When I was 20, I didn’t want to jump straight into yet another academic cycle: university.
When I was 27, I enrol into sports science and dropout. And sort of makes a video about it.
When I was 29, I felt like I make a breakthrough in my life as a self-taught developer.
Now that I’m 30, I’m eagerly awaiting the results of my application to a part-time degree and sponsorship. Are there moments when I feel inferior because of my education level? Sometimes. Even when I am freelancing, running my own startup and bringing my own clients and generating income for myself, I feel like part of me is a fraud.
Surprisingly, having a full-time job makes me feel validated and that there is a demand for my skillsets in the market.
Why did I go back to school?
At this point in my life and the huge demand and supply gap in the technology industry in Singapore, having a degree may or may not enable me to find a more fulfiling job. In the community, people have various opinions on whether a degree is necessary for a developer.
Before you get triggered and defensive over your 20–40k student loans, we need to look into the state of the tech industry. Differing from other industry, tech is a very merit-based industry in which our skillset could be to a certain extent be exhibited in various ways. Ways like creating a portfolio, finding an internship, working part-time or freelancing.
Also, there are valuable industry certifications from tech companies like Cisco, Microsoft and Amazon.
Even without a degree and certifications, (I do have an NICF certification on web development but I only put it in my resume and not online profile), there is a good flow of recruiters and headhunters approaching me for developer opportunities. In which, I believe most developers in Singapore with a reasonably complete LinkedIn profile will encounter.
One of the main reasons is that I am planning to travel overseas to work.
I am relatively open to ideas of which country I will like to work in, but for now, I am highly inclined to find an opportunity in China or at least a country in which we have similar cultures.
In my perspective, having a degree on top of my current portfolio does make me competitive as foreign talent. Even though there is a trend that tech companies are more and more incline to hire people base on their skills, we still have to take into consideration the supply and demand in 5 years time.
Suppose say, I am planning to be able to work overseas in 5 years time. Due to the volatility of other industries, as what we have experienced in this time and age with the pandemic, there might be a surge of younger generation studying to work in the tech field. If that is the case, when the supply of tech talents and the average education level of the job seekers increase, despite my experience and skillsets, I might simply fall off the radar. Or even worse, be cut out by the AI algorithm.
Love of learning
Besides that, as cliche as it might sound, I actually love learning, mainly in human behaviour, sports, tech and a little bit of investment. Though, I have a very specific preference in learning. While I could grasp abstract concepts, but I prefer to learn things that I could put my hands on, practice and apply to my life.
When I look at the curriculum at SUSS, almost all of the modules could be beneficial to my career. Even their core subjects, Why Do Good? piqued my interest as I am frequently exploring the concepts of morality. Where self-learning is great (as I get to speed up the video to 1.5x speed and have access to professors from global top universities) but still, there are certain biases on what I will spend my time studying.
Ironing out the practicalities
I’m quite hopeful in terms of what I could achieve with the study and the completion of my degree. I believe, that knowledge and not a piece of paper will assist me to do better in my career, in which, achieving my other life goals.
But there are also some tradeoffs that I have to make with this decision.
The most obvious one being the financial aspect of studying. A student loan of 20k is not considered a lot to a single working adult without dependencies. Yet, it is not a small sum either. Utilising this 20k represents an opportunity cost. Perhaps, the opportunity of less investment made, or less monetary contributions made to the community.
Solution: Sourcing for various sponsorships and scholarships to help offset the course. At the same time, exploring alternative sources of income prior to the start of the curriculum.
Being a full time working adult leaves me with a small window of free time. I foresee coursework, self-study to take a huge chunk of free time. Not to forget about health, I will still hope to be able to hit the gym regularly three times a week.
Solution: Have a schedule and optimise my time to engage in high ROI activities and understand energy management system.
Other curriculum activities
I have plans to start my Youtube channel soon on programming, learning and life in general. But that has to happen only if money and time are on my side. Sometimes I miss being able to fundraise or to organise events for a good cause. Unfortunately, this seems like something I have to give up for now as helping out in events is one of the fastest ways that I burn out.
That’s it. I’m actually looking forward to going back to school at 30. If anyone is taking a similar path as me, will love to have a chat.