I’m all graduated now!

May 20, 2009 – 6:52 am

…and the whole process was somewhat underwhelming. For those undergrads out there that are contemplating returning to school for a MS think twice. I have no idea if my experience was atypical but I submit it for your consideration:

I loved my undergrad at Tech. It was hard and I didn’t sleep much. Despite that it was worthwhile because every day I was learning and growing. Life as a undergrad could have easily been miserable but because I loved the learning bit and had surrounded myself with a great collection of people that made it pretty awesome.

Fast forward a bit. I’m about six months into my job at Amazon and start thinking that while I’m learning a lot on the job there isn’t any real opportunity[0] to gain in breadth (AI and Systems specifically) so grad school starts to sound like a much better idea and I start sending feelers out for funding. About a month later I strike gold, not only have I found funding but because my GPA was >3.4 and I’ve been out less than a year I could still apply as a FasTrack student which meant a stupid simple application process (info, towards the bottom). They accepted me, YAY! (or so I thought).

Eventually I was done working and it was time to start school again and fairly quickly my idealistic view of what the MS program would be like was destroyed. Now, Tech as a harsh mistress isn’t new so I wasn’t terribly surprised. At first it was the normal set of problems: lame course selection (both in quantity and quality), poorly managed registration process (artificially low head count and unwieldy/unfair overload process), and overworked advisors.

This section of the post was going to be where I talked in depth about the big problems I had with my time in the MSCS program (and there were many) but, honestly, I don’t care enough to go into detail[1], it would just make me grumpy. So, in short, it came down to 1) MS students are largely ignored and/or treated as cheap labor by the faculty and 2) as far as I could tell most MS students don’t seem to care about actually learning anything, just adding a MSCS to their resume.

All that said I came out of the program having done some cool things[2] and got an offer working with some amazing folks[3] over at VMware. It’s not something I couldn’t have done coming from undergrad but I didn’t… so disappointment or not the MS program gave me a chance to start over and I’m glad for that (if nothing else).

Big question: given the choice would I do it again? Probably not, instead I’d go back and tell my post-undergrad self manage my work/life balance better at Amazon and look around for other teams that could help me grow in breadth[4] and, probably, to apply for a position with VMware too.

[0] I thought about trying to do this in my time that I wasn’t working but that just kept shrinking and most of the time I was off work had left me so exhausted I just didn’t have the energy to sit down and hack.

[1] …here, if you want the full story ask me offline

[2] in spite of GT, not as a result of it

[3] was going to link to their websites but there are too many people. Suffice it to say that the workstation team is pretty awesome!

[4] because that’s really what I wanted out of the MS program but only a very small part of what I spent my time doing.

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