Thursday, October 28, 2004

Ms/PhD or MBA?

Thats the question I have been asking myself. A lot of colleagues keep endorsing the MBA to me but I am not so sure. This led to a conversation between me and myself:

Me:Why do you want to go to grad school?
Myself: I have 2 reasons - the more important one being that my not having attended college in the US, I simply want to have the experience of full-time graduate study in the US. Kinda like I want to see how a "US twist" on my earlier foreign undergraduate life would be.The less important reason is hinged on my first reason. If I do graduate study, why not do it in something that will help me in mywork.

Me: So why not an MBA?
Myself: 2 reasons again - first I think I do need a good grounding oncomputer science. I jumped right into software without learning algorithms or data structures. Even if i did, I dont think I was in a position to appreciate the abstractness and the depth of the subjects. Second reason is that I am not sure I am convinced about what the MBA really teaches you. If the purpose of an MBA is to give you public confidence, make you a more sociable person, give you a grounding on corporate basics, I think I already have the first two.

Me: Do you think you will be able to say that you are at a higherstage in your life after your MS/PHD - that is, do you think your income will increase or employers will find you much more appealing?
Myself: Income increase - I am not so sure. But I do think employers or clients will find me more appealing. And besides I am thinking of building my whole career on consulting and being technically sound -either by being an independent consultant or by being employed in a software consulting firm. The idea here is to gain knowledge, make a name for yourself in the corporate and academic software circles and do top-notch technical work for clients.

Me: You could do part-time MS, that way you could earn too.
Myself: From my nature, I dont think I can concentrate equally well on my work and study if I am doing both. Also, I am eager to take a break from the "8 to 5" world. Not that I dont like it, but I want to take a break to see how the other side is. I do see myself going backto the 8 to 5 world though - unless I am completely enamored by the teaching profession. Its true that I will not earn, and thats why I want to do my full-time only if I get financial aid.

Me: Are you sure about this?
Myself: No - but I like the fact that I am having something new to aim for.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Taking it one phase at a time...

Something that I studied in 10th grade history was that the Hindu texts demarcate the life of man into 4 distinct stages. At each stage, his duties and goals are different. They are roughly as follows:
"Brahmachari" or the student - Usually the age range is from 12 - 24 years, where the person usually follows a student life by studying the scriptures and gaining a lot of bookish knowledge. This is also complemented by staying with the teacher and learning by doing chores as well as obtaining insights by conversations and discussions with the teacher or guru. Oh and by the way, he abstains from the pleasures of the flesh and strives to remain celibate!
"Grihasta" or the householder - Rough age range from 24 - 50, where the person concentrates on being a good husband by taking care of the wife and children. This he does by engaging in worldly duties and providing a livelihood. He also enjoys the pleasures of the wealth and senses, although careful not to be engulfed in it.
"Vanaprastha" - age range from 50 - 65. This is believed to begin when his children begin to have children. At this stage, he slowly recedes from worldly duties, devotes more time to study of the scriptures and prepares his mind for the last stage.
"Sanyasi" - age range from 65 to until "nirvana". This is the last stage where he leaves every source of worldly pleasure behind and retires to the forest so that he can concentrate on meditation undisturbed. The meditation process involves deep focus on the name of God or the word "Aum". If successful, he attains mankind's ultimate goal - "nirvana" - which can be summed up as realization of the all-pervasive unifying force in the universe, which in turn leads to freedom from the cycle of birth and death.

Now this led me to think about what the life of a Hindu (or anybody else) today seems like. It can probably be summed up as this:
Student - Usually from 12 - 30 - when the person devotes his time to school and college and gains a footing in the corporate or academic world.
Householder - From 30 - 60 - when the person finds a companion or more than one companion over a period, concentrates mostly on work and taking care of kids and ensuring they are brought up well.
Retiree - From 60 till death - when the person may live a less extravagant life than the previous stage, but lives according to his own schedule, spends time with his wife, children and grandchildren, reaping the benefits of savings over the years.

I also wondered if it is at all possible to marry both these approaches, the colorfulness of the first with the flexibility of the second and I came up with one scenario which I think might be a good life-cycle for me to aim at:
Student - from 12 - 35 - when the person devotes time to school and college, takes up a job and then lives an enjoyable life reaping benefits from his income. Not much thought need to be given to savings as the goal in this life is to learn as well as have a kick-ass time seeing the world and enjoying it. Of course, this also means lots of non-committal relationships, parties, drinking, cars (thought not all at once!) and just having fun in general!
Householder - from 35 - 65 - when the person finds someone he can spend the rest of his life with, works his ass off, and does all he can to be really good at what he does. They enjoy this stage together - being there for each other, going on vacations, having kids, raising them to the best of their ability and supporting each other in general. The focus though is in working, earning, learning to be better, spending wisely and putting away savings for retirement.
Retiree - from 65 - 75 - when the person can kick back and relax, live life according to his own time, do things he has always wanted to do, take up hobbies, classes, etc and when asked for, spending time with his children, granchildren if any, and so on.
Sanyasi - from 75 to --- this is the time to hang up his coat, start meditation and activities that naturally calm the mind, ask spiritual questions that have always nagged the person and chart out a path that leads to a calmed superior mind that overcomes the worries of old age, death etc. The idea is to basically ascend to a higher plane, if there's any such thing. But the goal of this stage is just that - finding out if there's more to life than just birth and death.

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