Vincent Cheung

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

The secret to being a grad student

Here's my secret to suceeding as a grad student:
Do whatever you want to do and don't tell your prof until you've done it

I realized after advising Sars about her current situation, that I've just gone and done my own thing many times and didn't tell Brendan until I had done it and had some preliminary results. Sometimes Brendan is indifferent to the idea when I first mention it, but I will go and do it anyways, and after I show him results, he's impressed. Other times, the idea just comes to me and I just do it without telling Brendan and show him if it turns out. This is how I developed my distributed computing system, did a lot of the "award winning" video epitome work, and factorgrams. I often found myself doing similar things at Microsoft. Nebojsa didn't always know what I was doing, except that I was doing "stuff" and he loved that.

My advice:
  1. Do what you enjoy doing because then work doesn't feel like work

  2. Don't be afraid to do things without specific approval from your prof (or even mentioning it) in order to satisfy #1

Well, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying just do your own thing and don't listen to your prof. I'm saying, listen to your prof, talk with your prof, but also take the initiative and don't feel that everything you do has to be approved by your prof. Sometimes you just have to take things into your own hands.

Of course, your mileage may vary. Both Brendan and Nebojsa are pretty easy going and don't micro-manage me and I'm able to put myself on cruise control between meetings. But if you've got an inkling about something and want to try it out, I say just do it. You don't have to tell your prof everything that you're doing (unless you're using expensive lab equipment, etc.). I don't mean you have to dedicate months, weeks, or even days to it. Just explore the idea, try it out, and if it looks promising, show your prof and pursue it further, if not, drop it. Of course, if your prof has you working on something, don't neglect it, keep doing that, but you can still work on your own thing on the side. Consider it a 20% personal project, Google style. Just for the record, I was doing this naturally before I had heard of Google's 20% rule. Though I don't consciously try and dedicate exactly 20% of my time to doing my own thing, I just do what seems appropriate.

This works for me, but as with most things, use your own judgement.

12 Comments:

Arief Shah. said...

where are u studying?
great blog...by d way..i'm from malaysia...ehh...please reply...aa...in my blog..hahaa...so u are studying medic?

Vince said...

computer engineering

Rob said...

how about an update already?? I need my vince fix!

Vince said...

I was meaning to blog, but between doing all the work needed to write yet another paper, my trip to Seattle, organizing stuff for Google, etc., I've been pretty busy. I'll be blogging soon.

You should really speak for yourself. I don't see you updating very frequently :p

Btw, I'm in Phoenix airport right now... umm... ya, it's quite of a roundabout way to get to Seattle :p

herself the elf said...

Vince fix? I think someone has a fan club. You know what comes with fan clubs? Celebrity gossip. Like this: Vince was recently spotted canoodling with an unidentified Starbucks sipping ski-bunny. Sources said he was overheard saying, "Maybe this is off on a tangent baby, but what's you're sine?" [insert infamous Rob growl here]

Vince said...

Alright, alright! I'll post. I'll post! Jeez, I just got into Seattle...

Princess Sarah said...

omg you guys want gossip?! I work in the same office with him everyday. I have PURE vince office gossip, and I'll tell all...to the highest bidder of course!

herself said...

Everyday huh? So you must have seen him at his best and his worst. Rob--do we have anything we can trade her? Sorry Vince, if you don't post we'll just draw our own conclusions, and we are very good at elaborate conclusion drawing. Hope you're having a good time away!

Rob said...

We can trade information. You give us the dirt on Vince, I'll give you the dirt on Jill. Deal?

H. the elf said...

Hey! She doesn't need the dirt on me!

Rob said...

mwuahahahaha. The tables have turned!

Vince said...

What the hell? I'm gone for like a day and you guys are all plotting against me?...

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