I'm a Software Engineering student. AMA!

Daniel Kwok Zheng Xian
Jul 17, 2017

I'm a first-year software engineering student, studying at The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus. Join me and ask any questions you have related to my course, university life etc!

Daniel Kwok Zheng Xian says:

This AMA will end Jul 19, 2017 11AM EDT

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Conversation (56)

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Is there any free online resources I can use to learn the basics of Software Engineering?

Jul 17, 9:51AM EDT0

Plentiful I would say. Websites such as codeacademy, and my personal favourite, newboston (it's a Youtube Channel) would provide you with tons of free, comprehensive learning materials to get your hands dirty. If you want to find a place to polish and practice your skills, I would recommend Hackerrank. It's a site where programmers all over the world come together to solve challenges and climb the ranks.

Jul 17, 9:58PM EDT0

Is that a good party school?

Jul 17, 9:51AM EDT0

Personally, no. On top of its relatively small population of about 2000-3000 students, the campus is located pretty far away from the city center, i.e. the party places. I personally like it a lot because this clears off most distractions I might've had otherwise, and allows me to focus on building the things I really care about.

Jul 17, 10:01PM EDT0

How long is your degree program?

Jul 17, 9:50AM EDT0

It's a 3-year degree. There's an optional exchange program in the 2nd year whereby you could spend a year in other campuses other than the one in Malaysia.

Jul 17, 10:02PM EDT0

How long have you been interested in designing software?

Jul 17, 9:46AM EDT0

Good question Brandon. Not that long, to be honest. During my foundation year, I was actually aiming to get into a pharmacy course ( which I worked VERY, VERY hard for, and am eligible at, at the end of the foundation year). However, I'd been listening to podcasts of people that I look up to, and once awhile, the topic of software engineering, building programs, web development pops up, slowly, that sparked my interest in it.I could still remember, just shy of a few days from the end of my foundation year, I took up a book (Programming logic and design by Joyce Farrell) from my library, and gave it a shot. Never have I read a book as thoroughly, and as quickly as that, and as in depth as that. I knew, from the moment I finished that book, that this was for me.

So what follows after the end of my foundation year was a 3-month summer break, which I took to learn the programming languages C and Python (but mostly C), and my interest for this just grew and grew and grew. So, at last, I decided to switch my originally intended degree from pharmacy to software engineering. 

I'm more interested in the entire process of designing software because I'm also just as interested in the business side of things, i.e. dealing with customers, working in a team, keeping up on a schedule. Hence, I picked the course Software Engineering as my go to (hopefully it's not the wrong one)

Jul 17, 10:12PM EDT0

is the primary language at your college English?

Jul 17, 9:45AM EDT0


Jul 17, 10:12PM EDT0

Do you refine a general idea, then disseminate it to the proper resources to develop it, or do you do that whole process yourself?

Jul 17, 9:44AM EDT0

I think this depends on the intention, and the aim of me doing it. 

If I'm trying to understand the inner workings of a particular concept, then, of course, the long, tedious, messy and dirty road is the way to go. No better way to test the depth of a pool than to actually get your feet soaked.

If my intent is to build something usable and practical, or to practice to 'shortcuts' of doing things, or practice the art of leveraging existing tools, then I would disseminate it, and develop it with the proper resources.

Hopefully I'd answer your question. Feel free to point out if I hadn't answered your questions as you intended me to.

Jul 17, 10:16PM EDT0

Do you live in dorms?

Jul 17, 9:42AM EDT0

Yes. I think? Hopefully we have the same idea of what a dorm is.

I have my own room (with a table, a wardrobe and a bed), but I share a connected toilet with my roommate next door.

Jul 17, 10:17PM EDT0

What kind of groups you participate when online?

Jul 12, 8:00AM EDT0

I don't. I haven't found any yet. Right now I guess I'm just doing my own thing,

Jul 17, 10:18PM EDT0

Where do you get your tech news?

Jul 12, 12:29AM EDT0

At this point, I don't actively search for them, but mostly through certain pages from Facebook, and my more tech-savvy friends in my class.

Jul 17, 10:18PM EDT0

How do you like your campus?

Jul 11, 10:31PM EDT0

Very much. Due to its location, and the culture molded from it, I believe it really allows you to grow - in the right way. We have a strong club and society emphasis (which develops your soft skills), and without the distractions of a big city, frees up your time so much more (which allows you to refine your hard skills).

I would rate it to be an 8/10. The other 2 went to the pretty expensive tuition fees.

Jul 17, 10:20PM EDT0

What do they teach in school? Do you think it's important?

Jul 11, 6:57PM EDT0

You can read more about the modules I have here.

In regards to whether I think it's important...nope. (Don't tell my lecturers about it). I believe true learning happens outside of the class room. Some there are certain modules whom I believe to be important (there's one on Java language, and another on how a computer works, in and out), not because the course or my lecturer said it's important, but because

1. I've seen the real world demand for it (this applies to Java)

2. I'm just generally interested in it (this applies to the computer inner workings)

Of course, if you're speaking about scoring and getting my degree, all of them are important. But if you're talking about being a good software engineer, and (let's not kid ourselves here) making a good living for myself to live comfortably, you're gonna have to pick, because the course goes wide, when you have to go deep - and you only have so much time and attention.

Jul 17, 10:26PM EDT0

What do you think of ransomware? How is this problem could be solved in your opinion?

Jul 11, 2:37PM EDT0

I'm sorry, but I'm not too familiar with the topics surrounding ransomware. I am aware of them tho. Generally, just equip yourself with a good, frequently updated anti virus software, and don't put yourself in a risky position, i.e. don't download stuffs from shady sites, and always scan any peripherals (CDs, pen drives etc) before you plug them into your computer.

Jul 17, 10:31PM EDT0

What filed in software engineering interests you most?

Jul 11, 1:27PM EDT0

There's a module in my first-year course, named Introduction to Software Engineering. It talks about the actual process of developing a software - from talking to the customer, to producing a prototype, to ways of managing a team and a schedule - all of which are more on the soft skills side, but I think is the winning formula for a company/individual when it comes to the business aspect of software. It's not that hard to code tbh. It's the customer and business side of things that really complicates everything. And I think, that's worth diving into.

Jul 17, 10:34PM EDT0

How do you stay safe online, from trojans, viruses, spyware, etc?

Jul 11, 2:00AM EDT0

I don't overthink things most of the time. Have a good, reputable anti virus software installed, and just don't download shady stuffs from shady side and you'll be alright 99% of the time.

Jul 17, 10:35PM EDT0

Where are the latest opportunity trends in computers?

Jul 10, 11:42PM EDT0

I don't think I'm in the position to give a comment on this, because

1. My experience just ain't quite enough 

2. I don't believe in trends.

Yes, certain things do fade away, for example, I do not agree in opening a traditional retail store to sell shirts anymore, but I don't believe in intentionally riding the wave of trends unless you're a business man/woman because trends come and go - all the time.And timing is everything.

But if I would have to come up with a list from my limited experience, it's going to be Big Data analysis and Artificial Intelligence.

Jul 17, 10:39PM EDT0

What kind of company would you like to work for?

Jul 10, 8:27PM EDT0

I would like to work in a small to medium sized company that has a good mix of

1. Transparency, whereby at the very least, I know who my boss is, and he knows who I am.

2. Practicality, whereby the company is still about developing software, but they also have a practical business model for sustainability.

3. Good vibes. Who wants to work in a place where everyone hates everyone else, and your hate your job?

Jul 17, 10:41PM EDT0

What kind of projects have you worked on so far?

Jul 10, 4:03PM EDT0

In terms of projects, all of them are in the field of web development.

1. I've helped a fellow friend on Instagram with her blog ( you can check it out here.

2. (On going) Helping my friend's father to build a website using Wordpress as a platform for his business, for free 

3. (On going) Using Upwork as my freelancing platform, helping a client to develop her JCink forum.

Jul 17, 10:44PM EDT0

Have you looked into crypto currencies? What do you think of that?

Jul 10, 11:42AM EDT0

Yes I have, but not very in-depth. I believe it's the way to go (since I am a huge opposer against the monetary system we have now, which in essence is literally nothing more than just trading scraps of paper). However, I have doubts on whether are we, as a civilization is ready for this monumental shift. And if we are, when will it happen?

Jul 17, 10:47PM EDT0

Do you have a dream project?

Jul 10, 10:04AM EDT0

Funny thing since you ask because I'd never quite thought of that. I would say for now, it would be to be in a team of software engineers, to develop either an application or a program. If I was born 10 years earlier, I would kill to join the Uber application development team.

Jul 17, 10:49PM EDT0

Do your family support your decision going into engineering?

Jul 10, 9:33AM EDT0

Yes. Tho my mother was a little reluctant at first, but I guess my determination out spoke her haha. But the answer is yes, and I couldn't thank them more.

Jul 17, 10:50PM EDT0

Do you think practical knowledge is better than school, or vice versa?

Jul 10, 7:05AM EDT0

If I would have to weigh them, I would say a ratio of 7 to 3 on a scale of 10 would be it. Intellectual knowledge can be learned any time, and usually can be practiced and polished pretty easily (just your personal time and effort). However, practical knowledge is much harder to gain, i.e. negotiation skills, small talking skills etc, and those are easier to learn and practice the earlier you start. 

So, yes. Practical > School

Jul 17, 10:53PM EDT0

Are you earning money online currently?

Jul 10, 3:55AM EDT0

Yes. Just doing some light freelancing work on web development through Upwork.

Jul 17, 10:54PM EDT0

Do you freelance on your free time?

Jul 10, 2:57AM EDT0

Depends. For example, I'm having a three month long summer break now, so I think it would be great to utilize this long stretch of time to polish my skills, alongside earning some pocket change. But if I'm back in my campus, and am deep down in my course, I don't think so. I have better things to spend my time on.

Jul 17, 10:55PM EDT0

What problems you wish to work in the future?

Jul 10, 1:36AM EDT0

Good question. I don't really know for now, because I don't have one. I just...go with the flow and build my arsenal of skills and knowledge for the time being. Good one tho. Gets me thinking.

Jul 17, 10:57PM EDT0

Who do you look up to in the software world?

Jul 10, 12:54AM EDT0

No one personal in particular hahhaha. I do look up to people outside of the field - Elon Musk, GaryVee, Thomas Frank to mention a few.

Jul 17, 10:58PM EDT0

What kind of languages do you know?

Jul 10, 12:22AM EDT0

I know C, C++, Python, Java, HTML, CSS, Javascript, SQL, and PHP. But to be honest, if in terms of programming language, the one I'm most familiar with would probably with Java.

Jul 17, 10:59PM EDT0

What do you think of Peter Thiel's call for some students to quit school and start companies?

Jul 9, 11:46PM EDT0

To be honest, I don't quite agree. Yes, they might learn so much more from it. But, before any students do so, just ask yourself this - Are you ready to grind? What's the hardest, toughest, longest thing you've ever worked on? Have you tried really hard to ace that exam? Or work 2 jobs at a time just to maintain a living wage?

The idea itself might be great, but are the students ready for it?

But again, this is coming from a 20-year-old university student so take it with a grain of salt.

Jul 17, 11:01PM EDT0

What kind of experience you have to this day?

Jul 9, 9:51PM EDT0

In terms of soft skills, I've immersed myself in extra curricular activities since I was 14 years old, and I'd been polishing my arsenal of skills ever since.

In terms of hard skills, I'd been doing freelance work, but mostly on the field of web development so far, nothing much on building software.

Jul 17, 11:03PM EDT0