A story about graduate school and getting more technical

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It’s Tuesday morning, for me it means the beginning of my classes for this week. I’m in my second to last semester to earn my Master in Information Science. I have class on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. It’s been an interesting two years in the program and I’ve began to think about the overall program. There have been positives and negatives about this program. Things I’ve gotten excited about and classes that seemed worthless. I think I kind of built up this program into something it was not. I’ve been second guessing myself about switching my focus to technology lately. I have a bachelor’s degree in finance and economics and I currently work in investment management. But a few years ago, I’ve felt I needed to get more technical, which really means I wanted to learn to program, create, and design. Everybody else around me have been getting MBAs and concentrating in finance and investment management. But the MBA didn’t excite me. I wanted to learn something new but not have to go back for a bachelors degree. I wanted to learn to program and learn about new technology. Maybe getting an MBA would have been the more lucrative option at first but I believe my choice to shift my focus to technology will not be a mistake. In almost two years in the MSIS program I’ve been exposed to a number of languages, tools, and systems I would have never experienced in an MBA program. I’ve had classes in Java, PHP, SQL, C, HTML, and Javascript. I’ve learned how to set up software for WAMP, snort, mmap, linux, metasploit, and CERT’s Live CD. It’s been way more challenging then an MBA. I’ve had to learn completely new concepts and terminology. Unlike a lot of my classmates, I never had undergraduate courses in any of these topics, other than a class in Java programming. It’s my first time for experiencing these classes, applications, and languages. I’ve spent hours dealing with mundane tasks like trying to figure out how to navigate in terminal while I’m trying to program in C or configuring SNORT to run on a VPN running UBUNTU Linux operating system. All this isn’t doesn’t mean I won’t have to get an MBA eventually if I ever want a management role in a large company. I’d rather not get an MBA but I’ll do what’s necessary to provide for my family. But I feel like I’ve changed the trajectory of my career path. I’m not stuck working in investment management for the rest of my life. I have options. Whenever I start to question my motives for going this route, I think back to my thesis for choosing this program.

As technology continues to grow, so will the opportunities. When you look at all the advances going around me, they deal with technology, they deal with people creating the future. If I want to help in the creation of the future I need to acquire the skills and knowledge to participate. I want the options, freedom, and skills a technology degree gives the individual. I want to help create the future.

Whether I needed to get an MSIS is debatable but I’ve viewed my decision like this. I probably would not have been able to concentrate this amount of time to learning all these languages if I wasn’t signed up for a class and forced to go every week. I also would have never been exposed to the variety of languages and applications like I have been at the iSchool. I probably would have focused on web design. I would have not studied Geographic Information Systems (GIS) or used the main software for GIS, ArcGIS. I wouldn’t have taken classes in Information Security, especially not a class in Network Security which ended up being my favorite. In Network Security, we basically learned about hacking and how it works so we could learn how to help prevent it. We read about current events and our final project was to set up three Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to run Windows, Linux, and another form of Linux with a CERT program called Live CD. Then we installed a few programs to track information flow between the Windows and Linux VPN called SNORT, NMAP, and metasploit. We also installed a number of basic programs on each VPN like Firefox, Skpe, Chrome, a word processor, an email client, and some games to see how certain traffic effects the operating system and the programs. Then we had the two systems attack each other and used SNORT and NMAP to see how the systems were affected, what SNORT alerts were issued and what NMAP output was created. Then we analyzed the output and the analysis from the Live CD. I spent countless hours on setting up the project. It was the first time in my academic career pulling an all-nighter. When I finally submitted the project on a Friday at midnight I was physically and mentally exhausted. It was one of the best feelings I’ve felt, while working on a school project, in a long time. It’s something I would have never experienced in an MBA program. Instead of pushing myself out of my comfort zone, an MBA would have been the safe decision. I want to push myself to think differently. I want to push myself to create my own future.