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How Important is Academic Reputation in the Job Market?

By mpakes in Culture
Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 10:22:42 AM EST
Tags: Help! (Ask Kuro5hin) (all tags)
Help! (Ask Kuro5hin)

Several discussions have cropped up of late (Alternate Areas of Studies for Techies?) that are centered on whether or not schooling is important or necessary in order to be viable in today’s job market. Personally, school is a priority for me, but less than impressive teaching and poor social dynamic have lead to my imminent transfer from a private school with a great reputation to the University of Texas at Austin, which has "only" an average reputation.

So I ask, what matters more – academic reputation, skill set, or on-the-job experience?

I am a 2nd year electrical engineering major with Junior status at a well-respected private university, but despite consistently good rankings in US News, I am wholly unimpressed with the quality of education, atmosphere, and location, especially considering the rather high tuition. The school’s small size and ultra-restrictive admissions requirements lead to a "cookie-cutter" student body that is very focused academically, but otherwise uninspired. The social dynamic is ridiculously poor; most students think that an ideal weekend consists of stress-relief in the form of beer in a sweaty, crowded room accompanied by MP3s with pounding bass. Meanwhile, my computer science classes are taught by professors that shun practicality and applications, instead force-feeding OOP theory and educational languages such as Scheme.

Faced with the prospect of two-and-a-half more years of school here, I have decided to leave and pursue my degree at the University of Texas at Austin, where I will spend seventy percent less in tuition, learn the same material, make contacts in the business world, and enjoy myself all the while. However, friends and concerned family members consistently ask, "why leave one of the best schools in the nation?" and inform me that I will regret my decision in the long run.

To me, it seems clear-cut and simple, but I can see that few of these reasons would be convincing to an interviewer at a place of employment in the future. How can I explain my move? People have also suggested to me that the sheer number of students that graduate from the University of Texas means that some employers would consider such applicants as 'expendable,' and that coming from a school with more repute would distinguish me.

With two consecutive summers of team-oriented work in C/C++ on large scale projects at well-known software companies, a portfolio of code written in C, C++, Perl, and x86 ASM, as well as a number of digital hardware design projects, my resume is already loaded with bright points other than my education. For these reasons, I feel that a transfer is somewhat irrelevant to my future career, but I continue to have difficulty convincing some of my peers.

Now I ask you, the experienced and the worldly wise, is academic reputation as important in the job market as most people think? Can on-the-job experience and a large, diverse skill set make up for an "ordinary" college education?


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Is academic reputation really all that important?
o Yes, it is the most distinguishing part of a resume. 4%
o Yes, but skill sets, qualifications, and experience are more important. 67%
o Not really. 28%

Votes: 64
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Alternate Areas of Studies for Techies?
o private university
o University of Texas at Austin
o Also by mpakes

Display: Sort:
How Important is Academic Reputation in the Job Market? | 46 comments (46 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
The person matters most... (3.00 / 2) (#1)
by skim123 on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 04:50:44 AM EST

Recently there have been a number of discussions here, people asking how the academic reputation figures in, if one should finish college, etc. Personally, I don't think any of those factors matter, it all boils down to the person him/herself.

For example, say that you have a person who is naturally bright and can learn things quickly, and say that this person is best suited for job X. Yes, the person may be able to arrive at job Y after school at a community college, which he then would be promoted to job X after a few years. Or perhaps he'd start straight at job X if he went to an ivy-league school. Even if this person didn't go to school, I'd wager he/she could work his/her way up to job X, even though he might start much lower than had he gone to school.

I dunno, my personal opinion is that hard work and talent go a lot further than a degree. That being said, I think college is important for non-job reasons, and am glad I had the opportunity to get mine... but, if you are looking at it strictly from a job-view, I really don't think it matters all too much solongas you have a good work ethic.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum

If you are bright, you're employable (2.50 / 2) (#2)
by tlloh on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 05:11:05 AM EST

Now I ask you, the experienced and the worldly wise, is academic reputation as important in the job market as most people think? Can on-the-job experience and a large, diverse skill set make up for an "ordinary" college education?

Yes, it can. (clueful) Employers don't just look at your grades, they look at what you've done. And real-world coding, whether through industrial experience, practical training, which you seem to be getting at Austin, stands you in better stead than perfect grades at that private university.

Employers also know that most fresh graduates have to be trained, regardless of where they came from. So the greater your practical experience (so long as it is relevant), the greater your ability to stand out during those first months of your new job vis-a-vis all those "other" grads.

After all, if you think about it, the moment you've been offered a job - it doesn't really matter anymore where you came from. It all boils down to whether you can do the work, and how well. And this is where they decide who to promote, who to give more responsibility to, and who gets the biggest bonuses.

So all your degree is, really, is a paper certificate that opens the doorway to employment. Once you're in the door, it's experience that counts. And so long as your experience teaches you real world skills that are relevant in your field, I wouldn't worry about your employability.

And if you think about it, all that money saved from tuition - isn't that kind of a pay bonus already?

You're in a good spot (3.00 / 2) (#3)
by Potsy on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 07:03:49 AM EST

This is not really an answer to your question, but I thought it worth mentioning:
  • The fact that you were accepted to Rice and stayed for two years while getting (I presume) good grades will show employers that you are intelligent and hard-working.
  • If you now transfer to UT-Austin and later tell prospective employers that it was because you wanted a different kind of experience, that will show that you are independent-minded and don't necessarily do things just because you think they will make you look good.
So the way I see it, transferring now would be better than staying, both for your career and your personal experience. As you hinted at in your write up, the impressive "name" schools is getting accepted. Once you do that, you've already got the reputation factor going for you. There is nothing to be gained by staying if you're unhappy there.

That said, I think that in general, the reputation of the school you attend is important. However, you don't have to stay the whole four years to get the benefit. Just getting accepted is usually enough to impress people.

You have hit the nail on the head (3.50 / 6) (#4)
by Carnage4Life on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 08:56:49 AM EST

With two consecutive summers of team-oriented work in C/C++ on large scale projects at well-known software companies, a portfolio of code written in C, C++, Perl, and x86 ASM, as well as a number of digital hardware design projects, my resume is already loaded with bright points other than my education. For these reasons, I feel that a transfer is somewhat irrelevant to my future career, but I continue to have difficulty convincing some of my peers.

You are quite correct in your assumption. To most employers, good grades in college are or an education from a top notch university pale in comparison to actual experience in the field.

Most interviewers ask questions that aimed at testing how much real world or semi-real world experience you have had while in school. Usually once they learn that not only have you had experience delivering results for software company or some other customer but were successful, you become a lot more desirable than some kid with an above average GPA from a school ranked higher than yours in USNews (which uses bogus ranking methodologies any way).

These are the advantages I have seen to going to a higher ranked school, in my experience.

1.) The good companies come to you instead of you going to hunt them down. I transferred from my original college to my current college for this reason alone. So far I have had interviews with Microsoft, Trilogy and CMGi, none of which recruited at my old college. It would have been more difficult to get a shot at interviewing with them without being a Georgia Tech student.

2.) You have better professors. You may think that your current professors are bad, but remember that in an environment where companies pay 100K for people to do web development. There is very little incentive for the best and brightest to teach and earn half that unless they are teaching at a prestiguous university. The really cool think about having great professors is that (at least at Georgia Tech) once you are through with all the mandatory classes, you can get involved in research or directed study into the fields that interest you with a mentor that is at the top of his field (Distributed Computing, yaaay).

3.) You meet more uber-geeks. If you're interested in learning from your peers and/or working on side projects that may or may not earn you fame and fortune, there is a better chance of being able to meet like-minded people with ability at a prestiguous school than not.

Given what I've said; Univerity of Texas, Austin is a well ranked school in its own right. I doubt that employeers will look down on it as much as your friends think.

Rice? (1.00 / 6) (#5)
by _cbj on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 09:21:51 AM EST

As a non-American, I can honestly report that until now I had never heard of Rice University. I have heard of the University of Texas. There. Conclusive ejaculation, I think.

Get the best (3.62 / 8) (#6)
by Kaa on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 10:06:01 AM EST

I don't think my view is popular here, but I think that in education you should grab the best you can get. I don't think the university's job is to prepare you for real life or, say, to teach you programming. The basic goal of education is to exercise your brain so that later on you can deal with new data, new situations, new skills.

I don't doubt that you'll be able to get a good job, but think of college as an opportunity to expand, debug, and polish your brain. Lisp, by the way, is very good at making you think in a manner that is completely different from the "normal" procedural languages (C, C++, etc.) Yes, you are unlikely to program much in Scheme in real life, but your brain will be better for having studied Lisp.

Having said all that, I have to point out that I am an education snob. I know that there is a big difference between first-tier schools (MIT, Stanford, Carnegie class) and the rest. Rice is not a first-tier school. I am not sure that the difference between Rice and Texas-Austin is all that much. Let me put it this way: the difference between school ranked #1 and school ranked #10 is much, much bigger than the difference between the school ranked #40 and one ranked #50. So the distinction you are worried about may not matter.

Kaa's Law: In any sufficiently large group of people most are idiots.

Untrue (none / 0) (#43)
by rainbowfyre on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 02:29:18 AM EST

I don't think anyone cares, but for the record, Rice is an amazing school. (Although I admit to not knowing anything about the CS department in particular.) Much as I hate the phrase, it is "The Harvard of the South." The only reason it isn't top ten is because it isn't in the Northeast, and they decided to use the endowment for something useful; lowering tuition. (Why do people judge schools based on how much they cost to go to?) I did get into Rice, and I came very, very close to go before deciding that I didn't want to stay in Texas.

The truth is; the most "prestigious" school is not necessarily the one at which you will get the best teaching. Harvard has 500+ person classes regularly, and the more well-known the professor is, the less likely that he has time to memorize your name. The choice of an elite school should only be made if you know what you are looking for and trust yourself to work hard on your own.
Vericon is coming!
[ Parent ]
Nail hit directly on the head. (2.60 / 5) (#7)
by simmons75 on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 10:38:32 AM EST

my computer science classes are taught by professors that
shun practicality and applications, instead force-feeding OOP theory and educational languages such as

Heh, that sounds like my reasons for switching majors. I started off in junior college, and had a wonderful (though I didn't realize it at the time) instructor who, despite being a grad student at another school, taught practicality in programming. Yay. Contrast that with my university experience: I spent more time learning how different professors wanted Scheme lists to be diagrammed, figuring out how to create proofs before I wrote a single line of code (I hate lambda calculus :^) and learning to create boot loaders for fictional computers. I spent so much time trying to learn how to create proofs for this crap that I didn't work on anything other than CS classes. My GPA still suffers for that. After weighing the ridiculousness of my education against what would be a short time in the field (it had been pounded into my head that age 30 is washout age) I decided it was time to switch.

What did I pick? Journalism; specifically, advertising. I even stayed at the same univeristy. It was a total 180 degrees from the CS department: there was equal emphasis on theory and real-world examples. If you went to a professor's office you weren't told "Talk to my TA; I don't have time for students, I'm doing real work--research." Classwork concentrated on group efforts (in CS, group efforts were known as "cheating") and the sort of work I'd be doing in the real world. Yay, you mean we don't do proofs that only 10% of my peers know how to read? Goodie. :^)
So there.

Re: Nail hit directly on the head. (3.00 / 1) (#15)
by billnapier on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 10:58:42 AM EST

Classwork concentrated on group efforts (in CS, group efforts were known as "cheating") and the sort of work I'd be doing in the real world.
After reading the above sentance, I think you made the right choice (assuming that the changing schools choice was out). When I was in the CS program, group work was encouraged by all the professors. And I thought it was wonderful, because you are right, that is the sort of work one would be doing in the real world.

[ Parent ]

I almost did what you did. (none / 0) (#46)
by duffbeer on Fri Oct 13, 2000 at 11:38:54 PM EST

...except I switched from a Computer Science BS to a cs BA with a minor (5 credits short of a second major) in History. I just finished up in May

I woke up one morning a just panicked; I love computers and solving problems but I was totally sick of doing irrelevant projects. With the exception of two excellent professors (aka saints) classes were taught by openly hostile faculty or harried, underpaid graduate students. I once scored a 22 (out of 150) on a midterm, which was curved to a B.

Now I'm a DBA for an interesting company and I really love my work. The job includes alot of crazy hours and impossible situations, but I am learning alot and make a visible impact on my employer.

I came away from school satisfied with the education that I recieved. CS and Business courses were a waste of time for me, but I am glad to have learned alot about History, Economics and Journalism.

I worked my way though school and was exposed to new and interested subjects & people. My only regret is taking Computer Science.

[ Parent ]
Another Viewpoint (2.50 / 2) (#8)
by billnapier on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 10:42:28 AM EST

What I think you should expect to get from a good college educations:

  • Background knowledge that will give you enough of a basis to learn anything you may need to learn.
  • Networking, Meeting people, etc.

    What not to expect to get from a good college education:

  • A good job and the respect of your peers.
  • Too many practical skills (C, C++, etc.). The technologies just change too fast from professors to keep up with.

    If you go to college, get good grades, but do nothing else, don't expect people to throwh jobs at you. Most of the knowledge that I got that helped me get a job I got outside of the classroom. But I did get both of the benifits that I listed above. And from talking to the people that I interviewed with, the first item really showed in my interviews. I expect the second item to help me in other ways (like when I want to move on, all those people that I met in the same field can be resources when it comes to finding a new job).

    The practical skills that you need to get a job should come from outside the classroom, either that you learned on your own or from job experience. Most professors are too focused on research to keep up with all the developments in the CS world outside academia. You'll learn more by teaching it to yourself (from reading the current info on the Web), or learning it at the job where you are surrounded by people who are actually using the skills that you are trying to learn.

    While a good school/good grades, etc. may get your foot in the door at a company, its the stuff outside the classroom that will land you the job.

  • Re: Another Viewpoint (none / 0) (#24)
    by dead_radish on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 12:30:42 PM EST

    Background: I went to Austin College in Sherman, TX (Anyone who can, go there). Small, private, liberal arts. And I'm a sysadminish type now.

    Did my classes at AC help me? Hell no. I got my degree in art (digital graphics/3-d animation/modeling) and communication arts (media/web design/etc). Did I take more than one computer class, and that an independent study in Fractal modeling using, of all things, Mathematica? Hell no. Did I gain network and computer skills that I used in my jobs as tech support and sysadmin? Nuh uh.

    Did I learn more about myself, the world, and everything in between than I ever could have in a corporate job for 3 years? Hell yes.

    Did I have an amazing time, meet incredible people, learn how to really _think_, attack problems, analyze situtations, and find solutions? Hell yes.

    Did I learn all sorts of things that I will never have a chance to learn again, never have a reason to learn again, and never have an opportunity to learn again, but that made me a hell of a lot better (and, yes, more hireable) person? Hell yes.

    Do people care that I have a BA from AC? Only in a few cases:

    • They are AC grads. AC grads support AC grads. It's that easy. We know how good the school is, and how much they learned.
    • They use it as a general indication that I'm intelligent, able to think, able to commit (I finished a double major in 3 years. Use that as you will).
    • They need to hire X% of college grads.
    • They are hiring for something highly specialized (AI, circuit design, etc) and want someone with formal training as well as on-the-job training.
    They don't care if I got a degree in Engineering with a specialization in Incan pottery. They care if I got a degree. And some don't.

    Work experience will meet or exceed academic experience in a purely technical sense. But, imho, you can't get what you get at a college (caveat: At a _good_ college) in a job. So from a purely economic standpoint (College is expensive. Good colleges doubly so. Scholarships are your friend), you'll come out better off not going to college, getting a 35-50k/yr job out of high school, and being a coder/geek for life, instead of spending those 3-5 years paying money, and then getting the same job.

    But it ain't all economics.
    I knew I shoulda brought a crossbow. -- Largo. www.megatokyo.com
    [ Parent ]

    What good are accedemic credentials? (3.25 / 4) (#9)
    by Anonymous 242 on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 10:42:34 AM EST

    From reading this article, I get the impression is really: what good are accedemic credentials in the IT field?

    It seems to me that the brand name of your degree matters in the following scenarios:

    • You intend to go accedmic and pursue Masters and Doctorate degrees from first tier institution in which case where your undergraduate degree is from may play a vital part in whether or not your intended graduate school accepts your application.
    • You want to be head hunted for a position where the managers are looking for the brightest of the bright (say working at Transmeta or the IBM TJ Watson center) in which case short of working on a seminal product (such as Quake or Linux) or knowing the right people, your best hope lies in having a degree from one of the best IT schools.
    • You want bragging rights.
    • You are looking for a job in a very competitive job market.

    Short of any of these situations, the following are typically more important in a degree than coming from a "good" school.

    • You have learned something. It is quite possible that you might learn more from a school with a lesser reputation. If you learn more, in general, you will eventually command a better salary.
    • The degree is from an accredited institution. Don't laugh. There are some schools out there that have worthless degrees.
    • Your degree is from the alma mater of your future manager. Its hard to control this one, but it helps a lot.
    • You have the degree.

    Another consideration is that, currently, IT jobs are easy to find, especially for people willing to relocate. In other fields, where your degree is from will be of more or less importance. It also depends on where you want to work and what type of job you want to have. You want to teach programming? A four year degre from anywhere will get you teaching computers at a junior college or high school. Want to teach programming at a university? You need more credentials from better schools.

    have a day,


    University: Boot Camp of the Mind (3.00 / 7) (#10)
    by Triseult on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 10:44:39 AM EST

    Academic reputation will help you land your first job, but it's hardly that important a factor: quite simply, the IT field is rarely filled with Ph.D.'s, because the way the new economy works is not being taught in school just yet. Quite simply, you can't really train for the conditions you'll go through in the middle of a big project. You'll quickly notice how interviewers spend very little time on your college experience.

    However, the training you get in University is priceless. I always called it a 'boot camp for the mind', and that's what it is. University gives you a confidence and assurance you'll only get from years of stressful experience in the workplace. It'll also teach you that nothing is beyond your abilities if you try hard enough.

    For me, completing a major in Physics was the best computer-related training I ever did, and no, I didn't learn to code a single line of code there. But moving on to IT after that was a breeze. As far as interviews go now, people consider my major an interesting footnote to an otherwise intriguing resume.

    If you go to University, do it for yourself, not because it looks good on your resume. It'll be worth it, but only then. As such, concern yourself less with the reputation of the school than with the quality of the training provided there. Most of the very prestigious schools are not the best or most demanding, and although you'll get taught by bigwigs, there's nothing like a down-to-earth teaching drilling your brain with knowledge.

    If you feel the U. of T. is a best place to receive intensive training, then forget about prestige.

    Speaking as an employer... (3.42 / 7) (#11)
    by Alhazred on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 10:48:01 AM EST

    Its demonstrated ability to do the job your employer hires you for that matters, nothing else. On the other hand there are many reasons why one education may serve you better than another.

    R&D oriented organizations will certainly be looking for people from "name" schools. This is partly because it enhances THEIR reputation in the eyes of their customers.

    On the other hand your average software development or consulting firm, or your average corporation employing EE's to make their products work don't really care that much.

    Certainly when I was hiring people I looked for bright people, and self-motivated people. However these qualities are much more reliably judged by talking to someone than they are by looking at a resume or a degree.

    That is to say I can spot an idiot in 5 seconds face-to-face, but a piece of paper only tells me what the person writing it wants me to hear.

    Its unfortunate IMHO that university engineering ciriculums are so impractical in their emphasis, something I have complained about for years, but the sad fact is that acedemics, not real-world engineers, design and run them... Get what you can out of it, at least you learn the basic theoretical stuff, which you do need.

    Remember, life is not a contest to see how much money you can make. Have fun and make yourself the best person you can be.
    That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
    It's not about coding (3.33 / 6) (#12)
    by canthidefromme on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 10:51:06 AM EST

    It's about Computer Science. Which is a whole different world than IT. Before I turned down CMU, I did a LOT of research about their department. They don't teach you languages and the like, you're supposed to learn that on your own, and not really waste the professors time on that. What they do (or should) teach is the essence behind those languages-- how to create efficient algorithms, how to write a compiler, logic, AI, robotics, etc. They teach the theory, you're supposed to figure out the applications.

    I'm not a computer science student, so I wouldn't really be an expert on this, but I've found that professors are usually more accesible than they seem. If they spend most of their energy on research, find a professor to do research with! I did research during my Freshman year. One of the benefits of a top university is their research budget-- you just have to take advantage.



    Re: It's not about coding (3.00 / 2) (#20)
    by jfpoole on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 11:56:20 AM EST

    It's about Computer Science. Which is a whole different world than IT. Before I turned down CMU, I did a LOT of research about their department. They don't teach you languages and the like, you're supposed to learn that on your own, and not really waste the professors time on that. What they do (or should) teach is the essence behind those languages-- how to create efficient algorithms, how to write a compiler, logic, AI, robotics, etc. They teach the theory, you're supposed to figure out the applications.

    Exactly! When I went through school, people complained that we weren't learning the latest and greatest language, but rather some seldom-used language like Modula-3 or Scheme. What they didn't realize at the time is that it's far more useful to learn the concepts behind each type of language (procedural, object-oriented, functional) rather than learn the language that's currently hot. Then, when the hot language changes (e.g., C++ -> Java -> ?) it's a case of learning the syntax and that's it.

    Thus, the best thing you can get out of a degree is not necessarily proficiency in a specific technology, but the ability to adapt to new technologies quickly. In other words, you learn how to learn. -j

    [ Parent ]

    What have you done for me lately? (2.66 / 3) (#13)
    by El Volio on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 10:54:21 AM EST

    That is, it seems to me that most places look most closely at your last one or two experiences. Colleges may look at your high school experience, but your first employer out of college won't. And assuming you've done a relatively good job, your third or fourth employer probably won't care too much about where you went to college; instead, they'll be more focused on your last job or two.

    So, pick the college and area of study that will give you the greatest personal growth. If that's engineering at Rice, go for it! If it's law at UT, then by all means! College is more than a set of classes, important though those may be.

    But then, I never graduated, so what do I know? ;>

    Don't worry about it (3.61 / 13) (#14)
    by kjeldar on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 10:56:30 AM EST

    USNews "Best Undergraduate Computer Engineering Departments with Ph.D. Programs"

    7. University of Texas - Austin
    15. Rice University (TX)

    If you're worried about taking a step down in the USNews rankings, you can stop worrying now.

    Source: http://www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/college/rankings/eng/coenps05.htm

    Bad News... (2.80 / 5) (#16)
    by bob|hm on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 11:01:12 AM EST

    Meanwhile, my computer science classes are taught by professors that shun practicality and applications, instead force-feeding OOP theory and educational languages such as Scheme.

    I've got bad news for you.. I've helped many a CS major going to UT with their homework, and UT is just as bad about "educational" languages.. Scheme is a popular one, but I know there are others (I'm blanking the names right now..) I have yet to do any real C or C++ work for their students ;)



    Re: Bad News... (2.00 / 2) (#19)
    by billnapier on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 11:17:51 AM EST

    ML? At least that's the other one that I leared in intro to programming.

    Along with Prolog, but that was my own fault...

    [ Parent ]

    Academic achievement (3.80 / 10) (#17)
    by Caranguejeira on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 11:06:32 AM EST

    I used to hire people for the IT department at a company where I worked a few years ago. I personally don't have a degree, but I have acquired a level of competence over the years.

    I can say without hesitation that the people I hired, who had worked to finish their degree, were easily the most proficient tech workers over those who did not have a degree.

    Sure, maybe you know the semantics of C++, or a dozen other languages for that matter. Maybe you have picked up a few tricks over time. Maybe you can do some things really well, out of experience.

    And maybe in scool you wouldn't learn as much practical application. Maybe you don't use so many languages. But you would learn the "whys" behind it all. You would learn the theory. You become a problem solver. Your skills transcend semantics, syntax and process.

    Those people I hired who had the degree, were up to speed faster than those who did not have the degree. And while the degree-less people became proficient, they never reached the level of innovation that their educated peers did. Of course, they didn't get as bored, either...

    Anyway, I'll definitely be finishing my education.

    Training vs. Education (3.33 / 3) (#18)
    by Burb on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 11:07:51 AM EST

    Fair warning: I don't have person experience of USA colleges, having trained and worked in the UK.

    16 years ago I graduated in Electronic Engineering, and then promptly went into a series of jobs in computing. I have forgotten much of the detail of the course now (as I realised recently when I tried to wield a soldering iron for the first time in ten years, but that's another story).

    However, the experience of studying, of working with my peers, and the social aspects were great. I got a lot of confidence in three years, and that's worth a lot too. I made friends, did amateur dramatics, learned to live with people I wouldn't normally have anything to do with.

    The degree course (training) itself wasn't much use, but the experience (education) was priceless. That's especially true in the IT field which changes so fast.

    Learn how to learn...

    Footnote: I did some work in the engineering department over the summer vacation. That's where I learned about operating systems and programming languages, and it gave me enough experience to go for a great programming role a year or so later.

    education is irrelevant (2.75 / 4) (#21)
    by hubick on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 11:59:25 AM EST

    I don't think the client for which I am consulting even knows if I /have/ a degree, let alone which one. This large multinational gets consultants by the truckload. Most are completely worthless. But after a short project, the managers definitely come to know who what they need to know, all that they care about, and /nothing/ else matters to them.

    I have the skills to quickly and effectively make their problems go away, and not come back.

    The problem with most students is that they have far too much faith in higher education. They expect to graduate and be employable. The truth is that you can come out of an academic program with next to no applicable skill set.

    If you want to be successful, you have to first decide what you want to do in life [the hard part]. Find someone who has the job/carreer you want, and find out what are the skills they need to do their job, and what background, experiences, courses, etc they feel has helped them to be good at that job. Then get those skills. /How/ you get them is irrelevant. Whatever you do, do not depend on your education to hand them, or employability, to you on a silver platter. /You/ have to drive your education, and go after what you want. University/college is just one tool for doing this. Books and the internet are also valuable. Real work experience is very good at helping you understand what is /really/ needed to do a job.

    During university I got caught up in "playing" on this new thing called the "web". I started playing around writing cgi video games, and eventually Java games. I spent hours working and reworking my web page with all forms of silliness, and adiminisered my own domain, etc. I got so hooked "playing" on the net that it started to have a serious impact on my academic performance. I used to get mad at myself back then for "wasting" so much time "playing". Today, the vast vast majority of the skills I use at work are the ones a accumulated while "playing" on the net. Not that my education was not neccessary...they theory and exposure to technology such as lisp/prolog/assembly/lambda calculus/etc has made me much better at what I do [I am a software engineer, not a programmer]. But with only a pure set of academic skills, you will be useless [but trainable]. Take control of your own education.

    The Most Important Thing To Learn... (4.11 / 9) (#22)
    by Milinar on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 12:14:59 PM EST

    Is how to teach yourself.

    I'm currently in my second semester at Hampshire College in MA and honestly believe it prepares you for the real world more than any other school I've come in contact with. Hampshire focuses on independent work and inquiry-based learning while the student is in close contact with several professors. Learning to plan and execute projects on your own, think for yourself, learn new concepts and, most importantly, learn from your seniors are what I would consider to be the best thing you can expect from an education.

    The best thing about it, in my opinion, is that it fosters individuals, with unique skills and interests. Asking someone around here what they are studying is asking for a 5-10 minute conversation, rather than a few words. Everyone has a face and a story to tell.

    Even more fundamentally, however, is the question of your life's purpose. Do you want an education that prepares you for a job? Or one that will make you a better, more balanced, more complete person.

    C/C++, Java, HTML, *nix, etc. won't be around forever, and, in my opinion, you're much better off improving yourself and your fundamental educational skills than learning specific things. Curiousity, motivation and courage will serve you much better in the job market than the latest hot language or killer app.

    My criteria when looking at resumes (4.35 / 14) (#23)
    by CubeDweller on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 12:15:20 PM EST

    I work mostly with software developers, but the criteria I use will probably translate well into most engineering fields. I've actually been going over resumes all morning, and I'll tell you what my criteria are for getting an interview. These are not rigid criteria by any means. They're not documented, not a corporate standard, and change all the time.

    5) School
    Your schooling is the least important criteria to me, but it does still matter. Also, it's not which school that I look at, but what level. I've seen great employees walk out of party schools with the beer stains still on their shoes, and I've seen suit and tie ivy leaguers incapable of doing simple design. Quality varies so much at any given school that it's not safe to assume that a quality school breeds quality people.

    I'd like to blame the good economy and therefore the worker shortage, but unqualified and just plain dumb people are getting technology jobs and causing problems at all levels. Each time my department hires someone, a risk is taken that this person has a glossy resume and slick interview skills, but no real knowledge or ability. These people are a waste of time and money. I need to minimize the risk of hiring one of these people.

    Sorry to high school prodigies, but you're the worst risk category. I've seen way to many applicants who can write a static html page and think they'll make a good programmer. I've seen some real brains come out of high school, but for the most part you're a risk.

    Technical school and 2 year college grads aren't much better. There are some good people from these schools, but most of these people have shallow skills that will be obsolete in a few years. I still hire high school and tech school grads, but you've got to work much harder to prove to me that you have true understanding of the work you're doing.

    Four year colleges are the best risk, granted I've still seen my share of dead weight. One important thing I look at here are your minors. A major in computer science is great, but list your minors on your resume. It lets me know how deep a person you are. An applicant with minors in mathematics, philosophy, english, or some other language is almost a guaranteed interview. It buys you a lot of you can show me that you're a deep person who can analyze ideas intelligently. I do give some extra weight to applicants from liberal arts schools. I have a lot of respect for a person who realizes how much a broad base of knowledge helps.

    I've seen a couple of people with masters degrees apply in the last year, but at my job it really doesn't buy you anything more than a 4 year degree will. I'm sure it will be valuable if you're going to write operating systems, compilers, or work in Trusted systems, but that's not needed here. I group you with the 4 year college people.

    4) Language/Technology Skill Set
    Listing a dozen different technologies and programming languages on your resume is not that impressive to me. I don't care if you can program "Hello, World!" in every language ever created. Depth matters more than breadth. If you only know one language but you can code circles around most people in that language, you're a good risk. If we need to teach you another language later while you're on the job, so be it. You will already understand the deep concepts and therefore should learn quickly. Someone with a shallow knowledge of many technologies will have a much steeper learning curve.

    3) Experience
    Previous jobs are helpful, but I'm still glad to look at people right out of school. The most important feature here is the types of problems you solved. I really like the resumes that describe past projects and give some detail to the difficulties that were encountered and the designs that were used to overcome those difficulties. Solutions to problems means a lot more to me than a list of skills.

    2) Writing Skills
    I can't emphasize this one enough, and I'm going to be called a hypocrite for it. I came out of high school with dismal writing skills, and it's had a definite negative impact on my career. I'm working on them, but I wouldn't call my own communications skills 'acceptable' yet. The long and short of it: if your resume contains incomplete sentences it's going straight into the trash. I need people who can communicate complex ideas effectively both in words and diagrams. Another thing that really bugs me is confusing 'there', 'their', and 'they're'. Get it right. Learn to spell instead of relying exclusively on a spellchecker.

    1) Data Structures/Algorithms Skill Set
    Data Structures and Algorithms is the most important thing to me. I'm not talking about anything language specific. If you know how to use Vectors both in Java and C++, that's all fine and dandy, but I want to know why you chose to use a Vector. I won't hire a candidate that can't explain to me the differences between arrays, linked lists and hashtables. You had better be able to give me the advantages and disadvantages of each as well as examples where each one would be a good choice. You should be at least partly familiar with sorting and searching routines. I don't care if you remember exactly how a merge sort works, but show me that you could look one up on the web and implement it if need be. I just about sit down and cry each time I see someone submit code containing a bubble sort into production.

    Multithreading is getting to be more and more important as well. I think Java brought this on, and I'm glad they did. I've just started using a library that lets you do Java-style threads in C++ and its done wonders for me. As threads get easier and easier to use, knowing how to write thread-safe code and how to use threads effectively will become important. Not every piece of code is helped by multithreading. Some code is hurt by it. Someone who already understands the subtleties of multithreading will get big points in my book.

    I see very few people that have all of the qualities I gave here. If you get points in most of these areas, you'll probably get an interview. The biggest thing I want to emphasize is that you have a much better chance if you emphasize your understanding instead of just running off a laundry list of all the products and technologies you've used. Anyone can make a list of buzzwords, but an unfortunately small percentage of the people actually understand the ideas they're using.


    An interesting 'tool'. A little off-topic (4.00 / 2) (#26)
    by CubeDweller on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 12:39:22 PM EST

    My grandfather gave me this puzzle about fifteen years ago. Acording to him, this test was administered to Army Corps of Engineering applicants back in the '40s. You were given one half hour to finish it. Very few ever did, but finishing it wasn't the point. They wanted to look at the work that you were doing and see if you were making good, logical progress or if you were just spinning your wheels in frustration. I've been tempted to use this on my job applicants, but I haven't yet =)

    1. A baseball team is divided into three parts:
      1. The battery
      2. The infield
      3. The outfield

    2. The field consists of 9 players divided among the battery, the infield and the outfield as follows:
      1. The battery consists of the catcher and the pitcher.
      2. The infield consists of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd basemen, and the shortstop.
      3. The outfield consists of right, left and center fielders.

    3. Paragraph 4 below contains 16 statements concerning the players of a certain baseball team. From these statements it is possible to find out what position on the team each player occupies. The names of the players are given in paragraph 5. You are to enter in the space provided against each name, the position occupied by that player.

    4. Statements about players
      1. Walt dislikes the catcher.
      2. Lefty's sister is engaged to the second baseman.
      3. The center fielder is taller than the right fielder.
      4. Hank and the third baseman live in the same building.
      5. Keith and Joe each won 20 dollars from the pitcher at poker last week.
      6. Lefty and the outfielders usually play bridge during their free time.
      7. The pitcher's wife is the third baseman's sister.
      8. All the members of the battery and infield, except Joe, Hank, and Walt, are shorter than Wib.
      9. Keith, Walt, and the shortstop lost 150 dollars each at the race track last Monday.
      10. Keith, Hank, Oscar and the catcher took a trimming from the second baseman at dice last night.
      11. Wib is undergoing a divorce suit.
      12. The catcher and the third baseman each have two legitimate children.
      13. Lefty, Keith, Bob, the right fielder and the center fielder are bachelors; the others are married.
      14. The shortstop, the third baseman, and Oscar each cleaned up 10 dollars betting on the fights.
      15. One of the outfielders is either Spotty or Walt.
      16. Bob is taller than Oscar. Spotty is shorter than Oscar. Each of them is heavier than the first baseman.

    5. Names of players
      1. Oscar _______________
      2. Hank _______________
      3. Bob _______________
      4. Wib _______________
      5. Joe _______________
      6. Walt _______________
      7. Spotty _______________
      8. Keith _______________
      9. Lefty _______________


    [ Parent ]
    Re: An interesting 'tool'. A little off-topic (none / 0) (#37)
    by Spendocrat on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 05:19:01 PM EST


    Thanks for posting this, I used to love these things in elementary school and I still love doing them now (bet coworkers are wondering wtf the graph paper is for *L*). Any idea what these kinds of puzzles are called, or where I can get more?

    [ Parent ]

    Re: An interesting 'tool'. A little off-topic (none / 0) (#38)
    by CubeDweller on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 06:47:02 PM EST

    The term I've heard used to refer to these puzzles is "analytical reasoning logic games," which is an unfortunately vague term. I tried feeding this to Google and it gave me a bunch of book reviews for GRE and SAT study guides. The sample questions did seem similar, but none of them actually allowed you to solve the puzzle. They just had you make assertions based on given hypotheses.

    I wasn't able to find anything like this on the web, which is really too bad. I like these puzzles too. I do have a great book at home that I'll recommend to you. It's called "Are You As Smart As You Think?: 150 Original Mathematical, Logical, and Spatial-Visual Puzzles for All Levels of Puzzle Solvers." You can find it online at Fatbrain. It's got a couple of those puzzles in there, plus some other fun types.


    [ Parent ]
    Re: An interesting 'tool'. A little off-topic (none / 0) (#40)
    by reishus on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 07:32:24 PM EST

    I've always heard them referred to as "Logic puzzles". I did a few of these in 6th grade. A couple of weeks ago I saw a special logic puzzle publication put out by the makers of Games magazine on the newsstand.


    [ Parent ]
    Re: An interesting 'tool'. A little off-topic (none / 0) (#42)
    by bridgette on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 12:21:17 AM EST

    I think they're called logic puzzles or logic problems.

    I remember getting these as homework for a few weeks in an intro math class that covered proofs, formal logic, combinatorics and (I think) graph theory (really cool class).

    Anyway, IIRC (this was like 10 years ago ... I feel so *old*), we'd get these problems and we'd have to solve them and/or prove the answer using predicate logic. It really amazed me how having notation for expressing these problems as equations or statements and having rules for manupulating those statements and/or equations made the whole problem so much easier. After all, the hard part is always keeping track of the information you're given and the interelationships.

    Actually, my little sister in Jr. High was given these kinds of problem in math class and she'd ask me for help and I kept wanting to teach her predicate logic since trying to solve these without some sort of mathematical method feels like trying to make sushi with a butter knife.

    If I remember the name of the textbook I'll post it.

    [ Parent ]
    Re: An interesting 'tool'. A little off-topic (none / 0) (#44)
    by terran on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 11:00:13 AM EST

    You can actually get more puzzles like this from a book of sample GRE tests. The GRE logic section is full of stuff like this.

    [ Parent ]
    Re: An interesting 'tool'. A little off-topic (2.00 / 1) (#45)
    by kid on Sun Oct 08, 2000 at 12:01:17 AM EST

    They're called "logic puzzles". You can find a whole bunch of them at www.crpuzzles.com.

    [ Parent ]
    Data structures and algorithms (4.66 / 3) (#32)
    by Caranguejeira on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 01:45:31 PM EST

    College grads should know about computational complexity. They should understand the domains of NP. They should know when to implement an NFA as opposed to a DFA. A college grad is also more likely to know _about_ advanced algorithms for cryptography, hashing and the like.

    You can't "look something up on the web" unless you know what you are looking for. A person who has studied CS may have a better idea of what to look for. And who knows, maybe even invent something new that is particularly suited for the task on hand. Someone who has not studied, may be trying to solve the wrong problem efficiently.

    If data structures and algorithms are so high on your list, it sounds like you ought to be giving serious preference to CS degrees. There are better chances of finding someone with great algorithm skills from a sample of CS grads, even though (like you say), it does not guarantee the person's competence.

    You list education as no. 5, but I see it tied in to nearly all of your higher categories, especially 1 and 2.

    [ Parent ]
    Re: Data structures and algorithms (3.50 / 2) (#39)
    by CubeDweller on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 07:17:52 PM EST

    I've thought about your response off and on most of the afternoon, and I can't quite decide if I agree with you or not.

    On the one hand, I think that level of schooling is just fine at no. 5 because of the self-taught nature of technology. The fact that a smart person can teach themselves algorithms and data structures cuts the ties between the two.

    On the other hand, I don't know many self-taught people who know about NP completeness or NFA/DFA. Concepts like these are easy to do without and still be a good programmer, but they're impossible to do without if you want to be a great programmer. Normally I'm happy to have programmers that are only 'good', as long as I can stay away from the ones that are just plain bad.

    That won't stay true forever, though. I see projects looming on my horizon where I'm going to need at least a couple of great programmers who know the high level concepts. When that day comes, you can bet I'll be following your suggestion and moving education up a bit in the rankings.

    I'm going to have to go home and find some of my old Smalltalk books. I haven't conciously used NP for at least a year or two, and you've piqued my interest by mentioning them. It'll be interesting to see how rusty I've gotten.


    [ Parent ]
    Re: My criteria when looking at resumes (none / 0) (#36)
    by SIGFPE on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 05:09:28 PM EST

    I agree with your comments on grammar. If you can't write English I'm going to worry about your ability to write a parser!
    [ Parent ]
    I'm not 100% sure I trust academic resumes (2.50 / 4) (#25)
    by SIGFPE on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 12:39:06 PM EST

    As a recruiter I have seen many stunning looking resumes from academia but I have learnt to be very mistrustful of them. The US education system appears to award high grades to mediocre students as compared to resumes from other countries. People describe complex work-relevant student projects and yet when I ask questions about them they don't appear to understand the first thing about them. Not having been through the US education system myself I'm not sure what a project means in the US but it appears to mean having someone else do the work for you.

    I work in graphics. There is a lot of dishonesty in graphics papers. People publish algorithms that really don't work although on paper they look good (I think a lot of people will be nodding their heads at this!). They often only work in very special circumstances and it rapidly becomes obvious that these things don't work in real life situations. As a result I know I frequently have to be skeptical of someone's publications.

    So personally - even though I am a PhD myself - I am very wary of hiring people fresh out of Academia (although I have actually done so succesfully).
    Re: I'm not 100% sure I trust academic resumes (4.00 / 1) (#29)
    by PacketMaster on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 12:50:20 PM EST

    I would comletely agree with this. Having recently graduated from college in May with around a 2.7 GPA (but 3.5 major) I had a very hard time getting around the GPA cutoff of a lot of companies. I also went to a small, private institution that will remaind nameless. Not attempting to brag, but I know that I and a few other "underachievers" (based on GPA) were the best people in our program (CS w/ Business or Math focuses). However there were people with 3.8, 3.9 GPAs that when confronted with our senior design project thrashed around like helpless little fish out of water. I was the leader of my team of three. I did 99% of the entire project (a web-based auction site) becuase I was the only person that knew more programming than the two C/C++ classes we had. I thought the one guy was going to pop a vein when I tired to explain how ASP worked (Had to use ASP even though I hated it because the lab mgr. wouldn't use Apache). But meanwhile, these high-grade academic people were out getting 60K/year jobs at Fortune 100 companies while I was struggling to find a network or web position. College computer programs prepare you for nothing in the real world. My part-time consulting and my internship taught me 100% of what I use on the job today. However many companies think that shiny 3.5+ GPA means that everyone below that magic number is an idiot or can't perform. Just because I didn't eat, drink, sleep, and breathe college for four years doesn't mean I don't know what I'm doing.

    [ Parent ]
    "you keep using that word..." (4.90 / 11) (#27)
    by blaine on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 12:40:32 PM EST

    "You keep using that word... I do not think it means what you think it means."

    I think the problem here is that you don't understand what Computer Science is. Computer Science has very little to do with programming. In fact, if a school tries to tell you otherwise, avoid them like the plague.

    Computer Science is about the theories behind computing. It is about algorithms, methods of computation, and silly things like fibonacci number generators. The reason behind this is that the point of CS isn't to learn a few "practical" languages. The point is to get a good solid background in the theory so that you can work in ANY language. Once you have a good understanding of the key concepts of computing, you can pick up a new language in about 3 days.

    It really sounds like what you want to learn is programming, and not Computer Science. Honestly, that is a bad route to go. Sure, you can take a class on C or C++, but by doing this you will pigeonhole yourself. You'll learn one language, and maybe even become proficient in it, but if you take the time to learn Computer Science, the language no longer matters. There are many more open doors when you can jump between languages at will.

    Also, I want to stress another point: all those exercises that seem pointless and impractical will one day make sense. I can't count the number of times that something I did in a class becomes suddenly relevant to something I am working on. When I took the class, it seemed pointless, but later on it all "clicked".

    Anyways, my advice to you is this: decide if you want to learn CS, or if you want to program. If you want to program, don't bother with college. The attitude you're going into things with is going to cause most of the instruction a college might give you to be lost anyways. You're too focused on "practicality", and are intent on skipping the less exciting (but still important) steps.

    If you decide you want to learn CS, stick with your current college. Do all the impractical little things put in front of you. Pick up Knuth's "The Art of Computer Programming". Learn theory. And in the end, you'll be better off for it.

    Just my thoughts.

    Same boat (1.00 / 2) (#28)
    by evro on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 12:42:30 PM EST

    I am in a similar situation. I'm a senior at Dartmouth College and have been offered a job at a startup for a decent amount more than the average CS grad makes first year. My mom insists that I have to graduate, that that piece of paper is so essential. However, my CS major is basically complete, my graduation requirements are also complete, and I am basically just taking classes this year to get the required number of credits for graduation. This is ridiculous. So I am leaving school. Hopefully they will leave the door open for me to return and finish, but if not, fuck them. I have hated every minute of this school since freshman year and while I would like to graduate, I really would rather never return to Dartmouth ever again. Perhaps I could finish up at Columbia, or some other school not so isolated.

    Also, my GPA is so lame -- a result of my terrible freshman year, so bad that I could get all 4.0s from now on and still come out under 3.0 -- that I doubt I would be able to get a job at all upon graduation.
    "Asking me who to follow -- don't ask me, I don't know!"

    "Average" reputation? (1.50 / 2) (#30)
    by deekayen on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 12:53:24 PM EST

    I'm with the people that say it's just a matter of having a degree (preferably from somewhere that you've heard of before) and showing that you're not stupid. I really have to speak up about UT Austin being only "average". For a degree, in Texas, moreover in the southwest, UT Austin probably the best school around (asside from Rice, or Baylor for medicine). You have to understand, Rice is one of the most reputable, well known universities in the *world*. The very fact that you were even accepted is admirable in itself. Even though Rice one of the most well known, I wouldn't go there for a computer degree, I'd go to UT Austin or SFA. There is a lot of push to bring computer industry to Austin, and with it UT Austin can hire some of the best professors in the country. You've got the money and resources of the Texas Legislature which sets asside almost 1/3 of the state budget for the land grant schools (UT and A&M) and with that money you'll get so many more resources than you'll have at Rice. SHSU, TCU, Lamar... they're average, don't doubt yourself for moving to UT. If your portfolio is as bright as you say, all you need is the degree and you're set. The only reason people would want to know why you left Rice is because it is so reputable... I'd just tell them it was too expensive so you moved elsewhere. I don't think anyone will really flinch at that.

    From an Engineer... (3.00 / 1) (#31)
    by TinCanFury on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 01:20:27 PM EST

    Not being a CS or IT major, I doubt anyone will pay attention to this, but...
    I go to RPI and study Electric Power Engineering. My reason for choosing RPI had to do with the people in the engineering profession and what they told me. I was told repeatedly that certain schools that were high ranked in engineering put out the worst engineers these people had ever seen. This, of course depends on the field of study. I got yay's and nay's about one school in differing fields. For this reason, I avoided MIT like the plague, but considered CalState Pamona!

    What these people told me was that the education you got at college would be 80% the same at every school. The other 20% would depend on your professors and how/what they decided to teach in upper level courses. The most important thing to consider they said, was how well you would be prepared for a job when leaving school. To reflect what was said by others, this has a huge dependency on the person, but can be helped or hindered by the school. RPI, I was told by the people I talked to, would be an excellent choice if i took advantage of what they offered. While the school is not the most social campus(or the best looking student body), it does me well. I'm learning a lot, and am currently on a 6month Co-op which I feel is an invaluable experience that will help me when I officially get a job.

    My point: take it for what its worth. Make sure you enjoy what your learning; and remember that life is not about the persuit of money, but the persuit of happiness. If your definition of happiness includes lots of money, then do as my friend does, complain that the school sucks, the teachers are horrible, and then switch to a school that will drive you more insane(true story....).
    --- -Steven Adeff
    A foot in the door (2.00 / 1) (#33)
    by Snoochie Bootchie on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 03:33:33 PM EST

    I'm glad someone quoted a relatively reputable source regarding the school rankings since I thought UT-Austin was a better engineering school than Rice.

    In undergraduate education, the institution from which you earned your degree can get you a foot in the door. However, it is a complete non-issue after you've gotten your first job (and stayed there at least a year). I have a degree in ECE from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Many companies come to the campus to interview. One of the primary reasons they keep coming is because of the success previous people they've hired out of UW-Madison have had at their company. While I have no data to back this up, I believe many Big Ten schools are well though of by industry. While many of the schools have good academic reputations, the main reason is success in industry by previous graduates.

    In my opiniojn, you will absolutely not be taking a step down by transferring from Rice to UT-Austin. Save the money for graduate school. That's where you should be tossing the tutition dollars on a prime time school.

    YOU Count Most! (3.50 / 2) (#34)
    by h0tr0d on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 04:56:51 PM EST

    I went through something similar when I was in school. I went to a private university that prided itself on job placement and above average starting salaries for their best students. Many things happened in my life while I was in school. For the most of my time in school I was focused on other things(feeding my family, etc.). Most of my classmates told me that I was ruining my future by doing this and that I should focus on nothing but school. Well, graduation time came and when the school compiled starting salaries for our graduating class I was at the top.

    The reasons why are simple. I did more than just academics. I had to work to provide for my family so I worked in the industry. I was very involved in extra cirricular activities and projects. I made sure that even though my grades weren't the best that I was doing everything else possible to learn as much as I could and prove it in some way other than grades(hence lots of extra cirricular projects). So not only did I end up with the highest salary but I also didn't use the schools placement program. Through the contacts that I had made in my outside activities and employment I already had a network of resources to turn to.

    Turns out that all my classmates were wrong. Dead wrong. It wasn't my grades that were what employers were looking for. It was my knowledge and desire to succeed. There were a few events that happened in my life that should have caused me to drop that semester. But I didn't. Almost every employer asked about this(not because I shared my personal life but because it was obvious something was amiss because that terms grades were so poor). So rather than look at my grades and drop me they decided to find out why my grades fluctuated like an EKG. It gave me the opportunity to explain that there were things happening in my life that took my attention away from school. Yet I didn't quit. I continued to forge ahead because I wanted to graduate. I was able to point out that my grades were lower than normal but I felt that I had learned just as much as the other students, I just didn't have the focus to apply it to the exams, etc. Every interviewer accepted my explanations and said that I had exactly what they were looking for. Determination and the willingness and ability to learn things on my own. In fact, most were amazed at what I was able to accomplish outside of the academic sphere and how much I had gained from it.

    So don't worry about what school you graduate from. Keep doing what you've been doing, it's YOU that makes the sale to a prospective employer, not where you graduated from.

    -- It appears that my spleeing chucker isn't working again.

    Computing Science is NOT programming (2.00 / 1) (#35)
    by bram on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 05:04:37 PM EST

    Hi I'm doing Computer Science myself, though not in the USA but in the
    Netherlands (Nijmegen to be precise). I'm in my 3th year (should
    be finished in about 2 years from now).

    Programming is just a very small part of our curiculum. It consists of some
    programming, quit some mathmatics, quit some computing science theory,
    software engeneering. Further more every student is obliged to follow
    courses outside the Computing Science faculty.

    One of the things I hate most about our university is that I was just in a
    new curiculum in which they changed the programming line. The programming
    course are now more language guided then before, but I still managed to
    learn programming. The most important I think a Computer Scientist should
    know about programming is being able to do it. NOT being able to program in language
    x or y. As stated by other people a Computer Scientist should be able to
    learn a programming language in a matter of a couple of days.

    Further more about Academic reputation, I think it matters a bit. But when
    you grow older I think the most important thing is real-life experience. Because
    what good are you to a company when you know a lot but can't produce anything

    Just wanted to get this of my chest.

    Re: Computing Science is NOT programming (none / 0) (#41)
    by JB on Thu Oct 05, 2000 at 08:48:09 PM EST

    Logically, society should have people that understand the theory of programming, experience in a few languages, and the ability to learn quickly. But business wants people with 2-3 years of doing exactly what they want done. The same language, the same type of projects. Most businesses don't want to train people - I have seen positions stand open for over 6 months because no one with the 'right' qualifications applied . . . that would have been plenty of time for packaged and/or on the job training for someone who has reasonable programming skills.


    -- When most people 'think outside of the box' they are thinking about the outside of the box.

    [ Parent ]
    How Important is Academic Reputation in the Job Market? | 46 comments (46 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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