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Posts tagged ‘learn’

149. Done and Dusted.

I am officially exam free- can I get a HELL YEAH?! Do I have my life back yet though? HELL NO.

Basicallyy I still have my fourth year project to finish off which is kinda like a dissertation but with maths instead of words. This project (and an accompanying presentation on said project) is worth quarter of the year which is A LOT. Additionally if you’re borderline between degree classes like I am, they look at your project marks to help decide which side of the boundary you should be on.

Now I’ve been working on this project on and off from November so I’ve done a fair bit. However I’m not sure if it’s utter bollocks or actually relevant. Mine’s not the most ‘mathematical’ of projects either; it’s more statistical analysis focused. Before you start thinking oooh analysis, let me clarify that it’s more like ‘errrm this mean is higher…oh look low variance’ and other mindless insights rather than meaningful inference.  I kinda feel sorry for my supervisor who has to read this drivel.

As for the exams… I did six of them which is two less than what I did in 1st and 2nd year but it still felt overwhelming. Must be the insane content. How did they go?

The Mastery Paper

This bastard of a paper is reserved for us lucky fourth years to try and distinguish us from the third years. They made us sit an exam where we were given one question from each of the modules we took. Note that even though I study maths which is ‘one subject’, individual modules are vastly different. It was like a five in one exam or more accurately THE MOTHER OF ALL EXAMS. Even worse it was the very first exam. I had zero hope that it would go well- I just wanted to not fail. In the end I had one very good question, two average questions and one piss poor one so I’d say it all averages out to meh.

Algebraic Combinatorics

This is a pure Maths module and by definition, that makes it HARD. You’ve actually got to think in the exam *shock* *horror*. I was terrified going into it because the past papers from the last few years were foul and there were bits of the course that I just didn’t get. However it turned out better than expected. That’s not to say I smacked it. I just had low expectations and it exceeded those.

Time Series

Preparing for this exam felt like preparing for an A-Level Mathematics exam ie. you hit the past papers and you do as many practice questions as possible rather than examine the lecture notes. I had a terrible journey getting into uni that day and although I wasn’t late, it messed up my mental preparation. I was all over the place at the beginning of the exam but luckily I managed to pull myself together and I hope I salvaged it. I *hope*.

Applied Probability

I really liked this course mainly because I really like the lecturer but my god was this module a bitch to revise for. You have to know the lecture notes INSIDE OUT. Every minute detail is examinable and there are so many proofs and methods which you’re expected to know. I felt like I understood the content but I wasn’t sure I could convert that into a good exam mark. Before the exam I did a quick revision session with a dude from my course and I explained some stuff to him and he explained some stuff to me. Both things came up. I could have hugged him.

Statistical Theory

The name of this course is Statistical theory but we knew the exam was all about applying the theory. Due to my timetable I sort of only had 6 days to revise for it properly. The lecture notes were waffle so I just did the papers and hoped for the best. I even learnt definitions on the train on the exam day. It was all very last minute dot com. The exam itself was HARD but I honestly tried so I’m not disappointed. I did everything I could.

Stochastic Simulation

We all got royally screwed over. It was nothing like the past papers. I can’t say it was ‘unfair’ but it was just weird and I didn’t feel like the questions were direct. I could see everyone’s faces in the hall as they flicked through the questions all unanimously thinking ‘what the hell is this?’. It was a pretty bad exam to end on. My only consolation is that I think everyone found it bad so hopefully they’ll sort out the boundaries…

But yeah. That’s that. All done and dusted. I thought I’d have some closure after this or feel like a great burden had been lifted off my shoulders. Instead I felt..nothing and my attention immediately switched to my project. Maybe I’ll feel like celebrating when that’s done?

At least I hope so.

Over and Out!

 

133. Can it be the end of term already?!

The end of term is fast approaching and I couldn’t be more grateful. I am exhausted both mentally and physically; I think commuting 3 hours a day has finally taken its toll. Over Christmas I have a truckload of work to do (will it ever end?!) but at least I’ll get to do it in the comfort of my home where I can wake up when I want, eat when I want and work on things at my own pace.

I believe I complained about one of my modules (Stat Theory) in my second to last post. You’re in luck- I’m going to complain about it some more. I had my last every lecture for it today *Hallelujah!*. Considering how much I’ve struggled with the course and felt like I had no idea what was going on, I did well in the coursework which has put my lecturer under the illusion that I am competent.

I’m not.

What I realised was that he likes things done his way and I have no qualms about adjusting my notation and methods to suit him. However there is one guy in my class who started arguing with the lecturer today after he got docked marks for doing something in a different way not taught in the course. I wouldn’t have had a problem if he had spoken to the lecturer in private but he decided to start making his point during the lecture in front of everyone about how ‘real’ mathematicians can accept that there are numerous ways to approach the same problem. The lecturer essentially told him to STFU and I thought the guy would do us all a favour and take the hint but he just carried on.

It very quickly turned into a pissing contest where he’d just start pointing out every mistake the lecturer made, even something minor like brackets. At the end of the lecture he was still moaning and he tried asking other students if we supported his view. I said I didn’t want to get involved and he straight up called us all ‘PUSSIES’. My bad. Sorry for not wanting to be a dick to my lecturer who’ll be marking my exam this Summer.

Personally I don’t see why it’s so hard for him to be flexible- surely that’s also an important skill for a mathematician too. Whatever.

On a lighter note, tomorrow I am celebrating the end of term with my friends by watching the new Hobbit movie. Really excited! Hope it’s worth the hype.

Over and Out!

123. The Annual Student Pledge

Like every other student I promise myself year on year that I will do better, that I will work harder and be more organised. Every year I end up short of my expectations. Nonetheless today I make my annual student pledge to improve on last year (and trust me there’s a lot to improve on).

To really drill it home I’ve decided to publish my pledge here on my blog, immortalised on the internet so that I can look back in shame when if I fail.

I Aliya, hereby promise the following:

  • To read over lecture notes throughout the term rather than in a blind panic before exams
  • To tackle problem sheets with the same perseverance I usually reserve for coursework
  • To really think about problem sheet questions rather than jumping for the solutions
  • To make good revision notes and not get bored of the module after the second chapter
  • To not assume something won’t turn up in the exam… because it usually does (just to spite me!)

I really want to do well and leave university on a good note. Hopefully the fact that this is my final year might be the kick up the arse I need. 

Over and Out!

116. Innocent until proven guilty

That’s what the justice system here hinges on.  I don’t think I fully understood the ramifications of this until I started my jury service this week. For those of you who don’t know, anyone over the age 18 who has been a UK resident for a certain number years is eligible to be part of a jury that tries a criminal case. You are chosen out of a lottery and you have to attend (unless you have a decent excuse- ‘I have work’ isn’t good enough). And well, I got chosen.

Going into this, I knew it would be a new experience; I was curious about the courtroom and how much it lived up to the movies. I also naively thought it wouldn’t be that difficult.

[Now that we’ve given the verdict on the case I was on, I think I’m allowed to talk about it vaguely.] 

My case was a stabbing. When I first heard that, I thought it was going to court as a formality. I mean how tough can it be? Someone got stabbed. Someone did the stabbing. There’s a clear guilty party. Right? Wrong. It’s not that simple.

It’s very easy from an outsider’s point of view to read something in the newspapers and just see it as black and white as the ink against paper. But we’re people, we’re humans and that automatically means we’re messy. The same action in different contexts can have totally different interpretations.

Let’s take an extreme example. Bob is naked in the shower. Perfectly fine. Bob is naked in the middle of a football match. That’s indecent exposure. As a jury, it is our duty to try and understand the context and it the job of the prosecution and defense to paint the scene as clearly as possible for us.

It is part of the jury’s oath to only judge the defendant based on the evidence and that means no assuming. You are not allowed to try and imagine what they may or may not have done and that is a lot harder than it sounds. For example, one of the witnesses on trial sounded completely rude and ignorant in my opinion and I could easily imagine them escalating a situation or causing trouble. But that doesn’t mean that they did and I cannot assume that. As a member of the jury you need to put aside your imagination.

The prosecution’s job is to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime. The defense have to prove nothing. Moreover the defense do not have to prove that the defendant is innocent. If you have doubts that they committed the crime, you must find them not guilty. That means even if you think they did it with some confidence, unless you are certain and have enough evidence to back up your surety, you cannot find them guilty. And that is exactly what it means to be innocent until proven guilty. That is better to let a guilty party walk free if you are not sure than it is to let an innocent party go to jail.

Whether or not you think that is right is irrelevant. That is how a jury is instructed to judge. In my case, it was a stabbing and the stabber was acquitted. I wasn’t happy about it but we had enough doubt that it could have been accidental or in self defense that we had to give a not guilty verdict. That doesn’t mean I think they’re innocent.

So next time you see something in a paper and think ‘pff what a soft sentence’… think again. It quite difficult to say someone is certainly guilty.

Over and Out!

P.S I tittered privately when I heard the judge who was fully decked out in a wig and formal robes say ‘fuck you, you pussy’. She was quoting obviously lol.

115. 20 things I wish I knew before I started my internship

1. Keep a pen and notepad with you at all times. You never know when someone will give you something to do.

2. If you’re stuck on something, give it a decent attempt. If you’re still struggling, note down your questions precisely as well as what you’ve already tried so you don’t have to keep pestering people.

3. Note down the names of people you’ve met eg Harry Potter and a memorable trait eg. lightning bolt scar. You don’t want to go through the awkward ‘erm what’s your name again’ conversation.

4. Respond to emails quickly. Often people are waiting for your response before they can move forward. Don’t keep them waiting too long.

5. Put your email sign off eg. Kind regards in your email signature. You will get tired of typing it.

6. Constantly inform people what you are doing. They like reassurance that you haven’t forgotten about their work. In fact you shouldn’t be alarmed if you spend more time informing people of this than actually working.

7. Always make a note of where you found any facts and figures. You will cry if they ask you to find it later and you’ve forgotten.

8. Implement checks in your work wherever possible. This will prevent follow through mistakes which are annoying to fix.

9. Say ‘yes’ to any work given to as long as you have enough time to do it… and even if you don’t. You’ll be surprised how much you can reshuffle to make time.

10. Make a comprehensive list of your tasks and how long you think they’ll take. But also keep a Post-It of immediate tasks in your direct eye line so you are constantly aware of what needs to be done.

11. People care a lot about the appearance of documents so make it look pretty. I got commended in my final review for adjusting the line spacing so that everything fit neatly onto one page.  Such a minor detail and it got noticed. Thank you OCD.

12. Ask people questions. It makes them feel knowledgeable so do so even if you know the answer. If you’re feeling brave, subtly mention the answer and they’ll think you’re clever.

13. Facebook stalk other people in the office and find out what they’re interested in. You’ll find it easier to talk to them.

14. If you can think of a better way of doing something, discuss it with the person who gave you the job. DON’T just jump into it. Some people are surprisingly touchy if you drift even a little from their instructions.

15. Wherever possible, get feedback on any work you’ve done. It’s a good way to learn and get more work as well building a rapport through the correspondence.

16. If you have the option to speak to someone rather than email them about something important, speak to them. Things are far less ambiguous when you talk directly.

17. Take regular breaks and stretch your legs. It’s good for your concentration. This doesn’t mean you’re wasting your time. Do the coffee round or plan your lunch and meetings in such a way that you’re not at your desk for hours and hours.

18. Food is the best way to butter up your colleagues. Cake always goes down a treat, especially if it’s homemade.

19. Do not let people get away with giving vague instructions. Pester them if you have to. It will save you a lot of time in the long run.

20. It’s always better to ask for help than to struggle in vain.

Over and Out!

107. Constructive Criticism

Today I had my mid-internship feedback session. It was supposed to be informal but my blood pressure was elevated the entire time. I’m not sure why I was so nervous- maybe it’s because I’ve never had feedback like this before or maybe I was bracing myself for criticism.

My line manager said lots of nice stuff but of course it is the negatives that stick out and keep replaying in my mind. Though of course they weren’t negatives, they were ‘constructive criticism’. The biggest of these was how I wasn’t making the most of the social scene which is a toughie as far as criticism goes. It’s not something like ‘Aliya you need to be on time’- that’s very easily rectifiable. This is more like Aliya we think you need to be more outgoing- that kinda requires a personality transplant.

Now a lot of things that make you ‘outgoing’ are things I don’t do. I don’t drink. I don’t club. That is not my lifestyle and it’s not something I’m prepared to compromise on. But I am guilty of not speaking to enough people when I have the opportunity. I mean I know the people around me pretty well but not so much people on the other floors outside of people I’ve worked for. But that’s what I’m like. I take time to warm to people and I prefer small intimate circles rather than big networks. It’s not that I’m scared of an awkward conversation- I just hate inane conversation. I like quirky. I’m not interested if you were out clubbing till 3am and that you’re still hung over but I am interested if you can click your fingers in 8 different ways.

So how did I take all of this?

Well obviously I didn’t love hearing it but I can’t dispute it either. All of her comments were fair and justified. I just need to decide what to do about it now.

I mean I could force myself into being more of a social butterfly but it would be temporary. What’s the point of faking it to get a graduate offer and then going back to my reclusive self? That’s IF I get one. I don’t think I will and in that situation it might for the best- I’d be better off at a smaller company.

Why have I been watching this for the last 5 minutes?

 

Over and Out!

106. My Internship

I’ve just finished my third week at Towers Watson as an intern (working in Retirement). This means I’ve actually reached half way! The time has seriously flown by, probably because I’ve been kept so busy.

aliya

Enjoying the sunshine

Settling Down

There are 8 of us altogether in the Westminster office in Retirement. One is me, the other is Shakira and one of the dudes actually went to my secondary school (though he was in the year below me). So that’s 2 more people than most people usually know at the start of their internship. On top of that it’s 6 girls and 2 boys which is pretty unusual but all of this combined has just made it easier for me to settle down.

The Work

There’s no point me detailing the kind of stuff I do because it won’t make much sense. All I can say is that to work in this area, you need to learn so many new words and acronyms that it might as well be a Rosetta Stone course. Also because of government rule changes over the years, doing simple tasks becomes hella annoying because you have to look at each time period separately, there’s Pre 88, Post 88, Pre 97, Post 97, and the occasional Post 06.  Why you make this so hard?!

Initially I was a bit annoyed about doing things I didn’t actually understand. For example I use a very clever spreadsheet called Caps and Floors which works out the right interest rate for stuff. Essentially all I do is input a few values and it spits out a number. I have no idea how it’s doing this and from the viewpoint of a mathematician, I find it wholly unsatisfying but I have grudgingly come to accept that I don’t have time to work through the Black Scholes equation. Additionally I had very little financial knowledge coming into this. I didn’t know how gilts work (I do now..sort of) or stuff about bond yields which was a hindrance.

I haven’t done much Maths besides basic arithmetic (I miss it) but the numerical judgement I’ve picked up during my degree (eg. does this figure look right?) has been invaluable. It means I’m efficient when sifting through documents trying to find the right information and also when reviewing calculations on Excel.

I have a buddy who’s supposed to make sure I always have work to do but he’s a bit slow and this week he’s gone on holiday. Basically I’ve been pestering the people around me and they’ve been happy (a little too happy on occasion) to oblige. In contrast, Shakira’s buddy Timone gives her annoying technical tasks with incomplete instructions but he’s very nice so we forgive him.

IT Skills

I thought I was decent using Microsoft Office. I’m not. I have learnt so many little tricks in my time here.  Many of them are specific to the the TW Toolbar but just small things like the ‘track changes’ features in Word and ‘record transitions’ feature in Powerpoint has been… life changing. However, the biggest shock was Microsoft Outlook. I had NO IDEA how powerful it was. I’d never given it much attention before but seriously it puts Hotmail and even Gmail to shame. Its capacity to book meetings, check out other people’s schedules and track tasks has been invaluable. I will never dismiss it again.

Socials

Towers Watson is a very friendly place. The office is open plan so you literally can walk up to anyone and just say hi. As the new interns, everyone was really eager to meet us and find out our capacity to do some work for them 😛 There is always some kind of social event on the horizon whether it’s Friday drinks, a lunch or a boat party like we had this week. The inconvenient thing about them is that they all involve drinking. It’s like they can’t do anything if there is no alcohol. Every time I tell someone that I don’t drink, they give me a confused look. I guess I didn’t realise how important a pint was in British culture. I do now. And my god, it’s not just one pint they have, it is several. Where is all this liquid going? How are they constantly not peeing?! It’s a mystery to me.

However I’ve still been going to as many of the socials as I can. A highlight was the boat party. Great fun! I’m sure it was supposed to be used as an opportunity for (more) networking but there was a roulette table and I pretty much spent the whole evening there (no real money was involved before someone starts shouting at me for gambling during Ramadan- talking of Ramadan… Ramadan Mubarak!).

roulette

I’m feeling lucky….

Intern Project

Alongside all the work we do in the office, we also have an intern project. I’m in a group of 8 across three different offices and we have to co-ordinate making new videos for graduate recruitment. Other groups are making games to help prospective applicants decide what line of business they should go for and another is setting up TW’s Facebook and Twitter page. The project has been really fun so far and I really like my group, particularly a dude called Robert who is our project leader and also happens to have beautiful chiselled cheekbones 😛 Now originally we thought that we’d be interviewing people in the office… turns out we’re starring in them. That’s right we’re going to be immortalised on the TW website, saying cringey things like ‘open the door to your career at Towers Watson!’ *fistpump*.

reigate

This is where we’re going to be filming… the Reigate office (not my usual Westminster one)

Dress Code

I’m going to be honest- half the reason I was excited about this internship was because I’d get to dress up in nice formal wear. However that gets old real quick. First of all dresses and skirts are really annoying when you’re climbing stairs. Mine don’t have huge slits so my pace length is restricted and unless I hike the hem up, I definitely can’t run for my train. Trousers for the win! Furthermore, if I’m not wearing trousers I wear opaque tights and in this weather it is DISGUSTING. I can feel my legs continuously getting sweaty and drying. Actually gross. Oh and shoes! Both my flats and my heels hurt my feet if I wear them for too long. University has spoiled me- the only shoes that don’t hurt are trainers.

Thankfully we have dress down Fridays where I can chillax and wear my jeans and converses to work. Hoorah!

Okay this is getting really long now. I’ll leave it at that- don’t want to bore all of you!

Over and Out!