Each week we spotlight an OMSCS TA, so you can get to know who's behind the screen. Here are four questions for Andrew Becker, who TAs CSE 6220: Introduction to High-Performance Computing.
What do you do professionally?
I’ve been a senior application developer in Allstate’s agency pay group for about a year and a half now. We’re a Scrum agile team that focuses on pulling all the data together for agency reporting. Before that, I spent several years as a systems analyst and engineer for our Ab Initio Data Warehousing environment. I worked on everything from standing up new platforms, designing standards, testing performance, triaging incidents, and securing the environment to building utilities to make developers’ lives easier. It really makes you need to approach things differently when you have terabytes upon terabytes being moved through on any one day.
Why do you TA for OMSCS?
I've been in the OMSCS program since the Spring of 2016. During my time here, I’ve felt that the classes with the most engaged TAs tend to be the ones that I learned the most from. I look at being a TA like that’s my opportunity to provide that same rewarding experience to other students. One of the cool things about being a TA is you get to see some of the brightest minds in the program that then change the way we think and give us an opportunity to further grow. I’ve had the privilege of being the Head TA for CSE-6220 (Intro to HPC) and a TA for CS-6262 (Network Security). I’d do either again in a heartbeat.
What's your advice for future students in OMSCS?
Start slow. Don’t take two classes at a time until you’re ready. Many of us come in several years after last being in school, so sometimes it takes a bit of adjustment to get back into the swing of things. Going slow also typically means you’ll get more out of the classes. Secondly, do not procrastinate. You’ll end up causing yourself un-needed stress if you wait till the weekend before a project or assignment is due. Classes are calibrated to be reasonable. That goes out the window if you wait till the end and then something comes up in real life. Finally, if you need to take a break, take it. It’s way too easy to burnout if you don’t. Fortunately, we can take a semester off at any time (as long as they’re not back to back and you still graduate in six years) and nobody will hold it against you.
What hobby or activity are you looking forward to getting back to once you're done with OMSCS?
I look forward to getting to spend more time with my family. We adopted a little boy from foster care a year ago, and one of my goals has always been to complete the program before he reaches school age. I want to be the dad that’s at all the little league games and not studying for a Graduate Algorithms exam instead. He’s four now; I have one year left.