5 Things Better than a Computer Science Degree

A tertiary education is important but some things look even better on a resume

Elye
Elye
May 27, 2019 · 11 min read

Don’t get me wrong — a tertiary education is important, especially if you attend a school that is closely linked with the industry. It usually provides good pointers and sound fundamentals of what computer science is.

However, in the internet-driven world we live in, if you want to start your career as a software developer, your Computer Science degree should not be the most important point in your resume.

So what are the 5 things better than a computer science degree? They are listed below, ordered from easiest to hardest.

Technical Social Media

Who doesn’t like social media? If you’re not into some of these platforms, you might have studied the wrong course.

For the sake of your career, join some technical forums. There are many in Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit, and Slack.

Separate your personal and technical account

In your resume don’t link your private Social Media account, as that is not adding much value, instead add your technical account, where your followers are not your dad, mom, casual friends, but people of technical interest.

Technical account? Is this going to be boring?

Be active…

You’ll be amazed by the different thoughts and ideas that other people come up with. Some idea that you think is perfect might be viewed as totally flawed by other parties, with seemingly solid reasoning. That’s how you learn.

It’s a complimentary tool

What I mean by other aspects are the remaining 4 things that I’ll share with you below…

Scoring on Stackoverflow

We are fortunate these days to have stackoverflow, with so many answers to our programming inquiries. It’s a huge community — search a programming query online and you’ll usually see some StackOverflow links.

When we look at StackOverflow questions and answers, we autoomatically hold users with high scores in high regard.

So in other words, if you had that score, it would look good on your resume. These scores are not merely approved by a single institution, but by a whole community acknowledging the quality of their questions and answers.

A little by little

It is very important that your question is clear and easily understood. If it needs a diagram to illustrate, draw it; if it you need to show code, share the git repo.

Most importantly, narrow down the problem to the specific area of confusion you have. Don’t dump your whole project code up there and expect the reader to understand it. You might be surprised to find that while narrowing down the issue, you have found the solution (e.g. a silly mistake somewhere).

A clear and succinct question will usually get a response, especially in a field where there is lots of interest. Even if no one responds to it, that’s fine — don’t give up. Do your own research and you might find the answer. If you do, answer your own question — some day someone out there will benefit from it.

In other words, don’t hesitate to post your question, even while you’re searching elsewhere for the answer. Even if you find a solution somewhere else, you might be given a better answer on Stackoverflow.

Be generous in your voting

Try to find one best answer to uptick, instead of leaving it in a limbo, where no one knows what’s your preference answer. Besides, you’ll get 2 points for uptick an answer.

Of course if there’s no best answer to your question despite multiple one out there, then don’t just uptick for the sake of getting the 2 points. Be truthful to yourselves. The 2 points is not worth trading with your integrity.

Similarly, up vote good questions. Help build a good community that appreciates others contributions and you will get your fair share.

It builds overtime

It is also a good place to document hard problems you found and their solutions. Many times I have gone to a StackOverflow post I made in order to extract the solution of an issue I have forgotten.

It is not hard…

It is still relatively easy and yet rewarding. Check out the below post for more

Blogging on technical topics

Learning and recording what we learned is a good habit to get into, especially when we discover things that we didn’t find documented anywhere else. Sometimes we learn something from a tutorial and development document, but it took a while to digest them, so we add some highlights and side notes to make it more understandable.

Why not share these learning experience with others? Make other people’s learning experiences easier. Blog for the good of everyone!

About 3 years ago, I joined a consultant firm, and was encouraged to blog. From then on I started blogging — it has become part of me now.

What’s in it for me?

  1. I notice learning gaps in the topics I blog about, so I go and learn them.
  2. Many times I forgot what I have learned. Sometimes I go back to what I blogged and remember it again.
  3. Sometimes I received feedback on my blogs on a misunderstanding I have on a topic, or some missing information. I learn from my readers!
  4. I often received thanks and appreciation that my blog has helped readers. This is very fulfilling!
  5. A few of my blogs have been translated to other languages. To see people refer to them made me feel my time spent writing and contributing to the community was worthwhile.

What to blog

I still use the same approach today, where I’m grateful to have about 140k viewers a month. Many thanks to my viewers, as that encourages me to contribute!

This is the most feasible thing to do..

  1. Each blog took on average a few hours of effort
  2. After it is written, it’s maintenance is almost zero, unless someone comments for correction

This is where my limit is. I did try the next two suggestions, but only in a limited way.

If you think you could do better than me, read on!

Create an open source library

Coding as an intellectual property is now history. The new trends these days are around open source. Collaboration and work across different geographical location is the way moving forward.

Why not jump on the bandwagon and be part of the open source community? Start by contributing to some other peoples open source. One day you’ll notice something you need (and possible other people need) that is not readily available out there. Then create your own open source and share it to all.

A product at a smaller scale

Compared to building actual products, open source cost is relatively smaller. If your open source becomes popular, you’ll get other contributors wanting to add in features to it, they will make a Pull Request. Your job is to review the Pull Request (PR) and decide whether to approve it.

I have an open source which I created 3 years ago. Since then I haven’t updated it much. Yet it still gets updated, even to the latest Android X version, without me doing anything. I just need to review, test it, and re-upload.

Focus on technical learning

All these are technical inputs and discussion. The focus is on the technical side. You will get less input on marketing, product and usability concern.

If there’s some usability lacking in your open source, contributors will add it themselves — you don’t even need to worry about it.

Some real cases

Among Android developers, everyone knows Jake Wharton. He started off with open source and now his work is known by almost all serious Android developers. He now works for Google.

It’s not that simple

The likelihood of creating an open source that will be adopted by many is not high. To create each open source takes time, effort, thought, and coding architecture considerations. To review PR, test and upload take time as well.

I don’t think just anyone could create a lot of popular open source. There aren’t many people as talented as Jake Wharton!

If this doesn’t challenge you, and you think you could stretch even further, and want to do something more real life and related to everyone, check out the next possibility.

Build a real software product

In the 70s, engineering was the hot course many wanted to study. However, these fields could hardly teach you produce something useful on your own. Even if you could produce it, you would then have to to market it to everyone or no one would know your product.

Fast forward to today. Creating a Webpage or an App on your own is so much simpler. Marketing it to the whole wide world on your own might not be easy, but to have it reach 10,000 users is not an impossible feat anymore.

So having an actual product (not just a school or uni assignment), publicly available with good user feedback, on your resume has a great deal of value.

A holistic experience of learning

Besides technical learning, you’ll also gain valuable insights into marketing your product. Suddenly you realize that every single nuance of design is important and that your work flow can make or break your design. It’s not just the technical aspects of it — to make it better, you have to know your user behavior, and which features work and which don’t. Analytics is another topic you’ll get into. You will gain such valuable experiences!

Then you realize you can no longer do a great job as just a single person. Nevertheless, you’ve done at least one to know what is it to put a product out there.

A real case

As everyone knows, the founders of Google, Microsoft, Facebook and others started building their products while pursuing their degree and they have not looked back since.

It’s difficult… but

More time and investment will be needed over time. As technology changes, you’ll need to update your product. If you’ve already ended up with a full time job, perhaps have got married and had children, maintaining your personal product on a regular basis would be a challenge.

Well, that’s my excuse! Look at Bill Gates, Steve Job, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Sergey Brin — if they can do it, why not you? You might be the next one!


Recap

  1. Technical Social Media
  2. Scoring on StackOverflow
  3. Blogging on technical topics
  4. Create an open source library
  5. Build a real software product

In term of the effort and impact (if effort done properly), I present this chart:

These things, if done right, could weight more than your Computer Science Degree. So don’t wait till you finish your education!

Life learning is a journey, it’s reflects you better than just your degree.

Better Programming

Advice for programmers.

Elye

Written by

Elye

Passionate in learning and sharing mobile development and its adjacent technology. If you like to buy me a coffee visit https://ko-fi.com/elyeproj. Thanks!

Better Programming

Advice for programmers.

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