career

Guest Speakers in Computer Science

I got an opportunity to participate in Guest Speakers in Computer Science program as a guest speaker.

The goal is to connect students via Skype with people working in tech to solve one of the biggest talent problems in the world today. By 2020, it is estimated that one million computer science jobs in America will go unfilled because there are not enough students graduating with the right skills.

Computer Science gap

What is amazing in Computer Science, in my opinion, is the opportunity to build things. It was about 10 years ago when I was in middle school, and I discovered that I can create a website that everybody in the World can see. Another great thing is the opportunity to solve other people’s problems.

I love my job, because it gives me different challenges every day. And it is not only about writing the code. Good Software Developer has to be also a good marketing person. He has to understand the market, and the customer needs. He has to know whether an application or feature he is working on is worth his effort, and whether this is what the customer needs.

Today, Computer Science is not a single person coding in the basement. Nowadays, it is all about the people, cooperation and team effort. I love it, because I think that a group of people can always achieve more than a single person.

Computer Science is hard. Sometimes you are spending hours debugging a nasty bug. You are getting more and more frustrated. But finally, once you solved the problem, you feel a lot of satisfaction. Especially because you did it! This is amazing in Computer Science. When you work hard, it always pays you back.

I wanted be a part of Guest Speakers in Computer Science program, because I wanted to share my experience. I know how much it means for a person who want to start a career, to hear from somebody who already did it. I have been there, and I know how much the people who I met helped me to drive my career. I wanted to pay it back somehow.

So far I gave 4 talks, and it was very fun! The most common question was: “Have you met Bill Gates?”. This is something I need to work on 🙂 There were also more practical questions like: “what programming languages should I learn?”, “how to prepare for College if I want to study Computer Science?”, or “how to choose the right things to do out of millions possibilities?”.

If you are IT professional I encourage you to join this program as well!


10 things you should learn at the University

I graduated last year, and I would like to summarize things I learnt. In the StackOverflow Podcast #36Eric Sink said: 

The best students learn Computer Science in class and programming on their own.

I remember when back in days my friends from the University were talking about their first job, and 9/10 of them were saying something like that: “During this one month Internship I learnt more than for 3 years in College”. I couldn’t say that about my job. At the beginning I thought that they probably got much better job or internship than me. It took me 3 years to understand this phenomena…and it wasn’t phenomena. They thought, they learnt a lot, because they were able to get something done using some framework that did magic in the background (like creating simple CRUD web application with database configuring everything automatically). However, there is a lot of stuff between framework and hardware. I noticed, that lot of Developers don’t care about it. Moreover, you can live without it. Like taxi driver doesn’t need to know the city, as long as he has GPS. I think it is good to know the fundamentals.

There are some courses, which can help you to learn things, about which you probably will not bother once you get a job. In the same time, they are worth to learn, will help you to understand how computers work, and in my opinion will help in your future job.

Here is my top 10 things/courses you should learn at University (which is the best time for it):

  1. Computer Architecture: to know how computer works, how they represent data (Two’s complement system, IEEE 754). There are two books good books about that: Computer Architecture: A Quantitative Approach and The Elements of Computing Systems.
  2. Compilers: sort of supplement to computer architecture. It is connector between Software and Hardware. Classic book about compilers is Compilers: Principles, Techniques, and Tools (AKA Dragon Book).
  3. Algorithms and Complexity (O notation): this is hard and challenging topic. Require a lot of practice, but pays off in the future. The bible for algorithms and computational complexity is Cormen’s book: Introduction to Algorithms.
  4. Automatas (DFA, NFA, Turing Machine, etc.): “Recognizing the strings in a language is a formal way of expressing any problem”. This is fundamental of Computer Science, as a Science, on top of which all software and hardware is built.
  5. Assembly Language: it helps to understand concurrent applications, and bugs occurring in them e.g. caused by instruction reorder.
  6. System programming: in the world of Cloud Computing and Virtual Machines, this is still useful subject that can gives you an insight into how software communicate with the hardware.
  7. Embedded devices: the Internet of Things is the future. Additionally it is fun (check Jon Gallant blog post who joined Internet of Thing team at Microsoft).
  8. Artificial Intelligence: every year devices are more intelligent (from your phone, through medical devices to Google Car). According to Bill Gates AI will explode in next 10 years. University is great place to learn AI fundamentals.
  9. Computer Networks: it is good to learn about networks, how data is flowing in the wires (packets), what is DNS, CDN, what challenges, and limitations do we have in fast and reliable data exchange. Recommended book: Computer Networks (by A. Tanenbaum).
  10. Computer Security: everyone would like to be a hacker. First, you need to know the basics, and be aware that this topic is changing every year (sha1 is being replaced by sha2, because it is not “secure enough” anymore). Because it is changing so fast, there is no universal book that is up to date. However Practical Internet and Unix Security book is still very valuable. To be up to date with security issues, I strongly recommend you to follow Troy Hunt’s blog (in my opinion: one of the best blogs in the Internet).

One can say: “Turing Machine? Would I need it for something?…Probably not.”. But again, I am talking about Computer Science, not programming. You can live without that knowledge, and do amazing things. Like mentioned taxi driver, who can take customers from place A to place B. But…what he will do, when GPS run out of battery or GPS will be wrong? What if there are two streets with the same name? Maybe GPS will indicate it, maybe not. Additionally, good taxi driver knows which way is faster, and where he will stuck in traffic on certain hours better than GPS.

Very often we do not appreciate the knowledge gained at the University, but it helps us in everyday job in the same way like swimming and running helps the boxer in his fight.

What is cool nowadays, you can learn Computer Science online for free.

At the end, it is totally up to you if you want to learn about Computer Science, or just learn how to program. I think it is good to know both. What do you think? Would you add/remove something to/from my top 10 list?


Why programmer should have a blog

Recently a few people were asking me why I have a blog. Some of them were not programmers. It reminded me about the draft of this post, which I have for more than a year now. I planned to extend it, but I think keeping it short, and maybe edit in the future would be a better solution.

The reasons why I have a blog:


Hi, I’m Jakub and I work for Microsoft

Blue badge

After I got my degree in August I moved to Redmond, WA to start my new job at Microsoft. I work for Azure App Platform Team. My official position is Software Development Engineer (SDE).

It has been a month since I started. So far, my team, work environment, the product and development process are great.

My team

MS team

My team (which is part of Azure App Platform) is working on the new Azure Portal. People in my team are smart. All of them. Moreover, they are really passionate about things they are doing, and they really care. I am working with Steve Sanderson, the creator of Knockout.js and one of the best technical speakers. The team is very diverse: people from many different countries all around the World, with a quite few girls among them.

My team is working in Agile.  The working culture is generally: “Get the job done”. People are in the office usually between 10am and 5pm. Some are coming later, and stay longer, others come early and leave early (there are also people who come early and leave late). If somebody feel the need to focus and don’t being interrupted then he/she is working from home, and it is not a problem.

What is the best, I am not implementing some spec written by somebody 5 levels above me. I need to implement an idea, add my contribution, suggest changes etc. When I asked a question what are the expectations from me, my lead and my manager told me that they expect me to suggest some ideas how to make the product better, how we can improve it, and what we are doing wrong. This is exactly what I was looking forward to!

Work environment

MS workspace

The building I am working in (Microsoft Building 44) is designed for Agile interactions. There are white boards everywhere. We work in Open Spaces (around 15 people per room). Microsoft is changing approach, and moving from private offices/cubicles to open spaces. What is cool, there are 3 conference rooms ‘attached’ to our Open Space (2 small, 1 big), and if somebody needs to work in peace, he/she can use one of them. If all are occupied (which does not happen very often), there are special ‘focus rooms’ (with desk and chair) in the building.

I have great machines to work on: HP Workstation Z420 (Xeon E5-1650 v2 3.5 GHz, 32 GB RAM, 128 GB SSD + 256 GB SSD + 1 TB SATA) with two 24″ monitors DELL Ultrasharp U2415, and Microsoft Sculpt keyboard and mouse. I have also ultrabook Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (i7-3667U @ 2 GHz, 8 GB RAM, 240 GB SSD). I have adjustable height desk, and very comfortable Haworth Zody Task chair.

The product

MS Azure Portal

The new Azure portal is a Single Page Metro Web Application. One of the main goals of the new portal is to make it easy for adding extensions. My team is working on the Framework, which is being used by other teams to create front-end for underlying Azure infrastructure. What is cool,  every extension is working as a standalone application in a separate iframe. Extension authors do not need to work with HTML and CSS a lot. They just use controls (e.g. list, combo box or checkbox) created by us, and communicate with them through TypeScript/JavaScript. Update of the view is performed by Knockout.js. Check Justin Beckwith’s post about the new Azure portal architecture. If you have not seen it yet, check the Overview of the new Azure Portal with Vishal Joshi and Scott Hanselman and Vishal and Scott create a new startup with the new Azure Portal. To get started with Azure, check my previous post, and get a free trial. Moreover, we need (and we appreciate) your feedback!

Technologies


MS technologies

We use HTML5 and LESS for our View layer. LESS is very handy in maintaining big style sheets.

We use TypeScript (which compiles to JavaScript). Strong typing, and abstraction over JavaScript inheritance (TypeScript classes) is very, very helpful in building large-scale application. To be honest, I do not know how we would be able to maintain the new Azure Portal using raw JavaScript.

Our main JavaScript Framework is Knockout.js. This allows us to prepare generic, reusable controls that can be used by other teams without the need of interaction with the DOM.

Our unit test framework is QUnit. For integration tests we use Selenium.

We use git for source control management. As Continuous Integration Server, we use Jenkins.

We have code review process supported by CodeFlow. It is required to have at least 2 reviews before code can be checked-in/pushed to the repository.

Building process is supported by MSBuild.

Behind the scenes, we use bunch of other JS libs, e.g. q.js, inject.js, d3.js, hammer.js or ZeroClipboard.js.

Summary

After 1 month I love it! There are many challenges, and interesting problems to solve. I am still new to the project, and I didn’t discover it entirely yet. What I can say now, I really like the people from my team, the software development process and work environment in my team.

Probably I will be writing about my work on this blog. Stay tuned!

MS sign


Master of Science in Computer Science

After 1 year and 8 months of being a Graduate Student at Kansas State University and Research Assistant at SAnToS Lab Research Group I got my Master of Science degree.

Courses I took:

In my first semester as a Graduate Research Assistant at SAnToS Lab I was working on integration Bakar Kiasan with GNAT Programming Studio (using Python and PyGTK).

In Summer 2013 I started my actual research work, which is captured in my Master Thesis: A Model-Driven Development and Verification Approach for Medical Devices. The main problem of my research was to propose translation of AADL/BLESS models to SPARK Ada programming language. I created PCA Pump Prototype for BeagleBoard-xM platform, by translating already existing models (using translations developed by me), and performed verification (static analysis) using SPARK Verification Tools.

This is a video from my defense:

Unfortunately, QuickTime crashed 3 minutes before the end. Fortunately, you can catch up with slides.

I created additional video with PCA Pump Prototype demonstration. Pump is developed in SPARK Ada, and it runs on BeagleBoard-xM platform.

Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA) pump is a medical device, which allows the patient to self-administer small doses of narcotics (usually Morphine, Dilaudid, Demerol, or Fentanyl). PCA pumps are commonly used after surgery to provide a more effective method of pain control than periodic injections of narcotics. A continuous infusion (called a basal rate) permits the patient to receive a continuous infusion of pain medication. Patient can also request additional boluses, but only in specified intervals. It prevents from overinfusion. In addition to basal and patient bolus, clinician can also request bolus called clinician bolus or square bolus.

My Master Thesis in PDF format can be found here. LaTeX source is available here.

I spent 2 years at Kansas State University (4 months as an Exchange Student, and 20 months as a Graduate Student). I had very good time and I learnt a lot. I really recommend to get Master degree from a different University than you get your Bachelor. Wroclaw University of Technology (where I got my Bachelor) is more practical. Graduates are ready to work at the industry. Kansas State is more theoretical and research oriented. I had an opportunity to experience both and I am very happy with that!