Monday, November 22, 2010

My Education

I was doing up my CV in the weekend. Looking at the approach I had proposed in the post "Being Interesting".

Anyway, it turns out, I'm not educated. My section on education looks really pathetic. I'm not qualified. I have a few tertiary papers that I passed (a couple of those being high school equivalents) but none of it adds up to a qualification.

But does that really mean I'm not educated? I'd like to think I'm very well educated.

I'm fairly studious though have problems when I'm not that interested. I've got a fairly good reputation for my Linux knowledge. Before I got into Linux, I was fairly well regarded for my programming abilities (in an informal setting at least). I have a blog which, even when I'm talking about objectifying, I'm talking about the skewing of statistics based upon certain attributes. At times in the workplace I've been pushed to take more control and authority over situations that I wouldn't have thought myself ideal - things like business processes and the like. I read - admittedly probably more fiction than non-fiction - but I still read. I'm opinionated and I would like to think that I can back up those opinions with something verging on justifications.

Do I object to education? Of course not. I've been working to get into the education sector. First with POINTS (Promoters of Open INformation and Technology in Schools) and then with OLPC and Manaiakalani. I wouldn't spend quite so much time reading if it wasn't for my love of education.

So what went wrong? I went to tech. I didn't finish anything. I got bored. Bored bored bored. I wasn't challenged or the papers failed to engage me. My age played a factor in this I'm sure. I hadn't had the experience to realise the applications of those business papers I so disliked (though really... what is "business context" meant to mean?!?). I was treated as my age.

So would I go back? Hell no. I can just imagine my frustration at doing some computer course only to find myself not challenged again. Would I stick to it? Just for something to put on my CV? Not likely.

Yes. I'm being a little bit of a drama queen. What I'm really alluding to here is the fact that there seems to be a serious flaw with the way we think about education. Does it all have to be formalised? Is education a goal unto itself or is the goal the piece of paper that says "according to our probably flawed tests, this person has passed". It doesn't say anything about competency in most cases. It says nothing of attitude. Perhaps a little something about aptitude.

[Quick edit]
I was questioned today about the claim that perhaps I had put things around the wrong way. A qualification may tell you something about attitude rather than aptitude. I stand by what I wrote originally. The reason being, I don't really think it says all that much about attitude really. Because of this attitude to qualifications and formalised learning, we may be pressured into gaining a qualification or we may be coasting or we really do see a qualification as something valuable. The ability to stick to something that is quite potentially boring and probably hasn't challenged you or pushed you says to me that either you were challenged and pushed and thus didn't face that boredom, thus you have a low aptitude, or you're quite willing to coast along and just do what you need to do to get something for your CV thus you're never really going to reach your full potential and thus have an artificially lowered aptitude. Sorry to all those out there with qualifications who are offended by this. You can be fairly certain that I am just over compensating for my lack of qualifications by implying that a qualification may actually be a negative thing.

A friend of mine quite often says "We're all learners". He works with primary school children so letting the kids know that we're learning too is generally a good thing to do. You go to university or tech and you start learning. And then a few years later, it's declared that you've learnt and you get your piece of paper. Is that it? Do you stop learning? Do you stop getting an education?

This has all the hallmarks of a trip to me (and no, I don't mean drugs). It's the journey, not the destination that's important. So why do we place so much emphasis on the destination?

So the question still remains: What do I write in my CV under education? A single word seems almost right to me. "Yes."


  1. Haha, excellent. How about QBE?

    I started programming around the age of seven, on a Commodore 64. I did not enjoy school, mostly because I had to study things that did not seem useful to me, so the last thing I wanted to do when I got out was to go to University. After much prodding from my folks I registered at a correspondence University but towards the end of the year I got a programming job and did not take my studies much further.

    I was useful as a programmer before university because by then I had been programming for 12 or so years, and at my first job I was frequently helping people twice my age with their code.

    Even when I did 7 years as a Systems Admin, I kept programming in VB, C++, Perl and Ruby and now I can confidently say I've been programming for 27 years - yet the last time I was looking for a job, most companies refused to interview me because I had no degree. Seriously, people with two or three years of experience and a degree were considered and I was not.

    Coming to New Zealand, I am not allowed a work permit until I am offered a job because I have no degree.

    Now this annoys me a lot, but what makes it even worse is that I have interviewed and (unfortunately) hired people who do have degrees and multiple academic awards. Who could not program to save their lives. They could really not contribute a single useful thing to the company. That's the part that really makes me want to cry!

  2. QBE? Qualification Based Education? That doesn't seem quite so right. Definitely need a definition here.

    Yeah I've been in the same scenario. I've worked with people with some of THE most impressive CV's. They've got papers out of their ears. All this really means is that they've learnt how to pass papers.

    I guess a more probing and interesting question would be, how do you regard education? Are the papers all that important to you?

    A better employee in my view would be one that realises they haven't reached an end point. There's still more to learn. The day they stop learning is the day they stop being of value. And really, what do we strive for? We don't work for money - we may do but that's a completely unsatisfying life. Instead, being valued is where it's at.

    That's why I have an objection to the way that pay raises seem to occur - "This is the standard pay rise - here you go" as opposed to "We really appreciate the work you're doing for us, and we're offering you a raise based on your merit and value to us."

    So for anyone interviewing, I challenge you to ignore the section on education. Sure, it'd be nice if they had at least a little bit of background, but chances are, they're sending you their CV because they can see themselves taking the role (ahh... yet another post in there about job advertisements). So what's really important is attitude. How are you going to approach a job? If you feel out of your depth, how are you going to handle the situation? Do they form constructive or destructive relationships? Do they put their cup in the dish washer? Do they balk at the idea of going outside of their job description?

  3. QBE: Qualified By Experience!

  4. QBE: sounds great ! now if only we could get that recognised in a CV would be great.

    Ive been at this new job for jsut over a year now. Ive had two raises in the last two one. One unofficial as recognition of my work, and one officially recognised on the payscale for the same reason. Recognition of my work. I feel very appreciated for that even tho i never asked for it. I enjoyed what i do. On saying that, half the people i work with never got a pay raise. Even those in my 'responsible' roles than mine, and my job is technically at the bottom of the heap !

    I got the required 'qualifications' the other day for the roles above mine and majority of the questions and modules, were complete rubbish. Had nothing to do with the role at all.

    Remind me to send you my CV Nevyn. Should make interesting reading as i never got any qualifications while doing them.

  5. I would love to have a look at your CV.

    I'm going to do a post on the pay rises thing again and appreciation (in fact, it's a new month! I can do it now!).

    Right... I shouldn't be responding to this. Oh and QBE - it doesn't really roll off the tongue does it? I mean, in terms of creating division by using jargon which others aren't going to know, QBE is a pretty good one.

    I have to do a post on a concept that was explained a bit more fully to me today - speaking for success. So many posts to do, and a silly limit I've placed on myself so that I actually get some work done. *moan*