Choosing a college project

Looking back to my college days, I feel the singular most important decision I made was for my projects. All else pales into insignificance when you consider how much they affect your career and the work you do.

 

 Some of us try to get our projects through in big companies or business houses. This is a good idea provided the company is interested in what you are doing. They have an experienced project guide who advises you from time to time.  Why an experienced project guide? In college, we scoffed at this idea, or at college mates who went out looking for companies which had qualified staff to be project guides. Now looking back, this makes great sense. Project guides are typically experienced staff, who have a good idea of what a customer looks for. They would rather give the student a project of commercial value, than a purely academic project.  They tend to introduce engineers into the real world of development, where tools such as CVS, daily builds and so on are used, things which students would never have heard otherwise. They usually stress on formal analysis and design methods as done in a corporate project.

Another advantage of this method is, students gets an opportunity to excel and thus get an opening into the same company. What they nowadays call “conversions” (I learned this new word when my sister opted a company for doing her project, with the max possibility of offering her a job :) ) Its a 2 way benefit, the student has already learned some of the technology, standards and culture of the company. The company gets 2-3 months to evaluate the student in various ways. The student gets an opening in the same company he has already learned about.
 
 A point I probably should mention here is that some companies who do project guidance for students (or interns as they are called) may not want to give out their procedures or they may not give the student as much exposure as they would normally do for an employee.  Some companies have just not developed a good intern program. Poornam did face a similar problem, which we fully intend to rectify when the next batch of interns come in.

Most students did their projects in college itself.  Some went the academic way. They based their projects on what they learnt. These, purely academic projects make a lot of sense especially if the students has plans for doing MTech or MS.
 
Then there were students who went for purely what was HOT.  This was especially true of the platform the projects were based on.  When Java was hot, everyone was doing java projects, when linux is hot everyone doing Linux projects. This was not bad, if you considered just the job aspect. In the sense, it helped get the student openings in companies which were doing works in these platforms at the time they left college.  However, more than platform, aspects like the kind of project they do and their approach towards that project matters.
 
There are so many “so called experts” who claim that any Linux project (i.e if you are doing it on Linux) should touch the kernel at least or should be embedded or networking or something. How silly.  Doing such things are just fads in the plain sense. They sound good when you tell it to your friends.  Nothing more.
 
When we were doing interviews in the early days of Poornam, we were particularly amazed by the passion a particular interviewee had for his project. The project was an “Online Student Examination System” Didn’t sound impressive at all in the beginning. But when we saw the way the interviewee had thought about each and every aspect of the functioning of the system, we realised the depth of thinking he had put into it. Every condition, expected or unexpected was analyzed, designed and developed for in a very logical way.  A very ordinary sounding project, but dealt with superbly and professionally. This was exactly the approach we were looking for and we snapped up the boy.
 
This was much better than someone who did a project in a very impressive sounding technology, but who had not put any thinking into his work. Probably these students expect companies to just fall for the name of the project. Unfortunately, that does not happen most of the time, and most students realise this quite late.
 
Dignity and Excellence in whatever project or work you do is important, and sadly that was lacking in most of us at that time.  We went more for the fads, and scoffed at people who did simple projects but did them superbly and with dignity.  Anybody who does any given job superbly and professionally is truly an asset for any company, and this is what most companies look for when recruiting. Whats more, these are the people that also grow in any organisation. The technology “stuck” people, are usually kept in that position, and they do that forever.
 
In conclusion, in any project, students should look for

  • Doing a project the right way with good analysis and design methodologies.
  •  A subject you like to learn more about .
  • More important than anything, students should be passionate about their project, whether it has fad value or not.

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