Kevin C. Tofel

Wish me luck (I'm gonna need it)

Published on February 28, 2021

I made a big life decision this past month. At age 51, I've applied to an online Masters in Computer Science program at Georgia Tech. Yeah, I'm surprised too.

See, I always wanted to teach college classes. Even before getting my B.A. in Economics back in the early '90's, that was the plan. It didn't work out back then and I eventually started a 15-year career in I.T. followed by another 15 years creating content online.

I got the teaching bug again not long after leaving my full-time position at Google in 2017. I left there for health reasons, so I didn't immediately do anything after resigning. Well, other than focus on my health and watch a lot of Netflix, that is.

Once I felt I was back on track from a health perspective, my good friend and ex-Gigaom colleague, Stacey Higginbotham, offered me a chance to contribute to her StaceyOnIoT site. I was already doing the IoT Podcast with her for a few years prior, so a little writing for the site was an ideal fit. I'm an independent contractor for Stacey and she graciously enabled me to earn a little money while I was refocusing my life.

I've continued to contribute for Stacey and in April 2018 started my AboutChromebooks site. I was a little bored and really didn't want do work full-time. So I decided to try making some extra money blogging about a product I knew well. This April will be three years of and (along with the adoption of a minimalist lifestyle) it makes just enough to pay the bills.

It also lets me have enough free time for self-learning. And in January 2018, I started taking undergraduate Computer Science classes at my local community college.

I quickly learned that as a "commuter school", my classmates were missing out on much of the college experience I had decades earlier.

So I started running study groups for every class I took, meeting anyone who wanted to join in at the campus library a few days a week. Aside from working through the latest CS concepts, I tried to offer a "real world" perspective as well as tips/tricks that could help the students.

Git isn't officially taught in any of my classes, so I pushed my peers to learn and use GitHub. When we had class projects, I would suggest some new (but proven) technologies that weren't part of the curriculum: We used MongoDB ang Google Cloud / Google DataStudio for a coding project. You get the idea.

And through the last two years of doing this, I got the teaching bug again.

My CS profs are fully on-board with that, even speaking on my behalf to the college administration to have me start lecturing some intro coding classes. But the college is pretty set on requiring a Masters degree, which I can understand.

So it's back to school I go. Again.

Well hopefully. I've only applied to the Geogia Tech program and won't likely receive an admissions decision for a good month or two.


If you're not familiar with this program, it's pretty unique. And very challenging, apparently.

The Georgia Tech Online Masters in CS is done in partnership with Udacity and AT&T. As a result, it's relatively inexpenive. Like $800 a class, which isn't much more than my community college classes. There are a few specializations available and a wide array of classes to choose from.

new omscs numbers

The college boasts 10,799 registered students as of last semester, so it's not a small program. In fact, on the first day of registration, it's typical to get waitlisted for a class even though there were 1,000 spots for a course.

As far as the challenge and effort offered by the program, there are ton of videos and reviews out there explaining it all. I've probably spent 50 hours researching those already. This particular one stands out to me:

Since I've only taken 8 CS courses and it's been 30 years since Calc I and II, this is a tough road to follow.

However, I'm no stranger to hard work and I'm a good independent learner in a structured environment so at least there's a chance of success. Add in a a deep passion for the subject matter and desire to get that Masters so I can teach? My odds of success improve a little.

Regardless, it's going to take some luck to go along with the hard work, plus a little extra luck to get an acceptance for the fall semester. If you have some, send it my way. Every little bit helps!

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