Gas station without pumps

2019 April 20

Update on son’s job search

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 10:47
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In MS > PhD I posted

I have once again seen that in engineering fields, a Master of Science is a more valuable degree than a Doctor of Philosophy.  My son (who just finished his M.S .in computer science) has been on the job market for a few weeks and has just gotten his first job offer.  The salary is larger than the salary offered to a new engineering faculty member at UCSC who has a Ph.D. and 3 or 4 years of postdoc training (in fairness, his is a 12-month salary offer while the faculty member’s is a 9-month salary, which could be supplemented another 22% if the faculty member gets grants to fund it).

For that matter, his starting salary would be over three-quarters of my salary as a full professor with a Ph.D. in computer science and 37 years of experience.  It is easy to see why academia has a hard time hanging onto engineering faculty, when industry is willing to pay so much more for shorter hours.

I’ve no idea whether my son will accept the job offer. He has had serious interviews at 4 companies, so may be getting more offers soon—he is down in Santa Barbara for a 2-day interview right now.

As it turned out, my son got three job offers in the past week, each more lucrative than the one before.  He had to make his decision yesterday, which was rather stressful for him, as each of the job offers had its own strong points. One was in San Francisco, near enough to BART, MUNI, and Caltrain that he could live anywhere is a large area and commute to work by public transit (they even pay a commuter allowance). The one that paid the most was in Santa Clara, which has a huge concentration of tech firms, but is a bit short on housing for the tech workers—he would have had to do a long bike commute or taken the light rail for about 45 minutes from Mountain View or San Jose.  The company with the widest variety of different contracts and clients and probably the most stability was in Santa Barbara, where he could get housing in walking distance of the office.

All the job offers paid more than  enough for him to live on, even if he joins the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) crowd and saves half his income for early retirement. They all had decent benefits (health, dental, 401k, stock grants/options, … ), though the details varied.

This was a difficult decision for him—choosing between three highly paid jobs that were well suited to his interests (first-world problems, right?).

In the end he went with the lowest offer, not the highest, because it seemed to be the most exciting work and the best location—the job is near transit in San Francisco, and he is thinking of living in Berkeley.  It was also the smallest company, being a 40-person startup, so he will probably get a variety of different tasks and relatively rapid promotion.  The stock options could become either extremely valuable or worthless, depending what happens to the company in the next two or three years. Berkeley seems to have a few community theater groups, which means he may be able to continue acting, even as he works his day job.

2019 April 12

MS > PhD

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 11:46
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I have once again seen that in engineering fields, a Master of Science is a more valuable degree than a Doctor of Philosophy.  My son (who just finished his M.S .in computer science) has been on the job market for a few weeks and has just gotten his first job offer.  The salary is larger than the salary offered to a new engineering faculty member at UCSC who has a Ph.D. and 3 or 4 years of postdoc training (in fairness, his is a 12-month salary offer while the faculty member’s is a 9-month salary, which could be supplemented another 22% if the faculty member gets grants to fund it).

For that matter, his starting salary would be over three-quarters of my salary as a full professor with a Ph.D. in computer science and 37 years of experience.  It is easy to see why academia has a hard time hanging onto engineering faculty, when industry is willing to pay so much more for shorter hours.

I’ve no idea whether my son will accept the job offer. He has had serious interviews at 4 companies, so may be getting more offers soon—he is down in Santa Barbara for a 2-day interview right now.

2014 March 4

Get a job! (or maybe not)

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 12:34
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There is an interesting discussion going on in the comment section of a Cost of College blog post. The basic advice of the post was “Advice to college students:  Get a job!  (But don’t slack off on studying.)”

Both CSProfMom and I have been arguing with the author that some jobs are valuable to STEM students, but that others waste their time without providing any benefit to their eventually getting a decent job in their field.

Employers in technical fields want their employees to have the appropriate technical and professional skills, which they generally measure by education and relevant prior work experience. Time spent flipping burgers or making cappuccino does not add anything to an engineering student’s resume, other than a fairly trivial “shows up for work,” which does not distinguish among students who have had the work ethic needed to finish an engineering degree.

What students need is evidence that they can do the work that the company needs done. Technical internships are one excellent way to show this, as are summer research experiences (like the NSF REU program) and senior theses or capstone projects supervised by faculty. Spending 20–30 hours a week at a minimum-wage job, as many students need to do in order to pay tuition, cuts into the ability of students to get into these career-building opportunities, both because they lack the time and because the long hours spent working instead of studying lower their grades and make it harder for them to get into the competitive programs that would benefit them most.

CSProfMom summarized the problem well:

I think “any work at all” is great advice for teens from wealthy leafy suburbs who are heading to Trinity or Oberlin and who have never worked at anything save some babysitting or lifeguarding. A few hours a week of burger flipping is good for those kids and isn’t going to hurt their grades. But when you have kids who are already starting behind because of their background, who are working 30 to 40 hours a week at low-level jobs, often alongside co-workers who are not good influences (and that was very much my experience—my co-workers were doing and selling drugs on the side), for employers who could care less that they have school obligations, you have a problem. And when employers tell us after reviewing student resumes that they are surprised at their lack of technical work experience, as happened last week, then you doubly have a problem. The reality is that technical employers really don’t care about work experience as a gas station attendant. They want students with proven skills in technical areas, who have shown they can work in a technical environment. My students largely do not have that, and thus they are at a severe disadvantage in the job market.

The bottom line is that students should be seeking relevant work experience in their field, not just arbitrary jobs.

CSProfMom also expressed the inherent inequality of the current system:

My students would have a much better shot at the best jobs if they didn’t have to work 30 hours as security guards or shelf stockers. This is a subtle, or maybe even not so subtle, way that inequality is increased.

 I think that there is a very strong case to be made for making public colleges and universities tuition-free, eliminating the high-tuition, high-aid model that leaves middle-class students deep in debt and poor students spending all their time on low-paying jobs instead of studying. The Campaign for the Future of Higher Education has pointers to analyses of what it would cost to provide tuition-free higher education in the US (as California used to do and as Germany has returned to doing after a brief fling with American-style tuition), and a petition to urge politicians and public universities to move to a tuition-free model for public higher education.

 

2013 July 27

MAH wants a School Programs Coordinator

Filed under: home school — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 21:47
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The Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz recently posted a job announcement, Museum 2.0: Come Work With Us at MAH as School Programs Coordinator:

We are hiring for a School Programs Coordinator to wrangle the 3,500+ students and their teachers who come to the museum every year for a tour and hands-on experience in our art and history exhibitions.

Normally, I wouldn’t pay much attention to a post like that for a job well outside my field, but I’ve been following what Nina Simon has been doing at MAH, turning it from tiny, mostly ignored, provincial museum (noted mainly for having some decent historical archives of interest to local historians) into a cultural center for downtown Santa Cruz. So I read the post and was interested to see a couple of points included:

  • Many families in our area have opted into non-traditional school and educational formats, especially homeschooling. What kinds of programs should we consider providing for these groups?
  • Not all learning happens in school. How should we think about the balance between formal programs for school groups and youth-centered programs that happen after or outside of school?

It is not very often that home schoolers get explicitly included in descriptions of jobs for School Program Coordinators.  Sometimes a staff member realizes that home school students have more time for museums and day-time activities than schooled students do and thinks up some special activities for them, but rarely are they included as an integral part of a “School Programs” job.  Because many home schoolers in other parts of the country rely heavily on informal education at museums (particularly in museum-rich environments like Washington, DC and New York, NY), it is good to see the local museum interested in increasing opportunities for local home schoolers.  (I sent a pointer to the job post to a couple of the local home school mailing lists.)

Of course, the job is going to be a challenging one and (like most non-profit jobs locally) an underpaid one.  One of the challenges is due to local demographics:

Because 30% of the students in our school district are English language learners (and the majority of those, Latino), we are seeking someone who is bilingual and able to communicate comfortably with kids and adults in Spanish.

Although Nina has done marvelous work at MAH, I don’t think she has yet been successful in integrating the Spanish-speaking community much.  On my recent visit, I don’t remember there being any Spanish labels on any of the exhibits (though that may have been my unawareness, as I was not thinking about Spanish-language access at the time).  I suspect that the school field trips may be the only time that the Spanish-speaking kids from the city visit the Museum, and I suspect that almost none of the kids from the southern end of the county (which is majority Spanish-speaking) visit the Museum at all.  About the only things I remember at MAH involving Latin American culture were mainly cultural appropriations (like Day of the Dead altars for Halloween).

Nina has done a great job at bring in a younger group of people to the museum (essential to the future of the museum, since the traditional patrons of the museum were all much older than me), with events like these:

Remember when we lit up Abbott Square with an organ that breathed fire? With a glowing dance tower? With amazing digital and fire art? So do we. And we’re going to do it again this year when we bring back GLOW on October 18 and 19. We are raising money to make the festival even more amazing, and we’re hoping you can help. Every dollar of this campaign will go directly to artists to support their participation. When you donate, you’ll earn advance tickets to the festival and special perks… including the opportunity to shoot off a flamethrower. 

This is the last week to donate. Fuel the fire this October and click here to contribute.

The indiegogo fund-raising campaign only runs until Monday 2013 Aug 5, and they are currently below 60% of their $3000 target. They have a couple of Vimeo videos on the fund-raising site.  (The part II video showing the fire dancing and fire organ is worth watching even if you are too cheap to donate.)  I considered sticking Vimeo links in my post, but I’d really much rather force you through the indiegogo site.

I admit that I was too cheap to donate more than $25 (not enough for even a free-ticket perk, certainly not enough for the VIP roof-garden admission or the opportunity to shoot the flame-thrower), though they’ll probably get another $5–10 from me for tickets to the GLOW events themselves.  I’m hoping that a few of my readers will also contribute a few dollars.  The point of a crowdfunding campaign is to be able to get bunches of small contributors like me, without requiring the enormous staff effort that fundraising usually requires.  Word of mouth advertising is an essential part of a crowdfunding strategy.

 

 

2013 May 16

What bioinformaticians do

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 08:33
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I recently read two blog posts about what bioinformaticians do (though both claim to be about “what it takes”):

The first post is talking about a shift from “bioinformatics” to “computational biology”—that is, a shift from designing algorithms and data structures to answer biological questions to asking biological questions for which computational tools already exist.  It has quotes with some hype about job opportunities in bioinformatics, but it also has some counterpoints about more realistic views of the bioinformatics job market.  The tone of the piece overall is that bioinformatics is the best of all possible fields.

The second post has a less exalted view of bioinformatics, pointing out that most bioinformatics jobs are data wrangling.  They do say that even data wranglers can do research if they want to, which makes them better off than most wet-lab technicians.

Both posts stress the importance of programming, statistics, and knowing some biology.

 

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