Mandriva or Vista?/ Corporate job + school or startup?

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I have a friend who is a 21 year old ASP.NET/C# developer. He's
passionate about his trade and engulfs his life around Windows
applications. But every week, he switches between Mandriva and Vista
back and forth like an on-going ping pong match. He's constantly
intrigued by the other side. Yet he swears by Windows, since
it モprovides his careerヤ and persistently goes back to it each time.
He has 5 worthy ideas he wants to pursue using the C# or Ruby on
Rails. Yet we can't get them off the launching pad, since we are
constantly on the debate of which method is better.

I'm a non-computer interest type person. I don't care either way in
the slightest. But for 2 years we have been going back and forth
depending on which os has the latest upgrade. And I am at wits end.

And Iメm not sure if you'll even care to respond with input to my
eventual question.

Should a 21 yr old software developer who makes 70,000 a year focus
on a startup and a few ideas, or try to move up the corporate
ladder? Does he need to pursue school? He is a self taught C#
fanatic but swears school doesn't teach, "How to get things done."
Do most corporate upheaval programs require an education?

If school is the way to stabilize his mind, is it really worth it
since he feels the bureaucracy of getting into classes is equivalent
to a visit to D.M.V.s office.



-- Loreal Anderson, November 20, 2006


Most programmers have very unprofitable ideas about what to build, e.g., they'd rather build a new compiler than something for an insurance company. Your friend sounds as though he is worse than average, spending a lot of time thinking about tools (which the customer can't see and doesn't care about) instead of the application (what the customer would be willing to pay for). He probably shouldn't work for himself. He would do better partnering with someone who is going to figure out what the customers need and want.

The average university isn't going to teach an expert software developer anything useful about software engineering. Therefore, from a career point of view he is probably best off getting an over-the-Internet bachelor's from University of Phoenix (or similar), just to have a college degree on his resume. Computer science theory is worth studying (certainly more useful in the long run than Ruby on Rails or ASP.NET knowledge), but he could probably take individual classes, e.g., Algorithms, at extension schools.

-- Philip Greenspun, December 25, 2006

Phil's advice is pretty typical and is mostly true. However, I've seen that the people who most diss formal education themselves have a good bit of it. For instance, I work with 4 engineers who have masters degrees or "better" and all of them think they would have been just as good with a high school diploma....I'm sure there are extreme examples on both sides but I personally have yet to come across a successful (i.e. financially and otherwise, notice I did not say something like brilliant) software engineer who never went to college!

Also, give business people some credit (yes, I know most of them are incredibly, incredibly stupid)...they'll see through useless internet degrees.

-- GoodA dvice, January 1, 2007