Dear Basecamp students,
I'm honored to have my tiny, silly website as "part" of your curriculum. Clearly, you should be able to tell that this site was desinged for maximum teaching effect and not at all for fun. But you guys and gals are pretty sharp, you probably knew that already. I'm going to be a bit boring and tell you a little bit about myself and maybe I can relay some encouragement to all of you. You guys are busy, so I promise I'll keep it as short as I can so you can get back to work.
I did my undergraduate at USM in Computer Science, which is the "de facto" degree for being a programmer at most colleges and universities. I learned most of the basics, I suppose. Nothing fancy, nothing challenging. Imagine my surprise when I'm accepted into Carnegie Mellon University, a top-notch university for my grad school in information security, 1) a field I was totally formally uneducated about and 2) I knew that I was about to be completely over my head in learning to learn. I remember thinking, "You know, I'm about to go to a city far away from what I know, studying a rigorous field I've taken no classes in, in an school with a reputation for crushing any positive feelings about how you feel about your academic performance."
Feeling completely overwhelmed in something totally new is a crippling, terrifying feeling to have.
But here is what surprises me even today: I made it out. Yes, I failed assignments and tests, and there were even times where I would stop what I was working because I thought I had zero idea of what I was doing. All the time, however, I was learning. It wasn't always pleasant, and it was extremely exhausting compared to the relaxed pace I was used to from Mississippi. But I was learning, even if I didn't realize it. The hardest classes where I failed multiple assignments were the reasons I passed with flying colors in others.
I said I'd keep it short if possible, so just some small things that may help:
I've been able to see some of your work, and I am so impressed. My first year of programming I couldn't even do a GUI, I "knew" a single language of C++, I knew nothing about web development, and most of all, I had never seen any connection between what I learned in the classroom and what I would do for the rest of my life. You are learning real-world professional skills and have already hit a level that I can speak confidently (as a developer) that each of you would be fine in your first jobs as developers.
Continue working hard, even if it's tough. And if it's worth anything, your efforts are not going unnoticed. Even if I'm just one guy in Pittsburgh with some random website you guys thought was funny (thanks!), I am excited when I get to hear about what you all are working on at Basecamp - multiple languages, practically-focused development skills, and all from a professionally-oriented perspective. I tell my coworkers, I tell my colleagues, I tell my friends. Not just about Basecamp: about the programmers doing solid work and learning a boatload.
I am looking forward to seeing more great work from each of you!
The random website guy from Pittsburgh