[CS-FSLUG] College / University

Vincent Danen vdanen at linsec.ca
Sun Dec 10 15:37:25 CST 2006

* Nathan T. <celerate at gmail.com> [2006-12-10 11:30:05 -0700]:

> I'm thinking of University, and particularly of taking CS as my  
> major. Around here the closest are U of A, the Augustana Campus is of  
> particular interest because it's not in a major city. I have been  
> considering U of S because even though up here in YK people seem to  
> be unaware of it's existence I have several friends from Prince  
> Albert going there. There was U of Victoria in BC, but I hear that  
> cost of living there is extremely high. My tutor recommended that I  
> go to U of Waterloo, but I have some reservations about being that  
> far from home and particularly living somewhere that expensive and  
> going to such an intimidating school.

Have you considered any of the schools in Alberta?  UofA is really good,
and NAIT is really good as a technical school.  You can also do distance
learning from the university of athabasca.

Also, the cost of living in Alberta is (I believe) less than anywhere
else in Canada, or pretty close to it (the housing market has exploded
here so rent might be higher than some other places).

> Michael Robertson of Linspire recently fired off a newletter to his  
> subscribers in which he said that post-secondary may not be worth it,  
> of course he lives in the USA and what he says may not be as  
> applicable in Canada; however, I also have many coworkers who got  
> certifications instead of post secondary (although they're  
> technicians, and I don't want to be swapping out motherboards and  
> cleaning off viruses for the remainder of my adult life.

Well, let me give you some of my own history and then judge for
yourself.  Keep in mind that my situation is a little unique and
definitely "God-touched" in that He has blessed me abundantly and done
amazing things for my career.

I've got no post-secondary schooling.  I finished high school and I was
done with school (always bored and bothered me).  Plus, my parents had
invested in some outfit back when we were babies for our schooling and
about 2 years before I got out of highschool the outfit went belly-up,
so their entire investment was lost (for both me and my brother).  It
more or less ended up that if I wanted extra schooling, I'd have to deal
with the cost on my own, and considering how much I disliked school, I
wasn't too eager for that.

Had some pretty bad jobs (pumping gas, stock, telemarketing) and then
finally got some work at a collection agency collecting on outstanding
Alberta Healthcare accounts.  I ended up doing some work in the IT
department there for a bit (which was really cool), but they needed me
back collecting so I went back to that... and then jumped from agency to
agency for a few years (those collection agencies are real tough acts).

Anyways, in my spare time I ran a BBS, used OS/2 day-in and day-out, and
was learning some Linux (mostly because I had never used Windows95 (just
Win 3.1+DOS), and also because OS/2 was irritating me).  Anyways,
somehow I ended up getting a job writing technical articles on Linux for
TechRepublic, back when they were paying insane amounts of money for
anything Linux-related because there were so few people who knew how to
write (so the average guy could understand it).  This was divine
providence... I honestly don't even remember how it came about but they
approached me, not the other way around.  Anyways, as a result I did
both writing and collecting for a few months, paid off everything,
bought a car, and then quit my job, started my own company, and
basically wrote with the odd consulting job here and there (mostly Linux
servers, etc.).  Because I had so much spare time on my hands, I started
volunteering my time with (then) Linux-Mandrake (Mandriva now)...
testing, packaging, helping out on the mailing lists.. learning as much
about Linux as an OS as possible.  At any rate, Mandriva then hired me
to work for them fulltime doing security updates.

To make a long story short, I now run my own consulting company,
continue to work for Mandriva, still do a bit of writing (that dried up
mostly tho), and am developing my own Linux server OS (Annvix).

All of this *without* post-secondary education.  Now, I'm not advocating
you *don't* go to school, but it's been my experience that it's
*experience* that counts most these days, not certifications or
graduate papers, etc.  No one has once changed their mind about me
working for them when they find out I have no "official qualifications".

Post-secondary education is probably important... you may learn some
very valuable skills there, but nothing beats experience.  If
programming is something you want to do, then I'd suggest getting
involved with one or more OSS projects and making a name for yourself
there.  Then you'll have real-life experience to put on your resume and
it costs you nothing more than time and effort.  Or do both school and
OSS work, whatever you feel works the best for you and your time.

Despite my lack of post-secondary education, I've received offers to
work for Red Hat and Google (turned both down because it would involve
moving to the US), and that is primarily because I've built a name for
myself via experience and involvement with a number of OSS projects, and
being a very visible Mandriva consultant.

Finally, if I might suggest, prayer is probably the best way of
determining what you should do for your future.  Earnest and sincere
prayer is got me out of collections (that environment is not one that
is conducive to "loving your neighbour") and God delivered in a huge
way, allowing me to get out of there and really make something of myself
(and do a lot of work for the church and other non-profit/Christian
organizations).  I'm positive that if I wouldn't have asked, God
wouldn't have given me such an awesome answer.  =)

Sorry it was a little long, but I wanted to give you an idea of what
happened to me... maybe it'll help you think in more creative ways, but
I sincerely hope that it opens you up to the option of prayer and asking
for direction.  Only God knows what's best for you.

Feel free to get in touch directly if you'd like.

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