- I'm a Diploma (Polytechnic) holder engineer. After my 10th (Secondary), I studied "Computer Science and Technology" under the "West Bengal State Council of Technical Education" which is a government board for Polytechnic Education, and graduated (using the graduate word here as a general term meaning completing a course) with a 3-year polytechnic Diploma in Engineering; that's it; I didn't do any further education, but instead started doing jobs.
- At the time of writing this post, I've been at it for a decade now, worked with multiple Indian and South East Asian unicorns, and, as I like to put it - if you're from India or South-East Asia, there's a good chance you've used one or more apps I've worked with.
- I'm a more-or-less known figure in dev communities; I wrote multiple technical books, regularly speak at various events and conferences, and I'm a GDE (Google Developer Expert) for Kotlin.
Why Blog about it now?
Let's get into the next essential details; why now? It's a decade in the industry, and despite being an active blogger, I never blogged about it. So why now?
I just had a call with a recruiter today (2022/12/26), and she seemed fixated on my (lack of) degree. It feels sad that even today, the mindset is not changed. And that even after being in the industry for a decade and being referred to as an "Expert", my "educational qualifications" are questioned. That, too, in a profession where education doesn't matter, you'll find more professional coders with a degree unrelated to programming (say Mechanical Engineering or a simple Bachelor of Arts or anything). I can bet if I had told her I had a degree in, say, Chemical Engineering, she wouldn't have asked anything further, but since I told her I don't have anything post my Diploma of Engineering, she got fixated on this.
Why didn’t I do a Degree?
Over the years, I have had to answer this question many times, from recruiters to hiring managers to my mentees and various conference attendees in later years.
Every time, I answer it with just one line saying family or personal reasons; even today, I gave the same answer to the recruiter. While this is true technically, there was more to it, and not doing a "degree" was my conscious decision, so let's get down to it.
1. Family/Personal Reasons
I graduated (using the graduate word here as a general term meaning completing a course) Diploma in Engineering in 2012, started my job in 2012, and got married in 2012. Overall, 2012 was a pretty significant year in my life, and the remaining I'd leave it to you to fill the gaps. However, even before all these happened, I had already decided not to pursue further education.
2. Being good at what I do
It might sound a bit like a show-off, but I was damn good at writing code. I didn't know much back then, only C, C++, Java, JS, and some HTML and CSS, but I was good at writing code and problem-solving from the get-go. In the first year, when my friends at college were starting to learn writing programs for addition and subtractions in C, I was writing code for the Fibonacci series with recursion (I studied "Let Us C" by Y.P. Kannetkar during the break between Semesters 1 and 2). During my second and third years, I used to do a coaching class of C for not only the juniors in my college but also some B.Tech. students in a college near my P.G., and I used to charge a good amount; as I remember, I used to charge something around ₹500 per month per student and had about 10-12 students in a semester.
As I was nearing the end of the three-year term (for my Polytechnic Diploma), I started contemplating what I should do next. While on the one hand, I liked studying programming, languages, Automata Theory (or Theory of Computation), and other things related to computer science. On the other hand, I felt like in programming, at least the B.Tech. syllabus doesn't offer me anything new to learn; I was even teaching it to B.Tech. students. I believed if I started working, I might learn more about coding.
3. Heartbroken over foreign education
As I look back today, this one was a bit lame and illogical. However, this was very influential in my decision at the time, so here it goes. From childhood, I dreamed of studying abroad, I was especially interested in European universities, and I took action for it. I had offers from the University of Sussex, the University of Leicester, and a few other European universities by the time my second year was completed. However, as I belong to a middle-class family, it was out of our budget. I came to know that after I got the offers (I guess my father didn't discuss the money part with me prior to my applying as he believed I wouldn't get in), there weren't many options for full scholarships for undergrad back then, we discussed education loans as well, but my father advised against it.
Although I decided not to pursue a foreign education after evaluating all these, I was still heartbroken about it. Moreover, since I saw the difference in syllabus/curriculum between the foreign B.E./B.S. degree in Computer Science/Engineering and its Indian counterpart, I was even more disinterested in doing a B.Tech./B.E. from an Indian university, just for the sake of it.
The difference would probably have been reduced if I could study at IITs. However, IITs didn't have an option for lateral entry (direct entry to 2nd year of the course) back then. As far as I was aware, they probably didn't accept students applying for an entrance exam without a 12th either, e.i. 10 + 3-year polytechnic wasn't probably accepted back then. I could be wrong about all the points on IITs here, but I did a little research on the matter and couldn't come up with anything.
So now you know why I didn't do a degree after my diploma. I won't lie; coming from my background, it was a tough decision, but after all these years, I can proudly say I made the right decision back then. I don't think I would have been this good at my job or know about Kotlin when I did if I had gone for a degree instead.
It was not easy career-wise; at every turn, I get asked the same question, and lots of companies and recruiters drop my resume for the same reason, even today, it doesn't happen as much as it used to 10 years back, but it still does happen, as I just experienced one.
Should I do a degree for a career in tech?
So for the people asking me on whether to pursue a degree or not for a career in programming, my answer is below. You won't need a degree for the work, or rather to say it better; you won't learn anything doing the degree that will be useful in your job. However, without a degree getting a job is never gonna be easy. Still doable if you have the will to continuously push forward and repeatedly prove yourself over and over again.