Frank C. Lin‎ > ‎


Is grade important?
Yes, it is.  Other than school and department, GPA is one of the major indicators for industry hiring practices, no surprise here.  Many companies have a "minimum GPA" requirement as a hiring guideline.  HR departments usually use it to screen first-cut candidates.  If you do not have the minimum GPA, the resume is probably heading to the trash bin.

Again, is grade important?
Not really.  Let me share my industry experience as a hiring manager or interviewer for your consideration.

First of all, it is only good for the "first job".  Unless you're changing your field of work, e.g. from networking job to artificial intelligence, it is often more accurate to evaluate your capability from your previous jobs than the school work.  Of course, I do not downplay the importance of getting the first job.  After all, without the first job, one will never get the second job.  So, here is my other point.

There is little difference between a range of acceptable GPA.  For me, GPA of 3.3 or 3.8 just tells me that you're ok.  The hiring decision is going to be based on the interview, not the GPA number.  However, I'll definitely take notice of 4.0 GPA because it implies the person is good at everything (with no upper bound).  If you can keep 4.0, by all means, do so.   Other than that, I usually look for other things, e.g. classes and projects.

Speaking of classes, comprehensive coverage and good grades on "relevant courses" to the job is much more important than generic GPA.  When a candidate came in with very low GPA, but straight A on relevant courses, I usually regard him/her as top candidate and proceed my interview as such.  If you think you're in that category, I would highly recommend that you mark it clearly on resume and let the interviewer knows about it.  Naturally, I assume you're really good at these relevant courses :-)

What is important then?
When I ask candidates about what they learn in a particular class, I typically get a "table of content" like answer.  That's OK.  Once in a while, I get some folks to tell me about special pain they encountered during the course.  For example, how they struggle through difficulties in debugging a multi-thread program.  Real experience in a meaningful setting reveals a lot about the candidate's ability to handle unexpected situations.  That will be a great insight to present yourself if you have learned that in a course.

So, what's important?  Have something to talk about beyond basic class material is important.  I have quite a few network programming students tell me that many interviewers just drill them on the 207TCP project implementation.  I know I would if I were the interviewer.  Same thing holds true that I'll ask about the benchmark exercises versus algorithm's complexity.

But again, that's just one person's opinion for your consideration.

Still, how to get an A in Frank's class?
The easiest way is to somehow demonstrate that you're good at the subject matters.  That could happen in many forms: discussion groups, peer reputation, asking questions, exam papers, projects, etc.  Express yourself, let your proficiency show through your engagement with the class.

I know many engineers are really shy.  But, humble and reserve do not inhibit self expression.  After all, we're not asking students to become used car salesman.  Express yourself and sell yourself are two different things.

Exam score matters in my classes.  There are a few things to be noted to score well in the exams.
  1. Do the homework (e.g. book problems) and assignment (e.g. wireshark exercise)
  2. Understand the material covered in the lecture, really understand them.  A good review source is the notes pages.  In general, if you need to force yourself to memorize an answer, it probably means that you could understand more.
Exam scores are the basis of grade.  After that, boundary grades are re-evaluated again for possible grade promotion.