One Ring

I’m sporting my first piece of jewelry, in the form of an iron ring on my right pinky. It’s the sign of a Canadian engineer who has taken the Iron Ring oath to uphold a certain level of ethical behaviour. The ceremony was this past Saturday. I won’t talk any more about the ceremony, since it’s intended to be a quiet, private thing, not an event to be described.

However, the ring, well, it symbolizes for me the (near-)completion of 5 years of continuous schooling and internships.

The engineering program at Waterloo hasn’t been easy. We’ve lost around half our class and I hope with all my heart that everyone that’s made it this far will graduate this June.

Five years ago, I was wrapping up my high school days, and just informed that I was accepted to Waterloo, Toronto, Queen’s and McGill. I hadn’t yet decided on Waterloo; in fact Waterloo gave me the worst offer of them all. I remember my calculus teacher in grade 12, Mr. Taylor, asked me if Waterloo was the only co-op school out of the bunch. It was, and he highly recommended that I try it. I respected Mr. Taylor a great deal. He helped make calculus interesting for the class, which is a pretty tough thing to do. Between him and another teacher at the school, with whom I didn’t have any classes, but graduated from the Waterloo mathematics program, I was eventually convinced a co-op program might be interesting.

Life certainly would have been different had I gone to any of the other schools, but I don’t regret my decisions. Sitting here with a Microsoft offer signed and a late July start date booked, I feel alright. We’ll see what the next few years bring, but one thing is for sure – I’m not going to settle for anything that makes me unhappy. That’s also not to say I’m averse to hardship. I simply need to know that I’m working toward something that I can be content with.

The ring is a tangible representation of the hard work I’ve put into the program, and while I won’t always look back with great fondness, I will always appreciate the opportunities the program has provided me.

Done 4A

There are no more obstacles left in my path to Redmond!

My last exam of the 4A semester was earlier this evening, ECE 418, and it went quite smoothly. I now have two weeks before I ship off to the United States. I plan on using that time to prepare for graduate school applications in the fall and go out and do lots of photography, enjoy the last days of summer. I’m headed to Stratford (Ontario) this weekend for a photo trek. I hear it’s a nice town.

Wow, these past months have flown by. It hasn’t really sunk in yet.

Commence 4A

Now that it’s a bit over a week into the new semester, I’ve had a chance to sit through all the classes I’m enrolled in plus one, ECON 231 International Economics. Without a doubt there’s a different mindset when approaching this set of courses, because I selected each and every one of them. These are classes that I’m interested in and that makes it easier to apply oneself. I was one of four lucky people to get an override to attend ECON 231, so I’m sporting 5 courses instead of the typical 4 that is required for this project semester (fourth year design project).

Thus far, I can say without a doubt that ECE 438 Digital Integrated Circuits is my favorite course. I’m so glad that sucking it up through ECE 231 and subsequently ECE 332 are starting to pay off. Semiconductors are just such gosh darned interesting stuff. I had a chat with the professor this semester about topics on process engineering and it seems like that’s mainly a topic for graduate studies. Hrm…. I’ll jot that down on the list. It’s really too bad companies like Intel don’t hire co-ops, although I completely understand why. We’d be absolutely useless in the field.

I’ve been cramming GRE vocabulary for the last few weeks in preparation for taking the GRE, hopefully in mid to late June. While I’m very excited about going to work for Microsoft in the fall and of course would be delighted if they were to extend a full time offer, I want to keep my options open, and graduate studies is one I’m considering. In that vein, I’m also considering doing an Undergraduate Research Assistantship this semester, if I can find a professor interested in giving me the opportunity.

On the extracurricular front, I’ll be in the photo club again, probably as an executive, and I’ll be back in the university orchestra after a one semester absence. This semester shouldn’t be too crammed, so I feel I can devote some time to music again. I know I’m being a bit hypocritical after writing about possibly being on the wrong side of the conductor, but after turning down an urgent plea for percussionists last semester, I’m partly doing this to assuage my own guilt for (sort of) letting the group down.

Alright, I’m off to play a bit of tennis. I just love the great weather!

Goodies Await my Return from Waterloo

It was the final day of lectures for the 3B semester at the University of Waterloo, and I now find myself writing this from the comfort of home sweet home, where I’ll spend the next week or so, studying for final exams.

With that in mind, I came home to a whole pile of goodies that demanded my immediate attention. It goes without saying, there was little in the way of studying this evening.

A whole pile of goodies await me

Deserving of an analysis which I’ll leave for another time, the 3G iPhone hasn’t impressed me much, with my horrendous luck with the hardware, awful device performance (third-party verified), and the piss-poor iTunes application, which is necessary for the management of the device. Everyone says it’s karma for my hatin’ on Apple… Regardless of the reason, it hasn’t been the most pleasing of devices to use. It’s no longer aligned with what I want in a smartphone.

Enter the Nokia E71. Long story short, listed the E71-2 for a stunning $320CAD a short while ago. At about half the cost of a BlackBerry Bold (my other replacement consideration), I decided it was worth the risk to try a device on an unfamiliar platform. Worse comes to worst, I can sell a mint E71 on eBay, at least recouping my cost. Plus who doesn’t like new gadgets to play with? 🙂 I’m stretching the device out right now; hopefully I’ll have something to detailed to write later next week.

The Office 2007 Ultimate package came along with the book on designing forms for InfoPath from, you guessed it, Microsoft. My hiring manager at Microsoft kindly sent me some materials to help me get acquainted with the product I’ll be working on. That’s $1000 of software and textbook there…

Finally, the three CDs are from the marketing director for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, who contacted me after reading the post on my experience at last season’s performance of Holst’s The Planets. I gave her permission to use a quote or two for marketing purposes and was kindly offered a TSO Live CD. She sent three. 🙂 I’m looking forward to listening to them as I study this next week. If you’re reading this, thanks! It’s great to see every sort of organization keeping the pulse of the online community.

One Year Til MY Iron Ring Ceremony

Yesterday, a bunch of dressed up, half drunk engineers invaded our lecture room to pronounce their last day before the Iron Ring Ceremony, a ceremony that (almost) all engineering students look forward to. The symbolism of the iron ring itself is best left to another article at another time, but in the context of the engineering program at Waterloo, the ceremony marks the culmination of 5 years (or more) of hard work and harder complaining.

Pre Iron Ring Ceremony romp

As I sat there, glad for the temporary respite from circuit fault testing, I realized two things:

  1. I will probably be amongst those raucous engineers in a year.
  2. I will probably be amongst those raucous engineers in one year.

It’s now one week before the end of lectures of the 3B semester, and it seems such a short time ago that I was writing about the approach of midterms and reading week. This semester, more than any so far, has veritably flown by – projects, labs, and assignments have contributed to the feeling that I wrapped up my semester at Indigo but a few days ago, when in fact it has been 3 months. I sense myself growing tired of so many things about where I am, and whereas during any other semester, I’d simply look to the approaching co-op, I only have another 4 months of school to look forward to this time. I’m finally experiencing what a typical university career feels like.

To keep myself from going insane, I’ve been injecting little bits of interest into my every day life. What I didn’t consider but a year ago now keeps me content: photography. It’s one of those activities that allows a curious mind to wander and look at things in a different light. It’s possibly the single biggest thing I’m looking forward to in the summer. At least the drab greyness that is Waterloo in the winter will be replaced by some color. With only 4 courses (and 1 additional slot for work on the fourth year design project), my schedule has large swaths of emptiness, pretty conducive to going out and shooting some photos.

I’m also spending some more time researching topics of interest outside (or extensions) of course material. Among the topics are semiconductors, processor architecture, and some program management related fields. I recently picked up two books on the third topic, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and Making Things Happen by Scott Berken. These two books were recommended by Joel Spolsky at the end of his wonderful article on program management and were very well reviewed at Amazon.

Making a proactive change to my schedule, I’ve begun studying for final exams already, starting with ECE 327, Digital Systems Engineering. There’s about 300 pages of lectures notes to go over since midterms. Split into little chunks, it’s my hope that I’ll be able to properly digest it by the time the exam rolls around.