‘The best way out is always through’ goes a saying by Robert Frost which always bewildered me until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and I could see this saying coming true.
In these tough times I see students enduring delayed start of courses, online lectures and labs, multiple parallel pressures to get to the end of the semester and make up for the time lost when no classes were held. If you are a student and reading this, have you stopped to think why is it even needed to become part of a race and take everything head on?
Culturally, we are groomed to follow the herd and race against timelines right from start and which does help when we get onto jobs or take on anything later in life. But what we don’t realize is that there are times when we need to sit back and think before we start to follow what everyone else is doing. I certainly have been guilty of being one of those who race against time to finish everything that is expected of them.
Though late, I did make some really simple shifts which have helped me and I will cover some of those in this article. I will also share my experiences of what I see has helped students around me in getting prepared for a better future. So here are my top 5 picks on what could help.
Prioritise – Every morning I prioritise 2-3 most important actions that I want to achieve in the day. I put them on a to-do list and strike off as I achieve them. That helps me stay focussed on what I want to achieve rather than just going with the flow. Moreover, striking off every action once it gets done gives me a great sense of achievement.
Get your time off – I accepted the fact that I was no machine and need my breaks . I began marking brief breaks on my calendar and though I miss many, the good thing I still get a few of them. I even plan what I could do in the short 10-min-breaks right from sipping tea to listening to music.
Do what you enjoy – While everyone says, “Learn something new,” I realised that keeping a goal of learning something ‘theoretically’ new all the time creates pressure. It really is not important to keep a hard goal such as this one dangling on us. I also realised that learning new things was giving me a feeling of relaxation or distraction from high pressure.
So, I signed up for short learning programs that were driven live online and learnt some things that I liked right from technology to painting. I believe that learning should never stop, even if it means reading a paragraph a day, we should always #KeepOnLearning but not with the pressure or hard goal of doing it but for just enjoying it.
Focus on Physical and Mental Well-being – The one thing that also helps me stay calm is my Yoga class and meditation that I try to weave into most of my days. These have intangible and amazing benefits that saved me from gloom during the lockdown times.
Future-Proof yourself – One of the key questions that bothers students is—how do they get ready for a better future, especially given the uncertainty that the pandemic has brought about. So I am sharing some ideas that I saw help students prepare for a better future.
Have you ever wondered why many people like solving jigsaw puzzles? One of the reasons is that at the end of working on fixing each piece, the whole picture emerges, which is truly satisfying. There is a lot in common between solving jigsaw puzzles and coding challenges or hackathons.
What is even better with coding challenges/hackathons is that they help you solve the world’s problems and that feels like a small give-back to the society in which we live; not to forget the immense learning experience from it.
Let me tell you the story of how hackathons came about before we get to how they help. The word “hackathon” is a combination of the words “hack” and “marathon”, where “hack” is used to mean exploratory programming.
Did you know that Mahatma Gandhi actually announced a Design Competition way back in 1929? He even announced One Lakh Rupees as the prize money! He wanted to encourage people to take up the spinning wheel and he was looking for engineers who could come up with a machine that would take in raw cotton as input on and produce yarn as output. Gandhiji recognized what technology could do and was way ahead of his times.
Competitive programming has grown with the Internet and one of the oldest competitions is the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) that required coders to write programs to solve a given set of problems. In 1975, an informal hobbyist society was formed – the Homebrew computer club. The objective of their gatherings was to exchange technological knowledge and ideas, as well as to collaborate on projects. In the 1990s, LAN parties brought together programmers and gamers and are often credited as an early form of hackathons.
Hackathons or coding contests give programmers the opportunity to learn, create and network. Just like nearly everyone has participated in a physical education class or some form of athletic activity, in the future, programming will become just another standard aspect of a well-rounded education.
From IBM we bring to students, coding contests and opportunities to learn from the IBM Hack Challenge, our virtual learning Initiative #KeepOnLearning, Project Build-a-thon and Call For Code, all of which help in learning as you team up to code and have fun. The theme of the Hack Challenge 2020 has been coding for a purpose and the Project Build-a-thon has been around learning and putting good tech to great use which students have benefitted from to become more employable.
Students have benefitted immensely from IBM Academic Initiative (ibm.com/academic), the platform that gives IBM’s enterprise grade software at no cost for students and faculty to learn. Many institutes have come forward to offer electives through IBM Skills Academy on Cloud, Data Science, AI, Quantum, IOT, Blockchain, Design Thinking and Cybersecurity. Quantum computing has certainly the ability of taking on the world with breakthroughs in every field.
I would urge each student to focus on mental well-being, manage their multiple activities well, possibly from some of the suggestions I have made earlier in this article, before they make the best of all the offerings for better employability and future proofing.
Last but not the least I would like to conclude by saying that let the world not baffle you with any unpleasantness; counter it with your calm and wisdom.