It's a weird one. I've been against studying my whole life. Generally speaking, I've always been against the academic world. Yet here I am, four weeks into my computer science bachelor at the EPFL.
Why I was against studying
Let's face it; the whole academic world is a vast recruitment engine. Big corporates can't afford to review each junior applicant individually and need some filtering mechanism. That's what universities are: through systematically hiring grads, corporations increase their chances of hiring performant employees.
Why? Because studies require some smartness and a pretty high level of stress-resistance. Both of those skills are good indicators of future performance.
The second thing that bugs me with studies is that the content is not up to date with the current world. Because experts need time to create courses, you can expect a delay of at least 5-10 years on any university course, compared to how the world is right now.
Thirdly, evaluation methods are entirely random and don't correlate well with the mastery of a topic: a multiple-choice test does only say so much. Given how curriculums are built, they are mainly evaluating student’s ability to memorize large quantities of data, a skill that is totally useless in today’s world.
That being said, let's see why I chose to study.
What made me start to study
While my parents have been telling this for years, it made no sense for me to listen to them: they had either not been working for years or working in an industry that is radically different from tech.
But, about a month ago, I met with one of my neighbors who, besides having an impressive career, also represents my ideal lifestyle pretty accurately. He gave me this excellent analogy: A degree is like a driving license. You might be a great driver, but without a license, you’ll get arrested.
A degree is like a driving license. You might be a great driver, but without a license, you’ll get arrested.
If I want to enter the big corporate world one day, it will be very complicated without a degree. But with it and my current background, I'm basically in the top 10%. While I want to stay in the startup world right now, I don't want to close a door, given that I might change my mind in the future.
While degrees might become irrelevant in the future, the world is too conservative for me to take this kind of risk, and if I can significantly increase my value in the eyes of most people, then that's a low hanging fruit I want to grab.
I want to become technical
As a PM (project manager), working with developers without a solid understanding of how programming works is a pain. I want to get a better sense of what it means to build this or that, and CS studies will be great in that sense. Technical skills will also allow me to be much more technically involved in my startup project.
I'm up for the challenge
My whole life has been a comfortable ride. High school was easy, my two work experiences were remarkable, and so on. I’ve never really had a bad time.
While this is great, it also makes me pretty vulnerable to such bad times. The EPFL, with its dropout rate of about 60% in the first year, is the perfect challenge for a psychology student like myself. 50h workweeks, high pressure, and complex study topics will make my life pretty hard. I expect my ability to cope with stress and pressure to increase as a result of these studies.
I need a reliable way to prove my smartness
A recurring issue I've experienced during job interviews is that the recruiter has a difficult time assessing my general IQ. Without a degree, he/she has no idea of my stress/pressure resistance or IQ. This has closed a few opportunities for me because a recruiter simply can't take the risk. Through complex studies, I'll have a strong foundation that will reassure any employer.
Technical universities are a paradise for entrepreneurs
Whether it's a startup grants, free business coaching, access to networks, resources, or a discovery trip to San Francisco, my university is full of perks that I could never access without being a student. That alone is a sufficient motivation to study!
So here I am, beginning my studies after a successful career start. The motivations are clear, and the challenge will be tough. The exams are in ten weeks, let's see!