This was written in the form of a letter to a few of my friends doing their PhDs in Computer Science in different universities in the United States.
I was reading The Code Book by Simon Singh last week (definitely recommended). While reading about the different types of cryptography (including RSA and Diffie-Hellman), I suddenly started wondering what made me wander away from CS. Till the end of 2nd year I wanted to pursue a MS?. But suddenly when I arrived in madras for the 5th sem, I wanted to do an MBA, which is what I?m doing now.
I have a feeling a major reason why I left computer science was my ego. I considered myself (and still do) equal to all you people. Now, many of you are doing what they call cutting edge research and are going to pursue PhDs. I don?t see more than a handful of you (like Pratibha) who?ll MS-ditch. To put it frankly, cutting edge research has never fascinated me. It involves thinking about a topic which MAY become useful a few years down the line and if you are lucky enough to be alive when that happens, you will become really famous. Else you may never be able to reap the fruits of your labor.
I must confess that I am a very impatient fellow and would like to see immediate results for whatever I do. I am not the kind who?ll wait for years just to see whether what I?ve done has been of use. I think I?d be much more comfortable in doing something, selling it immediately and reaping the benefits.
The only way I could?ve done that while remaining within the confines of Comp. Sci. was to get into development. But my ego simply wouldn?t allow me to get into this kind of stuff which is considered inferior to cutting-edge research, which I believe is what most of you are doing currently and would be taking up as a career. Given this and the fact that I didn?t like the hardcore research, it definitely meant a goodbye to comp. Sci.
Yet another reason why I got disgruntled with research was the metric used for evaluation (number of papers) and also the increased (and rather unnecessary) formality introduced into the writing of papers.
I believe that formal standards were initially introduced so as to set a kind of standard and to facilitate more effective communication. After all, the entire purpose of a paper is to let your work be known to the world in the larger interest of humanity. However, with standards generally becoming more complex beyond a limit, all this formality encouraged was to fill the paper with unnecessary symbols and try to make it as hard as possible for the reader to comprehend (which ultimately defeats the entire purpose of the paper). Also given the cliques under which paper acceptances operate, this would indeed be a hard paradigm to break.
Here I am, sitting in my hostel room in IIMB, reading up a case for tomorrow?s Strategy class. I fully agree that management papers are less interesting to read than computer science papers, especially Harvard Business Review papers which are the worst of them all. However, I don?t intend to pursue a career in academics. And unlike in Comp. Sci., here a career in industry isn?t looked down upon. It must also be mentioned that MOST of our faculty here have substantial INDUSTRY experience (post-doc and being a lecturer doesn?t count for INDUSTRY experience).
I will be doing my summers at JP Morgan Securities (as I?ve already told you) and hope to get a PPO from there. I have been informed that I?ll be working in the area of Interest Rate Derivatives (which, in fact, involves quite a lot of advanced math). I have also been told that I?ll be using loads of Automata Theory, along with other related stuff, in the work I do. The products that I develop will be immediately sold to clients (here, UK-based financial institutions) and benefits will be reaped. In fact, I?m also supposed to be involved in the selling part. (please note that the above paragraph has been written based on hearsay. I?ll be able to provide a more accurate account of my work in June). The only downside I can see right now is that I?ll have to wear a suit to work daily.
I do feel sometimes that given the heavy research focus of CS@IITM (especially the ?BTech profs?) I may have missed out on some of the more interesting aspects of comp sci. I may have actually liked some of the more ?real? work going on but because of the allocation of profs and lousy floating of electives (with each elective coming only once every 3-4 years) and me giving up on CS in 3rd year, I have actually missed out on them. When I did my OpMan course last term, I felt I should?ve done mech (though I could never come to terms with drawings). When I see the lousy traffic in b?lore, I feel that I should?ve done Civil, specialized in Transportation and worked for India?s infrastructure. When I look at anything close to DSP (not the Merrill lynch kind), I think I should?ve done elec.
Thatz all I had to say folks. Now back to my case on Strategy 🙁