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How to make the most of my time in school?

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Software Engineering Intern at Amazona year ago

Lately, I have been finding myself with a lot of free time and am unable to shake this feeling that I am not "doing enough." After finishing my school work, I usually just go to the gym, hang out with friends, or play video games.

Is there anything else I can do to further improve myself as an engineer and set myself up for success later on? Perhaps some books or resources to read.

I've tried working on some side projects, but honestly find it hard to follow through with them due to lack of urgency with no deadlines and prior fatigue from working on school assignments.

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(3 comments)
  • 34
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    Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    a year ago

    If you've already secured a job and you're satisfied with where you're headed, don't feel the need to do something. It's a rare time in life when everything is going well and you're excited about what's ahead -- enjoy it!

    If you are in a funk though and want to do something to get out of it, I have two tips:

    • Surround yourself with people who are doing interesting things or building stuff. That alone is inspirational, and maybe you could team up with them.
    • Listen to a podcast, watch a show, or read a book which gets you inspired. There are some podcasts that leave me inspired and itching to build something awesome. Can you fill your brain with this kind of stuff? (e.g. My First Million podcast, Founders at Work book, Hackers & Painters book, etc)
  • 27
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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    a year ago

    Someone I really wish someone told me while I was in college is to enjoy my time there more. University is the last time in your life when you have no real responsibilities - Everything changes once you graduate and get that full-time job. Since you're already interning at a great company like Amazon, your career is already set up pretty well for success. There's no need to put that extra pressure on yourself!

    That being said, I actually do wish I had done more at UCLA instead of playing video games so much. In particular, I wish I had started working on side projects sooner - The most talented newgrad engineers I knew all had major, real-world side projects before graduating, some with 100k+ users! I know that you said that you find it hard to get motivated by side projects, so here's my tips to get out of that funk:

    • Bias towards shipping - It doesn't matter if what you have is terrible, just publish it (and feel free to share it within Taro!). It's much easier polishing something that is out there in the world as you want to make it less embarrassing and (hopefully) you get some real users who push you to be productive and add new features according to their feedback. The first Android apps I published back in college were awful, but they went on to get ten of thousands of users! Once you get some initial traction, check this out: [Masterclass] How To Build And Grow Tech Products To 500k+ Users For Free
    • Work on them with a friend - There's no pressure like peer pressure, hehe. When you have the right partner to build stuff with, the experience becomes a lot easier and more fulfilling as you're also building up this relationship on top of your solidarity with the product. I have a ton of fun building out Taro with Rahul!
    • Make something you can use yourself - It's possible that you simply aren't building out the right idea: Building out some small utility that's immediately useful to you is a simple, powerful way to "cure" that. Building out the right idea is so important that I gave an entire session about it: [Masterclass] How To Come Up With 100k+ Users App Ideas You Can Build For Free

    But let's say side projects just don't do it for you - No worries! There's a bunch of other stuff you can do:

    • Network - College is special as there's a huge shared solidarity among the population. Get to know more Computer Science students - Study groups are a really effective way to do this (and they help keep your grades up too). If there's clubs or mixer events, go to those. To wrap up this thought, here's my in-depth advice on the secret to effective networking: [Masterclass] How To Build Deep Relationships Quickly In Tech
    • Hackathons - Hackathons are essentially a networking event where you get to code up cool stuff in the meantime. They're much harder to do once you're married with kids - Take advantage of the more flexible college life to do these!
    • Get to know your professors - There's a lot of awesome professors out there, and you can learn a lot from them. Something really cool that could potentially happen is that they give you a side project. I remember there was a talented classmate of mine who went to Google straight out of school - He built some algorithm with a professor that could predict NBA game outcomes with 70% accuracy. It looked great on his resume!
  • 23
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    Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero, PayPal
    a year ago

    Something I forgot to mention that I see so many students mess up: Don't focus too much on your grades.

    For the most part, having around a 3.0 GPA (i.e. straight Bs) or higher is enough to keep you in contention for almost all tech companies, including FAANG. There were a couple companies I interacted with back during my days at UCLA that gated on 3.5+ GPA, but these were all companies that weren't exactly at the top in terms of quality.

    Software is cutting-edge and practical, which academia is not. Getting good grades doesn't actually do much in making you a better software engineer; building side projects and working on real-world software in general is much better at doing that. This is why spending those extra 20 hours to bump up your project grade from 85% to 100% is a terrible waste of time.

    I know that this topic wasn't mentioned in the question, but I just wanted to make sure that every student reading this thread is aware of this. The people who go to prestigious universities (like myself) are often raised by their parents and community to believe that good grades are everything. Software is an industry where this is very much not the case.