HCIM graduate student Rohan Singh Bondili considers what advice he would give himself, if he could go back to the start of his time in the HCIM program.
It’s March 2016 and I’ve spent eight months pursuing my masters degree in HCI at the University of Maryland. During this period, I’ve gained a few insights into how to make the most of my time here. My aim in sharing my thoughts is to help future HCIM students reduce the time frame to reach similar or dissimilar perspectives because, as Peter Thiel mentions:
“You are the entrepreneur of your life. And being an entrepreneur means, questioning received ideas and re-thinking them from scratch.”
If I had the option to start the program again, I would give myself the following advice:
Enroll for the 12 credit X-factor course
Technical talks, Brown Bag Lunch sessions, local design challenges and hackathons will teach you as much as a 3-credit course every semester. The questions asked and the conversations triggered during these sessions are opportunities to apply what you’ve learned. Generally, these sessions are in-depth in a particular domain, so some sessions stick and some don’t. However, these sessions foster the ability to think critically. In addition, these sessions will teach you how to attack big problems by introducing processes/methods/frameworks that can be applied towards solving large-scale complex challenges. Furthermore, the learning received from these sessions can be extrapolated to solve problems in one’s area of interest.
In my perspective, the HCIM program’s biggest strength is its diverse faculty. Quality research is frequently being produced in domains such as accessibility, privacy, security, business models, sustainability, and policy development. By discussing projects and ideas with faculty specializing in diverse domains, one can start to think holistically both in range and depth as they provide extensive feedback and insights in their respective domains.
Select projects strategically
This is an area where I have missed a trick and unfortunately it has proven to be fairly expensive. In my perspective, projects that offer solutions to in-house problems have significant advantage. The minor imperfections within the HCIM program act as a blessing in disguise. These imperfections form ideal course projects because as students in this program, we have a deep understanding of the problem, and have access to multiple users who provide fairly accurate data, both qualitative and quantitative. In addition, these projects provide scope for extensive testing and feedback, thereby increasing the ability to produce multiple iterations at minimal cost (free in most cases). Furthermore, these projects provide opportunity to measure effectiveness over time thus offer the advantage of sustainability and scalability.
As a closing note - I wouldn’t be able to provide these insights without the support provided by few people. I’m grateful to the following people for they have provided time generously to discuss ideas on multiple occasions, thereby contributing indirectly towards this article - Marshini Chetty, Niklas Elmqvist, Carlea Holl-Jensen, Tim Summers and Susan Winter. Special thanks to my cohort for organizing our hangout + ranting + brainstorming sessions!