End of a cycle and plans to the next

As I get closer to the end of my graduation in Computer Engineering, I ask myself how my future would be like.

Will I turn into an ordinary programmer, software engineer, or maybe occupy a management position and get far from coding? Will I apply for being a Masters Candidate, as some of my colleagues are doing?

My experience in college was not very comfortable. It started back in 2006 and should have ended in 2010, totalling 5 years, but here I am, in 2013, after almost dropping out several times, when I thought about moving to economics, psychology, advertising/marketing, and probably many more. A couple years ago, telling from my grades, I didn't feel I belonged to engineering nor computing and I've felt I would be useless to society, as I wasn't turning into a competent professional.

In 2009, I started being an undergraduate researcher, supervisioned by Prof. Paulo Maciel, and loved the experience. My motivation didn't come from the subject of the research (embedded systems performance analysis), but from the feeling of being useful to someone.  I was really thirsty for that feeling. At that time, I was still getting some bad grades, as I hated to study things just for a freaking exam, but was doing very well on my activities on the research. At a specific time, I had to quit the research, as I was getting threatened to be expelled from university, after several failures in different courses, so I really needed to get good grades. I even managed to get good grades, but the feeling of not belonging to computer engineering remained. Fortunately, things got better after I was accepted as an intern in a Research & Development laboratory, from a big company in Brazil (Itautec). A couple weeks ago, I completed one year there and I really feel competent in my job and that my contribution there is relevant, so I am finally happy with the choice I made almost ten years ago, when I was 17 and told myself I would be a Computer Engineer, without really realizing the meaning of this.

In CIn/UFPE, one of the last things you do when finishing your Computer Engineering graduation is chosing  a project to work on for a semester (you chose any subject you want), and then present the results to a teacher that will give you a grade for it.
I was thinking about that for a while, and some months ago I finally discovered the subject I want to work on. I've always been an enthusiast of computer security related stuff, and always wanted to work with something related to it. Without totally being aware of the relationship between these two, I  started researching about China's censorship in the Internet, just out of curiosity. I was kind of afraid of this government behavior getting spread to other countries, and wanted to be able to do something against it. So I discovered this project called Tor.
It's a technological solution (still a work in progress, but already useful to lots of people) against governments censorship and surveillance in the global network. And that's exactly what I plan to work on in the next semester: studying about governmental methods of censorship and surveillance, as well as ways to avoid them, and also contribute to the Tor project. I am already kind of involved with it, as I posted in another blog (in portuguese: Tor: Entendendo o projeto and Tor: Primeira contribuição).

So today, after reading the Introduction of Assange's book Cypherpunks, I realized I would like this  last semester to last more like 5 years or something, as I am so pleased to study about this subject. It was a very inspiring text, giving me a feeling close to the one a priest has when hearing his god's call, just before he choses to be a priest. I'm not religious, but I've felt I had to extend this semester work to be the subject of a research project in a future Masters course in Computer Science. Maybe I will change my mind, as I learned that it  happens very often with myself, but that's ok, I just would like to thank Julian Assange (and some other guys like the ones from Tor Project) for being so inspiring. Thank you!