Some thoughts on university versus learning online for data science

Zac emailed me asking a question.

Keep on working and keep looking for new opportunities in the field…
OR 
Go back to uni and finish the last 18 months of my degree.

He just finished an internship and has about 18-months left at university before he finishes his computer science degree.

It’s a tough choice.

I sat and thought about it for a while. Then replied to the email with some unedited thoughts.

And I’m sharing them here, also unedited. Bear in mind, I’ve never been to university to study computer science.

Zac,

Here’s how I see it, I’m gonna write a few thoughts out loud.

Where do you want to be/see yourself in 3-5 years? 

It sounds like you’re pretty switched on to where your skillset lies (aka, teaching yourself, working on things which interest you).

Might be worth having a think about which one better suits the ideal version of you in 3-5 years.

Does that ideal version of you require a university degree? Or could that version of you get by without one?

Which one is the most uncomfortable in the short term?

I’m very long term focused (I have to remind myself of this every day). So whenever I come up to a hard decision, I ask myself, ‘Which one is hardest in the short term?’

I treat short term as anything under 2-3 years (the starting era of the ideal version of yourself).

18-months isn’t really the longest time

How much of a rush are you in?

Could you stick out the 18-months, share your work online through an online portfolio, upskill yourself through various other courses (and jump ahead of others) and come out with a degree AND some extra skills.

Get after it

This is countering the above point.

If you think you have the balls to chase after it (sounds like you already do), why do you need university to be a gatekeeper?

Sure, not having an official degree may shut you off from some companies, but to me, a piece a paper never really meant much. Especially when the best quality materials in world are available online.

I have a colleague doing a data science masters at UQ and he said he has learned way more since working with Max Kelsen than at university.

Put it this way, I was driving Uber this time last year. But I followed through with my curriculum, shared my work online and got found by an awesome company.

Share your work

Whichever path you choose, I can’t emphasis this enough. Make sure people can find you online.

If you’re not going to get a degree. Be the person who’s name comes up on others LinkedIn feeds for data science posts. Have some good Medium articles, share what you’ve been doing.

It’ll feel weird in the start. Trust me. But then you’ll realise the potential of it.

All of sudden, you can become an expert in your field by being the one to communicate the skills you’re learning.

How did I do?

What would you do in Zac’s situation? Learn online and look for more work experience? Or stick out the 18-months of computer science?