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the importance of going to a "good" school

Jeanne Boyarsky
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Paul Anilprem wrote:Overall, a BA is degree (unless it is in Performing or Fine arts) is a dead end.

I have a BA in computer science. (I also have a Masters in computer science, but that was after I started working.)

In my school the difference between a BA and BS was pretty small. And the difference was physics classes not computer science classes. I preferred to use those credits toward a minor in business. I don't think we can say that a BA is a dead end across the board.


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Paul Anilprem
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:
Paul Anilprem wrote:Overall, a BA is degree (unless it is in Performing or Fine arts) is a dead end.

I have a BA in computer science. (I also have a Masters in computer science, but that was after I started working.)

In my school the difference between a BA and BS was pretty small. And the difference was physics classes not computer science classes. I preferred to use those credits toward a minor in business. I don't think we can say that a BA is a dead end across the board.

The difference between BA and BS courses here is like day and night. They have almost nothing in common.


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Paul Anilprem
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Here is a list of courses available in a BA degree: http://www.ignou.ac.in/ignou/aboutignou/school/soss/programmes/detail/144/2
and here it is for a B Sc.: http://www.ignou.ac.in/ignou/aboutignou/school/sos/programmes/detail/166/2
Chris Barrett
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  12

Hi all,

This is a very fascinating thread! If I might add a bit about my experience and background.

I spent 15+ years in front-line finance (primarily risk management stuff dealing with high-tension credit/margin call issues). At 39, I decided two financial crisis in eight years was enough. I always loved problem solving and had spent a lot of time involved in IT development projects. After much discussion with the firm's IT department and project managers, I decided to go back to school to learn programming. The last "coding" I had done was in LogoWriter 25 years before.

However, before I quit my job:
  • I completed a detailed Cost/Benefit Analysis. I understood I would be taking a pay cut (a really big one until I finished school). I made sure that my TCO and SWOT reviews included the long-term benefits of my happiness.
  • I made sure my family agreed with my decision. I'm married with two kids. My wife and I have had to make many major life alterations, such as selling our house to buy a larger, older home with a rental in the basement for increased cash-flow.
  • I networked. I called local IT recruiters, HR managers, and joined several programming related 'Meet Up' groups to meet programmers and learn what skills were in demand. Through that process, I learned that where I live (Vancouver, BC, Canada), there are a lot of front-end developers but few Java/C (I use "C" generically to include C#, C++, etc...) back-end developers. As such, the Java/C back-end developers are paid more.

Returning to school full-time for four years to take a CompSci degree was not feasible. Luckily, Vancouver has an amazing technical school (BCIT) that I've been able to attend part-time learning both Java and C++ (plus some PHP). I also self-taught myself (for the most part) HTML and CSS.

As Matthew Brown mentioned farther up this thread, don't forget the softskills. There is no question people like Jeanne Boyarsky are fantastic programmers, but what makes her (and the other senior folks here) exceptional is her communication skills. You cannot learn those skills in a Java textbook. I made sure that the courses included stuff outside of core programming - including OOA, ERD and Agile design/methodology related courses. These courses, and my previous experience, have been invaluable in networking with non-programmers. I feel, and my discussions with BAs, SAs, PMs, and SCRUM Masters would seem to support this, that many IT people live in an "IT box". They prefer communication via email. With the new Agile techniques, being able to clearly communicate and deal with face-to-face conflict is very important (we should all know about the "storming stage" in team building).

I am now one year into the program, with another three months to go (approximately). I've also committed to the OCA exam in September. I'm not yet actively looking for work, but have already had two formal interviews via referrals I networked with and several preliminary discussions. While I'm not at all saying that coding skills isn't important (I have a 94% GPA and will finish my program "With Distinction"), please don't discount the softskills. If you have an undergraduate degree in History, or a BA, or whatever, figure out how you can leverage those skills.

Cheers!
Chris
Chris Barrett
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Paul Anilprem wrote: I am sure you will recall threads on JavaRanch talking about a "bond" signed by an employee looking to switch job. I never had to sign any such bond. But I know now that a vast majority of the companies make students graduating out from unranked schools sign a "bond" that forces the new hires to work with them for up to 3 yrs! It is exploitation, plain and simple. But they have no option.


I'm curious about this Paul. Maybe I should start a new topic. I have several friends who have immigrated from India in the IT industry. They tell me IT jobs are much more mercenary there than in North America. I'm told that often, graduates will go to work for a firm with a major overseas contract. The employee will be sent to work with the outsourced firm's North American developers for three months. Then, immediately quit when they return to India, because their three months of overseas work experience makes them much more valuable. This leaves the contract and the employer frustrated, as the contract has just spent three months "investing" in someone they thought would be their India-based liaison.

In Canada, often employers will pay for middle management to take MBAs. In exchange, the employee will agree to a certain time/work commitment (usually one to two years) to offset the employer's investment. Should the employee leave early, the employee will be required to repay a pro-rated portion of the employer's expenses related to the MBA (tuition, travel to the MBA school, etc...). Of course, the employee's completion of the MBA usually comes with career advancement/pay increase stipulations that help incentivize the employee to stay.

Does the bond attempt to generate a similar assurance of workforce commitment on the part of the new employee, in lieu of monetary/career advancement incentives?

Cheers!
Chris

PS - I'm not arguing if the bond is right or wrong. I'm just fascinated with how other countries structure employment, especially in the era of outsourcing where the Indian employer may not have the ability to incentive the new employee based on the employer's agreement to a fixed outsourcing contract amount.
Paul Anilprem
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Chris R Barrett wrote:
Paul Anilprem wrote: I am sure you will recall threads on JavaRanch talking about a "bond" signed by an employee looking to switch job. I never had to sign any such bond. But I know now that a vast majority of the companies make students graduating out from unranked schools sign a "bond" that forces the new hires to work with them for up to 3 yrs! It is exploitation, plain and simple. But they have no option.


I'm curious about this Paul. Maybe I should start a new topic. I have several friends who have immigrated from India in the IT industry. They tell me IT jobs are much more mercenary there than in North America. I'm told that often, graduates will go to work for a firm with a major overseas contract. The employee will be sent to work with the outsourced firm's North American developers for three months. Then, immediately quit when they return to India, because their three months of overseas work experience makes them much more valuable. This leaves the contract and the employer frustrated, as the contract has just spent three months "investing" in someone they thought would be their India-based liaison.

Yes, this is true. Such cases are also quite common.

Chris R Barrett wrote:
Does the bond attempt to generate a similar assurance of workforce commitment on the part of the new employee, in lieu of monetary/career advancement incentives?

Outsourcing is essentially labor arbitrage. There are abnormal profits involved. Both the employer and the employee vie for a piece of that profit. Employees leave the moment they get better pay and employers create as big a barrier as they can to prevent that movement. I think it is as simple as that.
As I mentioned earlier, some employees (from top schools) are undeterred by a bond (either they don't sign it or they know better about their illegality), but students from not so well known school are taken advantage of.
Chris Barrett
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Paul Anilprem wrote: As I mentioned earlier, some employees (from top schools) are undeterred by a bond (either they don't sign it or they know better about their illegality), but students from not so well known school are taken advantage of.

I take this to mean than that this 'bond' provides no option (unlike in Canada) for the employee to buy themselves out of the work contract early at a pro-rated amount for time served? For example, if another firm is very interested in an employee, they may agree to pay the employee's early contract termination clause as part of the employee's hiring package negotiation. Sounds like that option is not available to Indians of unranked schools, which really makes that bad indeed!

Thank you so much for sharing your insights!

Cheers!
Chris
Paul Anilprem
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Chris R Barrett wrote:
Paul Anilprem wrote: As I mentioned earlier, some employees (from top schools) are undeterred by a bond (either they don't sign it or they know better about their illegality), but students from not so well known school are taken advantage of.

I take this to mean than that this 'bond' provides no option (unlike in Canada) for the employee to buy themselves out of the work contract early at a pro-rated amount for time served?

Some do have this option, some don't.
Janeice DelVecchio
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When I went to college the first time for my associates degree, I was worried that it was "only" from a community college. Then I went back to school, and I was worried that it was "distance learning." In both cases, I found someone to take a chance on me, then worked my butt off.... and now it doesn't matter what schools I went to. I now have good references and proper experience I can put on my resume.

I think whether or not it matters that a candidate went to a "good" school is dependent on the hiring manager, the position to be filled, the candidate, the business.... et cetera. Honestly, I've been hired (or nearly so -- I didn't take it) at a place as a vet technician because the hiring manager also went to the same community college I did. Some hiring managers went to "good" schools and, in my mind, they filter people based on their own bias.

Getting a job after graduating is pretty tough in some fields, but easier in others. There are some occupations where it only matters that you "have a degree" -- even if it's in basketweaving and from a community college. As a vet tech, some hiring managers prefer you were "on the job" trained over "college trained" -- why? Lots of reasons, including money, life skills vs book knowledge.... on and on.

Do I, personally, think it's important to go to a "good" school? No. I think it's better to know what you're doing and stay fresh in the field (particularly in computer related fields). And work hard. I hope that if I'm ever in charge of making a decision to hire someone I can try to keep those priorities clear.

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Winston Gutkowski
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:Seems like this would be a good discussion. Do you think it is important to go to a "good" school? Do you think that has changed over time? Do you look at the school on a resume/CV?

Oddly enough, in all the discussion, I don't see any mention of schools.

Now it may be, as Bernard Shaw said, "two continents divided by a common tongue", but to me a "school" is something I go to from 6-18, yet most of the discussion here seems to be about universities; which I suspect are far less important - unless the discussion is only about what you can get out of them.

I went to Millfield: a school, not a university - which, in the UK, is not far behind saying "I went to Eton" - but the reason I've never mentioned it (and generally don't) is that I HATED it. Hated every privileged, exclusive, conformist, favouritist, money-oriented second of it. Also: I was away from home.

I didn't recognise the first two from that list at the time, but the rest I remember well. I was the "poor kid" (although it didn't seem like that to me before I went there), with enough money to buy sweets, but not much more. Several kids were suspended (or expelled) for "partaking of the nightlife" at the age of 14 (a couple even younger while I was there).

Needless to say, I was never a "prefect" (funny how schools like that cling on to Roman society position words for comfort), but I undeniably got a good education there. Not the least of which was to know an uppish prat when I meet one.

The achievements of which I'm most proud:
1. I broke the "defaulters" record for my house in my very first term (13.5 hours; I'm sure long since surpassed, since it was a ridiculous system to begin with).
2. I blew up my hand while mucking about with chemicals I'd nicked from the chem labs. My left thumb still gives me a bit of gip when I cycle.
3. I was head of the "computer club" when I left.

And the last of those is probably the only thing you're interested in. The school bought a PDP-8 in 1970 for use by the students - unheard of at the time, and about 40,000 quid as I recall.
From the first time I saw it, I was in there: bashing out paper tapes, trying new things ... and THAT'S what that school gave me.
In my third year I was still a social paeon, but I had a key to the "computer room". And when I left, I was its boss. Teachers actually used to come to me for advice.

So, I got a good academic grounding, and I learned that I liked computers; but I also experienced the things that (basically) make me a socialist now - although it's possible my parents had something to do with that too.

Winston

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Jeanne Boyarsky
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In the US, school includes university. Your description sounds like Hogwarts .
Winston Gutkowski
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:In the US, school includes university. Your description sounds like Hogwarts .

Actually, more like "Tom Brown's Schooldays".

Weirdly enough, I was never caned (although the school allowed it). Came close on numerous occasions though.

My worry is that the discussion is not about importance, but "financial advantage". Whatever it's faults, Millfield plainly gave me a start in the computer biz, by showing me that THAT was what was important to me.

Winston
Guillermo Ishi
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It's better to go to a "good" school if you want to do a certain thing, that thing being to waltz in and easily get the job ahead of your competitors, and also possibly rise quickly. If a new community college grad was up against a new MIT grad you know who would win! It is all shades of that, usually not that extreme of course. You may choose one school over another because one actually has a better department - just make that decision between MIT and Caltech That is if the aforementioned is your goal. It's possible to get along if you didn't go to any school at all. But it won't necessarily be a waltz. Which school you went to becomes less important and your track record becomes more important as you age farther away from your school years. This is all for the U.S.A.
Guillermo Ishi
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Joe Ess wrote:most of the people who create said culture did not go through the university system. When you are shopping around for a good book, do you stop and check what school the author got his/her MFA from?


That reminds me of how Howard Stern has described people as "college material" to be derogatory Our most iconic figures have nearly all been dropouts; Hemingway, Gates, Jobs... But these aren't the workers, they are the visionaries with something special.

Some of the stuff Paul is describing we have in the U.S. in a slightly different form. You might not be enslaved to an employer here, but you will have to sign non-compete agreements saying you will not work for a competitor for a year after you split. And wages depend on where you went to school here as well. If someone went to a top school and the employer wants him, he will have to pay him more than the guy who'll be working with him who went to a less marketable school. Also, there is a culture of pushing kids into certain positions at an early age too, but it is mostly among certain ethnic groups rather than long-time Midwesterners. Regarding pursuing history in school, speaking of average state or private colleges, a degree in anything is an equally good first step, which will get you off the floor and into an office. It defines where you fit in society. Unless you're Hemingway.
 
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