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Monthly Archives: July 2014

Math and Game Design

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My epic quest to encounter more math…

Math, really?  Yes! I have come to the point in my studies that I feel the need to brush up on my math skills.  I have been reading many resources and on multiple occasions I have discovered that a pitfall some may succumb to is not taking enough math when pursuing a degree in Computer Science.  Apart from this research, many of the books I’ve been reading mention that although an extensive background in math is not necessarily a requirement, it helps.  Some of these resources even add that the better programmers have backgrounds in Mathematics as well.

Well, that’s fine and dandy but what now?

I am in the situation where I have fulfilled the Math requirement for my degree, but I took these classes over 10 years ago (oh boy I feel old).  In addition to this, my double major is already getting a bit pricey so I do not want to take any additional credits that won’t go directly to my degree requirement.  My solution? MIT Open Courseware…

What is MIT Open Courseware exactly? 

A few posts ago, I wrote about MOOCS, massive online open courses.  MIT makes a huge chunk of their courses available, and many of them have assessments, audio/video lectures, and final exams so that you can test yourself on concepts and retention.  Although you do not receive credit for taking the courses, who can put a price on gaining knowledge? For me, it is not about receiving credit, it is about brushing up on concepts and developing a mental muscle that will ultimately make me a better programmer in the long run.

What classes will you take?

Here’s the thing… lol.  I have this thing where I am a learning junky.  I am that girl that can not sleep because she has to read one more chapter of that coding book (like last night).  I am saying this because once I started researching which classes I want to take, my list grew from about 3 or 4 courses and now it’s at 23 lol.  Just to put that into perspective, the number of classes required to get a full 4 year MIT degree is about 35-36 courses.

Once I started browsing, I said to myself, “Self, why not learn a bit more while you are at it?”.  Why limit myself to just learning some Math, why not see what all of the hype is about?  What started as supplementing my learning with Math, turned into supplementing my learning in general.  The mentality behind my decisions were to choose courses that I:

1) know I will need some extra practice with.  In these situations, I am already taking the equivalent at my University, but I want to take the MIT OCW version to solidify my learning.

2) fit the requirements of MIT students.  I took a look at the Math requirements for a Software Engineering degree at MIT and found most of the equivalent classes. I also added a few courses that interest me in general and have nothing to do with any particular structure.

Yeah, but the courses?

Here are the courses that I came up with.  Remember this was catered to me specifically based on my interests, the classes that I’m taking at University, and the requirements of a MIT Software Engineering degree.

Ok here they are (in no particular order):

  • Intro to Computer Science and Programming
  • Computation Structures
  • Elements of Software Construction
  • Introduction to Algorithms
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Computer Language Engineering
  • Probabilistic Systems Analysis
  • Mathematics for Computer Science
  • Design and Analysis of Algorithms
  • Practical Programming in C
  • Intro to C Memory Management & C++ OOP
  • Effective Programming in C and C++
  • Physics I
  • Physics II
  • Calculus I
  • Calculus II
  • Differential Equations
  • Linear Algebra
  • Computational Methods of Scientific Programming
  • Logic I
  • Modal Logic
  • Decisions, Games and Rational Choice

Um… that’s a lot…

Welp, it is, especially in addition to work, a full time school schedule, and a game dev internship.  From now until I get my masters, I have quite a few years, so I will use these resources to supplement my learning on a more structured bases.  Right now, I already use MOOCs to supplement my learning, but now I will approach it from a different angle.  Instead of looking for materials to help me with the classes I’m taking, I will use MOOCs to help me learn tangential topics that will help me in the long run.  I believe it’s a win-win in my opinion.

Mmmmm Yummy Math… 

All in all, I’m extremely excited about this new adventure.  I have always believed that knowledge is power and MIT OCW is just another tool to gain knowledge with a bit of a challenge added to it!

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2014 in Programming

 

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Women in Programming – The Great Debate

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Recently, a friend of mine in the technology field asked me a very interesting question.  She wanted to know why in the heck did I choose to go into the software development field.  She knows of my history with being a female in management and was curious as to why I decided to go into an even greater male-dominated field.  The only response I could think of was to tell her that I hit like a girl.

Huh?  You hit like a girl?

Well, recently I saw an ad by “Always” that asked adults to demonstrate how to run and throw “like a girl”.  The adults (women included) ran dramatically and flimsily, basically demeaning themselves and every female they ever met.  When they asked young girls to run and throw “like a girl”, they ran with all of their might, and threw as hard as they could.  Why? Because they ran like themselves, strong young women.  Their minds had not be hindered to think that doing anything “like a girl” was demeaning.

I have been blessed to have a strong mother as a role model, and I’ve always believed that I can do anything that my male counterparts could do.  I don’t think of this consciously, it’s engrained within me.  Actually, my thought process is if someone else can do it, then so can I — male or female.  So, when I told my friend that I hit like a girl, I meant that I made the decision based on my passions, not based on current industry standards.

But her question forced me to think harder…

I remember the feeling of always being the only female amongst my peers, and in many situations the only African American.  I come from a family where race didn’t matter, but it was hard not to notice in situations where there was a room full of white males, and then there was me.  I remember feeling excluded even if it was only because they edited their usual conversations in hope of not offending me.  There were situations where I would find out about outings where they would bond, but I was never included.  Yes, this was not the main point of running a business, but regardless, the feeling did sting.  I learned to be strong and self motivated.  I learned to do everything harder… study… sell… learn… train…

I honestly have never worked in any other environment.  I want to be a game developer because I am passionate about games and creating things.  I feel epic amounts of joy when I figure out new ways to code and push myself to learn as much as I can.  I feel amazing when I learn a new programming paradigm and language.  I understand what I’m getting myself into, but that never stopped me in the past, it will not stop me now.

Does the absence of females in programming mean that we are bad programmers?

Absolutely NOT!  From birth, we were encouraged to be domesticated.  We were given dolls when men were given fire trucks.  Marketing and advertisements have portrayed us holding babies while men are portrayed behind computers and wearing suits.  This trend is shifting as of late, but much of the change has happened in recent years — not enough time to offset the affects.  There is an epidemic around the world that still casts women in the mere shadows of men.  It will take time to change this epidemic, but in the meantime, women have to shed their fear and follow their dreams regardless of the terrain ahead.  Long story short, our absence does not make us bad programmers, we just need to open our eyes and our horizons to the possibilities.

Toxicity and the Good Ol’ Boys Club…

Both professionally and personally, I have been in contact with the painful outcomes of male-dominated environments.  Professionally this club manifested itself in me being passed up for well deserved promotions and me making far less than my peers for many years and in several different positions.  Personally, I’ve experienced the gaming community where girls were treated like inferior beings that deserved to spend their time in the kitchen.  Yet, I carved my way in both environments.  I let my work ethic speak for itself and in gaming I was accepted through playing well and being consistent.

Is what we face as women fair? 

Not even slightly, but neither is life.  I can say one thing, I am a stronger person because of my experiences.  I have so much perseverance and I believe in my capabilities.  I also know that I can push myself past my limits to achieve things that I didn’t even think were remotely possible.  The best I can do each day is try to dispel the notions that doing anything “like a girl” is a negative thing.  The best I can do is work hard to learn enough to be a valuable asset within any company that I choose to work.  Last, but certainly not least, I can bring myself to work every day.  I don’t want to be “one of the boys” — I want to be a girl, that just so happens to be a programmer.

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2014 in STEM

 

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