These are my old Personal Updates from 2011.
11/23/2011 Thanksgiving Personal Update
Well it’s the day before Thanksgiving and I am on the MegaBus back home to Philadelphia. So far we are only an hour and a quarter late.
It’s been a busy semester at school. I’m in 7 classes (84) units. 3 of the classes are Course 6 (EECS) classes. 6.034 is Artificial Intelligence. It’s fun to learn about the methods, but the exams are pretty much an exercise in how closely you can simulate an algorithm. 6.005 is an introduction to programming in Java. It’s fun to get exposure in Java, but the P-Sets are an exercise in closely following the directions. Consequently I play it safe, instead of trying new things. 6.004 is my favorite class this semester. We are building a computer from the CMOS gates up to the assembly language code that runs the machine. Chris Terman has awesome slides as always.
I am in two management classes this semester, both for fun/knowledge as opposed to a requirement. 15.387 is a class in how to be a sales man. I don’t want to do that job, but the same strategies to identify needs, convince people, and solve complex problems are good anywhere. 15.665 is a class on how to negotiate. I mostly did the class for taking part in the negotiation simulations. I’ve noticed using skills I used in the class in real life.
I am also in 18.03 Differential Equations. Despite my efforts, I am struggling in that class, as I have been in every math class at MIT. The class moves very fast; I’m barely able to understand something till the class moves on.
STS.011 is a lot of fun. It is my first HASS-D and it is part of my STS concentration. The class is about controversies in science and technology. It got off to a difficult start, but it is now moving into more concrete interesting topics. Next week’s lecture is on how slot machines are addictive. That should be very interesting. I am researching Net Neutrality for the class. I think the class could be better if the professor could specify a bit more clearly what he is looking for.
I also continue to serve on the dining committee. MIT started its new all-you-can-eat mandatory dining plan this year. Reviews for the new service are mixed. I am personally bummed they took out made-to-order stir-fry. Other dorms have it, just not Baker. In addition, the price is between 50-300% higher, depending on how you look at it.
On the UA Committee on Student Life, I am working on putting together an Institute-wide resource guide for students. We currently have buy-in from across the Institute; we now need to put it together. I am still Baker VPFS. We bought a new projector which should be a lot of fun.
The Pharos hold-and-release printing system was installed at MIT this semester. I was on the committee freshman year which recommended the new system. First numbers show a 50% drop in pages printed and many students actually prefer the new system – so I think we have a win-win here.
I am the undergrad representative on MITCET, the MIT Council on Educational Technology. This is interesting because many of the senior members of MIT are on the committee. I disagree with the focus on modularity this year. I think it’s unrealistic and possibly not even desirable. I called one of their proposals a complete waste of money, at best – I think we’re off to a good start!
For IAP, I have been placed in an externship at Altman Vilandrie & Company, a telecommunications strategy consulting company in Boston. I was selected for one of two slots from among 12 applicants. I hope I have a good experience this IAP. I actually have the same HR contact who now works at AltVil as I did last year at State Street.
I started my search for a job this summer early this semester. I wanted to get this done early, so I could not worry about it later. In addition, some companies only have a certain number of positions, which fill up. I was offered a Project Management internship at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Online in located Glendale, CA, along with Imagineering. Parks and Resorts Online runs the public facing information and sales websites for Disney parks and other travel offerings. I took the job because I want to do Project Management and they might have an opportunity to work on cool stuff, like I did freshmen summer at Deutsche Bahn. I’m not looking forward to arranging living in L.A. No landlord wants to rent out a property for just 3 months – they want the promise of an open-ended lease, or at least a year. Plus either getting a car, or doing without one in LA will be a big hassle.
Shortly after I wrote my last update, my family and I visited California. We saw Sequoia National Park, King's Canyon, Yosemite, San Fransisco, Stanford, and the Pacific Coastal Highway. It was a lot of fun to go and see Silicon Valley and San Francisco. This brings me to 74,000+ items on Flickr.
However we had some misfortune during the trip. There was a hurricane at home while we were in California. It blew down the tree in front of our house. This knocked out our power. This caused our sump pump to fail. This caused our basement to flood with about a foot of water. Unfortunately, I had a lot of my dorm things on the floor in the basement. I lost a carton of books, my monitors, and some other stuff amounting to a thousand dollars or two. Also the paper copy of many notes from 10th and 11th Grades were damaged. Luckily, those two grades are mostly online. Apparently our insurance did not cover the loss, except for $5,000 which my parents spent on an overpriced “cleanup crew”. I left for MIT the next day. It was a whirlwind getting ready for the semester. I still don't feel like I know where everything is.
Everything from last year (MIT Sophomore) is basically online, with some exceptions. I have a lot of final projects this semester. I already completed one. Despite being in 7 classes, I only have 2 finals this semester. There are basically 2 weeks left in the semester! --ThePlaz 22:20, 29 November 2011 (EST)
6/26/2011 Mega Personal Update Summer back to January
I am sitting in New York City writing my end of semester update more than a month and a half late. This update was actually written on 3 different days over 2 weeks… Updates are also getting longer and longer… This update covers this summer back to January/IAP and is the first to have subheadings....
I received my class ring, the "Brass Rat".
This summer, I am working at NextJump, an online affiliate advertising firm. Their main business is running corporate perks websites. For example: "since you work at IBM you get 10% off Avis car rental." They recently launched their first direct to consumer site, OO.com. I like working at NextJump so far. It has gotten me back to coding, which I have not seriously done for a while. On the train in the morning, I am skimming over CodeCraft and the examples feel much more real. I also like the integration with business - my "pod" or team is "cross-functional" and I sit next to business people. I also really like how NextJump gets their employees involved in product design. Every 2 weeks they everyone in the company participates in a 3-hour brainstorming session; I'd just wish everyone was as existed about it as I am. They also have weekly whole company meetings. I think these really work and are worth the time.
I realize now how unusual my arrangement was last summer at Deutsche Bahn - sitting next to a business person and starting out a big project. I wish I had a bit more of a product design role here, but in tech recruiting it seems that if you can code, you're a coder. I also have not yet had the chance to make the transformative impact like at Deutsche Bahn, but that is because I am doing my assigned work and I am surrounded by people who are also at the top of their game. Still I try to rock the boat a bit to aim towards a better product.
The office environment at NextJump is much better than DB and State Street. The free food, free laundry service, and fully stocked gym certainly help. I think connect with my coworkers more; there is no language barrier (unlike DB) and they are my age (unlike State Street). I can also spend time with them, unlike last summer where I lived with relatives over an hour away.
New York City
I am also really enjoying living in New York City. I am living at the School of Visual Art's 101 Ludlow St. It's a brand new building; it was built in 2009. I am on the 18th floor and I have a view of the Williamsburg bridge and the constant 24-hour traffic flowing across it. I am in the middle of the "hip" Lower East Side neighborhood. Unfortunately my housing lasts only 8 weeks of my 10 week internship. I still need to find something for the last 2 weeks. Plus the dorm furniture makes me miss the Baker furniture. The all metal bed squeaks at the slightest movement and the chair is the most uncomfortable thing I have ever sat on.
Still I have spent much of my 2 weeks that I've been here exploring Manhattan. I walk home most days, covering the 33 blocks in about 40 minutes. It actually takes me 20 minutes by subway, in comparison, since it keeps stopping due to heavy train traffic. I've been to Wall Street, Times Square, the High Line, and Propect Park in Brooklyn. On the weekends I am meeting up with friends from home and MIT. I went to the Statue of Liberty last weekend with Ted.
I've also subscribed to The Economist for 12 weeks under their 12 weeks for 12 dollars program. Yesterday I just sat in the comfortable basement armchairs and read - without anyone bothering me - must have been a Saturday night... I like sitting back and not working on much. I also like that NextJump is giving me the resources to live fairly comfortably in NYC. Unfortunately MIT will "tax" much of that money at 50% - by pulling it off my financial aid for senior year. I would also appreciate settling down and not having to move so often. Then I could rely on real furniture - not cheap-o squeaky dorm furniture.
I have also been working on side projects at night. I've fixed up Baker House's voting system - fixing some bugs and adding new features. I next want to upgrade my wiki, re-do my dad's website and build a summer mail system for Baker.
So far in New York, I have met many of my friends from back home and MIT - 10 friend interactions so far in 2 weeks for a rate of 5 interactions/week. I am also hoping to see some Broadway shows. I really want to see Spiderman because I love technical theater. Many things go on only in New York. I was walking home from work and I stumbled into the HP TouchPad launch party at Best Buy.
I am now halfway through undergraduate years at MIT. I took 8 classes this term - well I dropped one to listener, although I still attended. I always had to think a little when someone asked me what classes I was taking. "Normal" class load at MIT is 4 and many people do 5, but almost no one does 8 in one semester. I earned 79 units this term. One of the best things about MIT is there are no additional charges for an overload. It was tiring, and something that I do not plan on repeating. I was only able to do it because many of the classes this semester were management classes. I had expected that the schedule would harm my GPA; however, I had the best term GPA this semester, a 4.3 vs 4.1 in the fall and 4.0 freshmen spring (no GPA given your first semester at MIT). I also felt like I made a good connection with the faculty members, particularly in 4.211, 15.279, and ESD.051.
The only class I wished I had more time for was 6.042 Math for Computer Scientists. This class worked with math in a way I had no experience with; I never thought about math that way. It went fast as well. I am still amazed many students grasped the concepts so easily. I just made it by with a C-. I don't think I mastered the concepts or even understood why they were important. I hope the topics don't come up again….
14.02 Macroeconomics was a complete and utter disaster. The class was run by inexperienced TAs with absolutely no oversight. I wrote a complaint letter detailing my logistics complaints about the class. Plus it is taught in a very math and models way. You can get by with just knowing math - the class does not really cover economic principals and it has absolutely no empirical work. I think this is dangerous for future Wall Streeters; it may help you somewhat to be an econ grad student. Because of the poor instruction and strange coverage, I think I learned more about economics in high school AP Macro Econ.
4.211 was my favorite class of the semester. I was required to take a HASS-CI class; and I had my eye on this for a few semesters. We learned about the history of cities and urban development. It was a small class, seated at a large single table, where the professor talked about her work and led class discussions. (I guess that is how liberal arts colleges operate.) I got into many good intellectual fights with the professor. We read books and investigated a site in Boston. I researched Copley Place in Boston. I really enjoyed the deep research I did for Copley Place. Like STS.050 in freshmen spring, I've found I like doing original research - from primary source materials on something no one else has ever covered. I wished however that the class focused more the economic tools of urban development rather than the natural causes (the professors' specialty) and did away with the repetitive papers on our site.
ESD.051 was a very fun class. Blade Kotelly knows how to teach, making it a fun class. It was about design and engineering leadership. I was very familiar with the concepts, but it was good to hear it again from Blade. I dropped to listener in the class because I did not have the time to build a cool voice app. Instead I am getting an opportunity to practice my skills at NextJump with the intern project.
6.02 Intro to EECS 2 (Communications) was also a good class, like 6.01. Course 6 really cares about their teaching and has taken great care to coalesce their content into really well structured lessons. Each lecture and lab is almost perfectly structured. Chris Terman is also a good lecturer, with the right amount of jokes in his lecture. I think I learned a lot about the fundamentals of digital communications. I think that the 2 course 6 classes were a very good foundation for a different way of thinking about problems: break them down and abstract the pieces.
15.401 Finance 1 was cool for being a Sloan class. It was at 8:30am which gave the class a weird vibe. I bought the recommended textbooks for the class - they were big and long, but the Sloan class seemed to focus on the basics and teach them well, so you could learn it. Maybe because it was I already really busy, but I thought the class had just the right amount of content. I was not actually required to take the class, but I wanted to be able to understand the finance terminology. It was also was other Sloan students, which did not seem as big of an issue as I've had before.
15.279 was a surprisingly fun Communications class. I went into it thinking that this was going to be boring and not useful, but the professor made the lectures fun by talking about his days in the publishing industry. I participated a lot in the lectures and learned to make things short/simple for short attention spans. I learned to look at what I make from someone else's shoes.
15.761 was Introduction to Operations Research. I chose this MBA Sloan class because I wanted to learn some of the formal management models. Unfortunately, the professor was new and seemed to not be knowledgeable about the topics or how to manage a class. It was also a large MBA class, just as 15.567 was last term. After two of these large MBA classes in E62 I found I just don't like them. The classes are really big (~70 students). This is ok in other departments when the classes are just lectures, but when the classes are discussions it does not work at all. Plus, I talked in my last update how the MBA students do not seem to be engaged in classes. It's a "I'll do the minimum work, but I'll suck up, so everything will be all right anyway attitude". I can't stand it; I'm going to avoid classes in E62. One MBA student even came up to me and offered me some "unsolicited comments" that "only a**h*** consultants talk that much." Well sorrrrry. I'm not changing my style. I think my attitude of continually trying to learn, improve, and solve problems, as well as rocking the boat for the good of the product has gotten me this far and I am going to continue doing it. It makes me consider dropping Course 15.
I calculated that this semester's stack of notes was only slightly higher than last term's, despite the extra classes.
I was reelected as Baker VPFS for a second term and I also served as Baker's representative on dining. Although HDAG wound down after I joined, without a single meeting, I helped MIT select a new house dining vendor and I now serve on HDIG, the implementation committee. The selection committee was very fun and interesting. I learned a lot about the contracting process. I also traveled to other schools, and I often heard more about the details of the contracts than students at the schools I visited. The highlight was when I flew out to Chicago with our Dean of Housing and Director of Dining. We flew out in the early morning, visited the University of Chicago and Northwestern and then flew home early morning. It moved so fast, I barely had time to process the trip - I guess that is how business trips are. I also got a lot of time to talk with the administrators. When we were flying home, we were in the front row of the plane; it wasn't first class (it was Southwest and lots of people walked by the seats!) but it felt like it!
We ended up renewing Bon Appetit, a division of Compass. I was stunned by how happily people spoke of them at Roger Williams. I also had no reason to cast them aside based on their work at MIT. I am now working on implementing the plan. The marketing needs a lot of guidance between promoting the plan while making MIT sound neutral towards the different ways that students can eat nutritiously. This is different from many schools, where the school funds other projects from the "profits" on meal plan sales. We need to work out how/what to do during orientation, what the hours should be, etc. We also need to diffuse concerns about what cuisine will be served where. One of the more important things is to negotiate the scope and scale of the take-out program. I am also hoping that BAMCO will make an API for the menu data. I have been pursing the cause, but BAMCO does not seem to have the technical resources to pull it off. Finally, I think one of the most important things to do is to define the metrics that will define the success of the program.
I've also found though my tour that the reputation of colleges actually really matters. When I was searching for a college, I considered everyone who sent me a flier; rather than just go after the schools with a top reputation. I now realize that for better or worse reputation is very important. Many companies recruit only at top schools, because the selection process to get in to the schools does the filtering for them. The self fulfilling prophecy. Now this is not all made up. I felt like I have learned a lot when I look back at one year ago and two years ago. I think that the difference comes from the resources the schools are able to attract worth reputation, as well as the faculty the school attracts. The other students also make a big difference, because you want to feel competitive with the other students.
Although IAP/January is now a while ago, I've realized I've never written about it. Over IAP (January) I worked at State Street. I did not enjoy my month there. It sounded like an interesting position, but I ended up doing secretarial work in a newly created department with no direction to it. I wanted to try something in finance to see if it would interest me. It did not.
In my report I wrote after the position, I talk about how entry-level management positions are mostly grunt work. However, this summer in New York, at both NextJump and hearing what my friends are doing, I think I over generalized about the uninterestingess/small impact of business jobs. I've realizing now that salary might correlate well with the interestiness of the job. I want an interesting job where I can make a big impact and use my skills. I think when companies offer a lot of money they expect the person to do a lot; because they are selective with who they select to fill those positions. I think, in general, I qualify for these positions and I actively want to do them. I would rather work hard on something interesting, than just pull a paycheck while I spend all day trying to minimize how much work I do.
During my experience at State Street, I decided to add a joint-major with Course 6. Since I was not doing anything interesting at State Street, I filed the paperwork for adding a double major in course 6. I realized that Course 6 would help build my skills. I wrote before that I did not like my course 15 classes. I also really liked 6.01; I thought it was really well done and improved my thinking process. Looking back now, one semester after filing the paperwork, I am happy with my decision. I think course 6 is where my future is, despite my prior apprehension at being a coder. I think if I work on it I can do it. (As I write this, I am realizing this is a common theme; I should just go for it in the future) Plus I want the challenge; course 15 is just too boring. After one year as a course 15 student, I have completed many of the course 15 requirements. I now need to catch up in Course 6. It is also harder for me to do well in course 6 classes.
I am very behind in uploading stuff to my website. I have not yet processed this year's work. The reason I am so behind is I spent much of my time home scanning old middle school papers and throwing them out; rather than posting stuff to the web. I need to find some time to do the boring task of uploading and organizing. I will also be uploading stuff from middle school - which was never before on the site, which was started in 9th Grade.
For spring break, I traveled with my family to Albany and Montreal. I also got yet another camera, the Panasonic DMC-ZS6. My Samsung HZ30W started nice but it broke in a bunch of different ways, finally with a gash on the lenses. 3 months into the Panasonic, I am really liking it. I now have 65,000+ photos on flickr, and I am 2 weeks behind on NYC photos.
So there you go; have a good summer --ThePlaz 02:21, 10 July 2011 (EDT)