Recently, I had the opportunity to be part of QWCC (Qualcomm Women Collegiate Conference) – a two day event, to serve as a mentor and also a Judge for an Hackathon. I have been wanting to write about my key take away from this event. And, finally here it is.
QWCC’s goal is to help female freshman to senior students become more successful by providing them with pointers on development of technical and professional abilities , enabling them to build a network of peers while exposing them to industry. The event includes campus tours, lunch with the mentor , technical overviews , networking and development activities that included Hackathon. The event had about 50 students selected from across the country. As a mentor, on day one , I had the opportunity to connect with two students – one freshman and the other a senior. This session had me answering queries they had right from engineering as a career choice to being an engineer at Qualcomm. I enjoyed the fact that the girls were uninhibited and seemed to go by the adage : No question is silly. They asked me about my project at Q, why I choose this over other projects and what’s the most interesting and challenging part in it . It seemed like they were interested in understanding what makes an engineer at Q tick at the core ! While answering their questions, it seemed to ring a bell as to what is that I have enjoyed being at work.
On day two, I was part of a unique hackathon event that had these girls divided into small groups and teamed up with young middle school girls, to come up with a prototype of an idea under one of the three areas : health care, public safety or wearables. They could use Arduino, different types of sensors to prototype the idea in about 3-4 hours. The point of this event was to help the girls experience working in collaborative ensembles, develop leadership abilities and of course see how they utilize the technical learning and apply them to real world problems. It was pretty amazing to see these girls guide the middle school girls and involve them in the project and come up with “working” prototypes of ideas all within the allotted time. The room (pic above) was beaming with curiosity, enthusiasm and willingness to learn and explore. Many had not even worked on this platform before, they learnt it on the spot to prototype their idea. As the girls presented their prototypes and I continued with judging the event, I had begun to think about what happens to learning once we are out of school.
II. Never Stop Learning
I have always believed learning doesn’t and shouldn’t stop when we step out of school. It’s a continuous process. Isn’t the spirit of learning, exploring something that makes everyday interesting. Of course, the rewards and other desires are part of this journey, but isn’t enjoying the process the core of it? There have been innumerable articles online about how learning new things benefits our brain (ex : outlined here , based on nature journal article) and also helps as we age (npr article). There are also articles such as “how-developers-stop-learning: rise-of-the-expert-beginner” that highlight what happens particularly as a developer, when we begin work and stagnate after a certain point. This article is an interesting read and depicts a modified Dreyfus model of skill acquisition to show that when developer discontinues learning, he essentially ends up being an ‘expert beginner‘.
In addition, I found this article by Matthew D. Lieberman from UCLA about “Why we stop learning – paradox of Expertise“. He talks about why learning ceases once people begin working and most importantly why it should not. He particularly points out that as one rises up in career, it becomes harder for the person to let others know that he/she doesn’t know everything – that others think they know and hence becoming increasing essential that they let themselves out of this self-presentational vice. He further talks about how to deal with this and learn new things without feeling sheepish about it. Please do give his article a read. Most importantly, as he says : “Take the time now to remind folks, including yourself, that no matter how much expertise you have, you will continue to be a learner. If you do that, there’s a pretty good chance you will”. So, here’s hoping this blog entry serves as a gentle reminder and/ motivation to keep learning.
When we enjoy the process of learning and collaborating, working successfully in groups and achieving what you set out to, is consequential.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi.