Sunday, June 30, 2013

How Googlers defend the MSc theses

Vojta Jina successfully defended his MSc theses at the Czech Technical University. He has designed and wrote Karma a JavaScript Test Runner. I was his supervisor and I feel very relieved, I have managed pushing him through the process of finishing exams, writing a theses and defending it.

I met Vojta about two years ago and that time he already was a real geek. He knew what he wants to do. His life was coding and the chosen language - JavaScript. He just arrived from a stay in Google London where he was practicing as a student. I was very happy to meet with a student having clear idea for a diploma work. It was great to see him step by step formulating what he needs for developing the JS code. He was enough self motivated and I did not need to do anything except to keep an eye on him finishing exams on time - geeks have very radical opinions, which are not a great match with very theoretically focused examiners. What more, the university curriculum was not of a top interest for Vojta, but beside few flops he got through. Shortly after we agreed on the diploma task he got hired by the AngularJS in Mountain View. I know some of the AngularJS folks and it is a great team. They live for their projects, they love programming, they were free to make their own development decisions and this is the spirit most of the programmers are looking for. Vojta immediately became one of them, dedicated to the project. It became even more difficult to stay in touch. We had regular Skype chats 8:00 am Europe and 11:00 pm California time. I enjoyed the chats discovering what is going on in Silicon Valley. Vojta was making big progress in improving the code, giving presentations and other activities. I was very happy Vojta is moving ahead, but the deadline for submitting the diploma work was approaching quickly and the fear of the blank page grew. He already had well working code on github, number of downloads was rapidly increasing, but the university needs the diploma work. It was a struggle, every week we had to go through the wording discovering how to write and what is the structure of a technical report. It was also big effort to get rid of many geeky wording.

The submission day approached and Vojta’s sister was haunting me to get the last signatures before officially submitting the work. Finally, few days before the state exam and diploma defense Vojta arrived with a Californian smile on his face. We met in my house. He brought the latest Google Chrombook. We had great time and some glasses of scotch, but I had no idea what is awaiting me.

The state committee is a panel of very serious, very formal professors, total missmatch with Vojta's attitude. Vojta entered the room very relaxed, no tie and he immediately started: "hi guys, how are you doing these days? Ok, life is short and time is swift, I’ll skip the details and show you some nifty tricks". He continued: "if you did not know, this is a terminal screen. Just give me a second, I need to launch bunch of daemons to make the things move". Then he started typing in a speed of about 200 chars/min first commands. Each enter key hit emitted the full screen of text. In a sunny room with an obsolete projector nobody had a chance to read a single line. Vojta did not show any sign of nervousness and in a cheerful tone was praising his great ideas commenting like: “isn’t it great, this is even better, I have almost forgotten, I need to show you this trick”. He certainly was successful in making the professors awake, they have never encountered candidate like him. Vojta finished the presentation very abruptly saying: “Ok, this is may be enough, if you have any other questions let me know”. The room became dead silent, no questions. I was scared, what would be the perception? It was go/no go situation, either they will get angry and will kick him out or they accept the style and Vojta will become a hero. Luckily the supervisor can comment while the committee is deliberating. To cut the story short. Yes, he is a hero. He has done it. Great job!

The lesson I have learn: I am looking forward supervising other batch of new geeks next year. Let me know.