Education overload: 2019-2020. That should be a life headline. Before 2 years ago, I picked up new technologies by: reading a few books, scouring the internet for tutorials and than building a bunch of prototypes. It worked. But! I’ve always wanted to try graduate school and I wanted to do it on a topic I struggle with: Math.
This is part past history and part recent struggle.
In college, I rapidly switched between: chemistry, mathematics, international relations and than economics. I even threw in some art courses: drawing and painting. The class that “got away” was always math. It’s my ultimate “what-if”, had I stuck with it where would I be today. I’m not sure I would be more successful, but it still interests me.
The second part is recent struggle. I’ve read a few books on different math topics over the last 10 years: probability theory, statistics, machine learning and game theory. I’ve even taken an intermediate statistics course, I skipped the pre-requisites due to cockiness (which quickly resolved itself over the next few classes). The problem learning was never consistent and sustained. There was always the next best opportunity, Computer Science, staring at me when I struggled with a math equation or theory.
Graduate school kills two birds with 1 stone: that nagging what-if question and the natural instinct to pick up an easier topic in computer science when the math gets hard.
stupidity’s name is ambition…
My coping mechanism to experiencing change is to rapidly increase the pace of change. I partially blame my coffee addiction: rapid heart-beat, high energy, high tempo. Love that coffee high. Love how change generates an adrenaline rush. Same problem, different skin.
I bought a house December 2019. I got married the following June. Once those two events kicked off, I got an adrenaline rush from the change. I folded, applied for both the Computer Science and Analytics Masters at Georgia Tech. Meanwhile, I couldn’t stay still and picked up two courses in web development over Fall/Summer 2019 at Harvard Extension School and got Linux certified.
Ambition leads to the: “Education Plan”. A “5-year” style plan reformatted into a 3-year format. Now, I can keep myself busy for the next 3 years. Fun.
What did the education plan do? It formalized the Masters in Analytics as a 3-year goal by breaking it down into 2 classes per semester (that in task master driven manner I’ve kept to). Converted the 2 Harvard Web Courses into a Front-end web development certificate due Summer 2020. Finally, listed a bunch of “optional” certificates to pursue. You know, just in case I had enough free-time.
how’s that been going for you?
I’m finishing up my 3rd course at both Georgia Tech and at Harvard Extension School. So far, I’ve done since May 2019 (currently March 2020):
Georgia Tech Master of Analytics:
- Business Fundamentals for Analytics
- Computing for Data Analytics
- Introduction to Statistical Modeling
Harvard Extension School:
- Fundamentals of Website Development
- Web Application programming in Node.js
All I can say, It has been busy. I’ve been studying 10-20 hours every week since May 2019. My only break has been December for 2-3 weeks. It’s been a relentless march of progress. I’ve been tired, stressed and also had fun. Overall, I feel like all my free-time has been sucked out of my life. I’ve really started cherishing relaxed weekends and time with friends/family more.
how to cope?
Golden rules for studying 2 courses at a time, working full-time and also having time for family/friends (as well as 2 work out sessions a week): do as much as possible as early as possible, schedule things in advance, schedule vacation during school holidays and take frequent breaks.
1. Do things as early as possible
Your worst enemy is procrastination. Procrastination leads to late nights studying, finishing up projects or work assignments. Late nights are not sustainable. You will sooner or later pay for them by either: resting/recovering for long times (you don’t have time), limiting time with friends/Spouse (stress/psychological relief) or experiencing increased amounts of stress (bad for dealing with people). The trick: be super proactive about everything.
2. Scheduling things in advance
Try to put things on the book or on your schedule. This will help motivate proactive behavior. If you know you will hang out with friends on the weekend, you’ll try to crush that assignment tonight. You won’t wait until Monday and panic. It helps keep you more accountable.
3. Schedule vacation during school breaks
Vacations are a nightmare if you are doing part-time school. A bunch of problems can arise. 1. you can easily lose motivation when a beautiful mountain range is right outside your door waiting to be hiked. 2. You’ll get FOMO, when is the next time you’ll be on this tropical island? Why bother studying? 3. Your internet will fail you or be blocked by the government (what happens in China stays in China). 4. You’ll want to spend time with family since you only see them every few years (my parent/s live in Germany/China). All 4 cases are worse when you are actively studying in school. Let a vacation be a true vacation, do it when you don’t have work or school.
4. Take frequent breaks
When studying, take a bunch of breaks. Go study for a few hours, than go watch a movie, take a long walk or exercise. Long stretches of studying will “compress” your brain and make it harder to study in the future. Don’t try to cram too much at once, because it will get exhausting. This kind of goes back to part 1 of this list: do things as early as possible. The earlier you do something, the more opportunities you have to take a break or spend time with friends/family.
last, but definitely not least
Having support and understanding friends, family and spouse is crucial. Don’t neglect those important people in your life (again step 1). Recognize how they make you stronger and help you out on your day-to-day journey.
I’m especially thankful to my loving wife for putting up with long study hours, making the occasional dinner and believing in me. She also frequently checks on me and gives me an excuse to take a break! I think this experience would be much tougher without her.