Back in October of 2019, just about a month into my fall semester, I wrote A Major Crisis, a blogpost in which I discussed my major prospects and my budding interest in pursuing computer science despite not having much CS experience and not being very good at it.
Now, nearly nine months later, I am now officially declared as 6-3, a computer science major. I’ve been thinking a lot about the many steps I took to get here, as well as the next steps, since I’m sure it’s going to only transform and mutate more and more as the months go by.
The journey to figure out what to study has not been the smoothest or most straightforward road. It’s a common thing among my friends to joke about how I can never make up my mind about my major, as a result. I’ve practically had my hands in every single cookie jar of majors that MIT has to offer in one way or another, except for maybe Course 8. Fuck physics.
Recently, I’ve been reflecting a lot on what it means for me to be a computer science major and digging deeply into what I actually like about computer science.
For those of you that haven’t read previous blogposts, I’m currently interning at Microsoft under their New Technologists program. And while the experience has been great, it’s allowed me to take a lot of steps back and really evaluate what I like about my major and what I want to do. Before I can really get into the meat and potatoes of what I want to talk about, I want to first introduce the structure of my internship:
I’m part of a program called The New Technologists program. The program is pretty new, about six years old if I remember correctly. It’s headed by MIT alum Vanessa Feliberti ’91, who wanted to create a program that focused on giving students the computer science skills she felt went overlooked in the undergraduate curriculum, as well as giving opportunities to minorities within computer science. We’re commonly referred to as “TNTs” or “New Techs”. A lot of these sentiments are reflected in the interns in the program — everyone I’ve met come from such interesting, unique backgrounds and we have plenty of international students who are participating. It’s been a great experience going around and meeting everyone.
In this seven week program, interns go through the steps of the software development cycle, learning from beginning to end how to create, design, pitch, code, and launch an idea for an app. We design our own problem statement, come up with solutions, and spend weeks coding in TypeScript to develop the front-end of our app to present at the end.
The program is split into three main phases:
- Introductory phase > Here, we are given the very barebone basics. Orientation, intro to Git, intro to TypeScript, etc.
- Planning phase > We plan out our app, coding, iterating through versions, back and forth to the drawing board.
- Presentation phase > Share what we’ve created.
We create apps in teams of 5, alongside a Dev Coach and a PM Coach. In the mornings, we have an hour and a half engineering lecture, usually going over some concept in Git or Typescript. Afterwards, we have a block of time to either do assignments in our curriculum or meet with our team to talk about the app we’re working on. Every day in the afternoon, we meet with our coaches to talk about our progress on our app, as well as how we’re dealing with the content. We then have a self-study PM curriculum repository, where we learn about product management and take ideas from there to see how we can better improve our app. Later, my team chooses to meet at 5 every day to get more app stuff out of the way so we can have something to present to our coaches the next day.
Students are also assigned their own individual mentors, who meet once a week with their interns to talk about anything and everything. Personally, I’m using my mentor time to figure out whether or not Microsoft is the place for me, as well as ask about other computer science positions, and even do technical interview prep.
74% of my program’s interns from last year have returned this year to intern with Microsoft. My program allows mentors and coaches to write referrals for interns so that they can skip the initial Microsoft screening and go straight into the behavioral and technical interview. If they pass the interview and choose to accept the position, then they’ve secured their internship for next summer.
In order to increase our chances of getting a good referral, we’re encouraged to network with other employees, asking them about the teams they work on so we can get a better idea of what team we’d want to join if we were to join next year.
I browsed the directory of potential connections, like they asked. I reached out to a couple of people and started talking to them and their work. I asked lots of questions and tried my best to narrow down what particularly at Microsoft would work best for me. And I came to a few (scary) realizations:
- I wasn’t interested in anything here, at least not blatantly. I didn’t have an interest in working on back-end of major Microsoft stuff. I didn’t have an interest in hardware. I looked at the team names and I felt nothing. No spark of excitement, no glimmer or sheen of opportunity; just words on a screen.
- I couldn’t entertain the prospect of even being a software engineer (in its most traditional sense). I didn’t want to spend my days debugging code. I didn’t want to stare at code for 6-7 hours a day. I could never be a code monkey.
- I didn’t know if I was truly happy with the work I’m doing at Microsoft. While meeting people and connecting people are great…is computer science really the field for me? I don’t enjoy EECS the way these people do. The way my friends do.
- I’ve known this all along, since the moment I chose to declare computer science. I just didn’t want to admit it to myself. For so long, I thought I was too stupid for computer science. Maybe I declared it out of spite to prove a point, to prove that I’m smart enough to do it and to do well in it, too. I got this internship after all, right? And to drop it…to admit that I don’t like it? Well, that felt like quitting. That felt like letting them win.
- Maybe I’m not meant for this field.
And so after my day at work, I started redoing my courseroad. For a while, I’ve considered pursuing 15-1, business management, but I didn’t really tell any of my friends about my switch. I just remember looking at the Course 15 course catalog and thinking:
- God, these classes look so cool. I’m so excited to take them.
- How am I gonna fit all of these classes into four years? There’s so many. I wish I had more time to take them.
- I wish I felt this way about compsci.
And there it was. A realization that hit me like a truck. I had only been slightly entertaining the idea of a 15-101 Business management double major with 6-3. Nothing was really set in stone and it was more of just a fun fantasy I liked to think about whenever I courseroaded.
That night, I called my boyfriend and told him of my dilemma. Telling him that I just don’t feel enthralled about computer science the way everyone else around me is, and that maybe I’m studying the wrong thing.
He loves computer architecture and operating systems. Aiden loves fiddling with his robot and coding in Python. My teammates love making their own apps and websites.
“So what do you like about compsci then, Cami?”
And if I were to dive in deep. To close my eyes a bit and to really look at what I like, I realize it’s not the code at all. When I imagine my future in computer science, I can see myself working at a big tech company, not behind the computer with some IDE open, but at the front of a meeting, leading projects and product launches. Leading a team of people to meet deadlines, iterating and reiterating our different coded solutions for this problem statement. It’s using this technical background to help me lead. Product management is probably the most accurate word for it.
But then I started to branch off more, and instead of daydreaming about myself in a computer science context, I started to think more of just the possibilities of me working in business. And immediately, my horizons broadened. I saw myself in marketing, in finance, in consulting, in all these different fields.
“I feel nothing when I look at the Course 6 catalog. Instead of being excited to take these advanced classes, I just see them as a chore. But when I look at other catalogs like CMS or Course 15, I actually feel something,” I had told him.
And he replied with a simple, “Well yeah I think that’s a sign. Just do what you want to do.”
Looking back on it, my interest in management has been pretty obvious. In high school, I lead a lot of different programs and clubs. It was one of my favorite things to do. I loved the process of leading a project from start to finish, watching it on launch day, recruiting people, planning it out…it was really rewarding. Even at my internship at Boeing, my favorite thing was helping lead our interpersonal teams, creating surveys to gather program feedback, and trying to come up with ways to address the feedback we received and give it to Boeing to use.
“It was so obvious. This entire time. How could you not know you’re a management major?”
And really there was an easy answer to this. I told him to hold on a bit. I FaceTimed my mom, leaving my microphone on in my Discord call so my boyfriend could hear my conversation with my mom.
“Mom,” I said when she picked up. “What…do you think of me being a business major?”
“You’re doubling it with computer science, yeah, you told me.”
“No, what if the computer science bit becomes a minor and I become a business major?” I asked, fully knowing the response I was going to get.
“What? No. No, you need to keep the computer science. What? No. Our family doesn’t do that. It’s not in our genes. We don’t have any business majors in our family. We’re not snakes. No.”
We don’t have any MIT students in our family, but here we are, right? I held the retort. “Okay. But-”
“But at the end of the day, do what you want. It’s your life not mine,” she said in a kind of “bahala ka” manner.02 Bahala ka most closely means 'It's up to you.' or 'Whatever floats your boat.' Which seems like a nice sentiment, but it's really the English equivalent of 'Whatever, I don't give a fuck you obviously don't care.' So it's kind of like a passive aggressive 'go and shoot yourself in the foot for all I care' kind of phrase.
“Sounds good. Bye.”
And I hung up. And I turned to my call with my boyfriend. “You see?” The signs that I’ve been a management major have been here this entire time, but I never considered it because it had never been an option for me before. All my life I’d grown up hearing things about my family’s opinion on business majors. They were snakes. They were scammers. Our family was far too headstrong and honest and bold to do that.
And in a way, I kind of agreed. Not with the scam or snake part, but more of that my personality didn’t quite align with my idea of what a business student was. I hate shallow networking. I hate bootlickers. I hate kissing ass. I question authority a lot. I never keep my mouth shut. I’m extremely critical. And to me, these weren’t traits of the archetypical business major.
“Be the change you want to see in the world, Cami,” Raymond replied jokingly. “But seriously, if it’s something you want to do, then just go ahead and do it.”
And that kind of leads us to now. Every day I feel myself more and more want to switch over to just a 15-1 major with a 6-3 minor, but there’s a lot that holds me back.
- There’s still a part of me that sees me dropping computer science as some sort of defeat. That I’m quitting.
- An even smaller part of me wants to just graduate from MIT with a computer science degree for that prestige level.
- I hate how I still bend to the whim and call of prestige. I wish I could get out of that mindset.
I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do. So far I’m sticking with 6-3 and 15-1, partly for the reasons listed above and other parts because my mom said so. I think I want to do it to prove that I’m smart enough to pursue this double major. But there’s also this other side of me that’s really tired. This internship makes me tired. Coding in groups and constantly being in these meetings in Microsoft makes me tired. I desperately want some time to myself to just recharge. But we’re working so constantly on this app and given these assignments that seem to never stop. And I’m tired. I want the time to recharge.
There’s also this feeling of guilt and disappointment. I feel guilty for not enjoying my internship as much as I thought I would. Maybe it’s because it’s remote. But maybe it’s because Microsoft just isn’t for me. And I hate that I can’t tell. I like to think that in some alternate universe, where this program is in person, I would never have to have these conversations. My love for computer science would burn bright and I’d be dedicated and I wouldn’t feel so burnt out all the time.
But unfortunately, that is not the case. My internship exhausts me. It made me realize that I don’t like CS as much as I do. I’m in back to back meetings every day with not enough time for me to recharge. And it’s caused this series of events, this deep spiral into “What do I want to do?” to resurface again.
I took the time to try and explain what goes on in my mind when these big deep introspective moments of “Who am I? What do I want to do?” appear and I managed to simplify it into this:
The Interests Cloud
This is the hub of all of my interests. Ranging from pop culture to biomedical engineering, they’re a bit all over the place. Sometimes I feel like I have so many interests and such little time to explore and study them.
“What do I wanna even do with the rest of my life?” Filter
This is a filter that scrapes through the cloud and tries to sort them. There are a bunch of little other filtrations that go into it, but the main filter is: Can I see myself doing this as a career in the future?
It was these kinds of questions that helped me realize that no, I’m not in fact a bioengineering major, because I can’t see myself doing that for the next couple of years. And even bringing us to: Do I even want to do computer science?
It then sorts it to…
The Declaration Box
There are two main boxes I store my interests in. One is for major consideration, quite literally. They’re the paths and interests I want to integrate into my Bachelor’s degree. This is where management, graphic design, social media, and computer science fall. Then there’s just “the rest”: things I want to hold on to and feel interested in, but would not necessarily go out of my way to pursue in my degree. This would be biomedical engineering, organic chemistry, and music are. I’d find ways outside of school to try them, like in my hobbies.
This then eventually led to:
Cami’s Major Flowchart
20 / minor: bme > 20 / minor: 21m
This was originally what I applied to MIT as. I wanted to pursue biomedical engineering, but since MIT didn’t have a BME major, I added it as a minor.
I realized that the humanities played a really large part in my life. Music had always been a part of everything I did. I didn’t want to let that go when I went to college, so I knew that I needed to minor in order to make sure I would commit to the humanities in some way.
> 2A-20 / minor: 21m
A little right before my freshmen year started, I started researching more into what I liked about bioengineering. Similar to what I said earlier, I looked at the requirements for Course 20 and felt a whole lot of nothing. It seemed okay, but wasn’t exactly enthralling. I really liked the idea of CADing and coming up with my own designs and prototyping, but in a BME context, so I opted for 2A-20 instead.
> 2A-product design / 21m minor
I did the Discover Product Design FPOP in the beginning of the year, where I met my best friend, Aiden Padilla ’23. It was a really great look into mechanical engineering, but it also helped me realize that I really liked the design aspect of MechE and BME, not really the biomedical engineering part of it.
Absolutely no fucking clue. I think I really didn’t like how much physics was in mechanical engineering and it didn’t interest me, and I thought I’d have a nice jump back to chemistry and chemical engineering.
> Course 6-3 + CMS
Ah, yes, we’ve finally made it to my computer science arc. If you follow my blogposts really closely, you can kind of make out when I was thinking about these major decisions. Over winter break, I started thinking more about seriously pursuing computer science. CMS popped up because the majority of bloggers had some essence of CMS in what they did, so I looked into it more and realized it really closely aligned with what I loved and wanted to study.
> Course 6-2 + CMS
So during my spring semester, I was flip flopping pretty intensely between 6-3 and 6-2 (EECS). Taking 6.08 made me want to explore EE a bit more, and also, if I did 6-2, I could avoid the shitty parts of the 6-3 requirement, like 6.046.
> 21E (6+CMS)
I then started thinking about maybe pursuing a joint major. Since I only liked computer science a little bit (at this point, I had already realized I didn’t like computer science the way CS majors did), I would get to pick the essential course 6 classes (6.004, 6.009, 6.006, etc.) and pick my favorite CMS classes and it would give me the same experience. My biggest worry, though, was employability and having people hire a joint major. Danny and Allan ’20 pursued 21E and they ended up a-okay. I had a lot of chats with them about 21E.
> 15-1 and 6-3 / minor/concentration: cms
Which brings us here. I realized I had been lying to myself this entire time, convincing myself that I could never pursue business because I have no interest in it. But in reality, management has been one of the core things I enjoyed throughout my hobbies and extracurriculars. I liked management and design. I liked making app mock ups but then also presenting it to a panel. I liked behavioral interviews, I liked leading a team, I liked all of that. Of course, there’s so much more to business that I don’t know. Which is why I’m still declared as a 6-3 instead of switching to 15-1 right away.
Right now, the big question that still remains is whether or not I full send and commit to a 15-1 major and switch 6-3 to being a minor, or if I suck it up and take a couple CS classes I don’t like just to get the CS degree alongside my business one.
And so that’s why I’m hoping to get some answers this fall by taking a business class, 15.279, and hopefully getting in touch with more 15-1’s to talk to them about their experiences in choosing 15-1.
Don’t get me wrong. I think CS is an incredible field. I love learning it. But at the same time, it’s more of a means to an end. I’m learning CS not because I want to pursue AI or make my own programs or learn ML, but more of so I know what I’m talking about when I apply it to a business world. And it’s this realization that helped me see that maybe purely pursuing computer science isn’t the right way to go about it. Fingers crossed it all works out in the end.
- Business management back to text ↑
- Bahala ka most closely means 'It's up to you.' or 'Whatever floats your boat.' Which seems like a nice sentiment, but it's really the English equivalent of 'Whatever, I don't give a fuck you obviously don't care.' So it's kind of like a passive aggressive 'go and shoot yourself in the foot for all I care' kind of phrase. back to text ↑