Sunday, February 3, 2013


A year ago I was digesting my own stomach because I was in the process of buying a house. A year later I am much calmer. At the moment I'm freaking out a bit over the fact that I need to write my final paper for my Software Engineering class next weekend and I don't feel like I've learned anything from this class yet.

Am I being haunted by the ghost of my slacker undergraduate self? Have I simply misplaced my ability to give a fuck because it's January? Maybe this is all really boring? Whatever is going on I can't bring myself to concentrate long enough to write a two page paper. I also seem to be the only person in the class who thinks the textbook (the Mythical Man Month by Brooks-published in 1975) is a bit dated.

The good news is that my inability to perform as expected is only manifesting itself in my school life--professionally I'm still on top of things. Perhaps the problem is with the course material and the presentation. I like the professor--I find his lectures interesting. I *do* feel like I'm learning things when I'm in his class--it's just that I have problems associating those things with the other things I'm supposed to be learning. Perhaps the problem is that this is a class in software development that is being squeezed into a six week schedule and involves very little hands-on work. Week one we wrote requirements statements. Since then we've listened to lectures, read the textbook and various Wikipedia articles, and researched Open Source Licenses and the Five Most Popular Programming Languages. I spent most of today trying to compare two languages without knowing much about either. This meant paraphrasing Wikipedia articles without really knowing what I was saying. I hate that--it doesn't feel like I've learned anything.

I tell myself that perhaps the problem is that I've already learned some of the key points through life experience, since a lot of this is really project management (Requirements can be hard to get right. Debugging can take longer than building. Throwing people at a project that's late doesn't help.)  That doesn't mean there's not something else I'm missing.

On the "bright" side the next class (Information Systems) is going to be very MBA-like. This means lots of reading case studies and analyzing them. One the one hand I left B-School because I thought I'd get more out of Geek School--I don't really want my Geek School classes to be like B-School classes. On the other hand I can do "Read this and tell me whatcha think" standing on my head--I was a literature major. Harvard Business Review case studies have the advantage of being (nominally) in English--unlike the stuff I studied as an undergrad.

I don't mind working hard to learn--one of my favorite classes was Telecommunications which was the hardest class I've had in the MSIT program (second only to Statistics for Hardest Class of Graduate Career.) I'd rather work hard on interesting material (and let's be honest--I will feel gypped if the class is not challenging enough) than breeze through boring stuff. However I've struggled to get traction with this classes material. It's comforting to know that I'll be back on familiar ground.

And all of this is still way less stressful than what I was doing a year ago.

No comments: