 4000 modules. I’m glad I can afford their expert guidance & experience-based insights; many a times an ordinary module can be enriched by an entertaining delivery & this is one aspect that cannot be emulated by text materials alone. Special thanks & mention goes to eventually-will-be-Dr. Tan Wee Kek, the always-talk-very-turbo Dr Ng Boon Yuen (I actually timed her during a few of her lectures), always-humorous Dr Heng Cheng Suang, Dr. Danny Poo, curiously-inspiring Dr. Bernard Tan as well as Dr. Goh Khim Yong. The 2 major type of modules that I thoroughly enjoyed myself are the business modules & the information systems module. For business-related modules I took financial accounting, managerial accounting, (preferred this over financial) management behaviour (I think most folks in the industry termed this, “OB“), marketing, economics (basic). I indulged myself in the Information Systems module as they are more “real” to me, i.e. real-world situations where I can manipulate technology, people & business structure to better the status quo of for-profit companies & organizations. At this level, the team assignments are triple-F: fast, furious, frequent. 1 of the major components of team assignments is the team. I’m fortunate to be recruited by a close friend of mine, to work alongside a team of dedicated professionals (in every sense of those 2 words). I’m grateful they saw some qualities in me that I’m not very aware of; I’m grateful they endured my eccentric (at times) behaviour; I’m grateful for the commitment they’ve given to our assignments; I’m grateful for their patience, their unrelenting willingness to impart their know-how to me…most of all, I’m grateful, in my life, to be able to call these folks friends, as opposed to mere acquaintances. I can only pray my contribution to their university life can remunerate a bit of the benevolence they have graced me. So to my CS3214, CS42XX, CS4361 teams, THANK YOU & GODSPEED 😉

Back to me. Then again there are darker tales to tell of my journey through the non-academic portion of my NUS quest. There is nothing further I can say without getting into trouble, but there really is some BS going on in this school’s administration. For such a large institution, I can understand it’s hard to avoid unreasonable entities (people and/or departments, organizations, etc). what I fail to comprehend is how I can consistently ran into them. I must have signed up for the “BS value-added service” when I enrolled. But regardless of the events & their outcomes, the most critical thing is what I take away from them. On hindsight, perhaps I’m lucky to get these life lessons over & done with in school than in the public community. & these are the bullet point messages:

  • Nobody gives a shit if you are right or wrong. The only thing that matters is which entity has greater power (NOT authority). Life’s unfair. Live with it.
  • If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything. Opinions are a double-edged sword that cuts only the wielder. They can be tangible manifestations of one’s perspectives. They can also be loopholes for one’s opponent to exploit against you. As one can see, having loads of opinions, mean zilch. It doesn’t pay to have opinions. If one has so much time & effort to spare, amass power instead of collecting opinions.
  • If one really believes the opposing/malicious entity is so full of BS, then obviously there will be many before you that has challenged their BS. & since they are still giving you BS, it means your predecessors had been defeated by their BS. Which implies those entities would have the expertise & experience in covering their own arse.
  • Bottom-line? Walk away. Don’t take a stand. Don’t waste your breath & effort on something that has no tangible benefits. There is no point making a point.

I came across this article, which is a modern take on Dale Carnegie’s best-seller, “How to Win Friends and Influence People“. It was a good read (perhaps I should borrow the original work); I hope the guidelines there will resonate with my future-self.

The Next Chapter. A new direction.

& here I am, the juncture where I really need to take charge for a while & decide what to do with the rest of my life. It’s been almost 2  months since my last examination in NUS & I have been taking an extremely long time-out. Didn’t go for a graduation trip, well, because I don’t feel that the calibre of my degree deserves one. Very soon Reality will grab me & throttle me to the ground as Gravity brings any aloft objects speedily to their demise. Loans, bills, daily expenditures will fast tighten their grip on the freedom of my routine activities. I need to grab hold of my purpose & direction before the quicksand of my financial liberty pulls me in & suffocate my future. Here’s the list of things I need to get underway:

  1. Jump-start final severance from NUS
    ~ Prepare for my commencement, i.e. finalize all the info, decide on any commemorative items I intend to buy, prepare the graduation gown & decide the underlying outfit
    ~ Retrieve all mails & attachment from my school email accounts (ensure local archives are intact)
    ~ Download whatever valuable software I can from MSDNAA!
  2. Retro-fit my attitude for employment
    ~ Prepare my resume
    ~ Research on the company that I intend to work at
    ~ Concoct my answers to the standard interview questions, i.e. tell me about yourself, weakness & strength with examples, leadership skills with examples, challenges overcame with examples, etc
  3. Livelihood stuff
    ~ Figure out how much I owe the banks & the repayment terms & conditions
    ~ Review all the snail mail (letters) that has accumulated since my exams
    ~ Explore the perils of an uniquely Singaporean adulthood, which probably entails reading up on CPF, HDB, Income tax, insurance, etc
    ~ Stock up on my military equipping (mine’s lost in camp after 2 years [long story; doesn’t matter now] & my reservist’s coming up rather soon)
  4. “Me”-stuff
    ~ Tidy up my room
    ~ Continue with my music inventory~ Get back into my exercise routine
    ~ Update my wardrobe a little, i.e. get a new pair of formal shoes, 1 new pair of formal pants, a new belt, a few new pairs of shorts, a formal-looking sling bag in portrait orientation (that can accommodate a netbook & a sketchpad, amongst other creativity utensils).

This is simply unfit for long-term habitation. The flash just makes it look "passable"

Amazing as it may sound, in life, it’s very easy to take a step back & let others take charge of your life. In my earlier years it’s always following these instruction & that instruction. Was like this when I was a teen, when I was fulfilling my national service (most of the time), & during my university years. Only when nobody tries to control you, when you have to take responsibility for your own life, take responsibility for the welfare of your parents & loved ones, do you realize the hardship that is slowly manifesting before your eyes. It’s like all this while I’ve been slave-driven to row the oar on a ship & one day, the captain becomes you & you have to decide where you want to steer the vessel while furiously paddling to stay abreast of the storm.

Suppose I better have something to show for the rest of my life, as there are quite a few that expects the better of me. Got to start earning my keep, justify my time, buy loads of stuff, surmount likely challenges & exploit future opportunities. As always, there are so many things to do, but…

...Time is running out...

Get back into my exercise routine
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Comments
  1. idyllictux says:

    “Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Appreciate your friends. Continue to learn. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.” – Mary Anne Radmacher

  2. Irene says:

    Wow, I love the layout of your blog. Its very different from the usual blog.
    Yours have a more lively feel and the concept is very interesting.

    Cheers,

  3. Snowangel says:

    ~ Yup, I really like this theme more & more, especially with your customised quirky side bar. Can see that u’ve put a lot of effort & thought into this… Your innovation and objectiveness widgets are very uniquely you…

    ~ Well done for fixing the jigsaw lamp. Do put it to good use and don’t just let it collect dust at a quiet corner…

    ~ Glad that u’ve spent time to reflect on your uni years and also start planning for your future. I agree with u, there are often a lot of ppl to thank, when it comes to surviving and excelling in our uni yrs. Seems like u’ve met quite a number of helpful professors that guided u thru… that’s really good… On the other hand, I’m sure everybody will encounter setbacks/ realise that they took the wrong path in some parts of their life. The lost impt thing is to take it as a lesson and move on. Be optimistic =)

    ~ I totally agree with u on the part where u mentioned that as we grow older, responsibilities just piles on us… Its unavoidable. We must learn to handle them… Don’t worry Captain… u still have your faithful crew with u…

    ~ Don’t be such a pessimist, time is not running out, its just that your clock is spoilt! U should look at this in another angle, u are entering another stage of your life. A stage where u are given the opportunity to take control and steer your life to the ideal kind that u’ve always been dreaming of… I know its not that easy and I’m sure there’ll be many hurdles along the way… just settle them one by one, this is just part and parcel of life… Just remember that u are not alone.

    ~ Can see tat u have a list of things to do, so get started…. dun keep procrastinating…

  4. Anonymous says:

    never imagined a stack of notes in a plastic bag can look so pretty.
    😛

  5. Becky says:

    Change occurs everywhere. Change is constant. Change is moving forward.

    Looks like you are embracing change, which is a positive sign. That is the first step to success! I wish you all the best 🙂

  6. joseph says:

    congratulations on your A+ for CS4361. You proved her wrong at least =)

  7. ralliart12 says:

    @idyllictux & joseph: dun forget, my achievements are the by-product of your collective awesome-ness =)

    @Irene & Anonymous: thank you. I will strive to ensure the visual appeal of this site grows in parallel with the richness of its content.

    @Becky: totally agreed that “the only constant, is Change”. I will learn to embrace it, so that I can catch a glimpse of Success, Greatness & Perfection.

  8. Cindy says:

    cool! really nice!

  9. Junyong says:

    Hey i lik ur blog! nice theme!!!!

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