Dec 6, 2007

Why I didn't study Computer Science further ??

I keep getting this question again & again from various quarters..professors, friends, relatives, acquaintances .. when they hear that I'm studying management.. Recently a lady whom I knew during Pre-degree popped the same question "Why I didnt study Computer science/Technical Stream further ? " .. The reasons are a lot.. I'm describing it in a nutshell below. These views/experiences are extremely personal and if it offends anyone studying technical stream/ Computer science, sorry for that...

1) A good portion of research in Computer Science happens in areas which does not have the potential to do any immediate benefit to human beings..I mean, algorithms, theory of computation, graph theory etc..Even if you theoretically establish something new, it may take generations for it to be of any good use to an average human being... And I'm not that innovative or extra-ordinarily talented to something really path-breaking ...

2) A good amount of thesis work in Computer Science happens by improving complexities of existing algorithms.. And that too at an extremely low level of performance improvement.. I didnt find those attractive..

3) There is something called Chaos Theory in physics.. It deals with things like "how a bird's wing-flapping in Philippines would cause a hurricane in Argentina" and stuff like that..I strangely felt studying advanced theoretical computer science was somewhat like that..Studying things that are of abysmally low use to general public..

4) Most of my studies in B-tech were focussed on how to get a job rather than how to appreciate the subject ( Not the fault of anyone else ..but personal reasons.. ) . I regret having had that attitude during those days.

5) I did attempt getting serious into studies , reading a lot on subjects , reading tech-journals etc from 2nd yr end and 3rd yr in engineering..partly to push up the grades to make me eligible for placement, partly to forget a personal problem.. Those were the days when placements where not expected to be that good ..Hence, I did put in lot of effort during those days..Got placed in Oracle somehow.. ( thats again a weird story ..would publish that later ) .. After that I decided to do a system-level B-tech Project to revive my passion in CS.. But exactly opposite of that happened.. The project report ( linked) might seem impressive..But I've to admit, this is perhaps the most fraud-project that I've ever done.. It does not mean that we didn't put in effort..we did..but we learned that it is extremely difficult to make hardware listen to what you have coded...This was the final nail in the coffin of CS :-) .. Strangely , this B-tech project turned out to be extremely popular.. After I passed out , I've got atleast about 3 / 4 phone calls or mails from students of different colleges in Kerala and NITC , who got 'inspired' by reading that report and wanted to do something like that ( I'm not bluffing here ..but I really find it intriguing about what is so inspirational in that report :-) )

6) Perhaps the only technical subject that I was really interested in my B-tech days was 'Digital Signal Processing' ..This I studied in third year as an elective..And this was the paper in which I got the maximum marks in my entire B-tech life .. 49/50 in sessionals and 92 /100 in finals .. Murali Sir took that and his style of teaching was extremely impressive.. Strangely the interest towards this died down very quickly in final yr..I don't know why..but it happened...Maybe I feel, if I had done my final yr project in something related to software aspects of DSP, story might have been a bit different..

7) I started to read a lot of general things starting in final year.. This somehow cultivated an interest towards management.. This I'll admit anyday, the fat-salaries in investment banking and all were never a determining factor..I'm not suited for that life.. Rather it was a desire to do something different..something useful to the society..People may argue what real help does MBA graduates do to the nation & society other than inflating the foreign exchange reserves.. But there are exceptions.. There are people who really do useful things after MBA . And management education , be it in any form , equips you really well for that..Its a different matter whether you really do something or not.. But it definitely prepares you. These 'realizations' ( some friends call it fallacies ) somehow fueled my desire to do a management degree..

8) Professional factors.. I definitely see lot of scope in ERP sector if you have work exp in that & have an MBA degree.. More than MS, MBA makes sense here.

-- Thats all I can recollect..I think I've covered most.



Unknown said...

..... and the computer science world lost a brilliant brain :)

Serendipity said...

'Digital Signal Processing' aka the degree stopping paper :) great that u enjoyed it so much. yeah true it is kinda fun.

true it is very difficult to make hardware dance to the tunes of s/w.

nice list of reasons :)

Deepak said...

Dude... If you wanted to do a "direct" service to public, you shouldn't have taken up engineering in the first place. Or you should have taken something like Biomedical Engineering.

I treat your point 7 with a slight apprehension for now, because most of the people who pursued management were after the fat paychecks. (It is like the saying "Nadodumbo naduve oduka")
It is funny that quite a lot of people ask me why I'm not writing CAT. It has become a default route for any BE/BTech holder.

Ajith Prasad Balakrishnan said...

@vinay -- he he :)..Or rather, computer science world got a big relief :)

@serendipity -- We wanted to make hardware dance, but could barely make it walk :D

@deepak -- No da..At PDC stage, its quite tough for a guy to decide on what he wants in life.. Engineering was essentially a fight for a decent earning job for me..

About fat paychecks , NO.. thats not the motive atleast in my case..I need a decent financial status..that I have..After that its like profile, self actualization etc..Try googling for Maslow's hierarchy :) ..

Rinchen said...

Here's a completely non-technical reason: I am so used to earning a decent figure every month that I cannot think of going back to being a pauper student again.

Also, I think now I am too old to actually remember enough to pass an exam, given my current memory status. (If I dont die of Alzhimer's first) :P

Narayanan K said...

Nice post Ajith, fires me to put some personal comments here.

One thing which I keep on telling myself and others is that higher education in engineering(MS/M Tech/ME) makes sense only if you are either
1. Going for research. Here you have pointed out that research in computer science does not serve to make direct impact on society. I take my courage to object. I am not an expert in computer science field but I feel you have this impression because you have not done enough research on this. In most of the industries, the part of management comes only after engineering. Engineers have to do their part first and then managers need to manage the work done by them suitably.(I admit this is debatable. But I personally respect engineering more than business/management) ANy industrial revolution that you may see in the future(like we saw the Internet revolution in 90s) will need proper research today. It never ends. Also, if you are an academic sort of person, I have heard from many people that to do post graduation is American schools is quite an experience. Why to go for American schools, a friend who is doing ME in IISC on Communication has commented the same.

2. To go for teaching :- Which I personally, like most others, feel is the noblest profession. One reason for this is the interest of getting connected to Academics and students all through your life. And the second reason is my passion towards education. I value education more than anything else. I dream once of being an educationalist through which you give something back to society and at the same time the job is intellectually stimulating.

Again I have used this space here to chart my personal comments. :-)
Thanks Ajith for that!

Anonymous said...

someone please do a


on the report 'n i guess u'll get the original :)

Ajith Prasad Balakrishnan said...

@rinchen -- he he..Yeah, that reluctance is always there :)

@naru -- Well, true to a certain extent..Management comes after technology..But management education is not just about managing an industry..It has got lots of diverse options like entrepreneurship, national economic policies,strategies etc..Comparing mgmt to engineering is like comparing oranges to apples.. Both have its own benefits..U cannot really say one is superior than the other..

And yeah, there is a teacher's profession in management stream too :)

@sanjiv -- sshh ..secrets :D .

Ninja said...

excellent post.
one that almost follows my thought process and my reasons of being here (@ xl)!

But i disagree on the uses of software for the greater public.

Its not that we can't use it to do something that can be used on a large basis in the real world... but thats where our creativity and entrepreneurship comes into practice. But we don't even thing of that as an option at engg level, not in our college.

Ninja :)

Ajith Prasad Balakrishnan said...

@ninja -- I'm not saying software does not have any use to general public.. I'm saying an advancement in computer science research would take generations to be of benefit to a normal human being..

-- Its true, college needs to change its way from being a placement agency into a bit more of entrepreneurial & social entity.

Paro said...

well, should say that was definitely a good read... no idea as to comment on the debate abt research probabilities in the field of computer science, but i definitely agree with your idea about management and its further realms of work. N i totally empathize with your wanting to do something well for the society.:) n talking abt is a good subject, but like any should be taken by the best of teachers .. have heard a lot about murali sir from compscis (if u were talking abt murali sir from cse dept)...nyways a great post :)

Ajith Prasad Balakrishnan said...

@paro -- Thank you :) ..Yep..Its Murali Sir from CSE.

Anonymous said...

A great post which has solved quite a few doubts regarding the decision between MBA and MS/Mtech.
DSP is not offered as an elective right not to us comp scis though heard a lot about it from my tronix friends.
During my search to find a good topic for my mini project I happened to read your mini project report done under Pathari sir i believe which is there in our athena server and reading it gave me the impression that it was a great project..afterall under the guidance of our dear Pathari sir.

Ajith Prasad Balakrishnan said...

@anna -- No comments about quality of 'mini-project' :D ..All I can say is that it was less fraud :) .. ( Aren't u referring to a thing called 'Voice controlled Window Systems ? )

Anonymous said...

true it is very difficult to make hardware dance to the tunes of s/w.

Yet,there are other areas of computer science that is useful to our immediate society esp areas of software development which help to ease business processes in work places today.