The skier, who had no idea that the 14th incarnation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion was crying out to save his life, made a crisp little check as he approached the pylon, altering his line of descent, and continued expertly down the hill.
If you were to recommend a short list of books, websites, or other sorts of autodidactical resources for someone demonstratedly polymath, what would you recommend?
I'm thinking of principles and roots and underpinnings, fundamental understandings and systemic grokkage. I find myself with extensive liberal arts education and substantial technical experience and reasonable expertise...but all without the benefit of the paths well-trodden by higher and post-graduate education.
Or in other words, there are so many of us liberal-arts to sysadmin to engineering people in the market. I'm lucky enough to have gotten ahead. In what ways would you recommend that I use my Massive Mental Powers to get and stay ahead?
(It's either that or use People and Project Skills to get into management. Which seems too high-exposure for this introvert.)
Many thanks and cookie recipes to come,
I have three classes that I took that really helped me to Get Computer Science (as opposed to just programming.) Two of them are, sneakily, the same class, but you can't tell from a distance. I'd recommend them, and the associated textbooks, for anyone who's trying to deepen their grokkage of CS. The design patterns involved show up over and over, in all sorts of unexpected places.
Class 1 (as in start here) is Data Structures and Algorithms. There is a book called Introduction to Algorithms by Cormen et al. that is pretty much The Book that everyone uses as the essential reference. It's expensive, but worth it (or see if you can borrow it or get it from a library while you're studying, until you decide you really need it). It will talk about sorting. It will talk about trees. These are things you probably already know. It will talk about tries and red-black trees and dynamic programming and stuff you've never heard of. It will talk about asymptotic run time and how to analyze it, which is really useful when you're doing software design. ("So how slow is this code gonna run under load?") It will have pseudocode for everything ever. There will be a lot of proofs, which you should try to run through a few of, just to get your brain primed for classes 2 and 3.
Classes 2 and 3 are Computational Models (sometimes called other things, like "Intro to Finite Automata" at other universities), and Compilers. You may say to yourself "but I don't work at that level, or ever plan to. There are exactly 12 (very smart) people who need to understand compilers and write them, one for each major programming language", and you'd be right. However, state machines and stacks show up everywhere in software design (compilers, protocols, networking, and on and on), and compilers is a great place to get down and dirty with the theory of state machines and stacks. Also, there's a good, well documented tool set you can work with already for compilers (flex and bison, and their many kin). Computational models is really, really, theoretical and abstract, and sometimes you may wonder why the heck anyone cares about Push-down Automata versus Discrete Finite Automata and what they can compute. When you get there, flip open the compilers book, and start looking at the section on lexers and parsers, and it'll really ground it for you.
The text books I had are "Introduction to Automata Theory, Languages and Computation" by Hopcroft, Motwani and Ullman (I liked it, but there are lots of others that people use), and the Dragon book (Compilers: Principles, Techniques, and Tools) by Alfred Aho et al. (this is pretty much the book everyone uses.) These are books you can probably borrow, because once you have the theory down, you probably won't refer back very often.
Hope this helps!
PS: I can never have enough cookie recipes. :)
I have an interview for an advancement at work. I really want to sell myself as myself, not just for my technical expertise, but what I bring to interaction, camaraderie, teamwork or togetherness?
I would really appreciate letters that are 2-3 pages, but even a paragraph would help. I will gladly trade you the same amount in my careful, thoughtful writing style.
This is an exercise in doubling my salary. Oh <god/buddha,dharma,sangha>.
But only one person in "the real world" held a fascination for me, and that was Steve Jobs.
It was impossible to imagine that early in my career I would end up working for Steve, at NeXT. That would be a ridiculous dream. Yet it happened.
At what seems now a ridiculously young age, I managed to score a job as a manager at NeXT, Steve's "failed" company after Apple. I was dumb enough to join after they'd dropped the hardware and most people assumed they were out of business. I was coming from a hugely successful company -- Oracle -- to a failed venture by that has-been, Jobs. All I knew was that they were doing incredible technology and I wanted to be a part of it.
On my first day, Steve called me. Clearly he wanted to connect with a new manager at the company, and set his stamp. But what sticks with me most is what happened next...I discovered that through a comedy of errors while I was quite sure that NeXT provided domestic partners insurance coverage (at a time when that was quite rare), they only provided such coverage to straight couples, not to gays. Not because of ideology -- they had started the program with coverage for same-sex couples -- but because their insurance company scared them out of it with doom-saying projections of how their costs would quintuple or some such nonsense. As someone absolutely dependent on the insurance coverage (we were oh-so-close to bankruptcy back then), I realized I had to immediately quit.
After only days of a new life, leave the company and the CEO that represented my dream career. I informed HR that I would need to return to Oracle.
"Hold on," the head of HR said, "Let me see what I can do."
He worked with Steve, and they contacted the insurance company. After a couple of bizarre weeks where I attended meetings all day filled with amazing people and amazing technology, knowing that at any minute I would have to leave, HR informed me that they'd talked the insurance company into providing special coverage. Just for me. It was that important to NeXT and to Steve that they keep a nobody first-line manager they had just hired.
A couple of months later they turned that into coverage for all gay employees at NeXT.
I sent email to Steve, thanking him for this strike for human rights.
He responded, "Keep those suggestions coming!"
As if I had come up with a way to save money on paper cups.
And that was the beginning of almost 20 years of working for Steve.
I'm not an emotional person. I don't cry. But now I'm crying.
Thank you, Steve.
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