Study Computer Science part 2

Today we are living in a world driven by information technology. From school to work environment, from daily to social activities, knowing how to use a computer is becoming a necessity but to pursue a career in this field, you need to prepare early.

If you want to work in the Information Technology industry, you should start with a computing education as soon as possible. Even if your school does not provide computer classes, you can still learn from online tutorials (i.e., YouTube or MOOCs) whichever course you choose, you must take it seriously because learning computer requires a lot of efforts and commitment to succeed.

Contrary to popular beliefs, Computer Science is NOT difficult but it requires you to take your study seriously. The first class that you take is probably a programming class where you learn how to write code. Programming is the foundation of Computer Science and you need to develop good programming skills before you can go further. My advice is when you receive a programming assignment, you need to start right away. You will make mistake, a lot of mistakes, but you learn from these mistakes and advance to the next levels. Do not afraid of making mistakes, do not worry about making mistakes, everybody makes mistake because the ONLY WAY to learning programming is learning from mistakes.

Computer Science is the application of scientific knowledge to create software products. You cannot memorize formulas or theories like you learn in other subjects. You cannot “cram” for the exams. Stay up all night to memorize things before an exam will never work because all of the work in this field is practical, not theoretical. Computer science curriculum is based on multiple layers of knowledge where you must master one layer before going to the next. If you cannot master the programming skill, it would be difficult to continue to the next layer of design and architect. Without having good foundations, you will not go far. Therefore, it is important to take the time to learn and develop the skills and do not “shortcut” anything.

Learning to program for the first time is always challenging. But teaching programming class for the first-time learners is more challenging. I know some teachers like to start with the basic theories and concepts, but I always begin by asking students to “play” with the computer by writing some easy instructions for the computer to do such as writing a phrase: “Hello! My name is …” or “My name is … what is yours” then sending it to others in the class to get acquaintance. By doing that, students do not fear of programming. Of course, that was many years ago when the computer was something new to students. Today, most students came to class with laptops, tablets, mobile phone and a lot of programming skills. But to some students who are new to programming, I would advise them to start by using online resources BEFORE taking a programming class. The Internet provides thousands of online tutorials that can help anyone to learn from the basics to the most challenging concepts. By learning at their own pace, they will gain more confidence and develop their skills so they are readied when taking their formal programming class in school.

A few years ago, a student told me that he wanted to work in computer games industry because he likes to draw pictures but he did not like coding. I asked: “How do you draw pictures? He said: “By paper and pencil.” I explained: “To create computer animation pictures, you need to use a tool, not pencil and paper.” He asked: “What tool is it?” I answered: “Programming tool. You write code to tell the computer to draw the animated pictures for you. Without programming skills, you cannot create computer graphics. Programming is the instructions to tell the computer to do things. A computer is only a machine but it is your code that makes the computer do something. Everything in the computer games is based on the software, you cannot work in this field without knowing how to write code.”

Computer Science is NOT a field that you can study alone. Even you have the ability to work independently, but most of the computing works are teamwork. You need to collaborate and exchange information with others. Learning to study in a team and work with a team is essential as it offers a lot of benefits. One of the biggest benefits is that it will teach you how to work as part of a team and to be a team player. Once you graduate and enter the workplace, you will be readied to work in a team.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University
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