Year one of my Masters degree: a year of firsts

With the year wrapped up, a lot of my friends at the iSchool, U of T’s Faculty of Information, have been joking that we’re now “half masters.” We’ve got one more year to go in the Master’s of Information (MI) program, and at the risk of sounding totally cliched, it really feels like time flew by this past year. The concept that I’ll be walking on stage at Convocation Hall a second time just a year from now seems wild and way too soon! But for now, I’ve still got summer classes, an internship, and a whole year of courses standing between my graduation gown and I.

One year into my Master’s degree, I’ve learned a lot. A course-based, professional Master’s program like the MI is very intense – in the two years I’m spending at the iSchool, I’m learning a lot of hard skills that I will take with me into my career when I graduate. There’s a steep learning curve for a lot of people in the program who come from backgrounds outside of computer science, engineering, and communications, and you’re quickly immersed into a new world of terminology, skills, and networks from the day you start out.

In that sense and others, it’s been a year of firsts for me – like my first time presenting at a conference, pictured below! One of my goals for the year was to work on my public speaking skills. I gave a lightning talk, which meant I only had ten minutes to present research I had worked on for a year. It was a great exercise for me to distill my research and get at the most important takeaways; and it was really fun and exciting to present my work to a crowd and get the perspectives of others. There were tons of questions and a lot of people came up to me after with more to ask, which made me feel really confident.

Me presenting at a conference this year with a panel of students to my left and a screen showing one of my slides as I stand at a panel.
A blurry picture of a first: presenting my first conference talk at the iSchool’s Defying Conventions student conference. Note for next time: get someone to get a good photo!

Another first from this year: networking. I’ve networked before, but this year, I made it a goal to try to go to an event or workshop once a week to develop skills or meet people in the tech industry and hear about their experiences. I gained some valuable connections from this effort, but it also really helped me to develop my “elevator pitch” – a quick, 1-minute speech about who I am that I can whip out when asked the inevitable question, “so, what do you do?” – a question which I have fumbled through my answer to many times!

For the first time this year, I tried taking my skills from the classroom off campus, by getting involved with local meet-up groups and events. Recently, I started working with a team at Civic Tech Toronto, a civic engagement meet-up group that uses technology and data to design solutions to local problems in the GTA. A few months ago, I participated in a Design Jam through the Interaction Design Association of Toronto (IxDA) with some of my U of T peers and some new friends, and my team took home the prize for Most Impactful for our design (pictured below).

My team from the design jam with our Kijiji prize packs.
With our prizes (sponsored by Kijiji) at the IxDA Design Jam. We worked all day and it was exhausting but totally worth it for the networking, learning experience, and the free pizza and burritos.

These are just some of the firsts for me this year, and I can’t wait for the summer and for next year to keep on trying new things, learning, and growing as I wrap up my time at U of T (for now, anyway!).

And this post wraps up my time at the Life at U of T blog! It’s been a lot of fun posting here each week and sharing my experience at U of T. Thanks for reading over the past year and keep checking this space for awesome posts from the amazing new Community Crew bloggers!

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