The changing world part 3

What will it take to have a successful career in a world where technology is driving everything in every industry? What should I study? What if I cannot go to college? What is the best way to survive this ever-changing market? Those are questions that I have received every week from people all over the world since my blog has been translated into several languages.

I have written about studying Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) for several years. Some people even accused me of encouraging students to study technology because I am a professor in technology. Of course, technology is what I know well and I can write about it. If one asks me to write about arts or music, I cannot do that because I do not know those subjects. Many parents have asked me: “Would you recommend my children studying Computer Science or Information technology? Would you recommend them to go to a certain university as you did? My answer is: “It should be up to your children to select what school to go to and study the subject that they are interested in AFTER they research about the school that they plan to enroll and know what subject that they want to study.”

Of course, most parents want their children to go to college and get a degree. However, college is NOT for everyone, some will do well but others may not and probably wasting their time there. Today, the degree does not guarantee anything but many parents still want their children to go to college because it is the pride of the family and part of a culture that has existed for many centuries. To many students, go to college may be the best option because they will learn many things and have the time to mature into a responsible adult as they interact with others. However, there are alternatives such as online schools, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and tutorial training programs etc. These alternatives are not designed for a particular field or degree but help students to develop the necessary skills so that they can get a good job and start working. Most online courses (edX, Coursera, Udemy etc.) are focusing on the results as they are short and practical. Instead of learning about the theories, students learn all the steps on how to do something. Most online courses are open to anyone, they do not charge anything. Some may cost $20 to $50 dollars if students want a certificate of completion. However, these learning requires self-discipline and a commitment to learn because students are learning on their own without any supervision and little support. By going through these courses, students will have immediate results and understand what they want and what they may not want. Sometimes, it is worth to spend a few months on these online courses to see if you can learn something or not? Before deciding that go to college may be a better option for you? The choice is yours.

Today, students need to be more active as they learn to be independent and determine their future on what they want to do with their lives. They should learn about themselves as well as the current job market situation. They need to investigate, to explore, to discover and do many things including working part-time, start their own Startup, or work on temporary jobs. It will teach them many things in life and will help them to find their own interests on what they want. An educated person is not, necessarily, one who has specialized knowledge or a degree but the one who knows himself and develops a strong mind that he can learn anything that he wants. An educated person often read a lot of useful books to educated himself because reading can affect his mind and his attitude in life. The issue is today, many people do not read anymore but let other media controls them. Passive watching YouTube video, reading multimedia such as Facebook, Twitter, can waste a lot of time.

I often advise my students that reading books can help them to go deeper into a subject. After that, they should evaluate what they are reading to develop their own knowledge and personal view. I often read many articles each day but late at night, I always review what I have read. Sometimes, I re-read the same article or a paragraph several times because I want to understand its meaning deeper and connect the materials with what I have experienced. I told my students: “If you want to learn something, read more about it. If you want to learn technology, read technology articles and if you can do that for several months, you will know a lot about technology. Reading activates your brain and enriches your knowledge. By access all the relevant knowledge stored in your memory, you comprehend the information you are reading. A part of what I teach, I require my students to read three to four technology articles a week and come to class to discuss them. The more they read, the better they learn and this knowledge connects to their memories as they apply them in class to solve problems. By the time the complete my course, most students have a good knowledge and skills.

As I mentioned in my previous blog that books are the best mentors in my life. I started reading when I was very young and continue to read until now. I owned a lot to all the authors and their books. Many of them are no longer alive but I still have access to their knowledge and experience. Today, with the Internet and many online stores, anybody can open any book in a matter of seconds from anywhere in the world. So my advice to you is invest your time in reading books that interest you. Discover your passion and what you want in life and learn from books that teach you exactly that. You want to learn about the arts, read art books. You want to learn about music, read music books. You want to learn about technology, read technology books. You will see the power of self-education and the influence books can have in your life.

In this fast-changing world, having the best skills is NOT enough. You have to be proactive in your learning by continue to learn if you want to keep your job. Formal education ends and you have a degree but it is only the beginning. You must continue to learn when things change. Most things will change fast so you need to keep up as you will be judged by what you know. When in school, you spend a few weeks to study before the exam and pass it. What is important is to get good grades and a degree. After graduation, you will discover that the “real education” starts after your formal education as you learn about jobs, about responsibilities, about interaction with others and other soft-skills that you did not learn in school. When you go to work, when you begin your own independent lives, you are responsible for your own career and your own happiness. There are no grades, no degree, no judges, no pass or fail but you have to create your own rules, your own learning, and your own lives. How you live, how you work, how you react, how you support your family, your society, your people, and how do you educate yourselves to face the “Real life” will determine your happiness.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University
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