Before I start I would like to state for the record that I am in no way knocking education as I do believe it is necessary. What I am going to do however is compare education to experience THROUGH MY EYES, in the business world and whether or not a lack of a degree can be made up by having the experience.

I myself do not have much “formal education” per se. For me (as written here) I’ve always felt that todays educational methods are more for memory than true problem solving. We attended school where a teacher stands at the front of the class and tells the students what the textbook says is fact, and why is it fact? Because the textbook says so. I have two problems with this method. One is…what if the curriculum is wrong? Don’t forget you could have been burned at the stake for verbally expressing anything other than the Earth was flat and that the Sun orbited the Earth. We now know this is BS. The other problem I have is the whole problem solving aspect of education. It’s gone! All we do now is teach them wrong or right and there can be only one solution to the problem and nothing else. Unless of course you are in philosophy which can be a tad bit more lenient in this regard. These are extremely valid arguments with regards to computer science. If you can’t think for yourself, troubleshoot or problem solved…DON’T GET IN TO COMPUTERS!

I was eight years old when I first started with computers (Related Article: Growing Up Mac) and ever since, I’ve stuck with them as a career.

In the late 70s and early 80s, personal computers were just really beginning to take off and schools were slowly but surely, providing access to them for the students. My experiences were primarily with Apple II computers as the educational system seemed to attach themselves to Apple quite nicely.

During my years in elementary school I never much hid my talent for computers and even excelled strongly with them by helping students and teachers alike better understand how they worked. Then I moved on to junior high where I really slacked off. Hey what can I say right? Chicks just were not in to ‘geeky’ computer guys.

Still closeting my talents with computers, when I moved on to high school I enrolled in some computer classes. I figured it would be an easy credit so why not. I ended up getting hired by the school, given special permission by the principal to not attend the class anymore and just work for that time on the project I was given. Which happened to be the database for the library. Why? Well I sort of left out a part there. You see I gained the attention of my teacher and in turn the principal by hacking the internal network for the school district and office computer systems. I did no harm and later announced my hack so all was good. My best recollection was an attendance rate of somewhere around 10% before being given an automatic pass-thru on that particular course.

Then I slipped back in to denial again. Again over the ladies. This time it was short lived before I was kicked out of my house and had to do something and quick. So I naturally fell back to what I know best…computers!

Started my first programming business at 15 and landed a contract developing the DB for a small aviation company in Prince George only later to be followed by developing a CMS (contact management system) for Rogers Cantel in Kelowna.

Fast forwarding here to get to the point, over the years I have built over 3000 computers, designed some fantastic electronic hardware/interface devices and programmed in countless languages. All this without any formal education whatsoever. I often reflect back to a television interview with Bill Gates where Gates was presented with the question of, “if you had the choice to hire a 7 yr. university graduate in computer sciences or a hacker that has been hacking in his basement for the past 7 yrs. who would you hire?” Gates’s reply was epic! “I would take the hacker because the university graduate is 7 yrs behind.”

With technology moving at speeds unseen before, companies are now opening their eyes to the realty of “thinking outside the box” and if they dont…well they will most certainly fail. I use to have a saying when I was in the satellite industry: GO ORIGINAL OR GO HOME! (which was a double entendre)

Again I should reiterate that I am not backhanding education as there are slews of incredibly talented and high educated individuals in the world that would easily run circles around me in this department I’m sure. What I am getting at is a couple of things.

Education with respect to computers is highly lucrative and anything that is lucrative will be exploited. So would it not be logical to think that possibly when you enroll in classes that the university will spread your subject over as long of a term as possible? Here let me show you an example of what I am talking about.

Let’s say you wanted to learn Visual C++ Programming Language. A typical course outline might span an entire year in university with you coming out with simply a basic understanding of how to use the programming platform and really basic programming skills. But don’t forget the massive student loan you needed to take the course. This is just the beginning. The average US student graduate with a bachelor degree has student loans exceeding $60,000 dollars. You better hope that your earnings are exceptional once you graduate in order to pay back all those debts you incurred to get the degree to begin with. Furthermore the reality tells us this won’t happen because 99% of the time, influential corporations will not hiring straight out of university and further require years of experience before an opportunity to work with them becomes available to you. IE: university graduates working in fast food joints.

The other downside to this system is the fact that you are highly specialized in only one particular area whereas the average “experienced” veteran who’s worked in the work force for the past 7 years has adapted to the needs required of him and learned an array of new skills beyond the basic one degree one skill mindset.

In defense of education I do have this to say. I would recommend to anyone considering an education in any particular field, that they first must have an absolute obsession for whichever field it is they are interested. Any successful people will tell you that if you do not have a passion for what you do you will not succeed far. Life is too short to be wasting your time doing something that you’re not happy with. In other words, don’t go out and sign up for a bachelor in computer science course that is going to cost you your right arm in tuition and other fees just because you “heard” they earn good salaries. Either get the education because you have a burning desire to learn something you plan on doing for the rest of your life or don’t do it at all. This is why there are so many “professional students”.  You’ve always got that choice when it comes to education.

For those of us who are born with the “gift” of knowing where our strengths lie and excelling at them, I would suggest following your passion and never repressing your true calling and skill. FREE YOUR MIND!

Footnote: Here is Donald Trump’s opinion on the age old debate. This is a man I hold in high regard and anything coming from this man’s mouth with respect to business, deserves your attention.

Article on Donald Trump Blog: Education vs. Experience


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