Today again was one of those sad days where I recognized the bad influence of industry on the academic landscape.
There is one guy studying with us who seems to be out of place. Even for my relatively high age he seems to be substantially older, like in the mid 40s.
I sometimes speak to that guy but I didn’t really know what he is doing and why the heck he is studying at his age.
I told him that I wanted to start my bachelor thesis soon but I’m not sure about the topic and that I’m still looking for something interesting. He told me that he also wants to write his thesis at the same time so I asked him what his topic is.
I won’t tell what the topic is but it’s related to data structures and he told that it has something to do with his earlier job and that it would be a good match to that because he wants to return to that job.
I found that topic also exiting because it’s theoretical and practical at the same time. I started a conversation and noted that I read two sources from open source projects which do something similar and that I am reading a guy’s blog since a few years which develops this kind of software. I asked him where he wants to put the emphasis in his thesis because many ideas came into my mind going roughly through his topic.
He on the other hand didn’t seem to be as exited as me. He didn’t want to actually go that deep. It seemes that he only wanted to use some enterprise stuff and only make benchmarks and simple data modellung but not really do something algorithmically interesting.
Don’t get me wrong, I probably wouldn’t have chosen that topic because I would expect it to be really hard and that the few months time given to finish a bachelor thesis wouldn’t be enough to do some interesting work in that field.
But he wasn’t even close to be interested in that topic as I was.
However, coming back to the beginning. I wanted to find somehow out why he is still studying at his age so I continued to talk about if he wants to add a master degree after the bachelor degree and I noted that it’s actually pretty pointless unless you want to stay at the university because visiting four additional terms some random lectures won’t make you a better computer scientist except you go for specialization.
He said he wants to get a master degree and he is not really interested in the hard computer science stuff, so he will more focus on his not so technical secondary subject.
I told him that this is really pointless if he wants to return to his technical job and he responded that you don’t need a degree at all if you are working in the programming or technical field at all.
I agreed because people just don’t get that there isn’t a straight line between programming and computer science. But that’s another story.
He said that he could just leave with his bachelor degree but there is a problem. You will only reach a certain point in your career at a company without a master degree, he said. You won’t ever get an manager position.
I thought about it and what kind of strange logic that is. He continued that although he has now 20 years of experience his boss told him that he will only get a job as a manager if he comes back to the company with a master degree.
I was a little stunned at this point. First of all, who the heck wants to be a manager who studie’s computer science. He should have better studied something else in the first place and what kind of strange company is that where your experience doesn’t count. That’s the whole point working at one company for so long, so your experience has a value. Secondly, why does he thinks that he has to work only at that one company as if there are no jobs in Germany in the IT field.
To me it was clear that he is not really a programming geek like me which writes code during his free time, reads book about software development best practices and reads blogs about programming and all that stuff. And he isn’t really a good computer scientist either because he is not a strong mathematician. Why does his boss demands to get a master in computer science at all.
So this all was really weird and it all boiled down for me to these three questions:
- Is it unethical to give positions based on degrees rather than on experience?
- Was it unethical from his boss to make the offer (even the incentive) to give him a position as a manager if he gets a master degree? At least it takes five years of his life to get there (at his high age, also).
- He is clearly not a good programmer or a strong computer scientist. Is it unethical to think that he can command other people how to do their job if he doesn’t know how to do it better? (we talk about IT area)
The short answer to all those is yes. We will discuss in a separate post why.