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Is it possible to "take a vacation" from technology?

By MmmmJoel in Culture
Mon Nov 27, 2000 at 05:36:37 PM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)
Technology

I'm currently a junior in college and am considering volunteering with the Peace Corps after graduation. Being in the computer field, I'm worried that the pace of technology may make it extremely challenging to catch up after a two-year absence. How hard is it to be completely isolated from technology for two years and come back strong? Is getting a job more difficult?


From a programming perspective, it doesn't seem much of anything has changed and it doesn't seem picking up anything new that has come out within the past couple years would be hard with a little bit of programming theory background. However, I'm more interested in an admin position that seems to depend more on keeping up to date with things. Will it be harder for me to setup and manage an Exchange 2002 server if I wasn't there to read about the progress and development of the betas and didn't know as many ins and outs of the system?

Either way, how would an employer react to a two-year absence? Even if the two years is surprisingly uneventful and I don't seem to be at a disadvantage to the rest of field, how would that sit in the stomach of a prospective employer? I can't imagine a resume-scanner would find it attractive.

Sitting in your seat, it's easy to say "Go for it!" but why haven't you? I believe that more people are interested in this sort of thing, but I'm surprised that more people haven't made the jump. What would you fear?

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Is it possible to "take a vacation" from technology? | 27 comments (25 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
So what? (3.25 / 8) (#2)
by Michael Leuchtenburg on Mon Nov 27, 2000 at 04:40:25 PM EST

So it'll take you a while to "get back into tech". So what? Why's it matter? I guess it'll mean you'll have to work a crappier job for a while (probably) after you finish the 2 years, but you're relatively unexperienced anyways. It's just postponing that crappy job a while.

[ #k5: dyfrgi ]
[ TINK5C ]
Do it, you must (3.54 / 11) (#3)
by skim123 on Mon Nov 27, 2000 at 04:41:57 PM EST

Go for the Peace Corps thing... have you already been accepted? From what I hear, that is hard to get into.

Yes, you may have a better legup on Exchange 2002 if you don't go on a Peace Corps mission, but, fuck man, anyone can learn about Exchange 2002 on their own time, reading and playing around with it... You would be passing by an oppotunity to learn about life and the world and helping others and all that good shit. So I guess if you go or not depends on how you answer this question: would I rather learn about life or computers. I hope you opt for the former.

Take care!

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


Egad, my subject line sounds like Yoda talking! (2.20 / 5) (#4)
by skim123 on Mon Nov 27, 2000 at 04:43:21 PM EST

Just realized that, how funny... :-)

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


[ Parent ]
Account for it (2.62 / 8) (#5)
by enterfornone on Mon Nov 27, 2000 at 04:43:36 PM EST

Yeah you might be at a disadvantage technology wise, but as far as the resume goes just make sure you account for it. "Took a year off work to travel", "Spent this time rasing my three children" etc. are common in resumes. Just make sure they don't think you were looking for work for two years without success.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
"Travel"? (3.33 / 3) (#10)
by davidduncanscott on Mon Nov 27, 2000 at 05:32:57 PM EST

What are you, nuts!?

When you get back, don't tell them you took a year off to travel. Tell them where you worked and what you learned. Tell them how you adapted and coped with strange circumstances. Tell them that no matter how exotic their workplace might be, you've seen and worked in a more exotic one.

If they don't find your Peace Corps time an asset, you don't want to work for them anyway.

[ Parent ]

If you give up Time, you will have to reclaim it.. (3.83 / 6) (#6)
by Malachi on Mon Nov 27, 2000 at 04:49:46 PM EST

No matter what your doing, leaving the tech circle will mean you will have to dig your heels in to catch back up. I took a year leave of technology to persue more mundane pleasures based in fine arts, where one of my strong backgrounds exist. When I decided to get back into the swing of things, I had to do a lot, and I mean a lot of reading and talking with people to see where things had been going. Technology is like wallstreet, you have to pay attention to the game to stay in it.

However, if like you say your just getting out then you should have very little under you right now, which is a boon and a curse. Boon being you don't have much to forget, curse meaning you don't have much to forget. Not being real world cauterized might mean that any foundations you have will be figments of your imagination when you get back, while real world experience kinda sticks to you like riding a bike.

If I were you, I'd enjoy myself. If we are here for a purpose it'd be to experience, and I can't think of a better thing to experience but a little hard work.

Keepin it real,
-M
We know nothing but to ask more questions.

Love the poll results :)) (2.14 / 7) (#7)
by titus-g on Mon Nov 27, 2000 at 05:00:57 PM EST

I never did the whole computer geek at school, CS route.

I was before once, but then we ended up in this place without electricity except for an ocassional generator, amazing how you lose the will to code when hear the WHHiirrr WHHHirrr, the lights flicker and you've lost a couple of thousand lines cos you didn't save it to cassette in time.

So basically, I've been catching up, and it's not so hard. The tech moves so fast that everyone's catching up all the time anyway, if you understand the mechanics then when you get back, after a couple of weeks you should be back in the race.

As for why, mostly inertia I guess, most of us would, but you have to remember how to stand up. Oh yeah and some of us have businesses and clients :(((

--"Essentially madness is like charity, it begins at home" --

Dont worry (1.85 / 7) (#9)
by darthaya on Mon Nov 27, 2000 at 05:17:55 PM EST

That would only means that you skip the time learning BASIC, COBOL, FORTRAN and land directly on C++, java and OOP stuff in IT industry.

If you are a man(woman) of logic, you can pick up IT easily. Otherwise, no matter how long you spend, you wouldn't be good.

Time isn't as scarce as you think. (3.85 / 7) (#11)
by HypoLuxa on Mon Nov 27, 2000 at 05:34:40 PM EST

I am assuming that since you are finishing up junior college, you are likely in your early or mid-twenties. There is only one piece of advice I have for you, and that is that you have the rest of your life to work.

Trust me, you'll have plenty of time to stay up late and work on learning new technologies, but you might not have the opportunity to travel and make a difference later in life. By the tone of your article, I am assuming you are young and single. Take the time now, when you can. When you are forty and trying to figure out how to pay a mortgage, keep a wife/husband happy, put your screaming babies through college, and pay off your SUV you will not have the ability to drop everything and do something your heart is committed to. You will come back behind, but you will have plenty of time to catch up.

--
I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons.
- Leonard Cohen

As a "resume-scanner" I WOULD find it at (4.37 / 8) (#12)
by mpenza on Mon Nov 27, 2000 at 05:39:32 PM EST

As someone in charge of interviewing prospective employees and determining who to hire, let me assure you that the benifits of spending 2 years in the Peace Corp. would greatly outway any disadvantage cause by being "out of the loop" for two years.

I'm a Senior Engineer where I work, and I've learned the hard way that it takes alot more than education and technical knowledge to make a good employee. You have to evaluate a person's personality and other traits also. Are they going to fit in to our working environment, will they interact well with the customers? Are they independent or will I need to hold their hand? Can they deal with the pressure and stresses of tight deadlines?

Spend the two years in the Peace Corp. if that is what you want to do. That will tell a future prospective employer more about you than working 2 years for IGotCrabs Computing(R) will.

Yes, and alternatives. (4.16 / 6) (#13)
by jabber on Mon Nov 27, 2000 at 05:41:48 PM EST

You'll get out of touch with technology even if you do not do the "Peace Corps thing", and get a job instead. If a company sticks you into a job that takes too much mindspace to keep up with other tech interests, you'll come out a year or two later, and realize that you've been left in the dust... So what? You've kept up in other areas. You can't keep up with all things.

Example: When I finished my undergrad degree, I got a seemingly great job that just so happened ended up cornering me with a lot of old code to maintain. I didn't get much exposure to what was coming to market, and I was painfully out of date with things other than Fortran and C/C++.. I got a different job, and now I know Java - but I've never had time to pick up Perl, and my home PC is 6 years old... I don't even know where to begin with building a new PC. Thank Kibo for Arstechnica. Anyway... A focused job is just as limiting as dropping out of the field entirely. Balance of breadth and depth is a tough thing to find.

The Peace Corps is a morally worthy cause, and any employer who would hold it against you is not deserving of your efforts.

Here in New England, there's a new animal growing. A Tech Corps if you will. Unfortunatelly, I lost my URL reference to the article in one of the local papers... Anyway, here's the jist:

There are student/charitable organizations out there that work in the spirit of the Peace Corps, but with a focus on technology. They go to impoverished areas of thrid-world countries and set up LANs in hospitals, using equipment donated by US companies (upgrade residue). These folks teach the staff in the hospital how to use the LAN to take better care of their patients. They also bring this equipment to schools, set it up and provide computer literacy to students and teachers. They work with one another as well, to improvise solutions to interesting problems. One example I read was of a bunch of Western Mass College students working with a local US military base/Reservists on training to set up a microwave transmitter to give a mid-sized town (South America somewhere, Peru maybe) Internet access for use by the schools, government and social services facilities.

I know, the poor and starving need food, water and shelter - of course. But, as the infrastructure is delivered, so is technology - and if you want to make a contribution, and stay connected to the technology, then this might be a good way to do it. I'm certain that even though the available tech isn't cutting edge, the problems you would face are; and many employers would fall all over themselves in trying to hire someone who made a hospital administrative LAN out of a few junked PC, Linux and a couple of coconuts.

I'm sure that the Peace Corps also has use for your talents - it just depends on their level of organization as to whether they'll be able to tap you as a technical resource or a physical labourer.

In either case, good luck, God bless. You're doing a great thing! When you return, post you availability here, and if I'm in a position to help, I will be sure to do so.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

URL (none / 0) (#16)
by enterfornone on Mon Nov 27, 2000 at 09:34:10 PM EST

A quick search came up with this. Seems to mainly involve American schools rather than third world countries.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
Same difference (none / 0) (#20)
by fluffy grue on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 12:51:42 PM EST

<rimshot>
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Do it while you can (4.00 / 6) (#14)
by John Big Boots on Mon Nov 27, 2000 at 05:55:16 PM EST

A prospective employer won't be concerned with a two-year absence at your age. However, I can tell you from experience that many employers are reluctant to hire "older" people with gaps in their employment history. I've been trying to get back into the IT industry after a two-year absence and have not been terribly successful. After 15 years in the business, I took a year off for travel and other persuits, much like what you're planning. And, had such a good time that it stretched into two years. :)

In general, employers are more willing to take a risk with a younger people. My advice is to do this now, while you can.

You'll have a great time and be a better person for it.

I gave up computing for 4 years (2.75 / 4) (#15)
by SIGFPE on Mon Nov 27, 2000 at 06:36:46 PM EST

When I was 10 I got into computing. I was a total geek until 18. Then I went to university and studied for 4 years. I studied mathematics and completely gave up computing. I didn't use email. I didn't own any kind of computer. I started a computing project for my mathematics course but got bored after a few hours and gave up. Otherwise my only use of a computer that I can remember was 5 minutes of playing with MacPlaymate! I was too busy having a good time for 4 years. It was great! Then I did my PhD and got into computer graphics as a hobby. Now I'm a geek again and head an R&D group in a graphics related company. So the answer is - yes! You can give up technology for a few years and survive.
SIGFPE
I hate to sound like an echo... (3.33 / 3) (#17)
by Perianwyr on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 01:43:31 AM EST

...but get your traveling in. Now.

Your outlook on life will change dramatically. Your views on some things are likely to turn 180 degrees once you've spent a significant amount of time out of the first world. And you'll have a better understanding of the way you've always seen things.

Fully modernized countries are worlds unto themselves- but you won't understand the full basis of reality until you're out of their reach. One of the worst things about Americans is that most don't realize this. Joining the Peace Corps guarantees you won't be seeing another people through the tinted window of a tour bus, like many people who have "traveled". You'll learn more about the workings of life than you ever would changing icon colors to cornflower blue back here in the States.

Compared to a complete re-assessment of your outlook on Life, the Universe, and Everything, does the moral equivalent of a couple months in community college sound all that beneficial? :)



Do it (3.00 / 2) (#18)
by durian on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 02:26:00 AM EST

Do it - take a holiday! it will improve your outlook on live and everything. Really!

Besides, the "industry" doesn't move as fast as all - we are made to believe this by all the media hype about everything, and we get scared to miss just a minute and "miss out". Going away for a few months, year(s) puts everything back into perspective, and shows in what a ridiculous consumer-garbage society we live.

You will be a much better person when you get back, most employers realise that anyway. If they don't you don't want to work there.

--peter

Same thing but different (1.50 / 4) (#19)
by ralf on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 04:19:13 AM EST

Ok, so I think you should do it. I am thinking about the same thing. But I want to go to hawaii for a year and learn to surf so it may not be so impressive as your 'cause'. I have been in the biz for nearlly 3 years and I want to have a break...

What about the Millitary service? (3.50 / 2) (#21)
by BlckKnght on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 04:53:20 PM EST

I've been reading the comments posted so far in this story and trying to apply the advice they give to my own similar situation.

I'm a sophomore in college majoring in CS and an Army ROTC cadet.

So far I've been doing ROTC just for the hell of it (I'm not on scholarship), because it is fun and good training in leadership. The thing is that I'm going to have to decide at the end of this year if I want to stay in the program and commissioned or quit. If I stay in, I would have a commitment to serve in an active duty unit for 3 or 4 years or in the National Guard or Army Reserves for 8 years. If I quit at the end of the year I owe them nothing.

What I'm trying to decide is which of the following courses of action I want to take:

  • I could quit ROTC at the end of this year and get a regular job when I graduate.
  • I could finish ROTC, do 3 or 4 years of active duty, then leave and get a job.
  • I could finish ROTC, and then do part time in the Reserves or National Guard and have a job at the same time.

From talking with my ROCT advisor (and second hand accounts from other Army personell) I know that it would be extremely unlikely that I could get a position in the Army doing the kind of technology I cound have as a civillian (programming, sys admin, etc.). The Army just doesn't do too much of that on it's own (it's what contractors are for), and there's not really any route into what little there is from ROTC. So I would expect to not do much hacking in the Army...

I don't know what the K5 community's views are on the Army. I disagree greatly with some of their policies (Don't ask, don't tell, no women in the front lines) and customs (code of silence), but admire the values (Selfless service, Honor, etc) and training (leadership, how to blow stuff up ;-) it offers. I know that it'll eventually be my decision about what to do, but I'd appreciate any advice you have.

-- 
Error: .signature: No such file or directory


Story time (none / 0) (#25)
by bradenmcg on Thu Nov 30, 2000 at 04:03:10 PM EST

Submit this one, man!

It's definately got the makings of a decent story, Topic="Help"... I bet it would make it at least to section, and even if it didn't, you may get some good comments while it's in the queue.

<leonphelps>Yeah, now, uh, "sig," what is that?</leonphelps>
[ Parent ]

Do it. (3.33 / 3) (#22)
by gromm on Tue Nov 28, 2000 at 06:38:36 PM EST

As a sysadmin, I can tell you that your greatest asset is going to be learning whatever you can, as fast as you can. The software you are expert in dealing with today is going to be obsolete tomorrow anyway, so don't worry too much about committing how to do tasks X, Y and Z to long-term memory. I for one was not employed on the basis of what I knew, but how quickly I can learn and figure things out on my own.

Also, if you take a couple years leave before your career starts then it won't matter, because mostly you didn't know much, and you'll know exactly the same when you come back. Except for all the great life experiences that will carry you through your life, giving you a whole new perspective on the world that 98% of Americans never get to see.

As for the big blank spot in your resume? Why not fill that in with "2002-2004 serving in the Peace Corps in countries X, Y and Z." Believe me, it will give you more respect than you think.

And your question "But why haven't you?" Well, for the most part I've spent the last five years mucking around, flunked out of college, got an odd job here and there, before finally committing myself to learning to do what I do now.I'm already way behind at 25 and starting a real life and career. Many people my age have already been through college or university and have a couple years of experience behind them, with real accomplishments. If I'm lucky, I might scrape together some cash and go on a wild adventure like you're planning before I get married and have kids, but I'm not counting on it, and I'm not sure if I'm the adventurous type anyway. :)
Deus ex frigerifero
Sounding like an echo in your headphones... (3.50 / 2) (#23)
by Mashx on Wed Nov 29, 2000 at 10:37:10 AM EST

But DO IT!

Seriously, I didn't take any time out before University, nor after before getting a job. Last Christmas I went out to to Kenya to see my friend who did both, and is now working for GOAL, an Irish NPO, out in Sudan, and he is loving it. The only thing he misses is music, but then I am supplying him with that now. Oh and socks. ;-)

Any employer that is good to work for will be pleased with the idea that you have the skill of being able to cope with difficult situations which you might come across working for the Peace Corps. Especially at your age.

The reasons I haven't done it are that I never had the confidence when I was younger, I had huge amounts of debt when I left University and so had to get a job, and now have just bought a house, but just the other day, I was wondering whether I really wanted to buy this house, or if I wanted to jump on that plane. Take the chance while you can!

Woodside!

Your lifetime earnings will probably be less (3.00 / 1) (#24)
by error 404 on Wed Nov 29, 2000 at 05:17:06 PM EST

Miss out on a couple of years of salary and basis for future raises.

You might make it back in better jobs. Employers will probably like the experience more than they dislike the time away from the tech scene. A lot more. The experience will probably put you closer to management.

But it will probably cost you $.

If you aren't completely insane about money, it will be worth it. Massively worth it.

If I weren't responsible for a family, I'd be out there. No question. I wish I had done that when I had the chance.

..................................
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

Life is not a job (4.00 / 1) (#26)
by crispb on Thu Nov 30, 2000 at 05:30:51 PM EST

If you want to go out and volunteer for the Peace Corps, go right ahead. The *possible* consequences of this action are far less than the rewards. There really is more to life than the amount of money that one can make. Think of it this way, if you are lying on your death bed which idea would help you find solace: the fact that you can buy a new BMW that you cannot take with you or that you helped forever change peoples lives. Money is not what is important in this world, helping our fellow human beings is. So you might not make quite as much in later life. If that really bothers you than you should not go into the Peace Corps anyway. Good Luck in your endevours.

My experience (none / 0) (#27)
by DaveP37 on Fri Dec 01, 2000 at 03:49:24 PM EST

My experience is that it's very possible to take a year or two off. If you do even a little extra work during that time, it's possible to come into a better job than you would have had otherwise.

To illustrate: In the 80s, I was working part-time in the computer biz. I didn't have my degree, and was working for large companies that required a degree for a ''real'' (salaried) position. I was effectively stuck in intern-hell.

In late 1989, I had had enough. I quit my job, and got hired driving school-bus. Drove bus for a year and a half. During that time I learned to program the Macintosh instead of PCs and Unix boxes.

In 1990, I found a job with a small company that seemed to offer good possibilities for advancement. In the next five years I tripled my salary, and when I left, it was to go to Apple Computer to work. Since then, I've started my own company, and am now working for me.

The point is that taking a break from technology doesn't have to mean that you have to fall behind. Even if you do fall behind, the ability to say ''I walked away before, and I'm willing to do so again,'' can be a very powerful bargaining chip if your current employer seems to be blocking your chosen path. Finally, coming back into the technology market means you can take your time finding a job that fits your goals. And you'll have more life-experience which will make you better able to decide what you really want out of a job. Choosing a good job rather than a poor one is worth more than a couple years of salary.

As for why I never joined the Peace Corps, they only accept college graduates. I never did get around to getting that degree. And while the lack of a degree held my pay low for almost a decade, I think I'm better off for it, since the technologies I learned were ones I wanted to learn, rather than those a University decreed I needed to learn.

Of course, your mileage may vary, but I strongly encourage nerds to take a few years away from the technology world. There's a lot to be learned in life that doesn't involve bits and bytes.

-DaveP

Is it possible to "take a vacation" from technology? | 27 comments (25 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
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