Friday, September 28, 2001

The value of one

Kyndall has been working a lot lately on her job as admissions counselor for William Jewell.
There are thousands of perfectly qualified college candidates in Colorado and they are all the responsibility of poor Kyndall to reach and convince before they decide on another school.

I remember when I was looking to go to college.

I was young. I was stupid. I was, well, young. I miss those days sometimes, and other days I spurn them.

Basically, my family tricked me into going to William Jewell.

Without the details, just trust me, I was tricked.

But it brings up a rather good topic for conversation: the benefits and the detriments of a liberal arts education.

Here's where it all starts. When a kid goes to college, he is going for an education not vocation. People who ask stupid questions like, "Well, what type of job are you going to get with that major?" are clueless, and deserve a swift kick.

It is a common misconception that you should work in the field in which you study.

I suppose doctors and lawyers are messing it up for the rest of us. For example, if you study pre-law or pre-medicine, it is pretty clear what you intend to do with your life.

For the rest of us, people try to maintain the same logic. If you study psychology, you must want to be a psychologist. If you study philosophy you must want to be a philosopher. If you study political science you must want to be a politician. If you study physics you must want to be a physicist.

Sound logical?

Well it isn't.

See, you study to learn, right? We go to school to learn. Work comes later.

Let's say I wanted to be a software developer, which I am. What would I study in college? Math? Computer Science? Something computer related?

Sure, I suppose I could study that if I didn't mind being boring.

In my last job, I was the Directory of Quality Assurance. One of my roles was to hire young snappers to pull some weight on the chain. I probably interviewed around 50 applicants.

There are three types of people.

The first is the CIS major, they studied computers in high school, played with them during the summer and studied computer science in college, and are probably certified in some specialty. We'll call these people the computer-overkills.

Computer-overkills are the last people I would ever hire. They have many common characteristics. For one, they are commonly anti-social, or if they are social they don't recognize their handicap. For another, they commonly over-engineer solutions, and live a life of recurring pessimism.

You hire one of these guys and though you might get some good work out of them, you can also count on some boring conversations. And what is work, really, if not dealing with people?

The second type of person is the guy who sees all the money in the computer industry and is trying to weasel his way in to get his piece of the pie. Naturally, they are a bad choice. They work is commonly below par, and they are always handy with an excuse. Hey weasels! Take a hike.

The third type is the natural. They didn't study computer science because they didn't have to. The rest of the world is interesting to them, and they do what they have to bring their skills up to par and then some.

The natural seems like the "natural" fit, huh?

Well, for the most part, it's true; the natural is typically the perfect person for a technical position. But not always, to be honest, you sometimes need the study of the computer-overkill, but that situation is rare.

Now, let's break out of the computer world and talk about your field.

Are you a natural, a weasel or an overkill?

There's no formula to tell you the answer to that - you just know.

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