9 Things IT students should do right now

If you want to be successful in your IT career, and you are still studying, I tell you 9 things you need to do right now.

I may not be an IT degree undergraduate anymore, but I have a few pieces of advice here that I hope IT students can take, and by doing them you may be able to improve your learning experience as well as giving yourself an unfair advantage in the future. You will not be able to see the benefits come immediately, but I am pretty sure in the future you will want to thank me and buy me a teh tarik for this.

Subscribe to IT news sources with feed aggregators

pulsesubs

There are many feed and news aggregators out there, such as Google Reader, Pulse, Flipboard and News Bento (Windows 8). Personally I use Pulse because it functions the way I intend it to and it looks good.

So why should you subscribe and read these news on regular basis? To keep yourself updated as IT guy of course! IT industry changes extremely quick, one day it can be a slate smartphone, the next day Google Glass takes over the market. You need to understand the market, the ecosystem, the trends and so on. Keeping yourself updated to these changes is crucial to your career.

And don’t just read IT news, subscribe to some business-related too if you intend to own a company and have a startup in the future.

Here is a list of my subscriptions:

  • Hacker News by Y Combinator – user-submitted and voted articles from around the Internet
  • TechCrunch, All Things Digital, The Next Web, ReadWrite – IT-related latest news
  • VentureBeat, Inc. Magazine, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Under30CEO, Harvard Business Review – Business related, good for you if you want to become the boss
  • PandoDaily – For some reason I found this news source more honest and critical than the others. While other sources posting the same optimistic stuffs every single day, Pando posts articles that debunk myths and criticizes bozos in the industry, it is good to have this source in your list as well.

Subscribe to experts’ blogs with E-mail

Yes you can just add their RSS feeds into your lovely aggregator, but soon you will notice there are just too many inactive feeds in your app, and it wastes time and bandwidth just for them to check for latest post from these sources.

Luckily, most blogs nowadays are kind enough to allow their readers to subscribe to them via e-mail, which is great, consider they do not post more than 1 articles everyday. You will only receive them only when they post something.

Experts’ blogs can be great to read, as they have more experience and more expertise than the average editors working in news firm. So here are a few I recommend you to subscribe, although most of them are not directly IT-related:

  • Anonoz Burps – Obviously, you should subscribe to my blog, please do so on the right sidebar. Thank you.
  • James Altucher – This guy is bloody honest and I like how he writes about truths in life. I need to feature the post where he claims that higher education is no use and he cannot even program in real world the first time he work, even if he scores nicely in his college. It serves as a reminder to current IT undergraduates, as well as undergraduates of other industries: college is useless.
  • Steve Blank – If you intend to have a startup, you need this guy’s help. He published “Four Steps to Epiphany” and “Startup Owner’s Manual”, lectures in Haas, Caltech, Columbia and UC Berkeley. Read his stuffs and reduce the mortality rate of your startup.
  • OnStartups – Again, a startup blog
  • Both Sides of Table – Another blog for entrepreneurs
  • Learning by Shipping – you know the guy who made Windows 7 and Windows 8 possible? He is fired, no, he “quits” Microsoft. Soon after that he opened a blog that talks about software developments. Subscribe and read if you intend to be first-class software engineers.
  • anything else? Lot more but I afraid I am too lazy to list them out. Explore on your own!

Swap an SSD into your laptop

Computing devices are incredibly important to IT people, any downtime will impose serious impacts on their daily lives. Unfortunately, hard drives in laptops remain one of the biggest weakness, and they can break down anytime.

Everything is stored on it, unless you backup often and put critical data on the cloud, you are so going to cry and shout “Y I NO LISTEN TO NONOZ N BACKUP?”. Don’t be that poor guy.

But backup does not mean you are protected from downtimes, what’s more laptops’ bootups are incredibly slow. As a super impatient person, I cannot tolerate that. Here comes solid state drives.

Maybe you will say that SSDs are damn expensive, yes they are, but they are well worth the investment. Currently I am using Crucial M4 120GB and it costs me only about RM350. The amount of time saved and the peace of mind it offers are well worth it.

Get one for your laptop today.

Get a tablet, preferrably an iPad

Laptop IS NEVER a great device for reading, or to actually carry around. It has some special tasks it can and need to do, such as coding, compiling and so on.

But what if you just want to lie on the bed, read a book, browse the web, or to test Windows 8 apps? You need a tablet, an ARM one, not Microsoft Surface Pro and ATIV Smart PC.

And I highly recommend the iPad, stop saying it is overpriced, it is not.

It has great battery life (10 hours compared to 3 hours on my laptop battery saving mode), great display for reading, great camera, etc.

And you can totally use it to replace laptop on doing presentation, even video editing (create from scratch to be exact) too!

Explore Q&A sites such as Quora, Stack Overflow…

During study, or coding, you will bump into problems waiting for you to solve. But what if hours of Googling did not pull you out of trouble? You need gamificated Q&A sites.

Quora is more on general and they want answers with wisdom, it is also where famous peeps like Jimmy Wales hang out. It is not really a perfect place to ask technical question but you can ask questions that need specific answers, you can ask about philosophy, to love, to Isaac Newton.

But if you really want to ask things about programming, and you need place to post your embarassing source codes on, StackOverflow is the way to go.

Bear in mind, be responsible and ask appropriately. ASK ONLY IF YOU FAILED TO GOOGLE THE ANSWER.

Open up profiles on LinkedIn, SkillPages, (GitHub)…

Facebook, Twitter, Google+ can be fun to socialize around. But when it comes to business, you need to be on the grid of professional social networks.

LinkedIn is THE professional network you need to join, and of course, brag about where you worked, your achievements. When you are looking for a job, chances are your prospective employer is going to search for you on LinkedIn, see who are you connected with, your skills, publications and so on, things that you will not show in your playful Facebook.

SkillPages is another site like LinkedIn, but they emphasize more on skill hunting. If you fill up your skills nicely, chances are you will receive e-mail of someone hiring once in a while. However, SkillPages is not as accredited and acknowledged as much as LinkedIn does.

GitHub is where you show off your codes. If your employer is a developer and he is smart enough, he will look through what you pushed on GitHub, and determine if you are a good fit for his company and his cause. The worst thing is you do not have a GitHub account at all, which means you are just another asshole with an software engineering degree holder who does not give a shit to programming career, and thus concludes that you have zero passion in coding, period.

Join Facebook Groups, where IT pros hangout and exchange intels

This one, you gotta explore yourself. Ask your pro Facebook friends to invite you into these groups and hopefully, you get accepted by the admin.

To fully utilize and reap most benefits from these groups, join the activities they organize! Mingle around, exchange business card (I think I need to make one right now), and seek for mentorship if possible.

If you manage to have great contacts of these people, be prepared and buckle up safety belt, as your career as IT guy is about to be skyrocketed. But make sure you sow first, you must offer some values to the society before you expect to reap its benefits. Karma pays off.

Find events on meetup.com, EventBrite…

So you cannot really find events in the Facebook groups, you can still get an account on Meetup and EventBrite. And do check regularly, see if there is any IT (and Business, for entrepreneurs) events around you to join.

Chances are, you will get invited to certain Facebook groups if you mingle around in the events. Talk to many people, be humble but show considerable amount of potential, you will be welcomed. A lot of people attend the events are seeking for developers to hire too!

I have a Kuala Lumpur Presenters & Public Speakers meetup group, join it if you live nearby and intend to improve your speaking skills.

Purchase a domain name

HOW MANY TIMES I NEED TO REEMPHASIZE THIS! 

By all means, please buy a domain name for yourself, PLEASE! Domain name can skyrocket your IT career, and it is completely advisable to do it as soon as possible, even if you do not intend to develop a website on it!

The key to success is put yourself on the grid! After you have joined Facebook groups, attend the events and get to know people, you need to have a website WITH YOUR DOMAIN NAME as a branding channel!

For those who have already bought a domain name AND developed a nice site with portfolio on it, congratulations! But for those who haven’t, get one right now. Or you will regret later in your life.

A cheap domain name can be life changer, you will get big fat raise, or you will get hired by other bigger stronger companies if you show and prove yourself enough on the Internet. And it all starts with DOMAIN NAME.

Anything extra?

If you think I left anything IT students should do out, please drop a comment below, I would like to hear that.

Thank you.

P/S: BUY A DOMAIN NAME!

Author: Anonoz Chong

Web Developer in Kuala Lumpur. Computer Science student in MMU Cyberjaya. President of IT Society MMU Cyberjaya. Rubyist.

4 thoughts on “9 Things IT students should do right now”

  1. Pingback: How I use my iPad
  2. A lot of diff between IT and CS. There are merits in studying CS to learn more about stuffs like AI, parallel computing, game theory, cognitive technology, etc. Remember, Google is a research project started by 2 PhD students.

What do you think?