[CS-FSLUG] College / University

Timothy Butler tbutler at ofb.biz
Tue Dec 12 23:34:06 CST 2006

Hi Nathan,
	I think Mark hits on some really good points. While his situation  
sounds far worse than what I've experienced, so I don't want to put  
mine on the same level, I would say to expect to be in understaffed,  
high stress environments if your doing CS work. It is the nature of  
the beast. I've found a few thing doing computer consulting work:

	1.) The deadline is always yesterday (excuse the cliche). People  
depend on these systems to be reliable far more often than they  
actually should, they don't back up, and they expect the IT  
department and/or consultants to be able to make it all work again.

	2.) The budget is always low. Usually that means that the clients/ 
bosses will refuse to choose smart long term infrastructure choices.  
This will lower reliability, which brings you to point 1.

	3.) Outsourcing is the future.

> 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.

	That, was precisely what scared me out of the field. Well, long term  
at least -- I'm not out of it yet.

	Well, enough with the negatives.

> 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;

	I have disagreements with Robertson quite frequently, but few are as  
strong as I'd say I disagree with this. In fact, I've been working on  
an article rebutting him.

	For the moment, I'd say this: he makes some unwarranted assumptions  
about past and future trends and he ignores the non-monetary  
advantages of university training. The university is about far more  
than giving someone a useful education that can make the most money.  
It also provides you with a bit more of an overall feel for major  
fields of study in a much more up-to-date way than in, say, high  
school. The idea is to provide a "big picture" understanding, to let  
you linger with the experts, and then drill into the specifics. But  
even then, as others have noted, a lot of the emphasis is on theory.  
You may just dabble in, say, C++ or Java in class, but the goal will  
be to provide ideas and philosophy that will transfer to languages  
and situations that don't even exist yet.

	I don't want to overstate the university and make it sound like a  
miracle environment, but on the other hand, I think Robertson is  
missing something. You may be able to come out economically ahead  
without going through college, but if it helps you get the exact job  
you want (and will enjoy) and allows you to better understand it,  
that has some value that can't be calculated.

	Also: as I've said before, consider a college that has a good  
liberal arts basis to it. Most people end up finding at least one  
field outside their core interest that proves interesting. If you are  
so inclined, you can pick up a minor or something in that field. That  
will surely be helpful. Say, for instance, you got a minor in  
geology. Well, then, your IT skills might be made to look even better  
if you applied for an IT job at an energy company. Moreover, if you  
have at least a basic credential in something other than your chosen  
field, it'll give you an out if some day you decide you can't take  
dealing with pesky computer users anymore.

	Oh, and let me recommend MIS. I know you said your not interested in  
management, but MIS covers a lot of the same things as a CS degree,  
but gives you a good foundation of business courses too. That'll help  
convince your bosses you actually know what you are talking about  
concerning costs if you propose a certain expense, and it will give  
you more of an ability to move up the food chain, if later on you  
decide you want to.

	Just my $0.02...


Timothy R. Butler | "Do  not forget that  the value and interest of
Editor, OfB.biz   | life is not so much to do conspicuous things...
tbutler at ofb.biz   | as to do ordinary things with the perception of
timothybutler.us  | their enormous value."
                                       -- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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