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Giedrius

A choice between studying and working

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I am currently 18 years old, I have recently finished the school and it is time to go to study in a university. I learned programming on my own, while I was still in school. I programmed a
">game engine on my freetime, though it is not quite finished yet. A lot of my friends suggested to send the demo of it to some local game development company, and so I did. I only sent it to one company, because there is only one local gamedev company which seems to have achieved something. Not long after I was invited for an interview, and after another week, they called me, and said they want to hire me as a programmer. I'm not sure if I will be able to study well and work at the company at the same time. Of course I will try to do both in the beginning, but if I don't succeed in it, I will probably have to choose one. What I actually think is that I should stick with the job, because: 1. That way I will learn more than in the university. I base this on the things my friends who are studying there told me. It seems that I already know as much as they do after studying for a few years, so I got an impression that the courses offered aren't any good. Furthermore, I was given a C++ test in the interview which I have done pretty well. Afterwards, they told me that some people who have finished studying Bachelors and Masters degrees in the same university that I will study in (which is considered the best in my country) fail the test. So when hiring they aren't looking at how and where the person studied, but rather at what he is able to do. 2. I will gain job experience and console programming experience which seems to be a valuable thing when looking for a job. What is your opinion on this? Do other game companies also look more into what the person is able to do, rather than where he had studied?

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Experience and skills within the game development industry always beats a degree. A degree could be great to carry around generally, but you can always study later when you don't feel like working anymore, or something.

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Congrats on your achievement. That's pretty cool to have pulled off so much at such a young age.

Disclaimer: I don't actually work in games. I do work in software though.

I'm assuming that you're comparing working vs. a computer science degree at your university. It shouldn't come as any surprise that university grads in computer science fail tough c++ tests. Computer science is as much about programming and computers as astronomy is about telescopes. C++ is a tool sometimes used in computer science and sometimes not. University isn't about job training-- that's what tech schools are for. And it's perfectly fine to say that a university education isn't for everyone. It doesn't mean anyone is smarter or dumber than anyone else. That just isn't the path for some people.

That being said, I am a university graduate, and I personally think that is a better choice. Putting the more well-rounded education one gets at a university aside and focusing specifically on the computer science degree, I believe the theoretical stuff I learned behind programming has been a big help. Learning the mathematics behind algorithm complexity or the low-level architecture of modern computers (i.e. understanding how many operations a computer has to perform to execute x= x + 1) aid my programming. It helps when something goes wrong.

That being said, the theoretical is meaningless if you can't actually do something. It also a lot harder to go back to school later in life than early-- you sort of get used to a real income. :) If you could swing part time work while attending Uni, that would help a ton, and I personally think the combination of your already awesome technical abilities plus good theoretical background knowledge would make you a great candidate that no sane place would want to turn down in the future.

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Certainly your work is impressive and, by what you say, your knowledge of C++ is up to the task.

What you may want to ask yourself is, "do I really know the fundamentals?" Things like algorithm analysis, computer architecture, etc... Those are the types of things that may have been glossed over in your working towards a game engine, and are also sometimes difficult to study (or motivate yourself to study) at home. They're the type of things that make you a computer scientist, rather than just a programmer, and which make you a better programmer as a result.

From the sounds of things, you probably won't come out much more knowledgeable about C++, for instance, but you could very well come out as a better, more rounded programmer.

Evaluate yourself honestly, and see if you believe that this university will give you something that is worth the investment, and that it would be difficult for you to learn on your own.

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Thank you for your replies.

I have read a lot of books on programming, software engineering and design, computer architecture, etc... And the latest events in my life makes me want to read and learn a lot more. C++ certainly isn't the only one language I can program in.

One more thing against chosing the university, most of the professors and lecturers are pretty old and they teach using very conservative and old methodology.

Can good books replace what the courses at university could give me? After taking a peek at the literature list that will be used in the university, it seems that I have already read some of them.

[Edited by - Giedrius on July 31, 2008 3:10:12 PM]

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Quote:
Original post by Giedrius
I'm not sure if I will be able to study well and work at the company at the same time.

I am sure that you will not be able to do both. I recommend you study now. Do the work later.

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I say give working a shot if you are sick of school for a while.
Just don't wait too long since not many people have the will nor inclination to finish their college studies later in life. Also, it's kinda hard to go back and sit in on a lecture for a programming class later when you have more knowledge of the language than the person teaching the course! In that case you can save yourself time and grief by challenging the course as I have. Most schools should let you do that. You pay a fee and it's up to the instructor to test your knowledge via a written or oral test. That way you can finish your degree faster than normal.

But as has already been stated most college's aren't designed to turn you into a kickass C++ or other language programmer right out of shool, unless you attend a trade college like a game university.
Their main accomplishment is exposing you to a wide areas of knowledge i.e. art,music,biology,physics,etc that you most likely would never bother with on your own and ultimately give you the ability to learn on your own.
It's kinda like the proverb of teaching a man to fish and he can survive on his own.
Then again if you are intelligent in the first place and can pick up a book on your own and learn C++ as you obviously have then there is less of a reason to attend college other than having a piece of paper that pretty much vouches for you that you are not a complete idiot(although there are always those like George Bush that still slip through the cracks)!
Acutally, nowadays you can pretty much access the same courses ,lectures,exams,problem,etc online that some of the top Computer Science schools in the US offer like Berkeley and MIT to see if you are missing any gaps in your computer science knowledge. Only difference is that in the end you won't have a piece of paper vouching for your mastery of the material. Also, you will miss out on all the social aspects associated with being in college and surrounded by other college students.

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If you are looking to work for the government at least in the US it's pretty much mandatory to have a piece of paper saying you have a degree to prove your competence(proof enough for the government I guess) whereas, if you are planning on working for Google or Microsoft it isn't mandatory as long as you know your stuff and can prove it so you might want to take this into account if you plan on switching career's later?

[Edited by - daviangel on August 1, 2008 3:33:28 PM]

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As Mr. Sloper said, I'd stick with education. You can always find a part-time job on, or near campus, dealing with computers, especially if you can get in with your school's tech department. Two birds with one stone and it shouldn't be overwhelming.

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Since you just got the job, ask if they will be flexible and let you go to school at the same time. Working part time for a few years and getting the degree is a great option.

Otherwise...
Quote:
Original post by Giedrius
What I actually think is that I should stick with the job, because:

1. That way I will learn more than in the university ...
Nope.

University classes will require you to study concepts you won't encounter in your job, and to a depth far beyond that required for work. But everything you will learn for work now will still eventually be learned later on in your career.
Quote:
... I base this on the things my friends who are studying there told me. It seems that I already know as much as they do after studying for a few years, so I got an impression that the courses offered aren't any good.

I doubt that at age 18 you are able to make this comparison accurately.

Know that it is difficult to find the extent of a person's knowledge unless you have more knowledge or experience. This is true for all areas of knowledge. If you don't know what to query, you can't tell what to ask about.

Additionally, if the other students know what you know now, that means you can greatly extend your own knowledge. Talk to your department's adviser and tell them that you are already a working programmer, and want to try to test out of the first year classes. They might accept CLEP test results, or the department head or college dean could grant credit for a class from acing a comprehensive final.

School offers many more experiences than "just" learning about programming, and more than just the field of computer science. You will gain countless life experiences that are unique for everybody. Additionally, most students learn about how to learn, and learn how to identify and to challenge your own preconceptions.

Quote:
Furthermore, I was given a C++ test in the interview which I have done pretty well.
Do you wish to be a code grunt at age 60?

While you are able to get the job, your career options will be severely limited. Lacking a degree will make it very hard to transfer to another company, and limit your promotions within any major company.

How much money do you wish to earn? A degree will boost your salary by a third or so in the coming years, in addition to growing the career ladder to more lucrative positions.
Quote:
Afterwards, they told me that some people who have finished studying Bachelors and Masters degrees in the same university that I will study in (which is considered the best in my country) fail the test.
This really shows more about the ability (or inability) of their test to evaluate skills as a developer.
Quote:
So when hiring they aren't looking at how and where the person studied, but rather at what he is able to do.
Yes, that is one of the two questions about candidates: Can they do the job well, and will they fit in.

Quote:
2. I will gain job experience and console programming experience which seems to be a valuable thing when looking for a job.
Wait a sec. You want to get this job in order to help you look for a job?

I suggest you think about why this is an important motive.
Quote:
What is your opinion on this? Do other game companies also look more into what the person is able to do, rather than where he had studied?

As mentioned, there are two main questions: Can the candidate do the job well? Will they fit in?

Both your education and your experience are answers to the questions.


You should talk to the potential employer and ask if they are willing to work with you as you go to school, rather than getting on full time. If possible, try to get classes in the morning and work in the afternoon.

I'm one of many people who took morning classes from 7:00 to 11:00 am and then went to work into the evening. I did a similar schedule for two years; it's a hard schedule but gives you both the education and work experience.

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Thank you all for your replies.

After reading frob's reply, I decided to give working and studying a shot, and if I don't do well, I'll choose studying.

Thanks again.

By the way, that C++ test really wasn't anything incredibly hard, pretty basic stuff. So it may actually show that the graduates who applied for the job were pretty bad ones, or simply didn't know C++ language well.

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