Positioned

He Graduated!

It's Official

So we can safely say that he is done and done. And with that my husband has finally finished school and it is time to celebrate his success. I am really just so happy that he finished. It has been a little bit of a bumpy road. And not that a little challenge isn't something to shy away from or anything, but I can't say that it hasn't been hard. It has put a lot of stress on the family since we have been raising his daughter from a previous marriage and it was some adjustments since she was from out of state.

That is to say that Miami was a little bit much for her in the beginning and it took a while to get adjusted. This along with other distractions has created a bumpy road and he actually took a couple of years off of college so that he had more time to concentrate on his family responsibilities and such.

But at the beginning of last year he sat back down and got busy studying for his business management degree. He had been on hiatus for close to five years, putting it on hold in 2013 with the intention of starting again in 2014 when things got worked back out. But like many things in life that didn't happen quite like he expected. (Though it is admirable that he was able to continue because according to this: "In fact, approximately 75 percent of students who enter college will drop out during the first year. Few students who drop out eventually finish their education.") But just because we don't plan for something, it doesn't mean that it isn't just as good, if not better.

Everything works out for a reason. And while we might not be able to comprehend that reason at first we can look back and be pleased that it did.

Corman McCarthy once said: "You don't know what worse luck your bad luck saved you from."

And while few of us really have what we could call bad luck, his words are true along any scale. With the point of being gratitude for the know, and respect for all the different ways things could be worse.

His Graduation Party

And we all have a lot to be grateful for. And that is why his mother and I will be throwing him a sort of surprise graduation party. While, I say "sort of" because he knows that we plan to celebrate it but just not that it is going to be so big, nor so soon.

It's Big

I realized that the idea of just a close family get together was going to be too small. Not that the celebration would be too small, but that if we included everybody that would be "eligible" to come it would be far bigger than a home celebration. And it is a big day.

That is why I plan to do it more like a big party. Lots of friends, family, food and beer. There will be invitations, mainly since I want to get them, but also it should help his mother and me juggle the guest list. Something that has grown from day one. I still haven't found the right cards yet, but I am sure that it won't be hard to find some that fit. From what I have found, you can get them done and sent in a day. The only thing that we need to do is settle on a card and there are lots of them to choose from.

First it started out as family, he has a big family, mine is moderate, but not many of them will be invited. We're including my brother and his wife in the celebration but that is about it.

Most of his relatives live here so they will all come. And our group of friends will also probably make time.

Outside of that he has mentioned that he would like to invite a few people that he met while in college. Right now I think that our guest list consists of about fifty people. Give or take.

We're going to have his party before his actual commencement. So yeah, he will be celebrating his graduation before he actually graduates.

His commencement is in the middle of December and he thinks that the graduation party will be the next day. But the thing is, with it being in the end of December he would have a lot smaller turn out, which is why we have planned for the end of November. And while I realize that it is just a couple of weeks away, it is not so short notice.

Business As Usual

And once that is all over it will be back to business as usual.

Right now it is pretty safe to say that there will not be any big changes on the horizon. We've gone through enough of those already, lord only knows. But right now we are well positioned. My job has left me exhausted more than a few nights recently and it doesn't look like they will be getting any easier in the near future. And hubby is in a good spot at work, just that now that he has graduated and has the paper in hand he will be able to negotiate more when it comes time for promotions.

He has already made himself indispensable, and that in a corporate culture that says everybody is expendable.

No, as it stands he is only geared to go up from here and that is what the point was.

He has been so busy with his studies, work, and family that he will be if he just get to decompress. I think that the average college student is oblivious to how good they have it. They, for the most part only have the study, maybe some work. Once you get older things get harder to balance because you keep adding to the plate. And that is probably why so many people who were on their way to graduating college and stop like my husband did just end up skipping it.

For him, that could have very well been the path he took. But we encouraged him to keep at it. To continue what he started and to finish. To get his diploma. Because no matter how hard it was getting there it will always be so much better once you have it. Sorry, I am sure that you can see that we did quite a bit of motivation.

But it is all true.

And when you have people who support you, who love you, and want to see you succeed, you aren't only hurting yourself if you don't finish. You are letting them down as well. Because they were there with you semester after semester.

Next Move

Once things have had a chance to settle down a little bit we were planning on making another big move. And find a house to call our own. We've been in a condo since we got married, and while it is in Coral Gables, we would like to have a home. But since we've set the budget at /-$300k there isn't much in our price range in Miami proper. For that you will be lucky to get a dilapidated shed and not much else. Granted you are able to find a decent condo for that price. Our place cost noticeably less and it is in a decent neighborhood, and we even have two bedrooms.

To be honest Miami real estate is very expensive, much higher than the national average, however, you can still find nice town houses in areas like Doral for that budget. But that is all something for another day.

Positioned

Is An Associate’s Degree Worth It?

While, I will say that I know some, not many, who have only pursued an Associate's Degree working as programmers, they all got in to the business at the end of the 90s to the early 00s. Most of them landed jobs in big corps looking for people as that was a time of expanse. Today, that has changed a lot and I don't know what the job market is like where you are. Then there was little saturation, while today there is a lot and it it is quite possible that the market is sufficiently saturated with people with 4-year degrees that in your area, a 4-year degree is necessary. But that does not mean that that is the case for everywhere, nor, is it always true.

What that translates to is that an Associate's Degree is only worthless if somebody else has a degree that trumps it.

I can't speak for your situation, but knoing the ciriculum I feel that there are only four classes that are essential if you pursue an Associates Degree.

They are:

  • Algorithms
  • Data Structures
  • Software Design & Architecture
  • Theory of computation

One thing that taking the courses, getting the degree, and proving that you are compitent is all about is, dedication.

Companies want to know that you have what it takes, and quite frankly, unless you are a whizz and impress somebody in the company, somebody in HR won't really care.

But if you go the route of Associate's you should learn everything that you can on your own. VMWare, is easy to learn, but most companies will be looking for people comfortable with the tech. And if you don't make the effort to learn it, you won't get exposed to it with the above courses.

If you make the effort to expand your knowledge, you can learn just about everything else on your own and usually do with or without a degree, however the aformentioned courses would be the most important in school.

With that being said, have some personal projects and you may be on par or a little ahead of the average Compute Science undergrad in the job market, however it will probably affect your negotiation or consideration for some jobs with inflexible requirements.

Still, I wouldn't worry too much about it since there are a lot of jobs out there, and employers are well known for asking for the moon when it comes to entry level jobs.

Just make sure that you have a good understanding of what the job market is like in your area. Then be well aware what is needed in your area to get your foot in the door and make sure that you hit the right beats, otherwise you will be the odd one out that HR skips over becuase you don't fit their criteria. And beleive me, you need to hit the right notes with them.

As an example, of this I've seen them do things like skip an applicant with a Phd in hardware engineering becuase it was a computer science post and they didn't have a computer science degree. I wished him the best.

Getting your foot in the door is the hard part, but once you are in, if you have the fundamentals down and are a good fit, you shouldn't have a problem.

Amused

Where To Begin: AI

AI is a huge field. Do I need to say that again? To give you any specific idea of the size of the topic, I will say that much of what people thought they knew has been reworked a number of times. And modern AI approaches don't necessarily have much to do with the old notions. And in fact it is well outside the scope of my post today.

If you have questions, or would like me to expand it it. I will need to know which part of AI you're interested in. And we can go forward from there.

Today I will just be giving you a general overview, and if you want to continue your study I would recommend you get Ben Coppin's book Artificial Intelligence Illuminated. From what I remember about the book though, it doesn't look into some common machine learning techniques which is where the modern shift is going. These techniques focus on pattern recognition and function approximation.

It's a good book for getting your feet wet with the ideas of "Big Spaces" and searching, but you'll probably have to look elsewhere in a more complicated text for those ideas (I will suggest one in a moment).

The reason that I suggest it is because it is a good starting point and it offers a nice high-level overview of the field while not getting bogged down in details that are irrelevant for somebody just starting to learn about the subject.

As it is Ben Coppin's book offers a good starting point, but once you're ready for something more substantial you could pick up the book AI: A Modern Approach. You should be warned before opening, it is for all intensive purposes filled with graduate-level text.

Programing AI

Most people don't like to read about theory, well, I guess I can't blame them. But hands on is really only sensible once you have a basic understanding (at the very least) of what the subject entails. Only then is it easier to go forward.

The nice thing about AI is that you can dabble in just about any language.

So as far as languages go, at the starting level it doesn't matter. For some reason people always suggest Matlad. And I can imagine that there are lots of resources out there for Matlab because of this popularity, but, I'm not a big fan of that language, therefore I will not point you to anything specific. If you have knowledge of, or are willing to learn Lisp, there are excellent resources for AI programming, like Paradigms of Artificial Intelligence Programming: Case Studies in Common Lisp.

Boiling It Down To the Basics

You can't go anywhere without understanding how to get their. And to get a better grasp on AI it is extremely important to learn linear algebra.

Linear algebra and maybe differential calculus are a strict minimum for whoever wants to do anything even vaguely scientific.

But let me get back to the point, if you know basic computer science, AI can be pretty accessible.

You're right that AI is a huge field, so it can be difficult to get into.

My advice is to find something you like and go ahead and try it. Nothing will be lost if you decide that you do not enjoy it. You will have gained some experience and that is what is important. Start by trying to code up the algorithms you have been exposed to and play around with them.

Try extending the models that are featured in the books that I have suggested and expand on them with ideas of your own and then compare the performance.

One aspect that I foud extremely engaging was one that you may wish to explore are the philosophical ideas in AI, especially if GAI is what you'd really like to focus on.

Neural Networks

Neural networks are not the only kind of AI that you will encounter. In the old fashion sense, there are at least three kinds of AI. These are: Symbolism, Connectionism and Behaviorism.

Cognitive psychology and neural biology are gigantic fields, but they're also not with their introductory texts if you have interested in exploring them on a superficial level.

I won't go into them, but there are unconventional computing ideas that may influence the field, particularly biological and biologically-inspired computing. This aspect of classification may be obsolete because modern algorithms have become more encompassing.

Symbolism comes from the oldest formal inference system called logic, Connectionism is come from biological neural networks, and Behaviorism is actually a methodology of psychology. I don't want to be verbose, check these terms by google or something else.

I personally wrote an AI program in Haskell, and am a Haskell missionary. And to be honest, Haskell itself is worth learning, if only for the advanced type system that it exposes.

But as I said. For the basics, even the simplest languages can help get you started.

Amused

My Ten Most Useful Suggestions

  1. Get on GitHub, get your code there
    • Some people suggest only putting things on Github that you want to show off, but personally I have tons of small stuff on mine, and I think it's better to get something up rather than waiting for the perfect project.
    • Just make sure everything you put up runs, and is well written, with good, long, and descriptive variable names, and also write good readme.md files, even for basic stuff. Include command to run, libraries you need, and expected input/output.
  2. Write a web app that hits a database
    • 90% if not more of the jobs you will be doing will be writing code that pulls data from a database and puts spits it out into a browser.
  3. Network before you need a network
  4. Create a profile, connect to class mates, maybe professors. Connect to co-workers or people you meet at user groups. Create a network before you need a network. LinkedIn isn't magic but it's a way to persist the network.
  5. Know Linux
    • Debian and or Redhat. Linux or at least Unix-type systems are incredibly common. Microsoft even uses Linux! You can only increase in value by knowing them. Any large platform or service provider that isn't Microsoft is going to be using some variation of Linux. If you don't at least have some basic knowledge of the console, you will look pretty dumb.
  6. Get your site hosted, blog about software stuff, put your resume online
  7. Manage your career (no one will do that for you), figure out what's hot, what gets you paid for where you want to live
  8. Never be afraid to admit you don't know something
  9. Don't lie or be an asshole, it's a small world
  10. Know a little bit about a lot of things and a lot about one thing. Or to quote Thomas Henry Huxley:
    • “Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.”
  11. Never stop learning (this is a bonus suggestion)

And LinkedIn is useless. Don't waste your time getting recruiter spammed.