Hello and welcome to Coding Your Future (cdyf.me) the guidebook that will help you to design, engineer, test and
code your future in computing. Also available as a free ebook and pdf (see section 0.7), this guide is aimed at ALL students in higher education. While the guide supports undergraduate teaching at the University of Manchester, it doesn’t actually matter:
- where in the world you are studying
- what stage of your degree you are at, from first year through to final year
- what level you are studying at, foundation, undergraduate or postgraduate
- what institution you are studying at, this book is University and institution agnostic
- what subject you are studying, as long as you are computationally curious
There is something in this guidebook for any student of computing, both those inside and outside of Computer Science departments. 👨🏿💻👨💻👩🏽💻👩💻👩🏿💻
This is a self-help guide but a lot of self-help literature can be dry, dull, textbooky, generic and boring with few illustrations and conversations. In the novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Caroll 1865) shown in figure 0.1, the protagonist Alice wonders why her sister is reading a book without pictures.
Pictures tell stories, pictures explain. Pictures help you understand. Pictures help you imagine. So this book uses pictures (and conversations) to help you visualise your future. Other key differences between this and other guidebooks are outlined in section 1.12.
This guidebook aims to help you develop stronger habits of mind, body and soul using five key ingredients:
CODE: Instructions, algorithms, recipes and strategies contained in this guidebook. This
codeis for your consumption, not for a machine.
DATA: Facts, statistics, graphs and pictures collected together for your analysis
YOU: Activities and coding challenges for you to do in addition to just reading
FUTURES: Possible futures for you to think about. Try not to dwell on the past. Think about the future. Think about your future. (Ryder 1988, 2019)
ME: Hello, my name is Duncan. I’m your tour guide here. If you’re feeling a bit lost, follow me.
Coding your future explores techniques for investigating career possibilities, job searching, making career decisions, submitting applications and competing successfully in interviews and the workplace.
Alongside these practical engineering issues, this guidebook also encourages you to design your future by taking a step back and reflecting on the bigger picture. You will apply computational thinking techniques, to reflect on who you are, what your story is, how you communicate with other people and what your experience is. As there is a computational theme, you will also need to reflect on what your inputs and outputs (I/O) are, both now and in the future. You’ll also need to think about what recipes (or algorithms) you might start experimenting with
This guidebook investigates professional and pastoral issues in computing, for those with and without Computer Science degrees in the early stage of their careers.
This guidebook will NOT teach you how to write code, there’s already lots of fantastic resources to help you do that. We discuss some of them in chapter 6 on computing your future.
So what will you learn from this guidebook? After reading this guidebook, watching the videos and doing the exercises you will be able to:
- Improve your self-awareness by describing who you are, what motivates you and your strengths and weaknesses
- Decide on and adjust your job search strategies
- Identify employers, sectors and roles that are of interest to you
- Improve your written communication skills both for job applications and communicating with other people
- Plan and prepare competitive written applications using standard techniques including CVs, covering letters, application forms and digital profiles
- Compete confidently and successfully in interviews. Anticipate and prepare for technical and non-technical questions
- Plan further possibilities in your career such as promotion, postgraduate study & research, alternative employment and longer term goals
- Search and navigate a large “wordbase” (this guidebook and the work it cites). A wordbase is like a
codebase, only written predominantly in natural language.
As the title of this guidebook implies, there is a computational flavour here, but you do not have to be studying Computer Science to benefit. There are two main target audiences for this guidebook:
- Undergraduate and postgraduate students studying Computer Science as a major or minor part of their degree. This includes software engineering, artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction (HCI), information systems, health informatics, data science, gaming, cybersecurity and all the other myriad flavours of Computer Science
- Undergraduate and postgraduate students studying any subject, with little or no Computer Science at all. You are curious to know about what role computing could play in your future career because computing is too important to be left to Computer Scientists, see chapter 6 on Computing your Future
So the prerequisites for this book are that you are studying (or have studied) at University where English is one of the main spoken languages. You may have some experience already, either casual, voluntary or otherwise, but this book does not assume that you have already been employed in some capacity.
Reading this book from cover to cover like a novel is not recommended. That would be foolish.
Instead of reading this book, I suggest you follow the advice given to historian William Woodruff about reading books when he was at University:
“You don’t READ books, you GUT them!”
So, gut this book like the fish in figure 0.3. Identify the chapters that are most useful to you (the flesh), and skip the rest (the guts). Which chapters are flesh and which are guts will depend on what stage of the journey you are at. This guidebook is designed to be as “guttable” as possible. To aid gutting, the version published at cdyf.me has a built in search and tables of contents. Before you can gut the fish, you’ll need an anatomical map shown in figure 0.4.
This guidebook is split into three parts. The first part (Chapters 1 to 6) is on design while the second part (chapters 7 to 13) is on building and testing your future shown in the map in figure 0.4. The final part is a help section for supporting your future (chapters 14 to 20). Let’s look in a bit more detail at the content of each of the three parts of this guidebook:
The first six chapters of this guidebook look at what engineers call design. When you build anything, a bridge, a piece of software, a car or a plane you’ll need to do some design like the blueprint in figure 0.5
Building a career isn’t that different to building anything else, you’ll need to do some design work and it will probably be iterative. Designing things often involves answering tricky questions. So when you’re designing your future you’ll need to cover the following:
- Chapter 1: Rebooting your future discusses why you should bother reading this guidebook
- Chapter 2: Knowing your future challenges you to reflect on who you are, what makes you unique and why you are here
- Chapter 3: Nurturing your future encourages you to take care of your mental and physical health
- Chapter 4: Writing your future explores your soft skills, and how they complement your hard skills and why employers value them so much
- Chapter 5: Experiencing your future asks you to reflect on your work experience and help identify where you can improve it
- Chapter 6: Computing your future looks at the role computing can play in your career, especially if Computer Science is not a major part of your degree
The next seven chapters look at building (and testing) your future, what engineers like to call implementation or execution shown in figure 0.6.
Once you’ve started to answer the design questions in the first part, you can start to implement (or build) your career and think about what the next steps will be.
- Chapter 7: Debugging your future looks at debugging your written communication such as covering letters, application forms and digital portfolios.
- Chapter 8: Finding your future looks at where and how can you look for interesting opportunities
- Chapter 9: Broadening your future encourages you to broaden your horizons. What are the possibilities beyond the obvious?
- Chapter 10: Speaking your future looks how can you turn interviews to your advantage and negotiate any offers you receive
- Chapter 11: Surviving your future looks at the next steps. Once you’ve landed a job, how will you survive and thrive outside (and after) University
- Chapter 12: Achieving your future looks at evidence you can collect of your learning and development using various kinds of certifiable evidence
- Chapter 13: Researching your future discusses if a Masters degree or a PhD right for you?
The third part of this book, contains supporting material that will help the design, build and test phases described above. You’ll need good support to help with the inevitable stresses and strains of building your future as shown in 0.7
- Chapter 14: Ruling your future provides Ten Simple Rules for Coding your Future, this book in a nutshell
- Chapter 15: Hacking your future invites you to put yourself in the employers shoes by hacking other people’s CVs
- Chapter 16: Moving your future looks at opportunities outside of capital cities like London
- Chapter 17: Hearing your future invites you to listen to students stories of their transition from education to employment
- Chapter 18: Actioning your future gets you to think about your actions by emphasising verbs on your job applications
- Chapter 19: Scheduling your future is the live synchronous sessions for this course, if you’re not participating in these, schedule a time every day or week for personal development
- Chapter 20: Reading your future lists everything cited in this guidebook.
This guidebook aims to help you build a bridge from where you are now to where you’d like to be in the future. Each chapter of the book contains the following recurring themes:
- Learning your future: What you will learn from any given chapter
- Watching your future: videos and animations for you to watch
- Listening to your future: audio and podcasts for you to listen to
- Speaking your future: articulating from a script or by improvisation, particularly when preparing for interviews
- Discussing your future: breakpoints invite you to pause your code and think about the variables and parameters you are using. Can they be improved? Reflect and discuss.
Reading your future: because reading is good for your mind, body and soul. Read The Friendly Manual.
RTFM. Read THIS Friendly Manual.
- Writing your future: written exercises using natural language
- Quizzing your future: quick quizzes to be done in real-time live scheduled sessions described in chapter 19 (synchronously) and in your own time (asynchronously)
- Assessing your future: activities to be assessed by yourself, your peers, an employer or an academic (depending on who and where you are)
- Challenging your future: coding challenges are designed to take you out of your comfort zone by encouraging you to experiment with your thoughts, discussions and actions
- Signposting your future: the most useful resources that I recommend you read, listen to or watch
The full text of this guidebook is freely available at www.cdyf.me, this means the web version (that’s all the
*.html) is searchable, browsable and linkable in any web browser on your phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer. If you’d prefer to read this guidebook in a single ebook file, you can download a copy at
In the future, a traditional printed paper copy from a publisher may also be available. If you’re a publisher who’d like to publish this book, please get in touch.
If you’d like to contribute this guidebook, I welcome constructive feedback from critical friends, see figure 0.9. All contributions will be gratefully acknowledged section 0.9 unless you ask for your contributions to remain anonymous.
I’m looking for feedback and contributions on everything in this guidebook from the small things like typos, grammatical errors and spelling mistakes through to bigger issues for each chapter such as:
- Does the chapter make sense, is it clear?
- Does it strike the right tone, is it pitched at the right level? Not patronising? Too many platitudes?
- Are there too many motivational (or demotivational) quotations?
- Where is it too long and waffly (see figure 7.15) or too short?
- Are there too many (or too few) pictures? What needs more illustration?
- Is it well scoped? Too broad or too narrow?
- Are the stated learning objectives met by the chapter?
- Are the activities clear? Can students understand why the activities are recommended? What other activities could be added?
- Will it make sense to global readers e.g. will students from America, China and India etc understand the quirks and idioms of English language and culture
- Are there too many metaphors? Mixed metaphors? Awkward analogies? Idiotic idioms? Annoying alliterations?
- Too many citations? Not enough citations? Missed any key citations?
- What’s missing?
- Where are the unstated assumptions? Where is the unconscious bias?
- What are the issues with equality, diversity and inclusion?
- Are there too many musical references or annoying emoji? Please bear in mind I’m trying to strike an irreverent, light-hearted and playful tone to improve readability 😜
- What else should be ruthlessly edited out?
All suggestions welcome! Don’t be shy. There are several ways you can contribute, depending on how comfortable you are with Git:
If you’re familiar with
markdown you can github.com/join and:
- Raise new issues at github.com/dullhunk/cdyf/issues/new
- Click on the
Edit this pagelink, which appears on the bottom right hand side of every page published at cdyf.me when viewed with a reasonably large screen (not a phone)
- Contribute at github.com/dullhunk/cdyf/contribute and help with existing issues at github.com/dullhunk/cdyf/issues
- Fork the repository, make changes and submit a pull request github.com/dullhunk/cdyf/pulls. If you need to brush-up on your pulling skills see makeapullrequest.com
- From the command line, clone the repository and submit pull requests from your own setup:
git clone https://github.com/dullhunk/cdyf.git
Most of the guidebook is generated from RMarkdown, that’s all the
*.Rmd files. So markdown files are the only ones you should edit because everything else is generated from them including the
If you don’t want to (or can’t) use
git and github.com then you can:
- Add comments by annotating the ebook at leanpub.com/cdyf using your personal tablet of choice (iPad, reMarkable or whatever) and emailing your updated version to me
- Suggest changes by editing the Microsoft Word version at cdyf.docx. The text is all there, but the images are all over the place. This is because the pagination, typesetting and graphic placement algorithms in Word aren’t anything like as good as the LaTeX ones used to create the cdyf.pdf (output) from the cdyf.tex (input).1 Make sure you’ve turned on track changes in Word, one of it’s killer features that allows your corrections to be easily identified from the original text.
- Just email me suggestions for improvements
Any corrections or suggestions will be gratefully received and noted in the acknowledgements section 0.9, unless you tell me otherwise. I welcome all improvements, big and small.
The content of this book is based on hundreds of conversations I have had with students of (mostly) Computer Science, Mathematics, Physics and Engineering, since 2012. It is also based on conversations I’ve had with their employers too.
# Coding Comment
This acknowledgements section is long because I try to practice what I preach about the importance of expressing gratitude, see section 3.4. It also serves as a live demonstration of a (public) gratitude journal. Expressing gratitude, publicly and privately, is a simple and proven technique for improving your mental health. It will also improve the mental health of the people who you thank, and strengthen the communities that you are part of, see 3.8.
If you want to get to the main content of this book you can skip this and go straight to chapter 1.
First and foremost, I would like to thank all the students who have helped with this book, both directly and indirectly see figure 0.10.
So, if you have studied some flavour of Computer Science at the University of Manchester since 2012, there’s a high probability you have contributed to this book. Thank you for having the courage to tell me your stories. Thank you for being ambitious, hard working, talented, fearless, creative, inspirational and listening to me (sometimes). It has been my pleasure and privilege to work with you all.
I’d especially like to thank current and former industrial experience (IE) students who have completed a year in industry as part of their degree as well as those who have done summer internships, either as part of the Master of Engineering (MEng) program or otherwise, particularly Sami Alabed, Luke Beamish, Eirik Björnerstedt, Petia Davidova, Lloyd Henning, Kristina Radinova, Teodora Stoleru, Peter Sutton. In addition, the PASS leaders and facilitators, UniCSmcr.com, HackSoc, CSSoc and Manchester Ultimate Programming members have all been influential on the content of this book. I’ve learned heaps by manually trawling through thousands of your CVs too, so if you’ve shown me a copy of your CV, thanks! If you sent me a CV and I didn’t reply, I apologise. There are limits to what is humanly possible. Chapter 7 on Debugging your future (self assessment) and chapter 15 on Hacking your future (peer assessment) are based on the most common bugs (or are they features?) I’ve seen in CVs.
So, thank you students for being studious. 🙏
Thanks to all the organisations who have employed students from the Department of Computer Science as either summer interns, year long placements or graduates. A big chunk of this guidebook documents their experience of employers and their graduate recruitment programs.
So, thanks employers for employing our students. 🙏
I’ve also had significant support from colleagues in the Department of Computer Science (@csmcr), School of Engineering and support staff at the University of Manchester. (@UoMCareers, @alumniUoM, @OfficialUoM)
Thank you Carole Goble for building the community that supported me through postgraduate study. Thanks for creating the environment which this book was written in, especially the e-Science lab, Information Management Group (IMG), Software Sustainability Institute (software.ac.uk) and their spin-offs. Thanks for patiently re-teaching me how to write better by covering early drafts of my Masters thesis in red ink and less patiently (on subsequent revisions) swear words. 🤬
Thank you Jim Miles for encouraging me to write a book shortly after you offered me a job. I thought you were joking (about the book) but it actually turned out to be another one of your great ideas. Thanks Jim. 🙏
I’d also like to thank the only three people in the whole world who’ve had the
misfortune pleasure of reading all of my PhD thesis cover to cover; Robert Stevens, Anil Wipat and Steve Pettifer. I suspect it was as painful for you to read as it was for me to write it. Thanks Robert for your relentless patience and giving me a well timed, well aimed kick up the (proverbial) arse to write this book in the Midland Hotel, Manchester at the May ball.
So, thank you colleagues for being collegiate. You make the University of Manchester an enjoyable place to work.
Thanks to past and present academic colleagues (see figure 0.12), PhD students and academic staff at the University of Manchester (and elsewhere) who have contributed to this guidebook and the environment it was written in. We are bound together by the power of weak ties (section 8.6) alongside stronger forces and friendships.
They include (in alphabetical order): Muideen Ajagbe, Pinar Alper, Sophia Ananiadou, Mikel Egaña Aranguren, Constantinos Astreos, Terri Attwood, Sam Bail, Robin Baker, Richard Banach, Riza Batista-Navarro, Michael Bada, Niall Beard, Sean Bechhofer, Dick Benton, Casey Bergman, Hannah Berry, Lynne Bianchi, Ahmad Bilal, Rupert Blackstone, Stewart Blakeway, Petrut Bogdan, Caroline Bowsher, Linda Brackenbury, Andy Brass, Judy Brewer, Christian Brenninkmeijer, Andy Bridge, Andy Brown, James Brooks, Gavin Brown, Nick Brown, Mihai Bujanca, Bob Callow, Alex Casson, Lloyd Cawthorne, Zhongyan Chen, Oscar Corcho, Grant Campbell, Angelo Cangelosi, Peter Capon, Andy Carpenter, Nicola Carrier, Thomas Carroll, Barry Cheetham, Ke Chen, Sarah Clinch, Mike Croucher, Laurence Cook, Ian Cottam, Brian Cox, Carmel Dickinson, Simone Di Cola, Dave De Roure, Paul Dobson, Clare Dixon, Janine Dixon, Danny Dresner, Nick Drummond, Ian Dunlop, Warwick Dunn, Dominic Duxbury, Doug Edwards, Sean R. Edwards, Iliada Eleftheriou, Anas Elhag, Suzanne Embury, Michael Emes, Roland Ennos, Harry Epton, Alvaro Fernandes, Jonathan Ferns, Michele Filannino, Nick Filer, Michael Fisher, Paul Fisher, R. W. Foster, Steve Furber, Andre Freitas, Aphrodite Galata, Matthew Gamble, Jim Garside, Kristian Garza, Chris Gilbert, Danielle George, Richard Giordano, Birte Glimm, Carole Goble, Antoon Goderis, Rafael Gonçalves, Roy Goodacre, Graham Gough, Anastasios Gounaris, Bernardo Cuenca Grau, Peter R. Green, Keith Gull, John Gurd, Luke Hakes, Robert Haines, Guy Hanke, Lucy Harris, Angel Harper, Simon Harper, Jonathan Heathcote, Alex Henderson, Martin Henery, Gareth Henshall, Andrew Horn, Farid Kahn, Chris Hardacre, Matthew Horridge, Ian Horrocks, Toby Howard, Roger Hubbold, Luigi Iannone, Jane Ilsley, Jules Irenge, Daniel Jameson, Caroline Jay, Mirantha Jayathilaka, Marianne Johnson, Huw Jones, Simon Jupp, Yevgeny Kazakov, John Keane, Douglas Kell, Catriona Kennedy, Rachel Kenyon, Chris Knight, Joshua Knowles, Dirk Koch, Nikolaos Konstantinou, Christos Kotselidis, Ioannis Kotsiopoulos, Oliver Kutz, Alice Larkin, Peter Lammich, John Latham, Kung-Kiu Lau, Hugo Lefeuvre, Dave Lester, Peter Li, Zewen Liu, Phil Lord, Mikel Luján and Darren Lunn… (continued after the gratuitous picture break of figure 0.13)
… (continued) Matthew Makin, Nicolas Matentzoglu, Paul Mativenga, Erica McAlister, Mary McGee Wood, April McMahon, Merc and members of the Manchester University Mountaineering Club (MUMC), Simon Merrywest, Eleni Mikroyannidi, Zahra Montazeri, Colin Morris, Norman Morrison, Georgina Moulton, Boris Motik, Christoforos Moutafis, Tingting Mu, Ettore Murabito, Mustafa Mustafa, Javier Navaridas, Kostas Nikolou, Aleksandra Nenadic, Goran Nenadic, Paul Nutter, Steve McDermott, Jock McNaught, Mary McGee-Wood, Pedro Mendes, Sarah Mohammad-Qureshi, Tim Morris, Jennifer O’Brien, Tim O’Brien, Steve Oliver, Pierre Olivier, Mario Ramirez Orihuela, Stuart Owen, Ali Owrak, Liam Panchaud, Pavlos Petoumenos, David Petrescu, Luis Plana, Colin Puleston, Ignazio Palmisano, Dario Panada, Michael Parkin, Bijan Parsia, Jon Parkinson, Norman Paton, Jeff Pepper, Steve Pettifer, Mark Quinn, Rishi Ramgolam, Allan Ramsay, Magnus Rattray, Alasdair Rawsthorne, Farshid Rayhan, Alan Rector, Giles Reger, Graham Riley, David Robertson, Jeremy Rodgers, Clare Roebuck, Mauricio Jacobo Romero, Nancy Rothwell, William Rowe, Oliver Rhodes, David Rydeheard, Graham Riley, Daniella Ryding, Ulrike Sattler, Ahmed Saeed, Pejman Saeghe, Rizos Sakellariou, Pedro Sampaio, Sandra Sampaio, John Sargeant, Andrea Schalk, Viktor Schlegel, Renate Schmidt, Baris Serhan, Jonathan Shapiro, Liz Sheffield, Lynn Sheppard, Bushra Sikander, Lemn Sissay, Vangelis Simeonidis, Kieran Smallbone, Alastair Smith, Stian Soiland-Reyes, Nikesh Solanki, Irena Spasic, David Spendlove, Laurence Stamford, Robert Stevens, Alan Stokes, Shoaib Sufi, James Sumner, Neil Swainston, John H. Tallis, Paul Taplin, Federico Tavella, Chris Taylor, Tom Thomson, Dave Thorne, David Toluhi, Tony Trinci, Dimitri Tsarkov, Daniele Turi, Fiona Velez-Colby, Jake Vasilakes, Laura Vasques, Delia Vazquez, Giles Velarde, Chiara Del Vescovo, Markel Vigo, Sam de Visser, Andrei Voronkov, Niels Walet, Alex Walker, Louise Walker, Simon Watson, Nicholas Weise, Dieter Wiechart, Igor Wodiany, Katy Wolstencroft, Natalie Wood, Chris Wroe, Crystal Wu, Lisheng Wu, Terry Wyatt, Yifan Xu, Viktor Yarmolenko, Yeliz Yesilada, He Yu, Serafeim Zanikolas, Xiao-Jun Zeng, Jun Zhao, Liping Zhao, Ning Zhang and Evgeny Zolin.
So thanks academics for being even more sceptical than Christopher Hitchens, see figure 0.14. Thanks academics for being academic. 🙏
Thanks also to the superb support staff (past and present) from professional services, especially the Academic Support Office (ACSO), Student Support Office (SSO) and external affairs office in the Kilburn building. Professional services staff continue to make all the magic of teaching and learning possible: Alyx Adams, Daniele Atkinson, Cassie Barlow, Jennie Ball-Foster, Emma Bentley, Christine Bowers, Ian Bradley, Karen Butterworth, Chris Connolly, Ellie Crompton, Jean Davison, Gavin Donald, Miriam Cadney, Chris Calland, Ben Carter, Amanday Conway, Hannah Cousins, Holly Dewsnip, Lindsay Dunn, Tammy Goldfeld, Penney Gordon-Lanes, Amelia Graham, Charlotte Hart, Iain Hart, Kath Hopkins, Lynn Howarth, Yvonne Hung, Susie Hymas, Radina Ivanova, Dan Jagger, Alex Jones, Jeremy Jones, Jessicca Kateryniuk-Smith, Mike Keeley, Stephanie Lee, Dominic Laing, Gill Lester, Jez Lloyd, Ruth Maddocks, Cameron Macdonald, Tony McDonald, Karon Mee, Anne Milligan, Rachel Mutters, Matthew Oakley, Alyson Owens, Chris Page, Melanie Price, Abby Ragazzon-Smith, Chris Rhodes, Stephen Rhodes, Graham Richardson, Martin Ross, Julian Skyrme, Elaine Sheehan, Angela Standish, Martine Storey, Bernard Strutt, Hannah Thomas, Jannine Thomas, Joseph Tirone, Daisy Towers, Karen Varty, Anna Warburton-Ball, Richard Ward, Sarah White, Elizabeth Wilkinson, Andrew Whitmore, Lisa Wright and Mabel Yau.
So, thanks professional services staff for being professional and supporting the work of academics doing research and teaching. 🙏
Thanks to support, financial and otherwise, at various stages from the following funding bodies:
- the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
- the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
- the European Union (EU) and European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL)
- the National Science Foundation (NSF)
- the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
- UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)
- the Council of Professors and Heads of Computing (CPHC)
- The Wikimedia Foundation, Wikimedia UK and the Royal Society.
Money makes the world go round and has enabled my teaching, learning and research to take place. So thanks funders for opening your purse strings. 🙏
Thanks to the sigcse.org, the Special Interest Group (SIG) on Computer Science Education (CSE), part of the Association for Computing Machinery (acm.org). Thanks to my fellow uki-sigcse.acm.org board members Steven Bradley, Janet Carter, Tom Crick, Quintin Cutts, Sally Fincher, Samia Kamal, Joseph McGuire and Sally Smith for your help and advice, see figure 0.15
Thanks to all the SIGCSE journal clubbers including Brett Becker, Ceredig Cattanach-Chell, Katie Cunningham, James Davenport, Rodrigo Ferreira, Colin Johnson, Nicola Looker, Julia Markel, Jim Paterson, Sue Sentance, David Sutton, Moshe Vardi, Jane Waite and Michel Wermelinger. Many of our journal club conversations have fed directly into the content of this guidebook.
Thanks to Sally Fincher and Janet Finlay whose report Computing Graduate Employability: Sharing Practice (Fincher and Finlay 2016) has had a big influence on this guidebook.
So thanks SIGCSE for being special and interesting. 🙏
There is a wider community of scientists, engineers and scholars that have influenced this guidebook:
- Thanks to David Malan (@malan) for CS50 which is an inspiration to me and many others. (Malan 2010, 2020, 2021) Thanks to Cristian Bodnar for inviting David to run CS50 in Manchester in 2017 which was a great introduction to David’s work (Malan 2017)
- Thanks to Laurie Santos (@lauriesantos), for The Science of Well-being (TSOWB) (Santos 2021) which was been a big influence on this book had a gradual but significant effect on my personal and professional life. I’ve tried to distill some of the ideas into chapter 3 on Nurturing your future
- Thanks to Hadley Wickham (@hadley) and Garrett Grolemund (@garrettgman) for R for Data Science (Wickham and Grolemund 2017) which helped me get started with R and bookdown. If you’re reading this page in some kind of web browser, the stylesheet used here is re-used from r4ds.had.co.nz
- Thanks to David Walker for his book Energy, Plants & Man which inspired the conversations and pictures idea behind this book. (D. Walker and Walker 1992)
So thanks scientists (and engineers) for being scientific and engineering. 🙏
Thanks to the University of Bath for your excellent Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) course. I graduated with a PGCE in Science in 2011 and have been heavily influenced by the fantastic work of the schools in Swindon (section 0.9.9) and Shaftesbury (section 0.9.8) where I trained. I also learnt heaps from fellow students on the course and its course leaders:
- Caroline Padley, Physics
- Steve Cooper, Chemistry
- Malcolm Ingram, Biology
Thanks to Chris Almond, David Ball, David Booth, Caroline Dallimore, Stuart Ferguson, Caroline Moss, Mr Travers and all the other staff and students at Shaftesbury School who hosted my first PGCE teaching placement, see figure 0.17. Thanks also to my fellow Shaftesbury and Bath trainees Katharine Platt, Harriet Edwards, Vicky Dury and Joan Shaw for sharing their knowledge through peer learning and peer instruction. Thanks Joan for keeping me awake on the long and winding west country roads to and from deepest darkest Dorset. Thanks for sharing the heavy burden of driving too.
So thanks Shaftesbury for lessons on top of Gold Hill and the Hovis Advert, one of Britain’s best-loved adverts. (Scott 1974) 🍞
Thanks to headteacher & physicist Clive Zimmerman, his team of staff, Mr M. Carter , Mr K. Thomas and the students of Greendown Community School (now Lydiard Park Academy) in Swindon, Wiltshire for hosting my second PGCE teaching placement. It was fun teaching you about electromagnetic waves using Alom Shaha’s jelly babies and kebab sticks shown in figure 0.18.
Thanks to headteacher Joanne Meredith, her team of staff and the students at St. Annes Roman Catholic High School, Stockport for hosting my Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) year. Thanks to Rebecca Dann, Michael Doody, Keith Doran and other members of the alternative (Elizabethan) staff room for your emotional, moral and practical support throughout a challenging year fuelled by my midlife crisis. According to the Manchester Evening News, St. Anne’s is “the forgotten school” (H. Johnson 2020; Gill and Statham 2021), see figure 0.19, but I’ll never forget you or the lessons you taught me.
Thanks to all the schools who’ve hosted our undergraduate students as part of an ongoing partnership between the University of Manchester and local schools called Coding their Future:
- Mrs Rowland at Fairfield High School for Girls, Droylsden
- Mr Sinnott at Trinity Church of England High School, Hulme
- Mr Clarke at University Technical College (UTC@MediaCityUK), Salford
- Mr Jalloh at Manchester Communication Academy, Harpurhey
- Mrs Wood at The Barlow Roman Catholic High School, Didsbury
- Alan J. Harrison at William Hulme’s Grammar School, Whalley Range
- Mr Rath and Mrs Preddy at Cheadle Hulme High School, Stockport
- Mrs Murray at Laurus Cheadle Hulme, Stockport
- Mr Pownall and Mr. Clarke at Knutsford Academy, Knutsford
- Steve Pearce at Altrincham Grammar School for Girls, Trafford
- Pauline Wilcox at Altrincham Grammar School for Boys, Trafford
- Mr Millington at Manchester Grammar School (MGS), Fallowfield
- Mr Stenhouse at Streford Grammar School, Trafford
Thanks to Mr Shaw for hosting our primary school codeclub.org. Thanks to Mr Ince and Drew Povey for showing me around Harrop Fold School (now The Lowry Academy) in Salford, host of the Educating Greater Manchester television series on Channel 4. (Sandwell 2020)
Thanks to all the schools who interviewed me for my Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) year. Doing interview lessons, meeting your students and your senior leadership teams was a gruelling but fascinating magical mystery tour of the UK education system, both public and private. These interviews were very productive failures:
- Marie Getheridge at Writhlington School, Radstock, Somerset, see their amazing Orchid project wsbeorchids.org run by Simon Pugh-Jones
- The Cooper School, Bicester, Oxfordshire, see their teacher in my pocket project
- Patrick Hazlewood at St John’s Marlborough, Wiltshire - not to be confused its posher and famous next door neighbour Marlborough College
- Oasis Academy, Brislington, Bristol
- Redland Green School, Redland, Bristol
- The John of Gaunt School, Trowbridge, Wiltshire
- Rachael Warwick at Didcot Girls’ School, Didcot, Oxfordshire
- Vicky Tuck at Cheltenham Ladies’ College, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire2 (Anon 2010)
- Blackburn College, Lancashire “I read the news today, oh boy! Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire” (Lennon and McCartney 1967)
So thanks schools, for educating. 🙏
Thanks to Martin Clutterbuck, Rebecca Clare, Richard O’Beirne, Simon Witter, Will Wilcox, Gavin, Howard, Isobel, Jess, Paddy, Sara, Spiro and everyone else in the journal production team at Blackwell Science Ltd for looking after me in my first job as a freshly minted graduate. Thanks to Nigel Blackwell, Bob Campbell and Jon Conibear without whom there wouldn’t have been any Blackwell for me to Science at. Thanks to Tim, Ruth and Sarah for all the nights in Oxford pubs.
Thanks to Eileen, Anne & Richard for giving me a home from home.
Thanks to John Chelsom, Kal Ahmed, Clare Ashton, Tim Cave, Mavis Cournane, Eddie Dillon, Niki Dinsey, Phil Gooch, Antony Grinyer, Debbie Hagger, Gareth Hudson, Steve Horwood, Chris Joyce, Joe McCann, Eddie Moore, Keith McCann, Dave Nurse, Ian Packard, Mark Pengelly, Al Power, Lillian Spearing, Ron Summers, Omar Tamer and the rest of the team at (and clients of) CSW Informatics Ltd (csw.co.uk) for looking after me in my second job after Uni and teaching me about Oxford Innovation.
Thanks to my fellow xmlsummerschool.com faculty: Bob du Charme, Paul Downey, Michael Kay, Jeni Tennison, Norman Walsh and Lauren Wood for the memories and the
<markup/>. (R. Johnson 2004; Morali and Willis 1978)
X.S.L.T! It's fun to program in... X.S.L.T! Every line in your code Is an XML node And the program is one big tree
Thanks to Steven A. Hill, Jane Langdale and Chris Leaver at the University of Oxford (plants.ox.ac.uk) for interviewing me for a Gatsby Charitable Foundation DPhil scholarship. Thanks Chris for teaching me a painful but important lesson about the value of my education and grades.
So thanks Oxford for your dreaming spires, see figure 0.21. 🙏
Thanks to Christoph Steinbeck, Nico Adams, Marcus Ennis, Janna Hastings, Paula de Matos, Adriano Dekker, Kenneth Haug, Jo McEntyre, Pablo Moreno, Helen Parkinson, Mark Rijnbeek and Susanna-Assunta Sansone at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI, see figure 0.22) for looking after me during my time in Cambridge. Thanks to Rolf Apweiler, Michael Ashburner, Ewan Birney, Graham Cameron and Janet Thornton without whom there wouldn’t have been an EBI for me to work at.
So thanks Cambridge for a really fen-tastic time in Silicon Fen. 🙏
Thanks to Greater Mancunians beyond the University of Manchester: Anna, Mark Anderton, Andrea, Rob Aspin, Jon Atkinson, Charlie Ball, Paul Bason, Iain, Julian Bass, Amul Batra, Dean Belfield, Lisa Chan Brown, Martin Bryant, Gemma Cameron, Matthew Clark, Jeremy Coates, Craig, Darren Dancey, Craig Dean, Farhat Din, Anne Dornan, David Edmundson-Bird, Emily, Diana Erskine, Sherelle Fairweather, Shaun Fensom, Steven Flower, Tony Foggett, Katie Gallagher, Giles, Emma Grant, David Haikney, Mehran Jalaei, Daniel Jamieson, Matt Jarvis, Jamil Khalil, Ross Keeping, Val Kelly, Kitty, David Levine, Julie Lowndes, Tony McGrath, Chris Marsh, Amy Mather, Lisa Mather, Claire McDonald, Keith Miller, Geraint North, Alan O’Donohoe, Tomas Paulik, Damian Payton, Francesco Petrogalli, Paul, Peppi, Phil, Rich, Ros, Miles Rothbury, Paul Sherwood, Howard Simms, Adrian Slatcher, Jason Souloglou, Joe Sparrow, Martyn Spink, Katie Steckles, Matt Squire, Julian Tait, Rob Taylor, Rachel Thompson, Tom, Andrew Toolan, Hannah Tracey, Wesley Verne, Paul Vlissidis, Tony Walsh, Travis Walton, Ben Webb, Paul Wilshaw and Zoe for friendly Northern support and advice. Thanks to Andrew Back and Tim Harbour for wuthering my bytes at wutheringbytes.com.
So thank you for the music the songs I’m singing. Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing. Thanks Manchester for the best football team in the world and being Mancunian. This is the place! (Longfella 2017) 🙏
Thanks to Phil Harris, Steph Harris, Alan Gear, Jackie Gear, Ally, Neil, Esther, Francis Rayns, Graham Smith, Jeremy Cherfas, Morgen Cheshire, Margi Lennartsson Turner, Lady Godiva (see figure 0.24) and everyone else at the Henry Doubleday Research Association (HDRA) and Coventry University for hosting my industrial experience year during my undergraduate degree.
Thanks to Malcolm Press, Helena Björn van Praagh, Terry Callaghan, Jackie Potter, John Lee, Mats Sonesson, Nils-Åke Andersson, Rosie, Nick, Dylan, Karin, Kjell, Lennart, Marion, Martin, Ulf and everyone else at Abisko Scientific Research Station / Abisko Naturvetenskapliga Station (ANS, see figure 0.25) for hosting me as a summer research student investigating the effects climate change on subarctic heathlands. (Potter et al. 1995)3 Easily the best summer job I’ve ever had! 🇸🇪
Thanks to the British Universities North America Club (BUNAC) for sponsoring my Exchange Visitor Student Visa which allowed me spend the summer cooking breakfasts for guests at the Phillips Beach Plaza Hotel in Ocean City, Maryland. Thanks to Andy B. for flagging it. 🇺🇸
Thanks to Mitch at Green Tortoise Adventure Travel for driving, entertaining and feeding a bus load of us hippies with flowers in our hair from San Francisco to New York via Chicago and some of America’s finest wildernesses (and cookouts) in Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, the Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Badlands National Parks. (Phillips and McKenzie 1967)
Thanks to Tom and Letty Gochberg for your excellent hospitality in New York City, your transatlantic history lessons and showing me the very best that Manhattan has to offer. Thanks Pat, Colin and Rob Willmott for the introduction via the Single-handed Trans-Atlantic Race (STAR) in Plymouth, Devon from where the Mayflower (eventually) set off for the so-called New World in 1620, see figure 0.27.
Thanks Timo Hannay for letting me gatecrash the best party in Silicon Valley: Science Foo Camp (
scifoo) at the Googleplex in Mountain View, California in 2007 and again in 2009. Thanks to Cat Allman, Sergey Brin, Chris Di Bona, Tim O’Reilly and Larry Page for hosting scifoo.
Thanks Boston, Massachusetts for the Pixies and hosting disruptive tea parties via the Sons of Liberty, the W3C Healthcare and Life Sciences Interest Group (HCLSIG) and the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) conference (Hull et al. 2006). Thanks Joanne Luciano for showing me the sights of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Thanks to Ewa Deelman, Yolanda Gil and Bertram Ludäscher for hosting transatlantic workflow collaborations at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (UCSD) & University of Southern California (USC) with help from Carole Goble and funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
So thanks America for being American. 🙏
Thanks to Thsespal Kundan, Principal of the Moravian Institute in Rajpur, Dehradun, Uttar Pradesh, India for hosting me and my friend Doug fresh out of high school on a gap year. We learned loads as visiting supply teachers of English and Mathematics, thanks to an introduction from a mutual contact Angus Barker, see figure 0.28. 🇮🇳
So thanks Moravians (and Angus) for life changing and formative experiences. 🙏
Some of the most important influences on this guidebook are people I’ve only met very briefly, virtually or not at all (yet).
- Thanks to Gayle Laakman McDowell (@gayle), for your cracking series of books (McDowell 2014, 2015; McDowell and Bavaro 2013; Bavaro and McDowell 2021) which have been very useful resources both for students I’ve worked with and me personally
- Thanks to Yihui Xie (@yihui) and contributors to bookdown.org, the software used to produce this book alongwith the comprehensive and well-written documentation on using it. (Xie 2017, 2015; Xie, Dervieux, and Riederer 2020)
- Thanks to Bronnie Ware for your book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying (Ware 2011) which helped me to re-align my priorities when they were all out of kilter
- Thanks to Jo Hobbs at Lancaster University for advice on placements and employability in undergraduate teaching
So, thanks influencers for being influential. 🙏
Thanks to the artists, blaggers, bloggers, cartoonists, columnists, doodlers, diarists, essayists, film-makers, journalists, photographers, podcasters and writers whose words and pictures I’ve enjoyed reading, watching and listening to via the magic of the interwebs, see figure 0.29.
So here are some people whose stuff I read, watch, listen to or use, maybe you’ll enjoy their words, pictures and software too:
- Euan Adie at blog.overton.io/author/euan-adie
- Steven Appleby at twitter.com/stevenappleby (Appleby 2008)
- Jonathan Black at ft.com/dear-jonathan
- Tim Bray at ongoing
- Jorge Cham at phdcomics.com
- Paul Downey at whatfettle.com and flickr.com/photos/psd
- Mike Croucher at walkingrandomly.com
- Stephen Curry at occamstypewriter.org/scurry
- Athene Donald at occamstypewriter.org/athenedonald
- Stephen Dubner at freakonomics.com
- Alf Eaton at hublog.hubmed.org
- Jonathan Eisen at phylogenomics.blogspot.com
- Michael Eisen at michaeleisen.org/blog
- Julia Evans at jvns.ca
- Martin Fenner at blog.front-matter.io
- Kevin Fong at bbc.in/35jDOwI
- Timothy Gowers at gowers.wordpress.com
- Mark Guzdial at computinged.wordpress.com
- Paul Graham at paulgraham.com
- Bosco Ho at boscoh.com
- Pierre Lindenbaum at github.com/lindenb
- Andrew Maynard at andrewmaynard.net
- Randall Munroe at xkcd.com
- Cameron Neylon at cameronneylon.net
- Peter Norvig at norvig.com
- Samuel Pepys at pepysdiary.com
- Neil Saunders because what he’s doing is rather desperate
- Sue Sentance at suesentance.net/blog
- Kristin Stephens-Martinez at csedpodcast.org
- Greg Tyrelle at nodalpoint.org
- Greg Wilson at third-bit.com
So, thanks writers for writing. Thanks for penning, drawing and recording stuff that has informed, entertained and inspired me. 🙏
Thanks to everyone who has contributed via github, listed below in order of github usernames. I will credit any github contributors here, small or large. Even the typos, it all counts. I don’t care what operating system you are using either, see figure 0.30. You can easily add yourself to this roll call (see section 0.8) by correcting my delibreate mitsakes. 😉
Aman (@amanrana1), Keith Mitchell (@apiadventures), Zee Somji (@ezeethg), iliketohelp (@iliketohelp), Jan Machacek (@janm399), teobalmos (@teobalmos), Tsvetankov (@Tsvetankov), Richard Gourley (@richardgourley), Tristan Maat (@TLATER), Safder Iqbal (@safderiqbal)
So, thanks githubbers for cloning, forking, merging, pulling, adding, committing and pushing. 🙏
Special wiki-thanks to English speaking Wikipedians Evan Amos, Abd Alsattar Ardati, Caroline Ball, Marianne Bamkin, Roger Bamford, Alex Bateman, Dan Brickley, John Byrne, Lucy Crompton-Reid, Daria Cybulska, Andrew Davidson, Paul Gardner, Madeleine Goodall, Aaron Halfaker, Melissa Highton, Eoin Houston, Dariusz Jemielniak, Darren Logan, Magnus Manske, Andy Mabbett, Charles Matthews, Ewan McAndrew, Daniel Mietchen, Josh Minor, Peter Murray-Rust, Richard Nevell, Frank Norman, Paul Nurse, Rod Page, Bhavesh Patel, Mike Peel, Martin Poulter, Joseph Reagle, Frank Schulenburg, Gage Skidmore, Dario Taraborelli, Sara Thomas, Denny Vrandečić, Ian Watt, Alice White, Jessica Wade, Taha Yasseri for insights, inspiration, support, software, data, pictures and guidance. Thanks also for educating me on issues of equality, diversity and inclusion, especially gender and race.
So, thanks Wikipedians for being Wikipedia. 🙏
Bryan is an artist, visual thinker, entrepreneur and listener who turns stories into pictures. He also happens to have a Bachelors degree in Computer Science from the University of Glasgow. As a renaissance man, his combined skills in art, science and engineering made him the perfect fit for illustrating this guidebook. You can find out more about Bryan at bryanmathers.com and visualthinkery.com. I’m sooo glad we randomly bumped into each other at the #wikiedu20 conference: wikiedusummit.coventry.domains.
So, thanks Bryan for your witty illustrations, this book wouldn’t be the same without your visual thinkery. 🙏
Thanks to St Laurence school (st-laurence.com), a community I am proud, lucky, privileged and grateful to have grown up in and still be part of decades later: Adam, Alan, Andrew, Anna, Charlotte, Catherine, Clare, Dan, Doug, Debbie, James, Jenny, Jim, Jo, John, Jon, Lou, Marcus, Marjorie, Matthew, Philip, Portia, Richard, Sasha, Scott, Simon, Sophie, Sophia, Stephen, Steve & Wilf. I’m especially grateful for the friendship of former St Laurence school students I’ve enjoyed music, cycling, football, walking, travelling, holidaying, drinking and camaraderie with. So:
I’m looking forward to our next revolutionary adventure, gig, match or meetup, see figure 0.33
Special thanks to former St Laurence school student and current sixth form head Aidan Blowers for showing me around The Clarendon School in Trowbridge, Wiltshire and leading by example. Aidan’s performance as Lord of the Dance (wearing a white shirt in figure 0.34), inspired the ongoing musical experiment that is Tuning Complete.
Thanks to all my teachers at St Laurence school, some of whom can be seen in figure 0.35.
Thanks to the rest of my St Laurence school teachers not pictured in figure 0.35. In alphabetical order: Phil Arthur, Sally Arthur, Maggie Bignell, Jackie Bolton, Tony Brooks, Dave Brush, Mrs. Buthlay, Andrew Butterworth, Cathy Cooper, Ed Corrin, Mrs Davies, Brian Ellis, Myra Ettridge, Sue Glanville, Ms. Gledhill, Roger Greenwood, Barry Hales, Amanda Hodges, Steven Hollas, Maddy James, Mr Jones, Madame Lindsay, Karen Long, Sheila Macdonald, Simon Mitchell, Lee Musselwhite, Tim Noble, Roger Norgrove, Dave Pegg, Angela Pendennis, Sally Rose, Brian Reynolds, Steve Stretch, Mr Sadler, Mike Sullivan, Phil Smith, Rob Townhill, Beryl Tucker, Chris Watters, James Wetz and Bill Wheeler.4
Thanks to all of the school governors for holding the leaders of St. Laurence to account.
So thanks Fitzmaurice Primary School and Edmond Fitzmaurice for laying solid foundations. 🙏
Thanks Branwen Munn, pictured on the left in figure 0.38, for introducing me (pictured on the right) to
while loops on your very own Commodore 64 while playing Duran Duran. It doesn’t get much more 1980s than that! Thanks to Mr. Jackson at Fitzmaurice Primary School for hosting an after school code club on the school’s (one and only) BBC Micro. I don’t think I’d have ended up where I am if it hadn’t been for early exposure to computing in primary school. (Danton 2021)
So thanks Branwen, for all the breakdancing, birdwatching, music and computing.
Thank you NHS for all the healthcare you’ve provided for me and my family from our cradles to our graves, see figure 0.39. I had taken your services for granted until I thought I was on my deathbed, see section 2.2.8. ☠
So, thanks NHS ❤️ for all the publicly funded healthcare. 🙏
To my family: wife, son, mum, dad, brother, sister, μαμά, μπαμπά and extended family: I’m lucky to have been taught by you and that you’ve always been there when I needed you. 🇬🇷🇪🇺🇬🇧
So, thanks to all my family scattered around the world for your unconditional love.
Για πάντα σ’αγαπώ. 🙏
Hello, my name is Duncan Hull and I wrote this guidebook for undergraduate and postgraduate students as part of my job at the University of Manchester where I’m a lecturer (≈ Assistant Professor) in the Department of Computer Science.
So what’s my story? I’ve been gainfully employed as a paperboy, supermarket cashier, shelf stacker, sausage packer, computer hacker, pork pie filler, plongeur, chef, dogsbody, field assistant, database administrator, deli counter server, consultant, matchday steward, envelope stuffer, high school teacher, postdoc, research scientist, chairperson, software engineer, lecturer, external examiner, tutor and scholar. Like many people, my path has been what Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis call a “squiggly career” rather than classic linear one. (Tupper and Ellis 2020, 2021)
I’ve done a range of voluntary work too, serving as a competition judge, fundraiser, code club & coderdojo leader, rabble rouser, digital council member, school governor, curator, librarian, beer drinker, wikipedia trainer, journal clubber and editor. But as Ronnie Lane and Ronnie Wood (figure 0.41) once said, I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger.
This guidebook documents some of what I know now, that I wish I’d known, when I was younger. If you’re starting your career, I hope you find these insights and exercises useful. I’ve sat on both sides of many interview tables, as interviewer and interviewee. I have had some spectacular failures, alongside some modest successes, and have included personal stories where they are relevant.
Most of what I have learned about employment comes from listening to, and watching students interact with employers as they take the first tentative steps in their careers. I’ve documented some of what they taught me, so reading this book may help you learn from some of their successes and failures.
I am not a lawyer (IANAL) but any opinions expressed in this guidebook are my own and not representative of my current employer, the University of Manchester. This guidebook does not therefore, represent University policy.
The text of this guidebook is published under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License (CC-BY-NC-ND) license see figure 0.42.
This means you can copy and redistribute the written material provided that:
- You provide full attribution by linking directly to the original source
- You do not use the material for commercial purposes
- You do not make any derivative works
See the full license (CC-BY-NC-ND) for details.
The images used in this guidebook are published under different licenses, depending on their source. For example, Bryan Mathers illustrations are licensed CC-BY-ND, see figure 0.43. Other images have different licences, for example, images from Wikimedia Commons (commons.wikimedia.org) are published under CC-BY or CC-BY-SA, fair use or public domain. Each figure caption gives details for that images licence.
So now that we’ve dispensed with the formalities, let’s look at why should you bother reading this guidebook in the first place.