Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

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Olaz
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Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

Post by Olaz » Thu Aug 04, 2016 3:56 pm

Sclass wrote:(specifically you Olaz...what happened to Zalo anyway?
I spelled it backwards for greater search engine privacy if someone googles my full name. I suppose it'd be a good idea to write it olaZ instead of Olaz so that's more clear. Maybe Jacob would be willing to help one more time? :D

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Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

Post by KevinW » Fri Aug 05, 2016 12:10 am

This is somewhat redundant with the excellent posts above, but I'll weigh in anyway.

There is a common omitted variable bias (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confounding) that causes people to believe that "CS degree implies high salary." Actually, "excellent programming skills implies high salary" and "applied computer science implies high salary". Good programmers are in demand regardless of credentials. And people with the aptitude, interest, and dedication to master conceptual CS (which is distinct from programming) are also in demand.

But there are all these statistics floating around that say that CS degrees are correlated with good employment outcomes. So people with no real interest or aptitude for CS sign up and try to coast, grade-grub, and cheat their way to a degree, thinking that the diploma is a golden ticket. It's not. It's the skills and knowledge, and willingness to do a lot of work with them, that are valuable in the job market. The coasters tend to flunk out, or barely graduate and then be unable to land a job. And frankly they were annoying to those of us that were sincerely interested in doing a deep dive into the material. I suspect the poor statistics in UK come from a glut of these sorts of graduates.

As a rule, the CS majors that excelled after college had a sincere interest in programming, or something else involving computational thinking, before college. That interest made it fun to put in many long hours cultivating hard-won skills. It's not a matter of stuff coming easily, but rather an inclination to excel at something that most people find boring and discouraging. This is where Meyers' 98% figure comes from. Personally, I was coding at 7 and had put in my 10,000 hours long before college.

Making code work involves getting something objectively wrong a few hundred times before it finally works. Code, test, wrong, fix; repeated dozens of times. Few people have the combination of humility, obsessiveness, and patience necessary to do that for hours on end. I think "teach to the test" and "everyone gets a medal" is making this worse. People have a thin skin about being told they're wrong, and can't handle a situation where there is no answer book and you just have to think harder until you solve the puzzle.

So, friend Olaz, I tend to think a CS major would not be a great fit for you. The fact that you don't have a history of intrinsic interest is a red flag. The fact that you took one CS course and disliked it is another. Your posting patterns make me think that you are a lateral thinker that likes to talk things out with other people; not someone who enjoys grinding away on a logic puzzle that no one else cares about solely for the satisfaction of eventually solving it on your own.

As others said, I'd caution against thinking in terms of proscribed "major -> job -> career -> salary" paths. That's an old economy, salary man, system that seems to be dying. Instead, figure out what your goals and distinct strengths are, and then choose whichever major (or other plan) advances those the best. That's more of a renaissance man approach, that I expect will be more robust in the globalized job market, and more personally satisfying.

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FBeyer
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Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

Post by FBeyer » Fri Aug 05, 2016 2:50 am

I always tell my colleagues about programming: If you aren't stuck on something, you're not working fast enough.(*)


(*) Or just compiling

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Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

Post by plantingourpennies » Fri Aug 05, 2016 5:55 am

Short answer-no, you didn't.

Achieving a good work/life balance while saving for FI can be done with any sort of degree. I have a Philosophy degree and will be FIRE in two years (at 35). If I was as skilled/intelligent/capable as the other people on this forum I could pull the cord tomorrow.

What others said about your lateral thinking can pay off very well in other areas. I found my "niche" in sales training, but before that I was in B2B sales, tried to buy a business, start a business, worked as a roofer, at a auto parts counter, and a few retail jobs. What finally worked was taking incremental steps towards my goal (even if the goal itself wasn't fully formed in my mind before I found Jacob's writings), even if many of those steps felt lateral at the time.

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Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

Post by KevinW » Fri Aug 05, 2016 12:17 pm

@FBeyer
Ha!

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Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

Post by BlueNote » Fri Aug 05, 2016 8:52 pm

I studied computer programming in college in Canada. The Canadian college system is the equivalent of community college or technical school in some other countries (sort of between university and high school academically). It was hard but I enjoyed coding and didn't mind the iteration required to produce good programs. I then went to University for comp sci and I was overwhelmed by the math requirements because I had to cram in a couple of years of University level math in one year. I switched to a business degree and it was,relatively speaking, really easy. I had a job doing tech support on the side that paid the rent and I graduated near the top of my class. The hardest math I had to learn was some basic calculus for an economics class. I had an apartment and lived with my G/F. I had an active social life and I partied. OTOH I would have been lucky to be in the top 50% of my University comp sci classes and even that would have meant relentless 12-16 hour days of studying to have gotten up the curve. After getting my degree I kind of felt like a fake because I knew that the STEM people worked much harder but weren't eligible for the accolades and scholarships I was because their standards were much higher then the ones set for me. I have a lot of respect for people with STEM degrees. So take a STEM degree if you are really good at it and you really like it and you're ready to trade off some social/personal time.

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Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

Post by Kriegsspiel » Fri Aug 05, 2016 10:19 pm

If you do not major in computer science, how will we progress as a culture? Will we always have to come up with 140 characters of thoughts?

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Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

Post by BRUTE » Sat Aug 06, 2016 12:04 am

Kriegsspiel wrote:If you do not major in computer science, how will we progress as a culture? Will we always have to come up with 140 characters of thoughts?
easy to make fun of, but where would humanity be without 140 character tweets? brute thinks of all the children in Africa that couldn't tweet, or all the underprivileged hungry poor inner city kids that couldn't tweet. there's a billion children in China that can tweet now, after not being able to their whole lives.

won't anyone please tweet about the children?!

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Kriegsspiel
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Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

Post by Kriegsspiel » Sat Aug 06, 2016 6:39 am

If someone did decide to go on living in this pathetic, Twitterless hell you describe, I guess they could lead a worthwhile life putting pokemons, and their enslavers, in my way everywhere.

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Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

Post by Scott 2 » Sat Aug 06, 2016 10:45 am

My experience in CS was different than some are describing. I am one of the (un)lucky ones who is just wired for it. The math came readily. My final year, I took 75% major classes. I doubt I spent even 40 hours a week on school. I coasted to A's. It all seemed both interesting and obvious - "oh, so that's what I type..." I switched into the major my junior year, because it was the easiest path to graduate.

I didn't recognize it at the time (I assumed everyone was having the same experience, I didn't go to class...), but I had the dumb luck to pick something I have an aptitude for. I've since had plenty of experience failing at other things - the unlucky part of my wiring. Success in life is so much easier if you play your strengths.

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BRUTE
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Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

Post by BRUTE » Sat Aug 06, 2016 10:46 am

;)

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Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

Post by enigmaT120 » Sat Aug 06, 2016 3:29 pm

I was doing fine in cs, until I foolishly took a chemistry class. The real world sucked me in, though I still found a minor in math.

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Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

Post by Scott 2 » Sun Aug 07, 2016 9:03 am

Organic chemistry made my choice to switch into CS even easier. I dropped it after the first week and can't say I ever regretted the decision.

The real world is too damn complicated.

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Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

Post by Felipe » Tue Oct 11, 2016 1:42 am

Great thread. I have to reply because I'm where it sounds you wish you had started- I'm majoring in CS... and highly doubting it. I have an aptitude for learning many new things- part of why FI appeals so much to me.

I finished all my lower division for Biology so I have all the math, chemistry, physics, ge finished and when I realized Bio majors get few job opps with horrible pay, I jumped to what had the best pay and job opportunities. I dread every class, though I've gotten straight A's in my 2 computer classes so far. I'd enjoy more time and easier classes. I don't enjoy CS much until I have the aha of how the program I'm writing is supposed to work and oscillate between agony when I'm stuck and bliss when it runs. I'm able to tinker till I figure it out but it's no cake walk-couldn't imagine working 60 hour weeks doing this stuff.

I think you dodged a bullet by not doing CS, if it's not in your aptitude, good luck trying to force it and compete with all the enthusiasts who can't wait to binge code all weekend. I'd rather read about FI or hike with friends.

I'm considering Econ for a financial analyst or budget analyst-good pay and they at least sound fun without as much forcing of my nature.

Did I fuck up by not going into Econ? :lol:
Last edited by Felipe on Tue Oct 11, 2016 1:58 am, edited 2 times in total.

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singvestor
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Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

Post by singvestor » Tue Oct 11, 2016 1:46 am

Studied political science in a very unimportant European university and broke through the USD 100k/year barrier 6 years after graduation. I would not get too hung up on the field of study but rather find your niche and acquire additional skills.

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Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

Post by JamesR » Tue Oct 11, 2016 5:44 pm

What are/were you studying? I thought you were doing some sort of Geo-related STEM type of thing?

Have you considered Data Science? It's been the hottest growing field the last couple years.

It's not a well defined field, you don't need any specific degree to break into it. The demand is super high, so you can break into it with less educational requirements, and then build that work history & do your career development and never look back. Even if you have a crappy degree, 2-3 years of work experience later, you'll still be able to command a high salary (6 figs in SF).

Generally it doesn't require much more than basic understanding of statistics & just running lots of experiments, analyzing data & reporting to the CEO so that they can make decisions.

If you can pick up some courses that focus on statistics at a minimum, that would help. Also helpful would be a course on SQL/Relational Algebra (easier than you think!), as well as a course or two on Machine Learning (Machine Learning & Statistics heavily overlap, but use different terminology, so if you know one, you know the other.. within reason).

Maybe just aim for a minor in math or physics or economics or statistics or comp sci, and use that minor to get into the STEM field. Ultimately the specific type of degree doesn't really matter, it just comes down to picking up the right skills/experiences to get into whatever field you want.

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Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

Post by fiby41 » Wed Oct 12, 2016 11:36 am

FBeyer wrote:I always tell my colleagues about programming: If you aren't stuck on something, you're not working fast enough.(*)


(*) Or just compiling
If you are not breaking things, you are not moving fast enough.

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bryan
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Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

Post by bryan » Wed Oct 12, 2016 3:04 pm

Felipe wrote: I think you dodged a bullet by not doing CS, if it's not in your aptitude, good luck trying to force it and compete with all the enthusiasts who can't wait to binge code all weekend. I'd rather read about FI or hike with friends.
While I can appreciate this sentiment (there are kids with programming skills, enthusiasm that once grown will just completely out-class you in programming ability), it's not the whole story. The freaks are just outliers and otherwise a degree in computing will open up lots of doors, pathways in today's world that don't require you to be a rockstar programmer. As far as enthusiasm goes, of course there should be some component that you enjoy about your career.

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Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

Post by Felipe » Thu Oct 13, 2016 3:08 pm

@ Bryan
I agree that a degree in CS opens many doors. A degree, in general, also opens many doors: officer instead enlisted in military, Americorps, PeaceCorps, easier time getting work/promotions, can be a manager at retail stores.

Maybe I have a biased perspective since I live in SV and know quite a few programmers who really can't seem to satiate their coding urges. These guys can be (definitely not all of them are) socially awkward but I have to sit with some admiration for their talent, I'm happy they're going to work for some of the companies I invest in.

On enthusiasm- I think the exhaustion of studying CS is already starting to wear me down. I enjoy some components but I'm slowly getting more anxiety over school and starting to think it's not worth it. Wanting OP to know that he avoided major headaches if he's anything like me, though I've been told I'm good at math and I still struggle there.

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Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

Post by bryan » Thu Oct 13, 2016 4:39 pm

Felipe wrote: Maybe I have a biased perspective since I live in SV and know quite a few programmers who really can't seem to satiate their coding urges. These guys can be (definitely not all of them are) socially awkward but I have to sit with some admiration for their talent, I'm happy they're going to work for some of the companies I invest in.
One door that I imagine would open in SV with a computing degree is founding a company but being able to more easily find and bring in that "rockstar" technical co-founder. Basically they would trust you and your assessments more than that MBA from Harvard while on the flip-side you being able to more accurately assess that potential partner's skill or value-add.

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Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

Post by fiby41 » Thu Oct 20, 2016 9:20 pm

"Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts"

No.

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Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

Post by Cornerman » Sat Oct 22, 2016 9:48 am

No, just do what you enjoy and find your way.

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Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

Post by black_son_of_gray » Sun Nov 20, 2016 10:52 pm

Interesting breakdown of STEM careers:
http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2015/articl ... nd-yes.htm

Specifically, "STEM" is a heterogeneous group, and some of the constituent careers presently have horrible prospects (e.g. academia), while others have excellent opportunities because there is a shortage (particularly if you are a US citizen looking at defense fields). In this respect, "STEM" is kind of an unfortunate term in that is connotes some sort of cohesion among these widely varying fields... I'm glad I stumbled upon that article, because I have long felt a dissonance when politicians talk up cranking out more STEM grads as a policy like there is some crazy need, whereas I live the academic science nightmare career prospects on a daily basis. Turns out STEM is 'chunky', and also has a lot of sub-field which evolve cyclically in time.

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Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

Post by James_0011 » Sat Nov 26, 2016 4:37 am

I would argue that stem is more "what you are" than "what you do/study"

In highschool when other people were out getting laid or whatever they do, I was in my room reading a chemistry textbook.

It takes a combination of obession and analytical appititude to go into stem.

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Re: Did I fuck up by not majoring in Computer Science? STEM Vs. Liberal Arts

Post by James_0011 » Wed Dec 28, 2016 10:55 am

Starting to feel this way recently about not majoring in engineering. I have the mathematical aptitude, but chose a math major instead which I am beginning to think is pretty useless.

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