Each week we spotlight an OMSCS TA, so you can get to know who's behind the screen. Here are four questions for Dan Boros, who TAs CS 7641: Machine Learning.
What do you do professionally?
I'm currently a staff software engineer working at IBM in Tucson, Arizona. I've worked on IBM Spectrum Protect, a data protection product, for more than five years during which time I also did OMSCS. My product has a storied history, originating in 1988 as a IBM research project and eventually evolving into IBM Tivoli Storage Manager in the late 1990s. I joined the development team right before IBM Tivoli Storage Manager entered the IBM Spectrum Suite.
My specialization is in systems programming, so my bread and butter is C. I've also extensively worked on our cloud integrations with object storage (S3, Azure, Swift) in Java. I'm currently working on scaling out our monolithic architecture by decomposing legacy C components into services written in Go, while also developing new S3-like behavior in C.
Why do you TA for OMSCS?
For me, a big motivator is to reinforce my knowledge of machine learning and capture my love of working with students. Before TAing, I sponsored three capstone projects for students in computer science at Northern Arizona University, so working as a TA in OMSCS felt like a natural extension for that.
TAing is an amazing way to revisit concepts. I've also found that many students already come to the class with a strong foundation. As a result, the discussions on Piazza, in office hours, and in reports have been a great two-way exchange between me and the students.
Of course, helping and seeing students eventually persevere makes it all worth it.
What's your advice for future students in OMSCS?
Timebox and reward yourself! My first few semesters of OMSCS involved trial and error in trying to find the right balance of time commitment to the program while also working at a demanding job. I found the thing that worked best for me was sticking to a set schedule.
Instead of studying at home all the time, I would make a point of finding new environments: coffee shops, libraries, and other places to keep my routine fresh. That also allowed me to go on walks after an arduous series of lectures so I could let the details settle in my brain.
The major thing to consider is balance. Don't go overboard with studying because it'll be hard to retain details when cramming. Timeboxing allows you to keep a consistent schedule but to also maximize your study and assignment commitment before it becomes a slog.
What hobby or activity are you looking forward to getting back to once you're done with OMSCS?
Baking! Even when studies got intense, I'd always go back to baking things like cupcakes, muffins, and pies to de-stress during the weekends. With my time in OMSCS coming to a close, I'm starting to seriously grok making artisan breads. Working with my hands and learning a new trade feels rewarding in a similar way to why I joined OMSCS — I love learning new things.