RIT is full of 'doers'. Most of us around here like making things. Whether it’s a giant pumpkin-slinging catapult, or an app for campus safety, we enjoy creating around here. It’s not uncommon to see the film or photo students around campus shooting for a project, and the SSE is often full of students collaborating. Hell, we have an entire center dedicated to innovative ideas. RIT is full of 'doers'.
And I think that’s why I struggled as a CS major my freshman year. In a field like Computer Science, there’s a lot of work to be done before you can get to the making part. There’s so much to understand before you can make a computer do something new. I wanted to build right away. I wanted to craft something people would use. As a CS major I certainly would’ve gotten there, it just would’ve taken a lot of time. But I was impatient, and Computer Science is really hard. So I changed majors.
In the Information Technology program, the curriculum focuses on the skills required to build applications for business. I learned what I needed to in order to begin building on my own. Not only did I find this more interesting, but building on your own is immensely valuable, arguably moreso than anything you will ever do in a class.
For one, a project you choose to do is far more interesting than one you have to do. Working on something that actually matters to you reveals your passion. It’s real, honest, genuine work. You’ll learn a lot, doing projects on your own, and you can share your work excitedly.
Personal projects will not only teach you a lot, but they can secure you a job. When talking with potential employers, they will without a doubt ask about your past experience. What’s more revealing, telling them about a project you were required to do, or a project you chose to do? They’re impressive, even if they’re not. The simple matter of going out of your way and doing something for the sake of wanting to do it tells as much about you as the end result of what ever you made.
And while I believe personal projects are particularly important in computing, they’re equally important in virtually every other field. In anything from Illustration to Industrial Design to Mechanical or Electrical Engineering (all excellent programs here at RIT), personal projects are valuable. The barriers to entry will vary by program, but no matter what you study there’s always something you can do on your own. And you should.
Whether I’m reviewing iPhone apps or simply telling the world about myself, my personal projects add value to my resume, and to me as a person. Finding a balance between “have to” and “want to” is a valuable life skill. The point of a higher education may primarily be career skills, but a college experience should ultimately be shaped by life skills. Personal projects often achieve both.
So when potential employers ask me what I do when I’m not in class, my answer is often “working”. Not only because I work a lot on campus, but because my free time tends to be spent making things. I make time for non-constructive things, certainly. I enjoy a good video game here or there. But the personal projects are far more interesting to talk about. They’re relevant, and I’m excited about them - people love that.
In this community I’m far from alone. Though my projects have thus far been solo efforts, there’s an innovative, can-do community all around me, should I wish to tap into it.
Personal projects matter; this most of us know. This is why we build. This is why we’re here. This is RIT.
RIT is full of 'doers'.