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Posts Tagged ‘alumni advice’

This feature is continued from yesterday…

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8. Have a Back Up Plan
I know you have experienced this scene: first your eyes get really wide, you start beating on the keyboard, palms are sweaty … re-boot … re-boot! Then come the tears. The file is corrupted, missing, blank, accidentally written over (take your pick). You can and you must prevent this situation from happening during your Thesis class. There are a wide variety of approaches you can take for backing up your work but the critical steps are simple:

– Buy an external hard drive. A USB flash drive is not big enough or stable enough for your Thesis project. External drives are not super cheap, but you don’t need the largest one available – about 200 GB will be sufficient. They sell them on the Academic Superstore via the Harrington Portal and you can use your student discount.
– Assume you will lose that external hard drive you just bought with all of your Thesis work on it. You must save everything for your project in multiple places. For example, carry it on your external hard drive to the lab, copy files to your U:/ drive at Harrington and to the hard drive of the computer you are working on. Work off of the computer hard drive and repeat the process in reverse when you leave. Storing all of your work in one folder and copying the whole folder each time makes it easier. Making another copy on your home computer every time you go home won’t kill you either. 
– Save your files every time you complete an important task. During this project your days will run into night and then into the next day. There are times when you will lose 3 hours worth of work and it will feel like the end of the world. If you can set up your software to automatically save your files every 30 minutes then do it. If not, set an alarm on your phone as a reminder to save your files (and tell everyone else in the lab to save their work too). You should back up your whole folder after every work session. When you are tired and ready to go home you will be tempted to skip this process, but you must resist the urge to pack up and run out. There is no crying in Thesis – at least not over lost work.

9. Create a daily plan for the last 6 weeks.
The volume of work that must be produced as part of your Thesis project is more than you can organize and keep track of in your head. Your instructor will set up checkpoints for your weekly class, but you need to plan exactly how you will get it done. All of the points above have lead up to this one and that is creating a daily plan for the last 6 weeks of the class. You don’t need an iPhone app or Microsoft Project to lay this out – you just need a calendar. Start with the day that your project is due and list every day prior to that for 6 weeks. This is not a typo – 6 weeks. Be sure to include every single day of the week and weekend. First, fill in your known commitments for those 6 weeks:
– Work schedule
– Thesis class (because you always go!)
– Other classes you must attend
– Other finals and some time to work on them
– Weddings, parties, volleyball games, charity events, etc.

Then start filling in your Thesis tasks. How long will it take to print your materials? When does it need to go to the printer? How long do you need to do renderings #1, #2, #3? When does the AutoCAD model need to be complete? Working backwards from all of the final components will give you the full picture of what lies ahead and you will see how you can actually get there. You cannot afford to wait a whole week to find out that you are behind. In the final 6-weeks you will have daily Thesis tasks to complete and when you miss something you have to revise your plan and move that task to another day. You can easily gage when you are falling behind, when you need to skip an event, when you need to pull a late night, and most importantly you can feel good about what you have completed. After you create the plan then you have to look at the plan and revise the plan daily in those last 6 weeks. No one ever does as much as they wanted to do on their Thesis project. Having a plan will give you a way to discuss your progress with your instructor, determine priories as you near the end and it will give you the best chance of having a Thesis project that you feel good about.

10. Practice your presentation.
Seeing a really great design presented poorly is one of the most disappointing events you will witness on your final day in Thesis. Scheduling time on your 6-week plan to think about how you want to verbally present your ideas and practicing it can substantially change the way your work is viewed and in the future will make the difference that wins the job. If it means doing one less rendering then it is worth it to be prepared. If you tell yourself that you will just “wing it”, then you will certainly fumble around, forget to point out some great aspects that took you days to render and no one will notice. Despite what you might have been told, your work does not speak for itself. You will do yourself and your project a great disservice if you do not organize your thoughts to get the most out of your 10 minutes and truly convey the spirit and intent of your design.

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