I wanted to jot down my thoughts about taking 6 courses while working part-time. There’s the saying that “marks don’t matter” which I think has some truth. However some courses are quite foundational and important in software development, and these courses do matter. The saying applies more to courses that are subjective or depends on the specific context, or where the real-world practice is actually nothing like the theory taught in class. There’s no consistent method to measure students’ performance because there are too many factors in the real-world to write down in a two hour exam.
Bu 423 - Options, Futures, and Swaps
I’ve always been interested in learning about how to trade stocks as a form of passive income. This course gave me a better sense of the connection between stocks and options, as well as how financial institutions make their money (seriously, right?). The most interesting realization for me was how Principal-Protected Notes work.
Bu 481 - Policy 1
This is my favourite business course by far for a couple of reasons. It consists primarily of real-world cases which provided a more practical learning compared to previous courses. This also makes it more engaging because these cases illustrated the decisions that companies actually had to figure out.
CS 350 - Operating Systems
This course is the culmination of the two pre-requisites on computer CPU architecture and basic compilers. For me this course eliminated the mystery of what operating systems actually do. It allowed me to understand things like what does it mean for 64-bit processors to have 4 levels of page tables (and some security implications), or reading through the reverse-engineered specs of APFS designed for modern SSD’s. Well then, time to re-read objc.io Concurrency :).
CS 370 - Numerical Computation
Before taking this course I didn’t think open-book exams existed in university math courses! I didn’t know what to expect - would the exam be a lot of theory since anyone can lookup all the proofs? Well, turns out it was fairly similar to other courses where questions are mostly based off of assignments.
This course covered a whole range of topics. My favourites in order are 1) details of how Google PageRank works, 2) creating splines, and 3) Fourier transforms. An honorable mention goes to LU Decomposition because I thought it was a good example how pre-computing an expensive result can be worth it in the long-run.
CS 486 - Artificial Intelligence
I have to admit I should have put more effort into this course. The main reason was my loathing of stats - I like the power of the concepts but I’m terrible when it comes to theory. The programming assignments would have been a lot more fun if I started on them earlier. This course gave me a better understanding of how the “intuitive” algorithms that we think up actually works and cleared away some of the mystery behind how to write and train programs with data. The “Utility function” was a common theme in AI, which made sense since there needed to be a canonical way of measuring the value of an outcome. It also shows how stats is used pretty much everywhere. Guess people are going to start bringing their own poker AI to casinos now?
Econ 250 - Macroeconomics
I’m thankful that I also selected an easier course this term. Most of the early chapters were a review of basic economic concepts. With this being an online course, the weekly quizzes, although only 1% each, were very helpful in forcing me to keep up with the content. I think having a basic understanding of economics is one of the most useful subjects as it provides the foundational knowledge to evaluate business decisions and the general economy.