5 Things to Know Before Going into Computer Science

It is actually an extremely broad field

Technology has integrated itself into almost every aspect of our lives, and companies in every industry are looking for developers that can bridge the gap between computers and their primary business focus. Just a few examples of these industries are social services, healthcare, agriculture, and finance. With a computer science degree, you are by no means restricted to working at just a “tech” company such as Facebook or Microsoft. For example, I am currently working towards a computer science degree with a specialization in Biomedical Computing. Biomedical Computing combines biology and medical science with the power and problem-solving capabilities of modern computers.  Combining these disciplines opens up many opportunities to work in other industries and fields, such as medicine or computational biology. The reason I chose this program is because I want to have a career in the medical field, but I have always had a true passion for technology. Combining the knowledge of coding with other fields sets you apart and can give you insights that other candidates may not have.

Previous coding experience is not required

When I first started my computer science degree I had never written a line of code in my life! I was slightly nervous to start classes due to my lack of skill, but my worries were soon put to rest once the curriculum actually started. Many of the first-year computer science courses start at the very basics and there are many resources (through both the university and online) that will help you when you get stuck. You will be surprised how fast you can actually get the hang of coding and what you can build in a short amount of time.  

Come in with an open mind and a desire to learn

Over the course of your computer science degree it is inevitable that you will eventually have to take a course on a subject you are not interested in, such as a coding language you consider to be “dead” (rarely used in the real world anymore). However, it is still important to stay on top of the material in these classes. There is a high chance you will learn important concepts that you will have to apply throughout the rest of your degree and even your career.

I also think it is imperative to have a desire to learn things on your own. Learning about aspects of computer science that interest you but are not covered in class is very important. It will improve your general understanding of the field (making some of your courses easier) and set you apart from your peers when applying for internships or jobs. As a matter of fact, most of the people in the tech field who hire developers, care much more about what you have learned and built outside the classroom than having the perfect GPA. The reason they care about this is because it shows that you have initiative and are also dedicated to constant learning and growth.

Start working on your communication skills now

Although many people may think of coding as sitting down at a computer by yourself and working with little to no human interaction, it is actually quite the opposite. Most projects (especially when you get into the workforce) are done within teams, made up of different people building their own part of the project and making sure that particular component of the project works properly with all the other parts of the whole project. Making sure this process goes smoothly requires very strong communication skills and is an integral part of being a good developer. Developing these skills early will help you perform better in your coursework, as well as enable you to be the best developer you can once you enter your field of choice and actually start working.

Time management is essential

While you are working through your degree there will be times when you have multiple tests and projects due on the same week. When this happens, it is very important that you have strong time management skills and are able to prioritize tasks effectively. I personally have a sticky note for each class with what is due for that week on my wall, as well as a daily schedule of what I need to get done within that day. Doing this helps me ensure that I stay on top of all my school work and prioritize properly, in order to be in line and on time for later goals and assignments. If deliberate time management is something new for you, most universities have resources to help you learn this critical skill.

 

Stefano in a 3rd-year Biomedical Computing student at Queen’s University and an Executive for QMIND (Queen’s Machine Intelligence and Neuroevolution Design), which is a design team that focuses on building deployable machine learning models for various purposes. He received the Queen’s University Principal’s Scholarship and has been able to maintain his position on the Dean’s Honour List through all of his years in university. This past summer, he worked as an engineering intern at a biometric security company called BioConnect, helping establish their “TrustAl Engine”. In his free time, you can find Stefano playing intramural basketball or training in the martial art of Muay Thai.

Comments 2

  1. Excellent article! I hope you don’t mind that I will share it. It not only identifies the cross functional skills to be successful in school, but outlined the same core skills that will make one successful in life! As a Director of Information Technology, I especially appreciate the emphasis and the focus on the communication skills and time management. Technology solutions are only as good as understanding the business requirements and capability to deliver solutions on time and on budget. Excellent, concise article!

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