College Life and a List of Mistakes

I started undergraduate college in September 2006. At the end of the college, I would be a “Bachelor of Engineering in Information Technology” or BE in IT. I was excited about learning programming in the college.

In the first semester, we studied C language, but only up to the strings. Arrays and topics beyond that would be taught to us in third semester. Second semester was full of introductory subjects from other branches of Engineering like Mechanical, Civil and Electrical.

Come third semester, the faculty who taught us the rest of the C language made it so frustrating to even attend the class that I decided to do an MBA right after BE, and start preparing for its entrance exam from the fifth semester. I remember feeling so confused and lost by the concepts of pointers and memory allocation, that I feared failing the semester end exams. Fourth semester was again full of courses irrelevant to programming or Computer Science in general. I had also been having some relationship issues during these two semesters, which made me less focussed at studies/programming. In the middle of the fourth semester, I convinced my parents to buy me a laptop worth ₹50,000! I could have got a cheaper one with larger screen size, but I was really impressed by some fancy useless features of a friend’s laptop, and I wanted to have the same one.

At the beginning of fifth semester, when most of my classmates were starting preparation for MBA entrance exams, I asked my parents for ₹25,000 to get enrolled for one of the coaching classes. My mom, who had suffered substantial losses in the stock market crash of 2008, refused because there was not that kind of spare money to spend. This was also the semester when we were going to learn some relevant subjects like Data Structures, Object-Oriented Programming with C++, and Networking. I loved C++ so much back then (because of the faculty who taught it) that I decided to make a career in technical domain instead of pursuing MBA. The later semesters had many relevant subjects, with at least one course from Electronics and Communication Engineering taught each semester till as late as final semester or last to the final semester (I’m not 100% sure).

By this time, I had started feeling so resentful of having to study these irrelevant subjects that I wasn’t in a state of mind to focus properly on the relevant ones. I remember studying subjects like Microprocessors, Computer Organization and Architecture, Information Theory, Compilers, Database Management Systems (DBMS), Advanced DBMS, and more just for the sake of passing the exams. I could have concentrated better and made better use of time, but I didn’t. At least not as well as I am capable of.

The course on Algorithms was optional, and I decided to opt out because it was going to be taught by the same faculty who made the latter part of C language a horrible experience for me. During the fifth and sixth semesters, I took one extra subject each, and learned them with the batch of seniors. The intention was to have fewer subjects in final semester and be able to focus more on doing the project, because the quality of the project mattered a lot when it came to campus placements. However, in the final semester, the nostalgia of leaving college engulfed most of us so badly that we spent a lot of time going out for short trips, lunch & dinners, movies, etc. The execution of the project definitely took a bit of a hit.

Looking back at this period from September 2006 to June 2010, I feel there were some obvious mistakes that I made:

  • Not being able to balance between:
    • studies—college studies and self-learning
    • relationships—the relationship and friendships
  • Not focussing on the subjects that were going to play a defining role in my career in programming.
  • Spending a bunch of time just roaming around.
  • Not being clear about what I want to do in my life—I kept oscillating between MBA and Engineering.
  • Unable to control falling asleep in lectures—I can still barely handle attending any kind of lectures without falling asleep or yawning the hell out of me.
  • Not realizing/understanding the value of friendships I made or broke during those four years.

Some mistakes were a result of lack of guidance/mentoring of any form at home or at the college. Not being able to clearly think of what I want from my career was the result of that. Another huge mistake that I made due to lack of understanding of the society/life/world was being unable to balance between relationships.