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So long, and thanks for all the tea - MrPutter: doing things the hard way, because it is there.
May 4th, 2010
10:47 pm
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So long, and thanks for all the tea
Repost of an email I sent to all my Calgary peeps re: leaving school.

So a lot of you already know most of this, but others not so much, and I've been getting a couple of questions, so I figured I'd take the chance to sate some so-called inquring minds.

I have indeed withdrawn from the MSc program at the university, and as of this last Saturday (May 1st), am no longer a student. No, that's not a joke (as some have questioned).

Going in to all the reasons has started growing this email longer than my aborted thesis, so what follows is (at best) a summary. Either way, I'll try to keep it somewhat short. I won't be offended if you skip parts!

extern "TL;DR" {
    To start with, as some of you know, I've had an occasionally... frustrating... relationship with my supervisor. While this has been a factor in how things got to where they are (inasmuch as it's part of the reason I've been around so long), it is absolutely not—in the end—why I decided to leave. Were that the only factor, I would be still slugging it out, and inversely, the prospect of continuing without him (as has been suggested by many) would not at this point convince me to stay.

    I am, perhaps, a bit burnt out, but it's more than that. Succinctly, I'm not at the sort of place in my life right now where getting the degree means a lot to me:

    1. I'm fairly disinterested in continuing in academia – I've worked in the private sector before, and have always, frankly, liked it better than school. I enjoy teaching, of course, but I enjoy a lot of other things as well, and teaching doesn't necessarily sit at the top of my list of priorities. Plus, if there's anything I've learned over the last 4½ years, it's that I'm not cut out to be a researcher!

    2. I also don't really see myself working as a "computer scientist" any more. Programming is, of course, a valuable skill, not to mention being something I enjoy. But I've come to see its applicability (to me) as a tool, and not much more. One of many in my mental toolbox that I can apply to any of various jobs. I realize that's a bit of a provocative statement to make to a bunch of computer scientists! While I'm happy to entertain debates, my intenion here is not to instigate one, but rather, merely to explain why I'd be entirely happy working in a job whose description lies outside this industry.

    3. Math I regard similarly—yet another tool in the aforementioned box—but then, I've always felt that way.

    So in short, the prospect of getting a piece of paper saying that I've reached such-and-such a state of advancement in my studies in the discipline, well, leaves me pretty ambivalent, at best. And I'm similarly cold to the idea of wasting any more of my (or anyone else's) time in pursuit of same. Following the words of some country singer once who said something about knowing when to hold your cards, and when to fold them, I've decided I have better things to do with my life. My list of things to do "once I finish school" is growing mighty long, and I'd like to make a bit of a dent in it before I go to the great defense in the sky.

    I'm actually pretty happy about all of this, really. In fact, I'm happier and less stressed-out than I've been for more moons than I can care to count. And that all has to count for something. I've been paying a lot of attention (as you all know) to my physical health recently, and it's now time to heed my mental health as well. Last time (long before any of you knew me) that I started banging my head against a school that I didn't want to be in, it ended in a pretty bad place, and I don't want to go back there.

    So yeah, I'm totally cool with all of this. And very happy. This has actually been coming for a long (long) time. I've had plenty of weeks and months (!) to come to terms with everything, and have convinced myself that it's the right choice.

    As for my supervisor? I bear him no ill will whatsoever. I have turned everything in my thesis (code and writing) over to him for him to use as he sees fit. Whether that be ignoring it, saddling some other student with it, tinkering with it himself, whatever. The project is a worthwhile one, and I sincerely wish him the best of luck finding someone who can bring it to the fruition it deserves, and he desires. It just so happens that that person won't be me – someone else will have to attach their name to the world-changing replacement of the Von Neumann machine.
} // end extern "TL;DR"

To quickly answer other questions that I have been asked:

No, I'm not going anywhere. I will still be hanging around Calgary for the near-to-medium term future. For the time being I'm continuing to work at the Alberta Wilderness Association, where I do a bunch of things, but focus a lot on one of my other interests, Geographic Information Systems (i.e.: mapping). It's not the most glamorous job in the world, but it gives me a lot of job satisfaction – more than I've ever had anywhere else, really.

I will hopefully see most (insha'Allah, all!) of you again, at one point or another. I hope to continue coming out to the occasional CSGS event if and when I can make it (assuming they don't amend the bylaws to include a clause about burning ex-students at the stake), as well as to the less formal, ad-hoc social events that have made my life so much fun over the last half-dozen years. I may no longer consider myself a Computer-Scientist-with-a-capital-CS, but that doesn't mean I could live without my nerdy in-jokes!

Unfortunately, the reality of a 9-to-5 job means I will no longer be able to attend Tuesday Tea. This is one of my greater regrets, but c'est la vie. (However, don't be too shocked if I manage to find an excuse to leave the office some random Tuesday afternoon, and slip in with a packpack of goodies!)

All the best,
   - Sean

Current Location: T2M 4E6
Current Mood: contentcontent
Current Music: Steve Earle -- (Quicksilver Daydreams of) Maria

(4 comments , Leave a comment)

Date:May 5th, 2010 05:35 am (UTC)

I will still be hanging around Calgary for the near-to-medium term future.

Good luck outside the ivory tower, and I hope to catch you in Cowtown during Stampede again this year!
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Date:May 5th, 2010 06:39 am (UTC)
hurrah, good luck!

Where is the cat picture?
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Date:May 5th, 2010 06:53 am (UTC)
Please to be ignoring my dirty microwave.

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Date:May 5th, 2010 01:30 pm (UTC)
Yay for happy decisions! =D
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