In this post I am going to take a look back into my venture of a part-time student pursuing my bachelor degree in Business Information Systems and Computer Science. The main reason I am writing this post is not only for me to be able to analyse how I have spent many months of the studying to attain the academic background and to achieve this status of a degree holder and also for the readers (if any) to be able to gain some knowledge into Murdoch, Kaplan and this degree course, if it’s of any interest to them.
After graduating from my diploma studies in Multimedia Technology in 2005, I started working full-time as a web developer. With plethora of self-study venues available and my certain fondness towards the self-study, I have never had the urge to get myself a degree. I can agree that it would have been a nice thing to have a degree than a diploma. However, given nature of the industry at which the formal academic requirement is not so crucial, it never struck to me as a requirement.
My parents, being the conservatives of Burmese culture which held one’s academic status with high regards, they had urged me frequently that I shall start studying again for my degree. When I was into my second year of my career, my views on the further studies have certainly changed a bit. I have come to find that no matter how good the blogs or the posts or the tutorials may be, it is the academic foundation of these subjects that are harder to master. I believe, in the flat world, you are competing in the market as a global player, it also is a very important factor for a web developer like myself to have a solid academic understanding of not only the technical side but also the business side of the nature of the projects that I have been working on.
From that insight and the requirement, I had came up with the kind of studies that I would love to do and what I wanted to achieve with it. Hence, I had came up with the objective that the study that I do shall
- Give me the academic understanding of both technical and business side of development.
- Should offer significant assistance toward the advancement of my career.
- Should be offered by a good University and I should be able to do it part-time, so that I can support myself through it.
Once the objectives came about, I went through a long and hard process of research. Many visits to the government’s universities, private institutions, forums, course introductory sessions and many hours after, I came up with three options. Although I had completely forgotten the details of those options, I vaguely remember that they are offered by SIM, Kaplan and MDIS.
Upon evaluating the options, I chose Kaplan’s offer to study at Murdoch University for Bachelor in Computer Science, double major with Business Information System. I have to admit, during my search, many of the courses and modules offered seems as if they are very much like my diploma study. Some of them are just too fundamental and not much depth of the subjects are covered. With Murdoch, however, it seems pretty interesting a little towards the challenging. Having a certain knack for challenges, it came top out of three options for me.
The location played a factor in my choice too. Kaplan is located near Orchard, with the possibility of alternate classes between Starhub Center and Wilkie edge. Although the company I have been working for was located in Ubi, we were already planning to move our office to Newton. When hours could drag unknowingly, when work load could be intense, it certainly would be a very convenient thing to be able to take less than 15 minutes of train to get to school.
When the decision had been made, it was time to tackle the matter of financing the venture. I had no savings to support my studies, and I certainly do not wish to ask of my parents to support me. Since I shall be working while studying all I needed was a way to find a study loan that could support me through the studies.
With a referral from a friend, I have came to know of a non-profit organization called TCC. It was established at first as a co-operative of SingTel to support the staffs of SingTel, the telco company of Singapore. It then later involved into its own organization, supporting people like me with financial assistance. It offers loans of many kind with smaller interest and no administration fees which the banks such as DBS, POSB and etc like to make money out of. Since these administration fees tends to be a percentage of the total amount of the money that you are taking loan, they can be a hefty sum to pay.
The challenge was, while the banks will loan you money as long as a guarantor is there, TCC had the regulation that the guarantor must be a Singaporean citizen earning equal or more than the applicant. It was a kicker. The friends I had made during polytechnic are either studying full-time, in the National Service or non-Singaporean. Though I finally found someone to help me out, the acquaintance who had agreed to become a guarantor, had a change of heart at the last minute and landed me in tight spot.
By that time, it was too late for me go back to the banks (since their process takes much much longer to make the payment in time) and too difficult for me to find a guarantor too. In desperation, I had to turn to my boss, CEO of Comwerks Interactive, Neeraj for help. Generously and willingly, he had agreed to become the guarantor for my studies and it went through. I had learned and advised many friends of mine to buffer about 1 month of time in sorting out the finance part of the degree studies. Little did I know, it was one of many challenges to come during the course of a couple dozen months to come.
Since my diploma study was related to computer science I was given some exemptions for the course. I didn’t know that it was only half of what I should have been exempted if it had sent an appeal. It was mainly due to integration, or lack thereof between my polytechnic and the university. When the university was reviewing my application and considering the exemptions, the polytechnic was enquired of the curriculum that I had taken during my diploma course. Although they had sent it, it was merely the summary of the modules that I undertook. It just wasn’t enough information for the university to process on.
The following is a list of all the modules that I had taken, apart from three bridging courses required to take. (I may or may not talk more about those modules in detail later)
- Business Intelligence Tools and Techniques
- Data Structures and Abstractions
- System Analysis and Design
- Operating Systems and Systems Programming
- Advanced Business Analysis and Design
- Human-Computer Interaction
- Software Architecture
- IT Project
There were of course many challenges that I faced during the course of nearly two years. Time which was already a very scarce resource had become much more limited. Considering the interactive industry which I am in, where the deadlines are tight and demands are high, there were times that I had missed my classes. While programming and computer science studies are easier to tackle, business related papers and researches were harder for me work on. Due to some sleepless or late nights that I had to spend writing papers, programs and doing the assignments, there were time that I was severely late for work too. With my a newly found relationship my childhood friend, she also had to understand and be supportive of my shuffling of roles as employee, student and a boyfriend.
My lecturers had to endure me dozing off from time-to-time in classes, or accept and withstand my late hand-ins of assignments. My classmates were very friendly and hard-working and without their “Cliff Notes” and their collaboration I wouldn’t have achieved this. My co-workers were very understanding of my challenges and supportive of my studies. My parents were also a great source of motivation when things were tough. Rachel too has always given me kind-hearted understanding and supported this journey. With this post, I would also like to express my undying gratitude to all of them.
With the release of the results at 13th January, I have officially graduated with all my studies. It certainly has been very beneficial, and I wouldn’t mind doing that again for my master degrees, if things permit. In retrospect, I feel that not only I have achieved the objectives that I have set out to do but also picked up good experiences, lessons and friends.
The only regret I have so far was that I couldn’t choose other electives such as social studies and political science modules during the course. It was due to the factors of time, cost and the availability of these modules. I certainly feel it would have been much different if I were a full-time student. I guess I would have to do whatever I can to gain the academic knowledge and lessons from MIT’s open course ware, Standford’s iTunes U or any other available options.
With options wide-open, I will be evaluating whatever that’s available and will be taking them one at a time.
There’s one thing for sure that whatever path I may take, I shall always be staying hungry and staying foolish.
# Image credits to Jeco