Oddly, it was not advice on clown porn or medical marijuana. It was actually an email asking me about a college degree in Computer Science:
…Is it worth my while to pursue a computer science degree? People are telling me it is not necessary even if it is from UCLA. What do you think? -Bill Gates
Good question. I even like the fact that he/she signed it as Bill Gates.
Ok, here are two things you need to know about IT:
- IT people are clique-ish, petty, and lack social skills.
- Computer degrees are worthless to big companies.
Let’s say you do go to UCLA and get that computer degree. Now you have to apply to a company. More than likely, you’ll fill out an online résumé which will then be sorted and scored by a computer. While there are still companies out there who actually look through the incoming résumés by hand, most companies handle it electronically. The big problem with using a computer to widdle down the job applicants is a computer only “sorts” as well as the programmer designed it.
For example, can the computer tell the difference between a BS degree from MIT and DeVry? Is the program set up to search for certain keywords? Because if it is, and those keywords aren’t in your résumé or application, you don’t make the cut. Can the computer read your cover letter and tell if you have decent writing skills? Probably not.
If you’re lucky enough to make it through the computerized weeding process, you then meet with someone from HR. Usually the HR person invites a member of the computer department to sit in on your interview. This person could possibly be your boss or even a co-worker. And here’s what they’re thinking:
Is he one of us?
If the entire IT Department drinks Red Bull like water, goes to lunch at Chipotle, and meets on the weekends to play Grand Theft Auto, then you better hope you do at least one of these things, or you don’t get to be part of the group.
Is he smarter than me?
You better not be smarter than this person or it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’re out. Yep. While 30 years ago companies looked for the best and the brightest, now they look for what is euphemistically called a “team player”. In other words, they want a drone who follows orders, not someone capable of thinking or exceeding on their own.
Don’t believe me?
I have roughly 4,000 blog readers each month. If I took a poll and asked everyone to rate their IT department, I can guarantee 3,999 will rate it poorly. In fact, the three biggest complaints will be that they’re slow, they don’t listen, and they don’t fix the problem on the first try. It’s pretty pathetic, but after years in the IT field, I can tell you it’s reality. IT departments suck mostly because they hire the wrong people. Managers rule over their pathetic little IT departments like lords over a fiefdom (triple word score for fiefdom).
Would a computer degree from UCLA fix the problem? Probably not. Someone graduating from UCLA will be smart and an individual thinker- exactly the opposite of what most companies look for. Why would the IT boss hire someone smarter than he is? Why would the co-worker greenlight someone more capable than he is -someone who could end up replacing him in the event of a downsizing?
To me, real world experience and certifications are more important than a degree. Keeping current and having real people skills are what’s needed in IT these days.
I’m not saying don’t go get the degree. The degree will help distinguish you from the others in the crowd, and it may open doors to other opportunities. Many jobs or opportunities come from fraternity brothers or other UCLA graduates, so if the degree is important to you, then pursue it.
Personally, I would get the degree and then open my own IT business. This way you get to be the boss and you might even end up working with one of these larger, dysfunctional companies.
Then you can sit at home and make fun of them and write nasty blogs about them and the IT industry.