First Year, Thirst Year…
First Year, Thirst Year. Chicago, Snow, Cold, and Ice. What’s the difference with all of those words? Absolute nothing. A recollection of my first year here at Illinois Tech, and how it became known to me as “First Year, Thirst Year”. When I first documented it last year, I tried so hard to think of a rhyme, and thirst was the first thing that popped into my head (see what I did there?). But for those immature kids, it doesn’t mean that I was a “thirsty lil hoe” but that I was “thirsty” to take everything in, to learn as much as I could, and to be more involved in one of the most important transition and eras of my life.
Now this was an amazing time for me, I was finishing up my senior year with full blown senioritis and so President’s Weekend I was able to fly out to Chicago only to be met with Chiberia. Screw the name Chicago, it was the time of the huge polar vortex with the temperatures far below zero. I had heard stories and now I was able to see how people could throw hot water out into the cold air only for it to freeze over before it even touched the ground. But regardless, it was a time of excitement as I was interviewing not only for a full-tuition scholarship at a possible undergraduate university, but also at a well known medical school for a conditional acceptance with them after 4 years of undergrad. At the time, I really only came for the medical school interview, but I decided “why not?” and came to the scholarship weekend at my current school, Illinois Institute of Technology. Flash forward a few months, I had committed to Illinois Tech by then and was now with my father moving in early August. Settling in, and attending the Welcome Week and Orientation events, I ended up settling down. I became a pledge for Triangle Fraternity and classes began. Enamored by college, my thirst for more and more kept me up later and later as I tried to juggle everything that I had on my plate. I had to deal with a rigorous pledging schedule, classes, organizations, volunteering, and at the time, I was working on auditioning for the Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps.
Granted, i would have been in that front row, known as the Front Ensemble or “Pit” known affectionately by many as well, it was a dream of mine that I had been pursuing ever since I was in high school. My band geekiness had remained, and I was practicing daily for an hour or two, mainly with technique work and stamina exercises [Chopping Out]. I would come back, do homework and eventually devolve into mindless video games as my stress reliever. The first semester, I was taking a couple of my major-related classes but they were an amazing stepping stone for me.
Intro to OS and Hardware
For those that know of CompTIA exams, this class was essentially training you for the A+ exams. Although I didn’t end up taking the exam regrettable, it is something that I am planning to pursue this summer as well as a couple of other of their certifications. Although that class was somewhat of a joke, I learned some really important skills and utilities as well as the overall process of computers, how they start, why they start, and what they do when they start up. After that, I suppose the most important thing was learning how to take apart and put together a computer, and with it came the analytical eye of parts and specifications. I learned about MoBo’s, how different companies and brands differ slightly in clock speed etc. It led me to build my own computer that I am using right now for this, albeit a year later. [Will probably be in another post] I won’t lie though, it was confusing as I went through and learned every single piece of the motherboard, understanding the BIOS, UEFI etc. It made me feel just like this GIF. Hell learning about the different sizes of ATX, MicroATX, or learning about the chipsets, CMOS and different RAM types and configurations, such as buffered, different sides, or even parity. Aside from the computer parts, learning about basic networking and the different cables and wires. The network layers and ports and so much more. But hardware was really only just a part of it, and in deeper we went into the software and OS of the systems. Having to deal with partitions, boot methods, simple bash and shell scripting in Linux and Windows. But I suppose some of the most important concepts I learned in that class were Efficient Configurations and Best Practices Management. This class was just such a mixture of so many different concepts, although we only touched upon it on a surface level, it made me understand just how broad IT could be. From Hardware, to OS, we went through security threats and vulnerabilities. Learning about the detection and prevention methods as well as how to configure basic security settings and hardening systems as well. Once again it led to operational procedures, troubleshooting and BEST PRACTICES!
Intro to Software Development and Systems Programming
Dang, Java. Java. Java. Fortunately, during my summer I started to learn java programming because dang, if I had I gone into that class cold, I would have fallen behind. I won’t say it was the professor’s fault, but with coding it’s very difficult to be able to teach and learn it without sufficient practical coding from oneself. It truly is a “practice makes perfect” and it’s very important to code instead of just learning concepts. What you learn in beginning coding is really just the foundational concepts and mechanics of the code, but not necessarily the “best practices” and golden standards and tricks that can be used to your advantage. One question that I remember being asked was how to ensure that a local variable can be called first in a global class… it was never something we learned, but it led to me understanding that by knowing the basics and foundational concepts, it was up to us to code and figure out the best practices for maximum efficiency and optimization. However, if I could simplify java into one statement it is that:
Objects are meant to be thrown.
Other than that, it was a dittotastic class. I learned about methods: abstract, static, and private. I learned about loops, all the whiles, dos, ifs, ands, and buts. But soon enough came the time for me to take a C++ class. Relatively similar to Java in that they are both considered “Object Oriented Programming”, however, Java is solely an object oriented programming language, while, C++ is not. I suppose you could say that it is more versatile in that C++ has no such root hierarchy. C++ supports both procedural and object oriented programming; therefore, it is called a hybrid language. Some differences are the uses of pointers and iterators, structures and templates. But in the end, it is almost that Java has supplanted C++ in modernization, though java isn’t the “end all be all” coding language either. Overall, I do believe that this class was important not because I learned how to code, but because it taught me to think logically and critically. To analyze different steps, to troubleshoot, to debug, and to perform an efficient workflow and process. I went into programming thinking it would be SOMEWHAT similar to what I saw in movies and TV shows, but nope. It was about the careful and inspecting eye.
Data Modeling – SQL — Oh the love hate relationship.
I really like SQL, I really like databases, and I really want to pursue more on data analytics, consumer research and data mining. But wow did I not realize just how difficult and expansive the subject could be. With things like NoSQL, SQL, MySQL, Oracle, MSSQL, ProstGRES and so many more. I really enjoyed my SQL class because it was such a powerful tool and I understand how it could be used, especially in most informatics related projects having to deal with databases, web-based, cloud, or physical server based. To be able to draw and utilize information through codes, to take it in, to deal with security it was something I really enjoyed other than front end coding. SQL coding was coding that I enjoyed. It led to me learning about “Big Data”, a term relating to data sets so large that requires new data processing applications and techniques to even work with these sets. Especially in health informatics, it can be done in a variety of settings from scientific research and aggregation of genomic DNA and results to dealing with EHR and more Health IT related purposes in the storage and standardization of patient health records. It can help to optimize the already lagging healthcare industry with the ability to acquire, store, retrieve and utilize information about patients, diseases and treatment options. As mentioned here. With a strong knowledge of database modeling, I hope to help streamline the procceses and eventually provide more efficient treatments for patients through a variety of healthcare providers and public health policy officials. But it was important to me because I learned about basic syntax in calling for information, how to create triggers, stored procedures and best practices in securing databases to prevent SQL injection attacks and other common vulnerabilities. But I can’t help but recall just how much time and effort, sweat and tears, and frustration and “F*** Yous” I yelled at the screen because I couldn’t correctly aggregate the right data or certain code snippets weren’t working.
Networking – Understanding the OSI Model
Two very important things that I learned from my Networking class. The OSI Model illustrating how information travels as well as the entire concept of subnetting to allow for increased IP addressing capabilities. Other than that, I believe it is relatively simple to learn about routers and switches and how different networking services and applications can work. One such service are VPNs, (Virtual Private Networks) and how they work in encrypting and keeping data secure. This may happen from “site-to-site”, “host-to-site”, or “host-to-host”. With it comes most of the other common topics such as security, network troubleshooting and the ilk.
Subnetting, so important. Oh so important. But with the OSI model, the 7 layers can often be a difficult thing to remember so I present to you:
People don’t need those stupid packets anyway. For Physical, Data, Network, Transport, Session, Presentation, and Application. If anyone in networking does not understand that, then the best thing to do is simply tell them that they have a “Layer 8” problem. If you don’t understand the problem, let me explain it :3
Layer 8 = people (“check the keyboard, I think you have a layer 8 problem.”)
Layer 9 = politics (“you’ll have to go all the way to layer 9 to get the budget for that.”)
Layer 10 = mystical (“Whoa, you’re reaching for layer 10! You’ll need to change the speed of light to make that work.”)
Managing You, and You, and You. Project Management
Would anyone have though that managing a project could be a VERY powerful and well-paying career? Learning to accurately plan a process and project can be a valuable skill, but do you know what’s also valuable? Having thick skin so when people call you the scum of the Earth, you can just brush it aside and keep on trucking through with bringing the project to success. As INDOCTRINATED into my head by my professor.
RISK IS A THREAT TO SUCCESS. Mitigate or prevent that risk, maintain in budget, schedule and resources, and the project will succeed.
Being a project manager is a difficult position because it typically places you in the bad graces of both the team as well as management as you try and meander around trying to negotiate with the stakeholders as well as working and motivating your team to succeed. Many times it can cost resources and time to stay on track after falling off and in most cases the manager never knows how to act around each person.
Now, I realize most people aren’t “down” with the planning process, but in cases like these where it can cost HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of dollars, it is important to properly manage and plan everything, from specifically identifying the scope of the project, validating it, determining the necessary resources, time and effort in order to complete the task. In most cases, people frown on padding schedules for leeway, but I have to disagree and say that padding the schedule is almost a MUST have in order to account for possible encounters down the road. As the project begins, it’s important to have a feasibility analysis and justification for the project and its costs, EVERYONE must be aligned with the project, both the team and the stakeholders should know exactly what to expect and when to expect it. As such, it is important to develop milestones, estimates, and determine the assumptions and constraints in the project. But with project management always comes a level of risk, and risk needs to be identified, managed and mitigated. It is impossible to mitigate risk to nothing, so the leftover risk after the mitigation techniques and controls is called “residual risk”. Risk is based off of the cost of impact as well as the probability of it happening so by controlling one of those two factors can really help with the project.
Without a scientific approach to the task of managing the projects and achieving objectives, it would be very difficult for the organizations to successfully execute the projects within the constraints of time, scope and quality and deliver the required result. In other words, there has to be a framework and a defined way of doing things to ensure that there is a structure to the art of project management. [Mentioned Here] Although the costs of a project manager might not seem justifiable, there have been many cases and reports where PMs have reduced risks, cut costs, and improved overall success rates. Looking at case studies, a majority of projects fail, not because of the purpose of the project necessarily, but because of costs, time, and lack of interest. In fact, good project management can help stop companies from spending money on projects that fail or encounter scope creep.
Overall, my first year was filled with exciting and informative classes. Sure some classes just sound so obvious, but the meaning and understanding of the concepts were very valuable because it was such a vital thing to remember and have emphasized and etched into our brains. The logical and analytical thinking of coding, the troubleshooting and critical thought processes that came from networking and understanding computers, and most importantly the leadership values and strong disciplinary understanding of a project manager helped to shape how I want to pursue my degree, education, and future goals. Combined with my fraternal views, I believe that university builds and helps form strong leaders, leaders that aren’t all talk and dictatorial from the front lines, but leaders that encourage from the back and leaders that aren’t afraid to get down and dirty with everybody else. The people’s leader that isn’t afraid to share resources, to pass his water canteen around even though he is thirsty too. The leader that thirsts for cooperation and understanding. The leader that thirsts for respect not power. The leader that thirsts for a strong and cohesive team.