I’ve kept this quiet for nearly four years now, and this post has gone through a thousand revisions in my head in that time. But I’ve been keeping something from a lot of people and it is time to ‘fess up.
I’ve been told enough times over my life that I’m a pretty smart guy but the truth is, I don’t have any qualifications past the eight GCSEs I got when I was at school. For a lot of reasons, I never went on to further education, or to University. To be honest, I’d have made a bad student – I was always was one of those who would exasperate the teacher by doing just enough to come near the top of the class despite never really putting the effort in. Not that I was lazy, I would always be reading some book or other, spending time in libraries pouring over encyclopaedias or maps. I was just so bored with sitting there listening to a teacher droning on about stuff that seemed, to my mind, either staggeringly obvious or totally uninteresting. I couldn’t wait to get out into the world and do stuff. So I walked out of high school with eight GCSEs, got a job (via the notorious YTS) which got me a day a week at Burnley College, but I ended up skipping half of the classes due to feeling patronised and quit after less than a year to go full time.
Anyway, fast forward 12 years or so. I’m working, but beginning to notice the need for a degree on job applications. Hmm… don’t have one. Then I become a contractor, self-employed, self-reliant. The degree thing is beginning to be a bit of an itch, if only to prove to myself that I’m capable of it. My other half brings home a BSc Computer Science syllabus from Manchester University – I leaf through it and realise I can do about three quarters of it without breaking sweat. The idea of doing a degree seems attractive, but again, I know I would get about two years into it and get bored.
Fast forward again, to just about four years ago. My other half sends me a link, a company called Laureate Education. They offer Masters degrees through the University of Liverpool and one of them is in IT. It looks interesting and more importantly, challenging. The itch to prove to myself that I’m good enough is getting worse. I’m not going to give up work to do it, but the course is designed for people who are working, in that it is part-time, completely online. I agree to enquire for more information, thinking the lack of A-levels or degree would mean it was unlikely i would be accepted. I have a good chat with Laureate, who agree that the lack of formal qualifications is offset by 15 years of actually doing relevant work, and with the help of my employer (who wrote a supporting letter) I was formally accepted to study for a Master of Science in Information Technology.
The course is split into eight modules, plus a Dissertation. Each class of students could be from anywhere in the world and we would gather online via forums. The tutor would be anywhere in the world as well (in reality, I would usually be the only one from the UK). I would get work on a Thursday, need to answer two Discussion Questions by Sunday, then contribute to the discussions with the other students and complete an assignment by the Wednesday. Repeat for eight weeks, so basically each module was about two hours a day for 56 days straight with no breaks, no rest and no chance to miss deadlines. Intense, especially when all you want to do after working all day is just sit and watch the telly.
Even when I was in Ireland I would be working on this – it helped focus and not worry about my other half back home. It can’t have been much fun, our time together was limited as it was even before I had to spend a lot of it head down in research. I’ve kept it quiet from most people because… well, I kind of figured it would be better than way. Those for whom we had to visit for social stuff, they know because we couldn’t hide it from them. But I’ve had to effectively disappear for long periods of time to get this stuff done. It will also explain why C and I would just head off somewhere, just to get some space and time and not have much of a social life otherwise.
Why am I telling you all this now? Because I need your help. I have to come clean because I am doing a survey for my Dissertation. It is on Social Networking and Privacy. I need people to answer some questions. It will take about 15 minutes of your time. If you have a Facebook or Twitter account, please take the survey. It is anonymous anyway. Also spread the word to friends and colleagues. I really do need as many responses as possible.
I hope to make it and earn an MSc. At least I’ll have given it a shot and learned a lot in the process.
The survey is here at http://bit.ly/mikesmscsurvey.