The end of my (formal) education

It’s a weird feeling, being finished something that I’ve been doing for most of my life. It seemed like it was never ending at the time, but the last few years have gone past so quickly that it doesn’t feel like I’ve just finished my degree.

I’ve spent the last 4 years learning various topics in Computing, from software development to business information management, networking and web development. In Ireland the CAO, based on your preferences, determines what college you’re going to attend. I was pretty careful with this choice as I knew there were a lot of differences between computing science courses in each of the colleges and universities in Dublin. I wanted something practical where I not only learn about something and how it works, but that I get a chance to see it in action, try it myself and learn how to do it. The theoretical side of computer science is just as important, but for me I learn a lot better and faster by doing. I attended a lot of open days at various institutions while I was still in secondary school to see what one is best suited for me. Reading posts from others, i was strongly considering the Institute of Technology in Tallaght as there was a Computing and IT Management stream available there. This ended up being my first choice which I received automatically when my final results came out (440 points, not bad eh?)

Looking back at it now, the Computing course at ITT Dublin was a love-hate relationship, like a lot of people’s experience with their course in college. Most modules were fantastic with great lecturers and great learning topics. Modules with the most amount of interactivity were rated highly from everyone, topics like Networking where we had a physical networking lab to work with real Cisco products, or many of our software development modules in Java, C# or C++ naturally had a high level of interactiveness.

The overall skills that I’ve walked away with are highly desirable in today’s IT sector, which is huge selling factor to the success rate of the degree. It’s incredibly straight forward to walk into a Junior/ Entry-level position with these skills, and as it’s all practical knowledge across multiple languages, this broadens the opportunities for the junior developer.

The syllabus for software development included Java, C++ and C#, with other skills like Web Development with HTML, CSS and Javascript, and Shell scripting thrown in too. I’m pretty sure this has been changed for something more modern / desirable in the industry now, this is a great trait of the course at Tallaght, as the syllabus is updated at least every 5 years to stay relevant to industry requirements. Module content is updated more frequently too, as I had a lot of lecturers using new technology to give us experience with it.

One issue that I had with the course is that it’s too broad. It attempts to cover a huge range of topics each year, which has its positives and negatives. If you’re comparable to that of a sponge, you will learn a variety of technology skills, rather than being focused solely on say, databases, or networking. This is great for general knowledge no matter what role you end up in, however I think a stronger emphasis on development is needed, particularly in 3rd year. It’s at this stage where the focus should shift from learning how to program, to programming professionally in an enterprise setting, so interview questions, strong understanding of core concepts etc. are very important. This is one thing I felt lacking when I began looking for a graduate position, as I had very little experience with the interview process and the process when you’re a developer. More coverage of Design Patterns is definitely a must, and I hope the Spring framework has been introduced by now.

My final year GPA score is 3.54, which awards me with a First Class Honours! I’m delighted to be graduating with such a good result, and I’m fortunate to have a job ready and waiting for me in September in Dublin city. Industry interest for graduates from Tallaght has been a great boost to all graduate’s confidence, many of whom are now already employed. My learning experience doesn’t end here, however. Keeping myself up-to-date with technology and learning new techniques is something I shall be doing for the foreseeable future.