Jagged Thoughts | Dr. John Linwood Griffin

August 6, 2012

Why you should consider graduate school

Filed under: Opinions — JLG @ 11:43 PM

Are you interested in graduate school?  Here’s an hour’s worth of reasons you should consider going:

I gave this talk, “Why You Shouldn’t Write Off Higher Education, Young Grasshopper,” at the H.O.P.E. (Hackers On Planet Earth) Number 9 conference in New York City on July 13, 2012.

My abstract was:

This talk is addressed to that kid in the back who’s wearing a Utilikilt and a black t-shirt that says “I Hack Charities,” who asks, “Why would I bother going to grad school? I’m self-taught, college was a waste of my time, and universities only exist to train wage slaves.” John will draw from personal experience to describe how in graduate school:

1. You get to do what you love.
2. You get to make large structured contributions to the community.
3. You experience personal growth while surrounded by amazing people.
4. You’re part of a meritocracy and a close-knit social circle.
5. The door is open for interesting opportunities afterward.

Included will be a discussion on how hackers can get in.

This talk is one of a series of talks I’ve given about the post-secondary experience, especially as it relates to computer engineering and related disciplines:

  • Life after high school.  Since 1994 I’ve annually visited my Dad’s high school mathematics classes in Alabama to talk with his students about what job opportunities, college opportunities, and travel opportunities are available in the years to come.  I’ve also spoken with middle school students in Maryland and elementary school students in Pennsylvania.
  • Why you shouldn’t write off higher education, young grasshopper.  A talk oriented towards hackers but applicable to anyone considering graduate school (masters or doctoral level), especially in a technical field.  First delivered in 2012.
  • Through the looking glass: What’s next after a systems Ph.D.  A talk for doctoral students who are curious about what general opportunities are available in the years to come.  I’ve given this talk at Carnegie Mellon, at Johns Hopkins, and at the University of North Carolina.  First delivered in 2004.  (See also my computer systems Ph.D. job search page.)
  • What’s next after a systems Ph.D.: A six-month retrospective on corporate research.  A surprisingly bitter talk for doctoral students who are curious about jobs in corporate research laboratories (they’re great jobs but are in many ways not what I expected…don’t let this talk convince you not to take a corporate job).  I’ve given this talk at Carnegie Mellon.  First delivered in 2005.

If you are interested in having me talk with your students (or friends, grandnieces, etc.) on any of these (or related) topics, you are very welcome to contact me.  See my contact information on my home page.

Mad props to Brendan for (a) convincing me to submit my name to the H.O.P.E. speaker committee in the first place, (b) rewriting my abstract so it would be interesting to the speaker committee, and (c) helping shape my talk so it would be interesting to the H.O.P.E. attendees.  The talk was well attended, I think I provided some valuable information to some interested folks, and I had a great set of interested folks come up and talk one-on-one with me in the Q&A session after the talk.

Thanks also to the many people who helped me prepare for H.O.P.E. by talking with me about their own perspectives on graduate school, especially Steve Bellovin, Randal Burns, Angelos Keromytis, Fabian Monrose, Drew Morin, Margo Seltzer, Andreas Terzis, and the anonymous students and industry colleagues who shared their experiences and/or plans.  I also benefited greatly from reading Mor Harchol-Balter’s advice on applying to Ph.D. programs in computer science.

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