Life@UMP – Software Engineering

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“What university is that?” “Where is it located?” “Never heard of it lahh.” These are just some examples of statements/enquiries I, a future Software Engineer, received when proudly proclaiming I’m from Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP). Yes, you now might have a mysterious voice in your head saying the exact same thing. Well mates, the non-glamorous UMP is situated on the side of Tun Razak Highway, Gambang, Pahang in Malaysia. Basically, it’s in a random Malaysian rainforest. Animal sightings are a norm, usually just wild boars and dogs, and occasionally more exotic ones such as snakes, lizards, monkeys and once a Kongkang  (Slow loris).

Like all public universities, application is done through the UPU system. Here is a simple guideline for those that chose the A-level-ish path:

  •   Input personal details
  •   Input pre-u details and results
  •   Input course/university choices
  •   Hope and pray

Like many other poor souls out there, my prayers weren’t answered. The dreams of threading into the hallowed grounds of Universiti Malaya etc now in shambles. Nevertheless, dreams can be rebuilt, restructured, reconstructed and reprogramed. Fantasies aside, I come from the widely praised Malaysian Matriculation Program, at least that is what they claimed. For me, that one year at another random Malaysian jungle was absolute torture, classes non-stop from 8am to 5pm, lab reports every day (Science stream), quizzes every hour, study every minute. Well it does give the advantage of 1 year compared to Form Six.

A year and a half (3 semesters) has passed since I opened the door to my hostel room. Compared to my tenure at Matriculation, life at UMP was easy, I only have 16 credit hours average per semester in my 3.5 year bachelor’s degree course. I do not face the daunting stress of medicine courses, nor do the memory crunching Law degrees, and neither do my fellow university mates. Yes, my university is filled with future engineers ready to innovate the future or a varsity filled with lazy people looking for ways to get things done easy, depends on which way you see it. Judgements aside, we all live mostly in harmony no matter our ethnicity or background brought together by our mutual hatred of our Student Council members and Students Welfare Department.

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Moving on, as students, we normally would be busy rushing deadlines and completing assignments. Typical, but then again as a Malaysian, we like to compare things. Don’t tell me you never compared our durians against foreign species of durians. Yes, but here is a norm to compare our busy schedule. Who is free? Who is busy? What course is that fella from? Ubiquitous questions thrown around to investigate each other’s cramp schedule, with many agreeing that Engineering Management students could practically sleep through the weekend without worrying about Monday, a luxury to the others.

Talking about schedules, what would fill up a Software Engineer’s schedule? Most people would probably guessed we are a group of geeks with thick lenses staring at a desktop typing the enigma code out. Nope, half of my syllabus is actually project planning and management. I was surprised to find out that I’ll be learning ways to plan a software project and requirement elicitation in my first semester. Of course we still learn those weird codes and computer languages. But as I learn, I realize Software projects are not like typical engineering projects, and require different set of procedures to run due to the more unpredictable and competitive world of cyber business. So don’t go around imagining us as some fat, ill managed slob slurping down Pepsi while burping out lines of incomprehensible codes. We are more capable than you are, jokingly of course mate.

 

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Unfortunately for us, even with our busy schedule, we’re expected to make time for co-curricular activities. Sounds normal? Here’s the catch, points will be gathered based on our involvement in the activities. Points gathered will be used during application for next year’s hostel arrangements, and there is a minimum threshold you need to pass o be eligible. My first year’s point threshold was a record high, 3900 points, as compared to the previous year, 2100 points. To make this look daunting, an international level involvement only yields 200 points. Oh and Malaysians’ love for comparing does not spare this either, competing to see who has the most points.

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Well, this is what I got myself into – an average kid suddenly thrown into a whirlpool of expectations and social competition. Then again, it was no less what I expected, these norms were already taking root during Matriculation. Competitiveness between students are high within public institutions knowing only the best are acknowledged here. I myself expected a tough journey ahead before putting on the tie for the orientation. You might say, “mate, your university’s rank is over 2000!?” I tell you, education anywhere is equal, it’s the experience and things you learn that are not from your lecturer’s that’s worth it all. I came here with expectations for myself that I wish to be met, UMP is just a training arena.

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So far, life has been kind enough, bumps along the way but nothing too rough yet. Socially I’m doing well, my trilingual (as a Malay) ability distinguished me well among the students here. Education wise, I’m just average, nothing too fancy. I’m here to mature and experience, a Degree certification is just a paper if you can’t even talk to the stall cashier, let alone some company’s CEO. My advice to future university students, look to improve more as a person, it’s more important than getting that Upper case printed “A”. Also, try not to forget to have some fun, this might be your last time where you can do so at full capacity. Those who are prospecting their future with UMP, well don’t put your hopes too high, it might disappoint you a little, it’s a public university after all. Then again UMP might be better off than a few other public universities since it’s fairly new, hence better facilities. Its close proximity with Kuantan (30 minutes’ drive) does not really isolate it from civilization too.

For enquiries you can contact me through my Facebook (Mhd Qym) or through Twitter (@MuhdQaiyyim). Just drop me a message or anything, I’ll try to reply as soon as time allows me too. So I’ll sign off by saying, good luck and may the force be with you.


Qaiyyim

Muhammad Qaiyyim is currently striving for his Bachelor (Hons) in Computer Science Majoring in Software Engineering at Universiti Malaysia Pahang. A true geek powerful with force. Frequently spotted at the basketball court or anywhere that resembles a dojo, with a laptop closeby.

 

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BNM Kijang Scholarship (January Intake)

Sasana Kijang

Image Source

Ever thought of acquiring a scholarship from the Central Bank of Malaysia, Bank Negara Malaysia (henceforth referred to as BNM), that not only covers pre-university education but extends to degree level as well?

Traditionally, BNM’s application only opens after the announcement of SPM results in the beginning of March. So it was as unexpected to me as to everyone else when we were informed that Bank Negara was offering the scholarship before SPM had even commenced. The selection process involved going through an interview process in December after our SPM ended in November with only our trial results.

As far as I know, this application could only be done through the school, and students who applied were mostly nominated by their teachers. Together with my other three peers, I applied for the scholarship using trial results and a compilation of certificates.

If you are aiming for the scholarships after SPM or other relevant qualifications, a piece of advice is to be actively involved in co-curricular activities that you enjoy and would potentially benefit you, alongside a good academic performance throughout your secondary education. Taking part in competitions, events, and sport tournaments, especially in your final years of secondary school, can set you apart from other applicants with your own unique talents and ‘flavour’.                                      

The notice that I was shortlisted for the interview came in early December, not long after SPM ended. Before the interview, we were required to do an online IQ assessment which consisted of these few sections:

1) Dimensions (Personality)

This assessment measures your behavioural preferences at work. It explores how you prefer to manage your relationships with others, your approach to tasks, and your sources of energy and motivation.

2) Elements (Verbal)

This assessment measures your analytical reasoning skills in relation to interpreting written information and reports.

3) Elements (Numerical)

This assessment measures your analytical reasoning skills in relation to using figures, data and statistics.

4) Elements (Logical)

This assessment measures your reasoning skills in relation to understanding and manipulating abstract or logical symbols.

In mid-December, I attended the interview along with two peers who were shortlisted. The interview process was largely similar to the usual interview process that commences every year in April-June after SPM results are released. We were provided accommodation in Lanai Kijang, BNM’s effectively private 5-star hotel, for three days and two nights (the duration of the interviews).

1st Day:

My first task was a half-hour essay which asked me about my thoughts and passion towards the course I chose, Law, and essentially, how I would contribute to the bank through my expertise in it. From my inference, this stage evaluates your thought process in structuring your essay and giving reasons that support your claim about your passion towards the course. Your aims in contributing to the bank should illustrate how you plan to apply and practise what you have gained from your degree in fulfilling the bank’s policies and aims when you serve your bond in the bank. My suggestion is to be realistic but optimistic when stating your views/ideas; don’t worry about using bombastic language that might sound overly flowery which you might use incorrectly in the end.

2nd Day:

The second stage was carried out in Sasana Kijang, BNM’s learning/research centre. We were divided into groups of 7 in which we worked throughout the day. The first few rounds were judged by three ‘facilitators’ who were also the assessors. The first round was an ice-breaking session that allowed me to know my teammates better, including their origin, course of choice etc. Speaking from experience, do grab the chance of this session to establish good rapport among yourselves and leave the assessors with a good first impression of yourself, especially when you work your way through dismantling the barriers among peers.

The following few rounds involved working as a team. One of them was a role play session when each of us was assigned a role in a company, whereby we were supposed to perform our respective expertise by drafting policies that were aimed to gain high profits for the company, and at the same time, increase welfare of the citizens. After completing the task within the stipulated time, I was bombarded with questions from the assessors who role-played as the board of directors about the drawbacks of the policies we had just drafted as a team. In the midst of convincing the BOD of your policies and defending your ideas, it is imperative that you are able to think critically while remaining calm and composed. Do bear in mind to show humility and respect to your teammates and assessors when expressing your views as the attitude you adopt in problem-solving and teamwork could be a deciding factor. Also make sure that you give adequate speaking opportunities to your teammates and always understand that your efforts should be collective and invariably for the greater good of the team as a whole. Remember that dominance does not equate to leadership.

The subsequent rounds comprised of competitions with other groups, judged by a larger number of assessors. Our first project was to design a theme park that could generate the highest revenue possible. If memory serves, one of the other winning criteria was best design. Like all the other rounds, it is important to choose a leader among yourselves who can lead the team to ensure efficiency and unity. As a leader, it is important that you embrace the opinions of your teammates before coming to a decision quickly. Go ahead and assume this responsibility if you are elected by your teammates who think that you possess these qualities. And if you are not the leader, fret not because it would not affect your chances of showcasing your abilities by contributing to the group as part of the team.

The next challenge was to build a boat that could support the most number of marbles without sinking into the water. The challenge in this project was not just deciding on the design of the body of the boat but also carefully planning our expenditure on the materials that could be optimally utilised to keep the boat afloat as we had to build the boat with minimal cost. We then made a presentation of our model by explaining the features of our boat and analysing on how well it worked.

3rd Day:

We had to do an individual presentation of a topic assigned to us. My topic was regarding how we can encourage children in Malaysia to think about personal finance and managing their money wisely. Firstly, we were given some time to illustrate and write the content of our presentation on a few pieces of mahjong paper. We then had to present it to a new set of assessors individually. Likewise, the assessors questioned us thoroughly about the content we were presenting about and expected to see a positive and spontaneous response. STAY CALM because candidates usually panic when they face the assessors alone. Ideally, by the third day you should be rather “experienced” in performing under pressure without being hindered by anxiety. Give it your best shot!

Through this stage, the interviewers generally want to know about what you have gained from previous stages, the reason of you choosing the course, and how suited are you for the scholarship and working in the bank. They expect honest and well-explained answers from you, so just be yourself when doing that.

The entire interview experience was enriching and definitely something worth a try. This exposure to an intensive interview process enabled me to pick up essential interview skills and know what qualities are expected of me in interviews. Making preparations before the interview is advisable, in the sense that you read up on the philosophy of their function as the Central Bank and also think of the reasons why you have chosen the course. This does not mean that you memorise scripts before the interview because this tactic would not work most of the time. It may cause you to be too rigid in making spontaneous response when you are being interviewed.   

After being awarded the scholarship, I joined the January intake at Kolej Tuanku Jaafar, doing an 18-month A-levels course. It is a great college to be in and I am extremely grateful to the bank for granting me this opportunity. Although being a January intake student for A-levels is a challenging task, it is a fun experience and I am enjoying the time I am having now. As there are expectations to be met as a Bank scholar, my advice is to appreciate your time when doing your A-levels and this effort will definitely pay off and bear fruits of success. As a matter of fact, Bank scholars are required to gain entry into the top-notch universities Bank Negara lists out. Hence, be wise when selecting your priorities and do not waver in your determination of achieving what you have set out for. Make the journey worth it at the end of the day as you have attained what could be a dream every student would have – a free education in a prestigious university abroad.

I hope this article is useful in giving you inspirations and insights into attending a scholarship interview be it in Bank Negara or other scholarship avenues. “STUDY SMART and PLAY HARD”- a meaningful catch phrase from high school.

ALL THE BEST!!!


 

si-qi

Si Qi Chung is currently doing A-Levels in Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar as a January intake and will hopefully read Law in the United Kingdom. She is a curious and eager learner and will pursue what she finds interesting. This aspiring lawyer is also a great watercolour painter who has won numerous awards.

 

Actuarial Science/ Maths & Stats/ MORSE Personal Statement

Cedric Teoh is currently a first year undergraduate reading BSc in Actuarial Science at The London School of Economics and Political Science. This personal statement was part of his successful application to The LSE (Actuarial Science), City University London (Actuarial Science), Imperial College London (Maths & Stats) and the University of Warwick (MORSE).


I enjoy analytical subjects that require me to think creatively. I like how Mathematics involves logical chains of thought and I find it exciting to use fundamental skills to solve complex questions. Applying mathematical rules, while pushing for a creative outcome, is a challenge I relish.  I enjoy finding alternative routes to a solution and solving more challenging questions, such as those in the STEP papers. My enthusiasm for the subject stems from its wide range of applications, giving me the option to apply my knowledge in a myriad of fields. Statistics is the field of mathematics for which I have the greatest affinity.

My early encounters with statistics came from watching football. Sports analysts use statistics to reduce the occurrence of injuries and to transforms players’ traits into data, allowing comparisons to be made. Bookmakers also rely on statistical methods to set their odds. After reading Goldman Sachs’ paper on the recent FIFA World Cup, I found it interesting that through regression analysis they could convert many variables, such as home advantage, into statistical parameters. These were then used to carry out Monte-Carlo simulations to predict the outcome of matches. Their model predicting Brazil would win the trophy turned out to be wrong. I think they overplayed the advantage of being the hosts, as statistically host nations had more than a 50% win rate in the past, provided they were a top football nation. However, we can observe that host nations have not won the World Cup since 1998 and 3 of the last 4 winners were not even from the home continent.The applicability of confidence intervals appeals to me as they are widely used in various industries, accounting for natural variations in research. Actuarial science, a field I wish to explore further, uses it extensively in risk analysis. As actuarial scientists estimate the potential losses of company investments, confidence intervals are used to render the value at risk with greater certainty. This helps prevent crises, such as banks failing during the Great Depression, from happening. I am amused by how simple topics we learnt can greatly impact the financial sector.

‘The Great Mathematical Problems’ by I. Stewart introduced me to many theorems and conjectures.  When reading about Goldbach’s Conjectures and Euclid’s propositions on prime numbers it seemed that this was a very theoretical area which lacked applications. So I was amazed when I discovered their significance in public-key cryptography, which is widely used in internet security. Mathematicians essentially exploited the lack of an effective algorithm in finding the prime factors of composite numbers to create a trapdoor function for cryptography. Discovering applications of theoretical mathematics makes it practical and interesting.

Mathematics competitions help stimulate my creative thinking. I won a Gold certificate in the UKMT Mathematics Challenge, ranking 2nd amongst my peers. At a local university’s Engineering Competition, the team that I was leading finished 2nd. Despite early disappointments we persisted in making a model car of the desired quality. I honed my problem solving skills as we managed to develop a way to improve the explosiveness of the nozzle which allowed our model car to move much further.

As Vice President of the Mathematics Club, I help to prepare my juniors for competitions and to develop more interesting quizzes. I have volunteered to be a personal tutor, developing my ability to communicate and to simplify technical problems. As a prefect I built my leadership skills and learnt to be dedicated, spending time mentoring my juniors. Working as a sales assistant at Apple’s premium retailer had improved my interpersonal skills greatly.  I also represented my boarding house in basketball competitions.

I am excited about seizing the opportunities the Central Bank of Malaysia scholarship has given me and about learning in a stimulating environment in the UK.


DISCLAIMER: The personal statements on this site are strictly meant as a starting point to give an idea of how successful personal statements look like. There is no surefire formula to writing good personal statements. COLLEGELAH IS STRICTLY AGAINST PLAGIARISM OF ANY KINDUCAS employs a plagiarism check system that checks applicants’ work against other published writing so please DO NOT PLAGIARISE.