Writing a master’s thesis can be a difficult and stressful task. Sonja and Aleksi share their thoughts about writing their theses at Eficode, and the challenges they have faced during the process. Sonja graduated from the Master’s Programme in Computer Science at the University of Helsinki last May and Aleksi graduated from the Master Programme of Computer, Communication and Information Sciences at the Aalto University School of Science last January.
Short introduction of the thesis topics:
“When the time came to start writing my thesis, I had no idea what it could be about. Basically, I just went to Dippapiiri and started discussing possible topics and, based on my interests, one of our mentors helped me to decide the topic. Eficode also helped me with providing the data I could use in my research.”
Aleksi: “My thesis handles software project status monitoring and evaluation using dashboards. The research is split into three parts: the first, consisting of interviews of people from different roles within the project, discovers how the role of a person affects the metrics they consider relevant and the preferences in visualization methods for each person. The second part includes a collection of the most common metrics from the interviews, visualized using Grafana, an open source data visualization tool and, the final part is an evaluation as to how the finished dashboard affects the development process in the project.”
At Eficode we have a weekly meeting of “dippapiiri”, a group of people working on their theses to talk about their progress. Within Dippapiiri there are a few mentors who give advice to their younger colleagues about writing a good paper. In the meetings, people say how they have progressed during the previous week and set themselves new goals for the next week. If people struggle with writing, they receive tips to help them through the more difficult parts. We both feel that the biggest influence towards our writing had been the Dippapiiri meetings.
As we saw how others were progressing with their theses, it also put a slight pressure on ourselves to progress with our own theses. At times it felt as if the thesis was not advancing at all, but listening to advice from the “older people” (i.e. people who were further in their thesis processes) about good writing techniques and work methods helped to motivate us with our work.
One of the biggest challenges we faced was the balance between work, our thesis, and free time. The thesis itself is not an overwhelming amount of work, but having regular work and a social life added to that can easily become overwhelming. One phrase we heard quite often was “the journey doesn’t kill you; the speed does.” However, as we both had part-time contracts, we were able to take some time off from our regular work in order to focus more on our theses, if needed.
“Even though I had a part-time contract I worked mostly full-time, so most of my thesis work was done during the weekends. This was really exhausting and I was reminded quite often – by both my fiancée and our dog – to take short breaks every now and then.” - Aleksi.
“I worked part time; three days a week during thesis writing. For me, it was extremely important to have separate days for work and for writing. I also spent some of the weekends writing my thesis. At the end of writing process I didn’t write at weekends as I felt I also really needed some free time.” - Sonja.
Another challenge when writing the thesis, was to starting to write the thesis itself. Especially after taking several days off, it was difficult to regain the proper mindset. One of the best ways to avoid a loss of concentration was to take shorter breaks and set goals for each week. It didn’t matter if we didn’t write for a few days as long as we read some articles or did other background research for our topics. It also wasn’t necessary to work every single day with the thesis and, even when working, it was refreshing to take an hour break every several hours.
All in all, the peer support in Dippapiiri was excellent for us. We got help when we were struggling, but we could also support others in phases we had already faced. Even though everyone wrote their own thesis, we all had the same goal; so people were very eager to help. We tried to find different ways to motivate each other to work with our theses. For example, when we both continued working with our theses, we started to link to one another a 1 hour version of Diggy Diggy Hole, as a joke. It continued through the writing process and we both even added the song to our writing playlist. As a result, every time we see each other now, the song starts to play in our heads immediately.
Graduated in May 2018 from the University of Helsinki
Senior Devops Consultant
Graduated in January 2018 from Aalto University