Month: March 2024

The Case for College

As a self-educated professional working with the best in the field, I think I’m supposed to tell you that you don’t need college to be successful. My journey has been an unconventional one for sure. Growing up in a dysfunctional home with a schizoaffective and abusive father, surviving high school alone was barely manageable. The notion of college was unconscionable to a depressed teenager from a poor home with no parental guidance or support. Computers have been a part of my life since I was eight, where typing programs from the back of magazines into a Radio Shack TRS-80 took me places far away from my terrifying childhood. The highest level of education I’ve accomplished to date is a GED, after failing out of high school. What turned my trajectory around, second only to my faith, was falling in love with learning. I’ve learned a lot over the course of an ongoing 30-year career, and slowly worked my way up from building PCs and doing sysadmin work into software engineering, forensics, and security. With that has come the opportunity to make a lot of impact along the way that’s touched people’s lives, and a lot of self-education. This is a life I couldn’t have possibly imagined for myself. A great career with one of the best companies in the world, books written, a good living, and the opportunities to make long lasting impact. So why would you need college to do the same, especially when billionaires like Peter Thiel are willing to pay you six figures to drop out?

Thiel’s plan for you is a short-sighted one, and doesn’t take into account the difficulty you’re likely to face as a result of taking his offer. What’s missing from Thiel’s story – and all of his romanticized notions- is all the hard from taking this path. Not just the financial hard that it takes, but the hard of navigating an unforgiving world without a degree – regardless of your intelligence. The hard in trying to make meaningful contributions to the scientific community and touch government sectors without a formal education. The difficulty of the mind in grasping for solutions to complex problems but lacking the theoretical foundation to connect with your higher-level knowledge, and the sense of feeling stupid for decades because of it. The hard in having to constantly prove you’re a better choice than the other candidate with a pedigree, no matter what level of experience you have in your field. Sure, you’re not me – I get that, but perhaps consider some of my experience spanning a tech career before you decide to quit school.

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