Research for Research

I've recently come to a major conclusion about one of my life goals: I want to obtain a PhD in Computer Science, and work in the research field in some capacity (at least for a while). Getting there from here might be a long road, but it is one I want to walk down. And recently, I've gotten some advice that outlines a path I can take.

Path from Advice

(define (get-file-as-string file)
  "Slurp the contents of a file and return them as a string.

This is an ACTION.

FILE <string>: The name of the file to slurp.

A <string> representing the contents of the FILE.

Depends on the state of the FILE."
  (call-with-input-file file get-string-all))

Upon realizing that this was a goal I wanted to pursue, I had remarkably few resources to begin work on it. In short, I didn't know what I didn't know, and what I didknow looked like an impassible mountain. So, I decided it was time to start asking questions.

I have a mentor[1] at work, and she has a Master's Degree in Software Engineering. I'd also received an invite to a local HackerX event, where there would be a lot[2] of people in the software field that I might be able to ask questions of. And finally, just mentioning my goal to as many people as I can has worked for me[3] in the past when I've needed advice, so I also did that. In aggregate, I received a few specific recommendations:

  1. It is vital to have a personal direction when it comes to research. Find out what You are actually interested in, as Computer Science has a lot of subdisciplines.
  2. Have an attitude of exploration within that personal recommendation. Don't lock Yourself down to a specific idea; try a lot of different things to find out what really resonates with You before starting Your graduate program.
  3. 'Real Human Connections' are likely the most beneficial way for me to get started. Reaching out to those local to me who are working (or have worked) on something tangential to my interests, and asking to help them with their work, is a great way to get involved.

With this in mind, I'll start looking over the various subdisciplines in Computer Science (expect a blog post on that as well), and move forward once my survey of those is complete. Hopefully, I can (within the next year or so) help someone out with some work they are currently doing, and start building up the experience I'll need to get into this field.

It's always nice to have clear goals in front of me. Maybe that's why I like programming.

[1]: One of the biggest things I've gotten out of my time at my current job is experiencing a mentor system. I think everyone should give it a shot, and have found it very helpful for me to have someone to discuss my goals and such with, who has more experience than I do.

[2]: I was actually both not as impressed and not as disappointed as I thought I would be with this event. I'd do one again, just because it did actually help me to make connections with people who live near me in my field that I otherwise would not have been able to. But I do wish it were better attended, and had less technical issues.

[3]: When I was self-employed, there were a lot of things I had no idea about. Paying taxes, finding customers, expensing gas… I needed advice on a lot of things others might have companies do for them. But, talking about that need to those I associated wth got me an answer, most of the time.