thoughts + goals

Entering third year. Again.

I’ve done 8 months now at Airbus. Feels no where near that long, and it’s only a little while and I’ll be packing up the car, Hullward bound again.

I’m glad I’ve had this year to sit and think, really – uni goes by so quickly and it feels like the center of your universe whilst you’re in it and like all your friends are going to be with you forever, but the reality? This too shall pass, which is sad, but at the same time exciting.

I still don’t know what I’m doing after third year, I have a few options and a few different cities and countries, really, I’d be happy to live in (Bristol ranks quite highly, where before it wouldn’t even rank anywhere so I guess that’s something), and a few different pathways to go down.

Anyway, this isn’t about after uni, this is about thoughts on next year.

I wrote about this time last year that my final year project would be Life of Pi in mixed reality on a platform called CAVE (5 screens forming an immersive environment – 3 walls, floor and ceiling), which the Uni got just last year. I’m hoping Helen gets a student to do it this year, because I still feel pretty bad that I was all set to do it, and then “err…I’m going to Bristol BYE UNI” and it looked like a cool project, but at the time I wanted to come up with my own idea, but had very little time in which to come up with any inspiration.

This is where having a year to sit and think helps – I came up with something I’ve been wanting someone to make since…err…since I started scanning music in to use on my laptop when away from the Godley Sheet Music Library back at home. Can you tell what it is yet?

What I will be doing is a Sheet Music Library something akin to what itunes has done for people’s music collections – it will collate, organise and generally make using sheet music on a laptop a lot easier. I have listed I want to be able to use MusicXML as the main format which makes it easy to port your library out to software such as MuseScore in order to edit and play back (although I’m hoping I can put playback into the app itself…).

Why doesn’t this already exist? I have no idea. I don’t feel as though music innovations that hit the masses happen often – several orchestras probably already have something like this along with wireless page turners (something else I’d like to put in, but probably won’t have time – my theory is using Adafruit BlueFruit EZKey, trinket and a broken keyboard piano pedal, it shouldn’t be difficult but those are famous last words…) and conversion to and from editable music and MIDI for playback has been done both commercially and in the open source world, but that’s just it: musicians aren’t always computer scientist type people, so probably don’t know about the open source world, and quite personally if I see “OMR APP FOR JUST $300” I think “erm. no…I can live without that”, so whilst open source options are freely available, they’re not really that accessible. It’s also the case I have yet to see something that collates features from 3 different kind of bases – organisation, editing, playback – most will do one, but not all.

I like this idea much more than last year’s because it’s something I will benefit from not just academically, but in the sense that I can then take my music wherever I go. I think it’s important that your final year project be something you want and are passionate about, not just a generic game title someone else came up with, and this is why I didn’t go to my supervisor at work and ask for one: don’t get me wrong, planes are fun to get geeky over and the work I’ve done this year has been awesome, but my passion generally lies most strongly in my hobbies and therefore I think I will succeed and fair better with this project than any related to Aerospace.

As a techy note, I’m going to be writing this in Python because I feel very comfortable with python after this year, and I think that’s where there’ll be most open source libraries for research from, in addition to features python has such as the ability to wrap libraries from other languages in python using SWIG. This also shows where I’ve come from as last year, I was kind of hesitant to even suggest writing an FYP in anything other than C# or C++, fearing there’d be little departmental support, but when I mentioned to Jan who’s hopefully my new project supervisor, he didn’t seem astounded and was supportive: why should he, or any other academic be shocked at my personal choice? Programming is programming and you write in what YOU’RE most comfortable in, not the staff, and at the end of the day most CSy people, particularly academics, would be able to understand and debug python anyway…

Oh, and it probably goes without saying that I will be open sourcing my work once I’m done with it and it’s cleared from being assessed, and potentially making it into a system similar to the home media center style OS made for the Raspberry Pi so that it’s even more portable. But that’s for after uni…

A side note: I got come dine with me social sec (again – I was going to be doing this last year but then got an accidental placement…) which should be good fun. If any freshers or second years are reading this, you should really join because it’s a great way to meet new people and eat lots of free food. And discover new places to eat in Hull.

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2013: A year in review

27th December, from the backup vaults of David Whale’s email inbox…

I’ve had quite a bit of time to reflect over 2013…I’ve changed and come so far from where I was 12 months ago. It’s scary but it’s been a lot of fun. So let’s review what stuff I’ve done:

4 pi events attended: These have definitely been the biggest change, I’ve learned so much more about electronics and programming for them and whilst it’s mainly been for raspi, it’s also got me thinking about smaller applications and stuff that’s not so user friendly, aka microcontrollers. It’s quite nice now looking at my “airbou” A380 and knowing what I have to think about to get it to fly, and having that desire to crack it open and change the program on whatever the current microcontroller does. I’ve met some of the nicest people from travelling around to attend pi jams, people who’ll happily drive you back to Bristol when you’re stuck in London and give you a bed for the night even when it’s not for a pi event or to help them out with anything. And then there’s the people who donate electronics and their own merchandise just because you write and blog and help other people out with cool stuff. The hacker community, akin to my department and coursemates, is such a lovely community to be part of and I’m so glad I took the opportunities I was poked into doing by Alan and various other people, even if my demos might never ever go as planned…

My first real job in industry: 12 months ago did I think “heh this time next year I’ll have moved to Bristol and started working for a major plane manufacturer”? No. No I did not. But it’s so much better this way and it’s been an exposure to an industry that’s not all about manipulating a database, and really has made me realise fully that I could end up in any job, any sector and any country I wanted to, because you do a google of almost any company and there’s something there to do with computers. Airbus has been a really great confidence, skill and personal growth boost and while moving hasn’t been plain (heheh plain…) sailing, I can’t imagine having done third year and skipped it, and there’s certainly no way I would have been thinking “you know what, I’ll apply for the Airbus graduate scheme”. It’s also been an awesome opportunity to discover a new city, and an easy way to get used to industry as there’s around 60 or so interns working for Airbus who are my age, and more in Rolls-Royce next door. Bristol’s got so much opportunity for engineers and artists alike and it’s definitely on my list of places I’d settle down in given the chance after uni.

On top of that, I’ve learned python thoroughly and feel confident enough that it’s on my CV. Anyone thinking “maybe I’ll learn python” should definitely go for it, because akin to C#, it’s growing in popularity.

4 women in IT events attended: I’m aiming to try and make sure I keep the right balance between girls events and regular IT events, but these have been a really great way to meet some new people who are like me, and made some new twitter friends, and why the hell shouldn’t I take opportunities I’m meant to go for? These have taken me to Microsoft’s HQ (could have gone to Vodafone’s in the new year but I fancied a little break) in Reading, Nottingham Uni CS dept where I got to hear various career talks and talks about what the academics do in research, and more recently to Queen Mary University of London to hear some IoT talks. They’ve all been so inspiring and I’ve met someone awesome or several awesome people at every event.

Became a STEM ambassador and done my first event: It’s quite weird being looked up to by high school students as a 20 year old, I barely feel like I’m out of there, but the event at Stevenage was a really great day and I do really love teaching people something new and seeing them pleased with their handy work. STEM ambassadoring gives you the ability to do that without being a teacher which would be far too stressful for me. I’m hoping in the new year to go and talk to some guides about what I do, which is particularly inspiring to me because I was a brownie and I think had my pack requested STEM ambassadors it’d be far more fun, and I’m also going to run a workshop using wearable tech because I know we used to love making stuff in brownies. So I’m hoping it’ll be lots of fun and a few of them will choose to follow my lead and join the ranks of awesome Computer Scientists.

Aaaand the less technical stuff

Met my penfriend in person in Wisconsin: I traveled over to visit my friend Ellen who I’d met on neopets and remained friends with for several years through letters, got to travel around Wisconsin and meet some really great Americans (and see a real Independence day parade!). This next year she’s hopefully coming back over to Europe and making a stop to see me up in England before touring the continent. I really do love meeting people from the tinternet and being able to stay with someone who actually lives in the country you’re visiting is so much more fun and realistic to what it’s like than being a regular tourist…the only downside is, like my trip to Paraguay a few years ago, it hurts so much more to leave and dragging myself through Chicago airport alone was pretty painful.

Went to the Game of Thrones exhibit in Belfast: Belfast’s a nice city to visit, though a lot smaller than I was expecting, and the exhibit was a lot of fun with my friends. Aaaand it only cost around £100 travel and hostel included.

Saw the Gromit Exhibition and a bunch of other cool shit in Bristol: Reason #1 to live in Bristol: we have Aardman. If you haven’t seen my photos, living down in the west country meant that I got to see all 81 gromits which were for the Grand Appeal which raises money for Bristol Children’s Hospital.

Stuff I hope to get better at next year

Sticking to 1 thing at a time: Pimoroni recently said on twitter about a project “we’re makers. It’ll always be 90% finished”. This is a really bad habit I need to get out of, and I intend to do that by first finishing my Java app for my phone, and then moving on to other stuff. With having less time I seem to have grasped this easier, but I do need to go back and tie up loose ends with everything ranging from doing a proper video of my ranger project working, to my twitter LCD getting tidied up and parts of it re-coded as I lost most of the thread code (which I hadn’t yet blogged about properly…), to waywayway back, the games I produced with Adam, Ryan and Josh being cleaned up and completed so I have stuff that says I can finish something and we have actual stuff to download on betajester. I said last year I’ll “finish what I start”…I’ve not really managed that this year…

Confidence and networking: Confidence is kind of a hard one to crack…I don’t actually know how confident I seem, once I get talking to someone about something I’m passionate about I can go for hours, but with networking I think I need to apply Dr. Sue Black’s rule: “speak to one person at every event”. Normally this happens naturally with folks starting to talk to me (I have no idea why…), but there’s occasions where I’ve been too intimidated by speakers to actually go up and say “I found this interesting, could you give me tips how to get to x?”. I also need to get used to handing out business cards because I have around 245 I need to get rid of…

Asking for help: I hate asking for help in person. Part of it is fear of confrontation and part of it is pride. Ok, most of it’s the first one. I do this at work, I do this at conferences, and it’s really silly. If you see me at a jam or a hackspace looking stressed and looking around, it probably means I need help, but I’m scared to ask anyone even though I know most people in the room would jump over a desk to fix things for other people (I would. Maybe. if the desk didn’t have stuff on it…). So I want to get rid of this and get impulsive to say “I need help” the minute I realise it, rather than sitting there over-thinking it.

Things to do before I finish in Bristol

11th December from the backup vaults of David Whale’s email inbox…

This was going to be “things to do next year” but that seems a bit like “I’ll start my diet tomorrow” kind of attitude. I did have a list somewhere on here but I think I’ll limit it a little. Anyway here we go!

1. Actually go to a Bristol digital/web folk/ruby/python meet up. I joined several meet up groups when bored/alone and the only one I’ve dared to go to is the games hub. I’m still a bit intimidated attending and knowing I’ll be the only girl, I have to be honest, but I really need to stop doing that…also since I’ve had friends I’ve got less motivated to go to stuff.

2. Make a simple app for my phone. I’m thinking of doing a weasleys clock – if you’re not familiar, in Harry Potter the weasleys have a clock tracking where family members are. Whilst idk if I can afford all my family members GPS modules plus controllers for them, my two sisters have smart phones so I’m figuring writing an app tracking myself would be a good place to start. Eventually I’ll infiltra-i mean ask permission to test it with my family.
The app would also be a good way to start in android development as I do need to do some Java and location services are used in lots of apps.

3. Look round UWE/Bristol electronics departments. Whilst its unlikely I’ll be back for masters as they’re more pricey at Bristol, no harm in having a nosey.

4. Start practising numerical reasoning. I suck at these tests and they’re important if I want to get onto a grad scheme, so I want to have them cracked and get into practising repeatedly by the time I’m back at Hull. To any other comp sci students, and also students from other courses like finance and business, you should also do this. I know many companies use them because I did a lot applying for summer placements and flunked pretty much all of them. I’m OK at maths, but not quick maths. I don’t intend for this to stop me from getting my dream job after university (I still don’t know what that is) as it did with summer applications.

5. Have a list of masters courses and graduate schemes I will apply to in September time. One of my friends said to me “stop stressing so much about what you’re doing next you have loads of time”. Erm. I don’t think that’s true. As well as experience the year down here has made me pause for thought and focussed my brain. When I get back I know for a fact grad schemes for 2015 will close by at minimum December, and if you apply on or close to the deadline the position may already be gone. As I don’t know if I want to leave or study a masters, I’m applying for both and seeing what turns up. The only thing I know I want is something exciting, like python for NASA (yes I have googled it. I need to be an American citizen to do that -_-), so please feel free to fire jobs that sound cool my way. That’s not yo say I won’t look at less spacey jobs, but I want something that I’m excited to work on.

I think that’s enough for now. I could go to 10 but I don’t think I’d check them all off or I’d forget.