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Three Random Slices of Wisdom for Student Developers

As I’m writing this post, I’m entering my last semester as a senior majoring in Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I feel it’s important for me to guide you because I’ve had the privilege to make A LOT of mistakes over the last 4 years as a college student/aspiring developer. My wish for you is that you take something from this post that helps you on your path to success.

Take note, this post is not only for students! You may very well find some useful information here. Also, please be sure to comment below with your advice, feedback, questions, etc.

Now enough chatter, let’s begin…

1. Learn the C Programming Language (At least the basics)

If you’re saying to yourself, “Learning C is a waste of my time”, then I suggest you read on.

You can think of C as the Latin language of the programming world. If you learn Latin, it’s really easy to learn new Western based languages as they all have common similarities.

Much like French and English have roots in Latin, many modern programming languages today have roots in C. For example, do you or have you ever used an iPhone or Mac? Have you played video games? Minecraft maybe? I’m guessing that most likely you answered yes to one of these questions. If so, then you have unknowingly been a user of someone who used a C based language.

Another reason to use C is that many modern languages abstract very crucial concepts that are very important for you to know as a programmer. For example, basic memory management is something that every programmer should at least be aware of. The issue with modern languages like Python or Java is that they manage memory for you and cannot be utilized in certain sectors of the software world where resources are scarce. Also, as motivation for you as a job hunter, many top companies such as Google and Microsoft want and require you to know how to manage memory. You just can’t get around without learning C.

For starters, I recommend you start with Learn C The Hard Way. The “Hard Way” series is a great resource for learning any language. It’s both free and much more enjoyable to read than 99% of the textbooks you’ll find out there.

2. Learn to Manage Your Finances, NOW

If that voice in the back of your head has ever said, “I don’t have enough money to manage now, there’s no point”, think again. Even if you have a penny to your name, I think you should think very carefully how you spend that penny.

As a student, that very voice I just mentioned was my excuse for not managing my finances carefully for the last 3 1/2 years in college. I told myself, “I’ll wait until I’m finished with college and I begin making the real dough before I think about money management.” I’ll admit, that was a serious mistake on my part. I don’t know how much money I could have saved or spent in meaningful places because I didn’t carefully watch where I spent it.

I’ve come to a stark realization that sounds obvious to me now but it wasn’t so obvious a few years ago. My realization was this, “If I don’t know how or I don’t try to manage what little financial income I have now, what will make managing my (hopefully) larger career income any easier later on?” In fact, it will probably be much harder to manage the income I make from my career because I don’t have the required experience! This is the typical grass is greener B.S. mentality. The grass is not greener, start now.

I read a great book that is specifically addressed towards the younger audience. I highly recommend it, even if you are a dirt poor student living off of Top Ramen.

I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

3. Find a Higher Purpose in Life

Oh no, here comes the Jesus talk.

I’m going to spare you any religious dogma as I grew up with enough of it around me. If you already have some higher focus in a religion, non-profit organization, cult (cough cough Scientology), etc., good for you. I still want you to answer this question, what is your purpose in life?

If you don’t have an answer to this fundamental question, life may just flash before your eyes and before you know, you’ll be dead. Yes, I did go there.

My suggestion for you is this, discover a purpose that allows you to feel that you’re giving a meaningful contribution back to the world. Some examples of people who have embodied that concept are Bach, Gandhi, and Thomas Jefferson.

However, you don’t have to be legendary or widely popular. If your goal is to be a stay at home dad and raise your kids, great! So long as you feel that you’re positively contributing to the world and other peoples happiness, that’s all that matters.

If you’re like many people out there and have no clue what your purpose is, I’d like to give you a recommendation. I recommend The Tao of Abundance by Laurence G. Boldt. The author doesn’t directly talk about purpose but you will find yourself more connected to your friends, family, coworkers, etc. I truly believe that is the best place to start. Once you are more in tune with how you operate and your surroundings, I believe you can tap in to the natural wisdom that we all are born with. And who knows, maybe the answer will naturally come to you without much effort?

The Tao of Abundance by Laurence G. Boldt