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Am I crazy?

After all of the discussions about finding a job after school, I was wondering what you all thought about what I want to do: go back to school for my Masters/PhD.  I have a well paying job that I'm almost guarunteed to never get fired from.  But I'm bored.  I look back at the time I've spent here (been out of school for about a year) and the times I was the happiest I was learning a new programming language or toolset.

Lately I've been using this analogy for my job to my family and friends: Its like solving crossword puzzles for a living.  Sure it keeps you busy, and its moderately challenging, but you're not really learning anything new, or pushing yourself.

Also, the people I work with aren't passionate about computers and software development.  Sure they find them interesting, but when I walk into their office and want to talk about the latest programming paradigm, or a new tool I found, they're not interested.

So I've been thinking of going back to grad school full-time, to get my PhD.  After talking with an old professor over email, he suggested I stick with my job.  He doesn't think the software market will ever improve, and getting a job with a PhD will be even harder he says.  I think a few years of research and challenging coursework sounds like a good time...

Any opinions?

reversi
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

I don't know where you are located, but I am located in the USA and am doing the exact thing you describe right now.  So far I am having a blast and still able to keep Mitch & Murray Co. going full throttle.  The professors and higher level administrators I have spoken to have done nothing but offer encouragement.  I should mention that I am not exactly young either - mid-40s.

Mitch & Murray (from downtown)
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Keep your job, and write computer games or develop the cure for cancer in your spare time. There, problem solved!

Chris Nahr
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

"The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time."  Bertrand Russell

Study something that interests you OTHER then computing.  I mean how many biologists will give their left arm to be able to utilize computers as well as you?

There are many fields where computing is underutilized because database design, usability, lifecycle management, and the like are non-trivial.  To say the least…

eclectic_echidna
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Only get a PhD if it sounds fun to you. A PhD will NOT help you find a job later. In fact, it will probably make finding a job MORE difficult. Employers will think you are "over-qualified", would want too much money, or that you have forgotten your "practical" industry experience.

An MS might be helpful. I earned an MS CS part-time taking night classes. It was fun, but took a lot of time, money, and I was a little disappointed with the results. I have a job now, but I don't think my MS helped at all.

runtime
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

If the school environment appeals to you... who says you have to leave?  Seriously, you could just get your PhD and then become a professor.  I know it is not "exactly" the same, but you would still get to play with your pet projects.... and then you could get your students excited about the cool new technologies that interest you.  However, you must also be willing to write a lot of papers (i.e. - get published) and possibly bring in research grants.

In addition, it is still possible for you to start your own business whilst in school or as a professor (the univ. probably will want a cut in most scenarios however).

Good luck.

Seeker
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

I should probably mention that my current job is paying me to get my Masters degree.  And the program I'm in will allow me to continue on for my PhD if I like.  I work 40 hours a week, but I can take time off to take classes, and they pay me for my time in class.

Mainly I want to go back to school to get back into the atmosphere.  I feel like I'm missing a lot of collaboration and thought by doing this remotely...

reversi
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Ah yes, and I don't want to work at this job forever.  So I've got this decision: stay at my current job until I get my degree, then leave.  Stay until I get my degree + a couple years for good measure, then leave.  Stay for another year or so and then go back to school full-time.

reversi
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Choose a field and develop a software/hardware/embedded solution for it.  Build your empire, write a book. I actually left several large companies out of boredom or because of their management practices. See what is important for you. Nothing has to be more exiting that generating an idea, and then see it built/used/downloaded/purchased by thousands of people. You can study all your life, but at some point YOU have to generate, unless of course you choose to work for someone else all your life, in exchange of money. You do it, or someone else will. In fact, few people do actually something of importance without being told. Do not be a dummy. Do not waste your life.

William Williams
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

"Am I crazy?"

No, just ignorant of how many shitty IT jobs there really are out there.

You are getting paid while you attend classes!!!  What more do you want?  A fun and fulfilling career? This may still be in the cards for you, just prepare yourself to be disappointed.

One Programmer's Opinion
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

You don't need a Master's or PHD to learn challenging programming problems.  As Good Will Hunting said, all you need is $1.50 in public library late fee charges. 

What do you plan to do after getting a PHD?  Does it require a PHD?  If not, go do it now. 

If you just HAVE TO get a degree on paper, I agree with the suggesstion of taking night classes.  Have your Cake (paycheck )and eat it too (degree).


Good luck, and before making decisions, understand what you are SEEKING, and then decide if you are weighinh ALL possible ways to GET what you SEEK.

PS:  Higher education in IT is a waste of time.

Bella
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

... I have to admit that exploration, research; learning and teaching are exiting activities and absolutely worthwhile pursuing. They are the seed of greatness. Yes, keep your job and attend classes, it is a superb combo!

William Williams
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

I went the opposite direction: getting a software job after receiving a physics Ph.D.  And I've enjoyed programming significantly more, for a variety of reasons.

1) Creating a tangible product is more satisfying than academic research.
2) It's a lot easier to stay productive and motivated.
3) The salary and job possibilties are lots better.
4) I can work a forty-hour week and have a balanced life.
5) The hyperspecialization of grad school made the material much less interesting than undergrad classes.
6) A software job involves a lot more teamwork and human interaction.
7) My current coworkers are, on average, happier than my fellow grad students were.

Of course, you may very well have different experiences and desires.

Julian
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

QUESTIONS:

1.re: BOREDOM: are you bored with the types of challenges at work, or with the fact that they are solved using technology you already know?

Could you create a new product for your company?
Could you be an internal entreprenuer?  Perhaps create new software to solve some internal company customer?

At one company I worked at, I had a related problem.  I wanted to have some area of specialization to call "my own", but there were none. So, I helped create a new service: helping telephone companies provide internet access.  I had the original engineering idea, and my boss provided the marketing to get clients to buy this new service.
(BTW, when I presented this new, lucrative business line to the head office, they said "oh, yeah, that internet thing.  It's no big deal. We did one of those last year".  Internet, no big deal???  Sighhhh....I left the company within a year and started a software company.)

2.  DISPASSIONATE COWORKERS
I have a similar problem because I run a company on my own (with some help from the wife). It's successful, but I have NO ONE to talk with about the technology. 

One solution is to join some programming groups/user groups (or start one!).  Or go to school part time.


I found college was all theory but no application.  Stimulating but not fullfilling.
Work was all application and no theory.

LEARN NEW THEORY IN ANY LANGUAGE
Best of both worlds it so be able to learn something new and apply it.  This NEW thing need not just be a LANGUAGE, it could be a new approach to solving programming programs (language agnostic).  EXAMPLE, I just read the Pragmatic Programmer and they mention (among other great suggestions) to build in your testing, so the program tests itself.  Another suggestion (from Xtreme Programming) was to write your test FIRST, then write the code.  These were amazing THEORETICAL insights, which can be applied in ANY language, on ANY kind of project.


My $2.00 worth  ;-)
-Clay

Clay
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

This sounds very similar to my position. I'm actively looking for a Masters/PhD (PhD if I can find funding, tho)..
Like you, I'm somewhat bored with my job,  not really sure if its heading in the direction that I want to go.. Everyone who knows about it tells me I'm crazy too.. I'm better paid and have more job security than many many of my peers.. My problem is that although my job isnt bad, its not particularly good either. When I was an intern I used to look forward to getting up and going to work.. same when I was at university.. now, the enthusiasm seems to have just disappeared.. I turn up at work, just do my job, work late if I have to and go home.. so I think a change of atmosphere is necessary
Yeah, you get a piece of paper at the end of it, but that's not the point.. I'd say go ahead and do it if you think it will reawaken your interest in what you do.. I'm looking forward to doing the masters and associating with people (and their ideas) that my workplace does not offer.. Maybe I'll start liking computing and programming a bit more at the end of it.. it will be money and time well spent if so..
And no, I dont want to start up a business or anything like that.. I KNOW I'm a lousy businessman.. I'm a techie

deja vu
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

I long ago realised all jobs are boring. They are there to get money.

This leads me to do two things.

One is be very mercenary about my skills, the work I do etc.

The other is to do other things in my spare time. I've studied philosophy, marketing, writing and psychology. I write short stories, I have a novel I tinker with occaisionally, a set of alternate-history wargames rules I'm writing with my partner, there are computer games I'm playing with and a sports car to hack around the countryside near my house.

I work 37.5 hours a week. That's what the contract says. I try really, really hard not to care about all the time they waste out of that - if they wanted me here to write software they'd let me.

The rest of the time is when I get to do interesting things.

It's kind of like being asleep. Some of the time, you have to sleep. It's annoying because that's usually when the best stuff is on TV. Some of the time you have to be in the office. That's less annoying because there's not much on TV in that time. The rest of the time you get to do other things. Working is like sleeping, except you have to be conscious throughout it.

There are interesting jobs, but you're unlikely to find one because there aren't very many.

PhDs don't necessarily leave you "overqualified". I've worked in companies where the only people with just one degree were the software engineers. Fully 50% of the staff are doctors. It makes for an interesting environment.

Do one if you want to. But you really have to want to. Friend of mine spent some years alternating between six months working, and six months on a maths doctorate. That takes some dedication, but employers who aren't wankers will respect that.

Katie Lucas
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

reversi, can I be you?

Actually no, I'm not that unhappy being me but you may not realise that you're in possibly a fraction of a percentile's of the global population in regards to a happiness quotient.

I'm not suggesting you should feel guilt in this, but that's about all I can detect in your 'dissatisfaction' with what you have.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Look, you obviously really, really want to do the PhD. Maybe you do risk becoming overqualified, but if you're prepared to take that risk, go ahead.

One thing I would really, really suggest is that you NOT give up your job. It's anybody's guess whether you would be able to get another one. If I were you I'd do the PhD part-time.

Plus, if they're paying you for all this, thank your lucky stars!

You can't necessarily expect a paid job to be interesting. If it is, great, but it's really there to provide you with an income, not with your heart's desire. Jobs that do tend to be poorly paid, if they're paid at all.

Good luck and enjoy learning!

Fernanda Stickpot
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

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