Sunday, March 13, 2005

Friends offering me jobs...

So an older (by a year) friend of mine called me today to deliver me some news. The news was exciting, but it has nothing to do with this post. However, after the news, we started talking about how things were going. You see, after he got his MS, he took a job at MIT Lincoln Labs working on guidance systems for some missle defense systems. Plenty of his job is hush hush (a lot of product specifics), but plenty of his job isn't hush hush too.

Anyway, he mentioned that some summer if I was looking for an internship, he might have some positions available to do some controls-type work, specifically in the area of Kalman filtering (advanced linear estimators in state space). He said that it's a nice environment... really a good mix of academia (people publish there and work on state of the art research) and industry (they get paid a lot of money (he got $74k/year out of graduating with his MS) and do all of the business-y things that industry-type companies do). He thought it might even be something I consider after I get my PhD.

This was interesting to me on a number of levels. For one, it was odd getting a job offer from a peer. This is especially funny because earlier in the conversation we talked about how his adviser used to disregard things his boss said. When he was being advised by him, it seemed strange. But now that he's had a little more exposure, he realizes his adviser and his adviser's boss both went to grad school together and thus it's a hard time for them to take each other seriously as boss and employee. The other reason this was odd was because during his MS, my friend was sick of school and found no value in a PhD, but now that he's been in industry, he speaks very highly of them. He's even considered going back to get his, but he then remembers the homework and the meager monthly stipend and that keeps him from pursuing that. And that leads me to the main reason why I thought this was odd.

You see, the MS internship he's talking about would basically be a job DOING HOMEWORK ALL DAY. One of the reasons why I want to take a faculty position is so I don't get stuck building Kalman estimators over and over again. And the reason I'm going for my PhD is to AVOID a career DOING HOMEWORK.

So we're both going our own separate ways to avoid homework. He's avoiding homework through industry, and I'm avoiding homework through academia.

Now, to be fair, doing the equivalent of complex homework assignments in real life is a bit different. For example, in the work I'm doing now, when I have to actually put together a formal proof, I don't know if a proof even exists for what I'm doing. It's brand new. It's unknown. And because of that, it feels very different than a homework problem that has a known answer feels.

So anyway, that was interesting. It's funny how perspective changes as you grow up. Another friend of mine who has ALWAYS been tired of school was hesitant about getting his MS, and now he's considering moving to Europe to pursue a PhD a one of the major controls schools over there! He's pretty sure he doesn't want to teach, but he wouldn't mind being a research scientist or a researcher working for the military, for example... so that's a MAJOR shift in interest for him.

It's especially funny to try to give advice to the undergrads. They ask you about grad school and about what's important and about what classes to take. You usually tell them all the NON-important classes to take because you know that you just have to get OLDER to take some classes, and there's no getting around it. You're still growing in your 20's. Wait until you turn at least 22 to take your first graduate level math class; it'll be worth the wait. And then the undergrads start telling you that they're ready then... they start telling you about all of the things that are important when choosing a grad school. They're pretty silly.

But what can you do? We're all young once. Gotta let them have their moment, then send them off, and let it go . . .

1 comment:

~ange said...

This was interesting to hear a "youngin" talk of being all grown up. ;) I agree though that some classes must wait. The best thing is a broad, strong foundation in subjects completely unrelated to chosen focused study. Without synthesized creativity humanity is doomed. Doomed, I say.