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Passion for Programming

Older article from Lost in Dev; originally written by Jeremy Bridon.

Something I see lacking in plenty of university students, especially at the end of a semester, is passion for their majors. This goes well beyond Computer Science, and seems to apply to many others. The frustration people feel from studying and exam preparation bleeds into their frustration with the major itself. The issue here is that I believe there is too much of a focus on “follow these steps and jump through these hoops to get a job”, which burns students out. The idea is that we focus so much on preparing formally for a job, we loose our passion for our majors.

There isn’t too much wrong with formal preparation, as it is critically important to help you become a true computer scientist. If you are going to find a job, or going for post-graduate studies, formal education is important. Yet, is it appropriate to find a job or continue education in computer science if you are doing it just for the money? Realistically there is nothing wrong for getting into this field for the money, and it does make good money. We live in a capitalistic society, and if you prove you are good at what you do, then I sincerely hope you get as much money as you deserve. What I find frustrating are the people who stay in the field and have no passion for the topic, in which they expect to do the minimal lowest-quality work and expect to be paid the most. This not only hurts their future, but the futures of other students as it shows a negative face of computer science to a world market that is already confused enough about the use of computational technologies.

I rarely see students doing their own programming projects outside of class. Again, grades are important and so is studying, yet people focus so much on getting that perfect score they forget what they are learning and why they are doing it. They loose their passion, and end up with a distaste for computer science.

At the time of this article, I have just finished a Systems Programming course (CMPSC 311), in which we learned about C and UNIX. The first exam’s class average was close to a 50%, and the question was raised: Why? Why is it that students failed so much? The answer is not that the class was too hard, or the class was poorly taught; The issue lies in that students did not take it on themselves to learn beyond what was given in class. The whole point about having a passion in computer science is that you end up teaching yourself, learning much more beyond what is provided at the university. I think it should be expected that a university student teaches themselves much more than what is presented in our core courses. Though I love all my computer science courses and most of my professions, I can frankly say I’ve learned half of what I know about computer science through classes, and the rest on my own.

Why is this so important? Simply put, an employer might see a 4.0 student who seems to be knowledgeable, yet come time to work, they seem completely lost or are producing terrible code. Even worse, they might not know of what they don’t know, which turns into a vicious problem of refusal to learn more for the job. Other candidates might not have that perfect scholarly-focused resume, but clearly show strong performance with teams, the ability to teach themselves, project management, and more.

This article is not to judge the current social or educational system, as well as other students, but to give a remark to those developers who are reading this: are you passionate by what you do? Be a great computer scientist for yourself; don’t bullshit class work or do the bare minimum because you just want a degree and want to make money. You are ruining it for the rest of us.

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