Forget Everything You Learned In School?

For those of you who went to college directly after high school, how many of you graduated and got your first job only to hear the words "Forget everything they taught you in college"? To be honest, hearing that would tick me off immensely. After working very hard for more than two years and racking up somewhere near $25-30k in student loans, I would not be happy to hear that the entire time was mostly a waste and the concepts I just spent time and money learning are only theoretical and won’t do me any good in the "real world".

The University of Phoenix is far from perfect, but one thing I do like about the school is that instructors are required to have a minimum of a Master’s degree and must be leaders in their fields. I spent my entire time in the FlexNet program, in which a student attends the first and last class session at the campus and the weeks in between are conducted online through a newsgroup. I’m currently taking my final class onground at the Buck’s County campus. I’m finding that the on ground program is much more demanding than FlexNet. I don’t mean demanding academically, but more demanding on time. Since I go to class directly from work, I stay at work until time to leave. That means putting in more than a ten hour day at work, then driving to Buck’s County, PA for four hours, then get home around 11 PM when I normally leave the house at 6 AM.

Because instructors must be highly educated and experienced, I’ve had some really good people to learn from. One instructor had risen all the way to Vice President at a telecommunications company. Another instructor was an IT manager in a very large corporation. My current instructor is a microbiologist who has had a highly successful business career.

The material that I’ve learned in my classes is much more than theoretical. I truly have learned material to help me in my current job and to give me perspective on how we conduct business. I was hired into my current job after providing onsite support to engineers for development testing of the very large scale program that I work on. (I purposely leave my employer and industry vague when I have to mention work on this blog.) One of my responsibilities in this position is to represent our customer during a hardware acceptance test. I act as an observer and sign off after analyzing data with my counterpart in another organization. I then produce a report. When I first started in this position, I was trained as an observer on the last shipment of the previous platform. Because this was an established platform, the hardware acceptance test took about 40 minutes to complete and sign off. We had a few "glitches" to adjudicate, but for the most part the test went off without a hitch. After that, the platform changed. The hardware changed, and the program had to change to accommodate the hardware and newer features. The next three acceptance tests I observed took more than five hours to complete. Talk about being late for lunch! Because of my background in developmental testing support, I murmured that the program was bad and needs a lot more work however; officially I did my duties with the sign-off and report.

After beginning the IT program at the University of Phoenix, I learned about concepts such as the Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC). To be honest, I had not up to that point differentiated between hardware and software testing. I assumed that the software did not work therefore the entire system had a problem (part of the reason for Microsoft’s reputation smile_teeth) . That was not so. Because the platform changed, the hardware had done its job but the program had not been developed enough yet to be mature. I talked with some members of my organization and learned that indeed, the software being used to certify the hardware was only guaranteed for that test. Because this is such a large program, the hardware is shipped first and the software is installed later.

I now have a new appreciation for the hardware acceptance test that I observe. I got a chance last year to assist the engineers who conducted the development testing, and that was a lot of fun and very interesting. I learned a lot from that experience and now having worked both hardware and software testing I have a new appreciation for how programs like this (large scale programs) go together. I tried to get a position in the development test group, but at the time it fell through. I’m needed in my position, and while development test would have appreciated my help, nobody would provide funding for me to have an extra computer to keep in that office, and I could not get VPN access to the network that they have to use.

I am pleased at least in this regard with the University of Phoenix: I will not be told "forget everything you learned in school."

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One Response

  1. Quite Informative and practical article. Here you are right we only got theoretical knowledge in school and college and when we joined company..only then we realize that we don’t know anything . We have just practical knowledge.

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