Sunday, June 21, 2015

To individuals interested to be an Instructor at ICS

or What I wish I knew when I applied as Instructor at ICS..

  • The pay is not high. It is just enough if you are only supporting yourself and you enjoy a low cost of living.
  • You should have the intention and commitment to complete a graduate degree in CS. It is a total waste of time if you do not have any plan to complete one. You'd be better off in the industry, earning more experience and money.
  • Finish your graduate studies in 3-4 years, not too early and not too late. This must be your ultimate goal. Your academic career officially starts after completing the MS degree. If you finish too early, you will lack some skills in research(hilaw). If you finish late, like me, it will be difficult to get promoted(bulok). If you are not yet finished in 6 years, leave. There is the Up-or-Out rule. Also remember that you alone (not your adviser or others) is responsible for finishing your degree. Start thinking about your thesis from day one.
  • You need to a have a passion for learning, not necessarily teaching. Teaching can be learned along the way especially if you have lots of knowledge to share to your students. You will be able to explain things clearly if you are continuously learning about your field. It is a fact that in UP research is rewarded more than teaching.
  • Understand and blend in the culture of ICS, CAS, UPLB, and UP. The faculty and staff are generally supportive, kind, and friendly. Better not to piss them off. Follow the rules and observe due dates. Get to know the person who handles what. Later in your career you will probably become an administrator so better learn about ICS culture and processes now. Carefully navigate the politics that exists. Know the meaning of collegiality and academic freedom.
  • Teach the subjects you hate. While a student, you probably hated courses such as CMSC 125 and CMSC 137 (haha!) but loved CMSC 11 or CMSC 123. Teaching the subjects you hate will be a challenge but will be rewarding. It will force you to study, thus develop research skills. It will also enhance your interpersonal skills since you will need to ask for help from the more senior faculty members (mentoring).
  • Write. Create handouts, tutorials, essays, guides, blogs, articles. Write  anything that comes out of your silly little head. If you are serious about working in the academe, writing is a very important skill. Even now, I am still struggling in this area.
  • Code. Being an instructor does not excuse you from writing complete programs or systems. You may be writing some sample codes for your class but that is not enough. Scrap the "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." mentality. Create your own hobby programming projects. You might complain of not having time for such projects. That's b.s.! Industry people I know who really work from 8 to 5 can still do projects on the side. Also, if you plan to leave teaching, then at least you are still marketable as a dev.
  • Minimize committee work. Join at most two committees, specifically college-level committees. Joining college-level committees will introduce you to some senior administrators who might influence your tenure application later. 
  • Don't play too much computer games. I wasted a few years being addicted to MU Online, an MMORPG. Those years could have been used to finish my thesis or to exercise. I do miss Samson, my very powerful wizard.
  • Don't please students. Your job is to make sure that when your students graduate, they can solve any computing problem presented to them by their employers. They should be able to provide technical and computational solutions, not wishy-washy small talks. I know this can be difficult to accomplish, but simply put, that is your job. Giving them too much "consideration" is totally wrong. Give challenging exercises and exams but be fair. Students will hate you for now but they will thank you later. Don't worry too much about student evaluations (if you are doing your job well), worry more about peer evaluations.
  • Don't mix personal, social, and spiritual lives with work. Mixing them can cause conflicts. This is difficult to do but it must be done or all will suffer unless they are managed properly.
  • Don't be selfish. Share what you have and what you know. However, don't let the system abuse you.
  • Find senior faculty to idolize. If you can ask that faculty to mentor you, much better. Study how he/she thinks, how he/she solves problems, how he operates. Be like him/her or be better than him/her. I have three idols in the institute (Sir Eli, Sir Jimmy, and Sir Freddy when he was still in ICS).
  • Improvise. You must find ways to do what you need to do despite limited resources. This is UP, resources are scarce here, but it still manages to be the top school in the country. Now you know one reason why.

(DISCLAIMER: The items above do not refelect the views of my employer. They are entirely my own and mostly based from experience.)