My 2017 Review

Reproduced from Facebook, with the permission of the original writer because that’s me XD Added photos for completeness. Reposting to make this my 100th post 😛


2017: a year that stood out completely from others. It’s the year when I was completely away from my home country and family, just for my dreams. It’s the year when I started developing sense of crisis in multiple aspects, particularly after bleeding through the job application processes. It’s also a year when I made incredibly many great friends in my university who can carry conversations along by their endless great insights.

Jan-Apr 2017: Winter

1B term just started, this time with co-op applications blending itself into my already existing academic workload. Ignorant of how a job application look like, I went with the flow by kept getting my resume roasted and cursorily glancing through the available positions before hitting “Submit”. Hoping for the best possible scenario, I was instead struck hard by the reality when all I could do was to watch people around me to announce new offers on their Facebook wall. I finally plunged into abjectness as Continuous round threatened to close: I didn’t even know if I should continue.
Blending into the WaterlooWorks applications were the academic commitment, when I started to lose pace on several courses. The sense of crises heightened to a point when I was forced to visit office hours so frequently that I was at the verge of relying my instructors altogether. Not-less-significant was the moment when I had to let go one question that turned out to be too arcane for me, despite pondering over it again and again.
But on the positive side, I was blessed with people around me of the term. My involvement in the Singapore-Malaysian association as a Communications Manager exposed to me the existing Malaysian communities, which made me feel a few steps closer to home through various activities. Decorating the experience was some extracurricular activities, like a Hackathon volunteering and the Precision Case Competition.
Last, but not least, virtually all my worries aforementioned have been resolved with a heartwarming closure. The most distinctive of those were the week when I had four interviews in a week–the week in which I told myself “I had to get something”. 8pm on the Ranking Day, I checked my ranking page and was greeted by an offer from one of my top choices: Research in Graph Data Management. However difficult for me to believe that, I did it. Soon enough, I felt like the whole world was happy for me when comments flooded on my Facebook wall. The night was mine.
Another great news came in April as I won an Honorable Mention on the 2016 Putnam Competition (7 places away from the N2!) Finally, we chose to end our term with one-day visit to Niagara Falls, thanks to a group of peers who were willing to go far with me.
Repost my photo with the Niagara fam

May – Aug 2017: Spring/Summer

May 1: my first co-op started after an intersession respite. After a two-week warmup of understanding existing works in the field, I extracted the insights from the previous algorithms and tried to modify it to solve the problems. Here came the two components of thoughts: algorithmically, I tried to design it with the maximal possible efficiency in achieving my target; mathematically, I wrote the proof of correctness to make sure that these algorithms were correct. These two objectives seemed to be at odd as I met my first obstacle of getting wrong output midway into my design of algorithms, only to notice an extremely subtle error in my code. Eventually, it was the numbers that provided me with the sense of accomplishment as I successfully trimmed the running time from that of the otherwise brute force algorithms.
The next stage was to venture into multi-processing algorithms, during which I explored libraries like the Multi-Processing Interface (MPI) and the Open MP. For the second time, I was baffled in various aspects, primarily the longer running time than that of the single-processor code that did not agree with the efficiency that should have been achieved via multiple processors. It’s only after a discussion with my supervisors did I realize the occult behind the inter-processor communications and the need of avoiding unnecessary communications. This left me with something working, eventually.
May 5 saw my participation of my first hackathon, and May 13 saw my first venture into Citadel’s Datathon. The excitement derived from these events prompted me to develop a coding project: my own website using HTML and CSS. Intended initially to translate my mathematical passion into the trigonometric tutorial page and my IMO training summary, I found it as another great way of telling my own story by integrating the different aspects of me. An intricate aspect was the journey of making this website responsive, which I only achieved after 2 months of experimenting. Come mid-July, the IMO 2016 shortlisted problems were released following the 2017 IMO in Brazil. Decided to show my enthusiasm for the problems, I started compiling my work onto my Github page. The two-month effort saw me painstakingly ensuring that my solutions were sufficiently rigorous, and that my intuition write-up was easily understandable by those who wanted to learn.
The balmy summer provided me with the opportunity to join different group of friends (or ‘colleagues’) on exploring Toronto and Wonderland. In this short period of time, I was exhilarated by the extreme activities, mellowed by the golden sunset scene on the longest day of the year, and awestruck by the magnificent fireworks on Canada’s 150 celebration. Rounding up the work-life balance was the motley of other leisure activities I had with people having work-term nearby me, ranging from board games, volleyball to Frisbee. These activities reminded me of pastime that were too luxurious during school time, and therefore made my summer experience unique.
Just found another old Wonderland photo, ignore my face and sorry to a friend who had to left early
It’s also worth noting that this is the term my birthday fell on, which blessed me with the multitude wishes from various parts of the world. Having friends to spend time with me on the day made me appreciate friendship even further.

Sept-Dec 2017: Fall

Another school term started–this time witnessing me getting into second year. Getting hyped for yet another school year, I felt that the next round of challenges had just begun. Once again, I challenged myself with the advanced section of mathematics courses, and two other courses that align me with the Mathematical Finance option. The in-depth and proof-based content in Linear Algebra and Calculus courses opened to me the sacrosanct mathematical identities and their astonishing applications that I have never imagined of before, which perpetuated my mathematical passion.
Several contests quenched my love for math and coding even further. In October, the Waterloo Local ACM contest and the North American Qualifier, held in two consecutive weeks, thoroughly accessed my ability to code within the contest timeframe while providing me pleasure on appreciating the beauty of algorithmic problems. Later, the contest timeline was dominated by mathematical contests, and I gave my attention wholeheartedly for the Putnam contest and its warmup: the Big E. Rounding up this contest series were the RBC’s Next Great Innovator Hackathon, the Google Games and the Capture the Flag competition.
Local ACM that placed me rank 18 out of 83! Have to admit that I am a little lucky on that day, though.
It’s WaterlooWorks applications season again, and I chose to defer my next internship plan to the Spring term for various reasons. Nevertheless, my curiosity led me to start exploring the job market external to WaterlooWorks: this time giving myself enough time to make different submissions. Once again, dream jobs remain dream with rejection letters whacking me. The realization of the need for improving my coding skills, together with the desire to enrich myself with numerous excellent Computer Science courses offered on campus, led to my bold decision at the end of the term: to apply for a transfer into Computer Science.
A little pastime that I could feel lucky of amid the intense academic term was cooking (with my partner-in-crime), where we could take a break from the suffocating schoolwork while boasting on our ability to feed ourselves. The pinnacle of all leisure came when the term ended with my first out-of-province vacation to Montreal and Ottawa, during which I was physically challenged by the coldest weather I’ve been: -23C. Nevertheless, the two great travel companions and the picturesque scene and exhibitions made the whole experience more bearable.
WhatsApp Image 2017-12-30 at 00.06.09
The Montreal-Ottawa trip geeks
Finally, it’s the time for countdown again. “10, 9, …, 3, 2, 1, Happy New Year!” I joined the crowd before the Ottawa’s Parliament Hill to celebrate the end of the year. That’s it, about the past 365 days.

Closing Remarks

2017 has been extraordinarily challenging, but thanks to all the hassle and pain I could check a few items from my bucket list. Some of them include getting interviews (Citadel, Jane Street, TransMarket) and job offer (research), developing my first project (website), winning a major math competition in university (Putnam), writing different coding contests, and continue exploring Canada (Toronto, Wonderland, Niagara Falls, Montreal, Ottawa).
These were made possible only with all the people around me, including but not limited to: profs and other instructors who made my learning journey at Waterloo worthwhile, seniors who advised me in several aspects of surviving school, research supervisors who always inspired me with their insights during work, friends who never stopped making me feel better when I was at the lowest point of my job search, comrades who slogged through school with me, peers who provided me with work-life balance by hanging out with me, family who continued to provide me with relentless support and love from the other side of the globe.
Thanks to everyone who appeared in my 2017. Thank you very much.
Final note: special thanks to the two friends who spent the most time with me in the year, Alex (left) and Jay (right). Both were my meal partners when they were around. (I wish I have a proper photo with both of them!)


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