Now that the RCC application process is basically over, I’ll post my answers to the online essay questions:
What strengths/skills would you bring to a house staff/team? What personal qualities do you have that would be particularly helpful as a member of house staff/team?
Besides the technical expertise I have from working with computers from an early, early age (I was programming back in early elementary school), I think something that would help me in a role as an RCC is that I am a perfectionist and an overachiever. This really applies to almost everything in my life, whether it be playing video games, producing electronic music, doing coding projects, or even something like writing letters to my high school friends. I tend to do the -heck- out of something when I get into it, and I think this attention to detail and commitment to achieving excellence would be a real strength–I’m the kind of person who won’t ever rest until a problem is solved.
More generally, as a member of house staff, I think I will be able to do a goob job of being sociable and helping residents feel like they have a place to belong. I have to admit that I wasn’t quite that social during my freshman year–I stayed in my room a lot of the time–but things are very different now…I am constantly visiting friends and spending time with them; even those who live in other dorms. I know firsthand what it can be like to feel very isolated, with other people going about their own business and not really bothering to go out of their way for you…and I feel that as part of house staff I would be able to reach out to others and help them feel as if they matter to someone. If I can keep even one person from feeling lonely or lost, then I think that would be worth it.
What interests you about being on dorm staff? What makes you a good role model?
One thing that motivates me is that I am really a giver at heart. In fact, I correspond very, very closely to an Enneagram Type Two personality (http://www.enneagraminstitute.com/TypeTwo.asp), so being able to do things for others is really a central part of my life. The other thing about being on dorm staff is that I feel that it would be a meaningful experience that would give me the opportunity to form treasured memories. I think that the most meaningful and precious things in life are those that you spend a lot of time on–whether it be a student organization that you’ve invested a lot of time into, or an athletic team that you’ve shared tears and sweat with, or a musical group that you’ve been playing with for many years. I feel like being on dorm staff would be similar–being able to work with a close-knit team for an entire year would be an experience that I would really value.
As for being a role model, that’s certainly nothing new to me–I was section leader during my junior year of high school and went on to become the head drum major of my HS marching band in my senior year. I was able to do achieve a lot as drum major because every single member in the band had an extremely high level of respect for me–and that respect was earned, quite simply, by excelling at my job and always being on top of things. This goes back to what I said in an earlier question…I never do things halfway–I always do my best, if it’s something that I care about…and being an RCC is something that I care about!
What experiences do you have with multi-media and/or setting up audio visual equipment?
Lots! On the audio side, I produce electronic music in my spare time, so I know all about compressors/limiters, EQing techniques, reverb units, audio synthesis methods, VBR versus CBR mp3 compression, etc. I’m also going to be taking the MUSIC192 series (sound recording) next year, so I’ll have even more expertise once I get into that.
On the video side, besides creating quick-and-simple videos thrown together in Windows Movie Maker, I’ve also done things such as using VirtualDub to encode a video in DivX or XVid after capturing the raw .avi footage from a my video camcorder (the video also needed some processing, like de-interlacing and I adjusted the contrast levels a bit).
I’ve also taken CS178, the course on digital photography, if that counts. I’m relatively proficient at using Photoshop, but mainly use GIMP instead.
As an example of my multimedia experience, here’s a stop-motion video that I edited in Premiere: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWFFIgCg73g
Describe any previous experience working on a team and how you would problem solve as a team member.
I was part of the student leadership team in my high school marching band for two years. During Junior year I acted as a section leader (that means I was in charge of 7 other people), and I excelled mainly because, again, I was always well-prepared and one step ahead (adaptation!). Though I did push the boundaries of the role and do more than was expected of me, I think the main reason why I was respected was because I made sure that I did my job to the absolute best of my ability.
The year after I took more of a central leadership position by becoming the head drum major (that’s the guy who leads the entire band, both musically and in rehearsal). In this case things were different…I couldn’t just look at my small little group of 7 people and and leave everything else to the rest of the team–instead, I was responsible for -everything- as a whole, so I had to look out for the entire band. So that was a lot more stressful, haha…but, on the other hand, it definitely helped that the other members were doing their jobs and looking over their own sections. So it really helps if everyone is doing their part and being in charge of their own thing. It won’t be perfect, but at least it means the head drum major won’t have to worry about -every- single little thing (I would have gone crazy!).
As for problem solving, I tend to be very much a realist, so I tend to really think about whether a solution will truly work before really even considering it. So one thing that’s important for me is for everyone to know how much they can contribute, realistically. Otherwise, it leads to sticky situations where you assume someone will take care of something, but it turns out that they didn’t have the time or energy or motivation to handle it. So in that kind of case it bothers me more that the person overestimated themselves, rather than the fact that they couldn’t handle the work. I think that’s as much as I can say in general abstract terms.
Please tell us why we should hire you. Bonus points for creativity. .
You should hire me because I’ve been playing video games since I was in pre-school.
Wait, wait! Hear me out first!
The reason I say this is because I believe video games have taught me a skill that has been absolutely -vital- to my success–not only in the realm of gaming, but in school, music, and even life in general. And that skill is =adaptibility=.
You see, back when I first started gaming (think NES), video games were really, really frustrating. I mean, REALLY frustrating. One misstep, one slightly mistimed jump, and you would plummet into a bottomless pit, or fall into a spike trap, or get toasted by a fireball…you get the idea. So these games involved a lot of “game over”s…a lot of restarts…a lot of repetition…a lot of trial and error…
Okay, it was kind of annoying at times. But I wouldn’t have it any other way, because these games taught me how to analyze my weaknesses and mistakes and improve upon them. Every lost life was an opportunity to fix something that I did wrong–a constant process of adaptation. Instead of “oh crap I died again…let’s do that ONE MORE TIME!”, my thought process went more like, “that one enemy keeps on getting me, so I need to time that jump EARLIER next time”.
I still love playing very skill-intensive games, simply because I find it extremely rewarding to be able to improve upon your skills in this way. If it’s any testament, I’ve actually finished “I Wanna Be The Guy”, said to be one of the hardest video games of all time–one that requires literally THOUSANDS of deaths and restarts in order to finish.
Okay, back to the realm of being an RCC. What I’m trying to get at here, is that I apply this kind of adaptation technique to all aspects of my life, and being an RCC would be no exception. What this means, is that if there’s anything that I am ever lacking in as an RCC, I will definitely be able to learn it or improve upon it, no matter what it is.
(but hopefully it won’t take me thousands of tries in this case =P)
Describe your ideal job.
My ideal job is to work in the video game industry and make games for a living! It’s actually not quite that far-fetched–in fact, I’m going to be working in an internship this Summer making iPhone games! I think the only thing that would differentiate an “ideal” job from a more realistic career for me would be that I would ideally (?) work as an independent developer and make exactly the kind of games that I want…whereas in the real world it might not be quite as financially viable to work alone, so I might probably end up working at a larger company (or at least a small game studio).
Who is someone you look up to and explain why he/she is an exemplar for you.
I used to really look up to my brother (who is nine years older than I am), but over the years we’ve grown to become almost like clones of one another, so that’s not really true anymore.
Nowadays, I find myself looking up to someone who is a close friend and current dorm staff member. This person is not an RA, but has nonetheless helped me get through some painful emotional issues in recent months and has been there to support me when I was in need of someone to lean on.
I have always been a good listener, but recently I have found myself striving to be more like this person in the way that they are able to say the right things to someone who is in need of comfort. It really pains me to see my friends–or even a stranger–undergoing hardship, whether it be personal issues, stress, roommate drama, or just physical exhaustion. So I have been striving to be more comforting to people in need; as opposed to simply being a passive listener. It’s not always easy to find the right things to say, but I think I am slowly getting better at it.
In addition to helping residents with computer and network issues, RCCs educate residents as well as serve as members of the house staff and ResComp community. Refer to http://stucomp.stanford.edu/jobs/rcc/ for more details on the position. Please describe why you are qualified for the RCC position.
Looking at the list of qualifications, I can’t see anything at all that I’m unsure about.
-I’m a quick learner and excel at adapting to new situations (as I mentioned before, in relation to videogames).
-I don’t have difficulty communicating with others at all–I’m used to putting myself in the spotlight (from being a drum major of my high school marching band) and conveying my thoughts in writing is something that comes very naturally to me (as you can probably tell by the lengthy nature of these responses). In fact, I practice it almost on a daily basis through my personal blog (I’ve also taken ENGR 102E – Technical/Professional Writing for Electrical Engineers).
-I’m familiar with all sorts of computer systems and consider myself to be a “power user” of these systems (more on this later).
-I’ve had experience teaching others (more on this later as well) and working on a team (as a section leader, and then as a drum major).
-I don’t -just- want to help people with their computer problems; I also want to make residents feel like they belong to a community.
-I’ve worked as a software engineer and a CS researcher for the past two summers–both times I was put into very unfamiliar computing environments but had little difficulty adapting.
-Lastly, I don’t plan on overworking myself with heavy courseloads next year, and I have good time-management skills, so I’ll definitely have enough time to fulfill all of my duties.
Describe any previous tutoring, teaching, or consulting experience.
I’ve always had a certain fondness for teaching people new things, whether it be high school Chemistry or how to solve a Rubik’s Cube (yes, I’ve done both!). I served as a private tutor in high school for two different students (teaching pre-calculus) and as a junior I was a section leader in my high school marching band, which involved managing a group of 7 other people and pushing them to improve to their fullest potential. More recently, I’ve been involved in Stanford’s MELODY program, where I am part of a group of tutors who give one-on-one private piano and music theory lessons to underprivileged elementary school students.
List any skills and experiences relevant to the RCC position.
I’ve been working with computers for as long as I can remember, really. On the Microsoft side, I’ve seen computers evolve from the days of MS-DOS, through Windows 3.1, 95, XP, Vista, and 7. And though I’ve never used a Mac or Linux machine as a primary personal computer, the coding projects that I’ve been working on (which you can see at http://sites.google.com/site/ddrkirby) are all cross-platform, so I know how to set up a developing environment on OSX and Linux. In addition, my work in Summer of 2008 involved working on a Linux machine, and my work last Summer was on Solaris. This Summer I’ll be working on OSX making iPhone games. So I’ve pretty much worked with the whole gamut of operating systems. And I’m not just talking about coding experience either–when I work with these systems, I like to play with them and see what’s possible. To me it’s almost like a videogame–I want to see what the rules are; what the boundaries are; and most importantly, what all the tricks and techniques are. And I think it’s this method of poking around at things that has made me into a “power user”. For instance, one of the first things I noticed when I had to develop a simple test iPhone app on my friend’s MacBook Pro was that the MBP has no “home” or “end” keys. And while I =could= have just managed by scrolling all the way to the end of a line manually, or using the mouse, I instead took a minute to find the equivalent key combo (if I recall correctly it was something like option+up/down), and increased my efficiency by a little bit. I think it’s little things like that, that really make you well-versed in computer systems, and prepared to handle the kinds of things that you might run into as an RCC.
Please explain your process for troubleshooting problems you’ve never seen before.
It’s really very hard to outline a concrete process for troubleshooting problems because it really always depends on the problem at hand. Even if it is a problem that I’ve never seen before, I can usually draw upon my past experience to guess at some things that might be true. In general, though, the first step is to gather specific knowledge about the nature of the problem. For example, if a resident has a problem running a certain application, I would want to ask them questions like:
-When did the problem start? Does this coincide with anything else that might possibly be related?
-Is the problem reproducible? Is it reproducible on different hardware?
In addition, I might consult external sources (the program’s website; search results) to see if the problem is something that has already been detailed and described elsewhere–there’s no point in reinventing the wheel if someone has already done the work for you!
After that, it’s a matter of thinking about potential causes, and, as much as possible, doing things to isolate the problem. It’s much like debugging a piece of code. When a software engineer runs into a bug in their program, they insert debugging statements to get as much data as possible, and they start to pinpoint the exact source of the problem. In a sense, computers are much like computer programs–they’re very complex systems with a whole lot of things going on at once. But if you can change setting X and it causes the problem to be created or to go away in a reproducible way, then that can let you zero in on a specific part of the system that may be causing the problem.
What do you hope to accomplish as an RCC next year? How do you plan to achieve your goals?
I have to admit, this question probably took the most thought for me.
As an RCC, I want to be reliable, dependable, and trustworthy–the guy that you can always go to for all of your computing needs. But I don’t just want to settle for that! My ideal as an RCC is to be able to foster a community in the dorm/house that I am in. Of course, computing issues are a big part of that too–having someone there to help you with problems (whether they be techincal or not) can help make you feel more at home–but getting to know the residents is also a big part of this.
From my experience, I think this is something that can be very hit or miss depending on the dorm and dorm staff, so it’s definitely something that I can have an impact on as a member of staff. Of course, I won’t be able to do it alone–and that’s why the staff has to function as a team–but I think the best way to do this is by starting with the little things. Things like saying hello in the hallways, introducing myself to residents, and just taking a geniune interest in how people are doing.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, I think the RCC position tends to sometimes have this stigma associated with it where people see an RCC as “the computer guy”…and nothing else. I still definitely -want- to be “the computer guy”…but I also want to be something more.