From Arts to Computer Science, I found my purpose
I walked into a class of 65 for a Discrete Mathematics class, if I’m able to recall correctly. Sat with a group of girls with their heads shoved into a math problem; too busy to notice the loud calls from the guys around who had already come up with the answer. As I settled down nervously and pulled out a sheet to solve the problem, I looked around and thought “Is this where I really want to be?”
Man, I should have just accepted the fashion designing admit. I spent precisely 9 years drawing, painting, and dreaming of a career in fine arts & fashion. Planned my entire life ahead just to end up with a bunch of computer nerds (don’t mind, I’m one myself ) who cared less about computers and more about getting placed. I was stuck. I’d think every day about it, “I’m not someone who fell in love with coding when I was 12 like how they show in TV advertisements, hell I don’t even know what programming means”, whilst sitting amongst a group of kids who had experience in C, Java, Python and in tools whose names sounded more alien than the word alien itself. Am I ever going to be an average student? Yes average, I wasn’t going to overestimate myself in a stranger field at any cost.
Fast forward to three years later, I just want to go back and tell my younger self, you will make us proud. No, I did not top. My fear of failing is the only reason that brought me here today. I came out of that degree with knowledge and goals and interests, and I think, that is my win. Outside class, I spent time researching fields, the core of every subject. When a particular subject excited me or kept me from sleeping or drawing fashion models in class, I took a note. I took courses and more courses, followed people and their work. I found a weird joy in reading research topics or questions. The thrill of finding an answer to a question, though not as simple as I made it sound, made me want to get into research. I love reading about science, history and I felt like I would enjoy any kind of job in research. A moment of revelation was when I took a security course that discussed a research topic, I had that “This is it” moment. I loved how security was different, it had a more altruistic purpose than other subjects in Computer Science, with a touch of thrill if you’re on the red side. In that moment, I found my academic goal. I decided to pursue blue academically and red by self-studying, hoping to score some bounties. I honestly can’t imagine a 9–5 desk career, I want to work in a lab, with one purpose and give it my all. Something that I had to pull myself away from writing in my statement of purpose is that, I want to make a difference. Not to an organization, but in original research. Something that makes security better, maybe more usable or secure. I remember when I was in the 6th grade and I telepathically thanked Gunpei Yokoi for inventing the Game Boy, I want to be that person to someone else one day, however dramatic it may sound.
When I look back, I realize that I wouldn’t have put in this amount of effort if I took up fashion designing, I would have been good at it and would never feel the pressure to push myself past my limits. I learned as much outside the class as I did inside, made some meaningful connections, published my very first paper and freelanced to earn my first pay. I graduated with more than what I came here for. Oh, but I still despise Discrete Mathematics.
We all figure out our ways in the end, don’t we?