So you are making the big decision, huh? Being probably right after a high school and asking yourself – what the f*ck should I do now? Do I need a university degree to get a job as a programmer?
Yeah, I know the perplexity connected to this question. You are not alone. There is literally whole bunch of other people asking this same question.
It’s almost poetic one could say. Study or study not. Let me be most straightforward as one can be. There is no good answer for it. You are on your own here. All one can do for you is to provide you some philosophic insight. Pretty harsh reality, huh? That you have to be responsible for your happiness.
The cake is a lie
Now, let’s imagine that you were told the old, old, ooold lie as millions of others before you. Study hard and you will be rich and successful. Translating it for you into more meaningful manner – you will be happy in your life.
I literally bet my ass here, that you’ve already heard it. The thing is, and why it really pisses me off, that this idea is pretty much dangerous. Dangerous for your feature and happiness. And what is worst, there is so few people aware of this.
Before you will get a wrong idea. I’m not against studying in university. Hell no. But there is common misconception about obtaining knowledge and its usage. The core of the problem is within one’s ability to ask himself difficult questions. What questions you asks? Well, you know … that you don’t like?
Yep. Correct. Pretty much this is it. You have to sit down and go through painful process of using the brain for the things it was meant to use. You have to ask yourself unpleasant questions and try to answer them to truly know your path.
And here fun begins because no one knows these questions but you. You have all your QAs within yourself. And that’s great news for you my dear, probably young, padawan.
But wait a sec lazy programmer
I already have the question!
Sure pal, I know.
So, what is this about?
Did you ask the correct one?
Uhmm, what do you mean?
What do you want to accomplish by studying there?
Is that all?
Well, I want to be rich of course.
Pff, try harder.
Meet people? Get famous?
Did I misspell something? Does it even seem like you are trying?
I don’t know, alright!
Without these you can’t possibly be able to decide correctly what to do, therefore you are blind. Blind in your way through life. Without the aim and purpose. So the real question shouldn’t be “should I go to university?“, but different one. What is the thing you want from your life?
Sounds like an another abstract thing from the self-development books, right?
Here goes the abstraction
Let me tell you a short parable. Imagine that you are an archer. You are firing on the target. From the 5 meters. You shot. Now 15 meters. Now 50. If you ever tried to shoot from the bow, you know how hard it is. And now, try to do the same but without looking. You will probably hit the general direction of the target at best.
That is you and your life. If you do not know, where your goal is, how can you achieve it? You see how hard it is when you know your goal? What makes you think you can achieve something, you haven’t even described yet?
If that parable somehow rings the bell in your head and you think you read or heard it somewhere before, you are correct. It is quite a derivation from this book
You see, you must be specific during the definition. As an example of such goal could be: I want to develop paid plugin for Chrome helping people to reduce their procrastination within 1 month. It is pretty specific goal and you have pretty solid idea what it is about. Of course, you can add even more specificity. Like what is the minimal price or specific group of plugin users.
Now let’s explore …
… a quite common example of the guy going to the university to study IT. Where to find one? Of course … I will be the example.
I will provide you a little bit wider window into my life to provide you necessary background data.
See, It was quite rough when I was young. We were pretty much flat ass broke and there were pretty rough times. Times, where there was literally nothing to eat but an old bread at best. Also, paradoxically, I was a quite fatty. I mean I was really fat. Due to that, I also had pretty low self-esteem.
So I was poor, excessively fat kid without any self-respect or self-love.
Hard but not bad
In these good old days I somehow developed a passion. A passion for money. I’m extremely interested how to obtain them, have them and manage them. But till recent years it mainly meant how to *ahem* spend them.
You see, with this ‘goal’ of mine, defined in form of money, I started to think how to get them. During my teenage age I tried various forms of work, but of course, without success. All this time I’ve been excelling in one thing, solving problems. And because of that, I’ve been really passionate about programming.
But I had no guidance. Literally no one in my family knows about this topic till this day. My parents tried to provide me what they could. Like PC and internet – which was a miracle for me. I’m not able to express how grateful I’m for that sacrifice.
How time flew …
… life went better and after few years I hit the decision making similar to yours. Given that nobody knew about the programming and a fact, that it was one of few things that took my interest, I decided to go to university.
I just told myself: “Hey, this is great. I will just choose the most paid language and after the school I can make money.” …
So, there was not really a question about going there, but more like which college to choose.
I found out very quickly that the actual way of learning is the same. It doesn’t matter that you are in high school or college. There is a teacher and there is a test you need to pass with some specific scope of knowledge. The end. You can pass the test – written or verbal, it does not matter – you progress in your goal to be programmer, right? … right?.
The problem was…
That I was learning a lot of things, but I wasn’t progressing in my dream career as a developer. I was shooting on all sides and loosing my precious time and energy. And what is the worst, all this time I was working on some goals given to me by other people.
You probably know that feeling too. All I wanted is to learn how to develop truly cutting edge apps with nice visuals. But instead of it I learnt a lot of mathematics, physics, algorithms …
I’m not saying it is not needed to know this stuff. But is it really necessary for your goal? I know it was not for mine. Oh, don’t take me wrong. I liked it. I liked it a lot. I love learning, I truly do. But it was not aligned with my goals in that time. In the reality, what it meant for me was actually the exact opposite – it slowed my progress.
And by this way
I spent my first 4 years on university. I was pretty upset. There was a lot of projects and no time for myself. I couldn’t have even stable relationship, because I was working to minimize the amount of money needed from my parents. Basically it was little personal hell. I was heavily out of shape, full of complexes and when I had some free time I procrastinated heavily.
When I finished my bachelor degree, there was this decision again. Study or study not? In that time I knew that the reality is in on different level compared to school. I already got stable income from my part-time job in Red Hat. Already done some paid projects for an university research. And I knew one thing – in the real job I do not need that sort of knowledge.
But I saw that parents really want me to have the master’s degree. And with my complexes I thought I own it to them. The thing is that I perceived it like that, and reality is what you perceive, right?
I changed the university, also with different field of study. I focused myself more on soft-skills and project management. And again, same old story because I thought that to do something, you need to study it. Again, 2 years lost.
Hey, that’s nice …
… but what is your point with all of this? I got ya.
Let me explain. Going to the university and to get a bachelor degree takes like 3 years. If everything goes right. Master degree in average takes 5 years(in Europe at least). Again, if everything goes well. It means 5 years of full-time job basically.
Before such commitment, shouldn’t you ask yourself what is the true purpose of the university? What do you expect? Is it aligned with your goals? I mean we are talking about minimum of 3 years of your life here. Three full years of eating cheap pasta, buying literally everything on the sale etc. First year or two probably being unable to work because of school. Meaning that you will be depending on your parents and relatives mostly. Also, if you are from US you will be in a huge debt for sure.
I’m sure you are just overstating…
If you think that I’m too pessimistic, you are wrong. That is the reality for most of the people. Maybe your parents have money and your food quality won’t suffer. But the probability for that is pretty much low. Statistically, you are pretty f*cking lucky to even consider that you may study.
You can argue here that you can try it and see if it is really so. Correct. You can. But you will be making the same mistake as quite huge portion of people before you. You are probably thinking: “whatever, I will try it for one year and see“. Are you sure, that one year is really so expendable? I mean it is like 1/65 – 1/75 portion of your total time on earth in average. And you probably spent 16+ years already. So you are left with like 50+ years of life. If you are lucky and you live in developed country. Of course with little bit healthy food in your life and some exercise.
Hey, but how I can get a job as a programmer?
Do you really think, that you need a university to get a job in IT? That is literally pure lie. I personally know guys who have only high school, without degree at all, and and are working as as devs or QE.
I’ll be straight forward as I can be. I really do not use the knowledge from the school in my day job. I mean literally some specific knowledge. If you are afraid that nobody would give you a job without the title you are wrong. If that is your sole reason, you won’t be satisfied during your studies with your life.
You would be making the same mistake as myself. Instead of doing the actual software development, you will be trying to fill quotas made by others. Instead of making money and having real life experience, you will be doing a lot of unrelated work under a big pressure.
Try to allow yourself to live today. Do not delegate your dreams for the future because of …. because of what exactly?
But this is for another post
Getting the job in IT is different story for a different place. Stay tuned though 🙂
Why study in university matters
You see, in my story, I asked the question in much later phase. When I went for a bachelor degree, I had it clear. There was nothing and nobody for me to teach me. And I still think it was a good decision for a lot of reasons. The mistake was made the second time. When I was actually asking the question.
University degree and what?
One thing I developed during my bachelor studies was something like a 6th sense. When I solve issues, bugs or developing new features I can feel the right direction. I can sense it. This intuition of mine is not some special power. It is something written to your DNA by practicing the same thing again and again. And the school helped my to provide the very wide context to hone this skill.
It is like looking on the same old book again and again but from different angles. During different seasons with and different eyes. This is what the school actually does for you.
This phenomenon is already described by various literature. The recent one I read about the subject is called blink
There is much more
In my country it was a duty to go to army. This was some time ago but I still remember it clearly. You see, it is said that going to the army makes a man from a boy. In my eyes attending the university has very similar effect.
When you are young and without a guide, you can’t truly know where to direct your focus. So you make a lot of mistakes and you lack discipline. That is normal and only very few of us can say honestly, that it was/is different for them.
The strict time and credit allocation, financial need and a desire for a bright future makes wonders. If you take it seriously the gain from the university can be truly immersive.
University provides possibilities everywhere
Previously I wrote, that you do not need a higher education for a job. One of the reasons is that most of them are generic. You are making just another e-shop, api, web design, framework …
A vast majority of jobs is of this kind. Note also fact that most of interviews are same too – sadly without touch of reality in most cases. But research on university, well … that is whole new world compared to that.
You will have an access to immersive knowledge for free. Most renown schools have their own supercomputers which could be available for you – well, with little bit of luck and *ahem* contacts. And you will be able to work with very clever people, who operates on totally different layer of knowledge.
You have to be accountable
Whether you choose to follow the typical university path or try to gain direct experience in the field, there is one and only one thing you absolutely have to do – be accountable for your actions.
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