To Degree or not to Degree


diplomaI often wonder if I were a young lad of college age today, whether I would have the gumption to forego college and pursue a programming career right out of high school. Ignoring the fact that my parents would have balked at such a plan, I think a bright kid, a promising idea and a 1-3 year window would be sufficient conditions for an experience as rewarding as pursuing a CS degree.
Such a path does not prevent a person from learning the information they would obtain from a CS program. A quick look around the internet and I’m quite certain I could cover most of my CS curriculum through Khan Academy, MIT OpenCourseWare and Stanford Engineering Everywhere, not to mention other learning resources such as GitHub or Wikipedia. I wasn’t able to find an equivalent resource for the Arthurian Legend course I took one summer, but my knowledge of Sir Lancelot’s and Guinevere’s love trysts never really helped me sling code.
It wasn’t until my first internship that I learned how to develop software in a real-world context. I didn’t even know source control or bug tracking software existed until that point. Opportunities to work in a team at school were contrived and did little to prepare me for real-world collaboration.
I have yet to experience a situation where it was necessary to write a sorting algorithm or implement a data structure from scratch. I must admit that it took a lecture from a professor before the light bulb went off in my head for implementing recursive functions. But though I’m a better programmer for understanding these concepts, couldn’t one just learn them from free online resources?
story graphic
It will be quite a while before my kids are college-aged and it’s inevitable that the education landscape will be quite different at that point. But should either of my children seek to pursue a career in software, I would consider providing them the essentials for a year or two if they were serious about developing an idea they had. Depending on their potential college choices, such a path could end up being a lot cheaper. If their ideas fail they’re left with plenty of time to pursue other ideas and some real-world experience that many companies value more than academic credentials. If they succeed they can take their company public at $38/share for a cool valuation of a $100 billion and support me in my old age.
Related link: The Thiel Fellowship
(image by nicubunu)
(image by lumaxart)

+ more

Accurate Timing

Accurate Timing

In many tasks we need to do something at given intervals of time. The most obvious ways may not give you the best results. Time? Meh. The most basic tasks that don't have what you might call CPU-scale time requirements can be handled with the usual language and...

read more