Hung Truong: The Blog!

I’m in Ur Universities, Graduating Ur Programs

May 10, 2009 | 4 Minute Read


At some point in the last week or two, I graduated from the University of Michigan School of Information with a Master’s of Science in Information. Yes, that last sentence was totally for SEO purposes.

I figured I should write a blog post about it since I made a big deal about grad school in the past. So much so that I even made a blog for it. Maybe I should cross-post there. Nah, that blog is long-dead. In fact, it was totally dead until I just checked it and fixed a php bug that’s probably been there for two months… Oops!

It’s fun to look back at my old posts and see what I was thinking (or attempting to portray what I was thinking) at the time. I went through a bunch of my posts when I was writing this post up, so I guess I can skip a lot and focus on the University experience.

When I went to visiting days, I just coming from an interview with Google that I thought I had aced. Apparently I was wrong about that. I came in with a sort of nonchalant attitude. I think this was kinda good (being too serious is never a good thing) but also kinda bad (I might have not taken the visit as seriously as I should’ve). At the time I thought there were a pretty large number of non-technical peers for an HCI program, regardless of how interdisciplinary it was supposed to be. In hindsight I think this concern was reasonable for a CS person. I guess I don’t think of myself as a CS person anymore, though.

One shock of the program I had to overcome was that people outside of it don’t know what to think of it. In my numerous job fair experiences, I noticed that recruiters really didn’t know what to do with me. “You have a computer science background, but you don’t want to write software!?” Well, sort of but not really. I lucked out and talked to a recent graduate who worked for Google. He told me that the ideal position I was describing had a name: Product Manager. That exchange really helped me solidify my goals for what I wanted to do after I graduated and what I should accomplish before I graduated.

I should also note that I’m pretty lucky that I have a background in CS. Many of my classmates and peers in the program do not have a CS background, which makes finding an internship or job even harder for them. In a field that’s so new, we have a lot of explaining to do about why the skills we’re learning are valuable to employers. I’m able to explain it in relative terms (I’m like a software engineer + 1) whereas others have to define who they are from a blank slate, at least in terms the recruiters can understand.

I had some great opportunities to do academic-style research. I did two independent studies: one on an audience-aware public display (using bluetooth, facial detection and a large touch screen display) and another on the reputation system of a large social network, CouchSurfing! For the latter I co-authored a paper. We’ll see if it gets into the conference June 1st! I tried to make sure that I experienced a full range of academia including normal classes, research and being involved with a student org. I think I did a good job, though I feel I might have overextended myself a bit.

I sense this post is getting a bit tl;dr, as many of my posts tend to drift towards. So maybe I’ll just conclude. Back when I started thinking about applying to graduate schools, I did so because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. At this point, I think I have a better understanding of what I want to do, generally. I should probably try and escape the ivory tower of academia, at least for a while, and see if doing real industry stuff is a good idea. Then again, I have been doing my own thing for as long as I’ve been programming. I had thought of applying to PhD programs but that process was cut short when I remembered how much I hate applying to grad school and also after I got a job offer in November. I think that making the leap and attending school for another two years was definitely worth it in terms of professional and personal growth. I don’t know if I can say the same for spending ~$70 for a cap, gown and hood that I wore for one ceremony…