Captain Grose's Adjutant pages

 
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Jason,

Congrats on getting selected to the Postgrad Program.  IT Mgmt is a hot track, definitely a good career move for the future. Apparently the selection board still thinks you're a Lieutenant, at least according to the message below.

Paige E. Craig Senior
Systems Analyst Office


Paige,

I was initially confused about who the hell sent me this email. Then I remembered. Where are you working these days? How is it going as a "Mr?"

Thanks for the email. I was waiting for the message and my wife and I are excited about going to Monterey. I still can't believe that the Marine Corps is paying me to go get a masters degree.

The reason they have me on the list as a Lieutenant is because that what I was when I applied. I am currently frocked. Hey, as long as my name is on the list, I don't care if they call me "Private!!!!"

Again, thanks for the email and let me know what is going on.

-- Capt Grose


Jason,

I am a consultant, working in the DC & Northern Virginia areas.  My current project is in support of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico; I just can't seem to escape!  But really, this is great work.  I am developing a Management Information System that will integrate all warfighting lab experimentation, funding, etc.  It's very cutting edge stuff - I am using SQL Server, MS Transaction Server, Interdev, ASP, and producing several web based applications in a 3-tier model for the lab.

Enjoy Monterey, Iíve been there many times. They probably have the coolest aquarium on the West Coast, and the beaches are beautiful.  Make sure you guys take a scenic road trip up the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1), it's a great time.

-Paige


Paige,

How did you catch wind of the SEP selection?

Also, I have been getting advice and now I am asking you. I applied and was excepted to the Information Technology Management degree but I have also been told that I should switch over to Computer Science. What do you think? I know that Computer Science is a tougher degree but in terms of Marine Corps jobs and future civilian employment, which is the more valuable in your opinion?

-- Jason


Jason,

I do not know how the NPS approaches these tracks. But, I just looked at their web page, and the CS track is definitely programming intensive.  In the academic world there is a big difference:

1) Information Technology Management, also called Management Information Systems, and & Information Systems Management is a broader understanding of ALL information technology to include:  Internet, Databases, Computer Hardware, Applications, Programming, Networks, Architecture, Etc.  This is one of the degrees that I completed, an Information Systems Degree from Maryland University.  When you're done, you will understand how ALL technologies fit together.  That's very broad, and what you end up with is a very strategic view of technology.

2) Computer Science is much more specific.  Generally a CS engineer will become an expert in certain areas such as object-oriented programming, visual modeling and graphics, networking, etc.  This is a much more technical field where you generally become an expert in a certain area. When you're done, you will understand and be able to manage the development of specific software, but you will not have the broad understanding associated with an IT degree.

However, I have to warn you that the decision must be based on what you want to do, your current strengths, and your current interests. I picked an IT degree because it is rather easy for me to pick up programming languages; I've been programming since I was about eight years old.  And, if you don't have any computer programming skills, it is fairly easy to go out and get MCSE certifications or other training.  With the IT degree I was able to understand how several strategic issues that escape the CS engineer:  organizational issues, such as Human Resources, Manufacturing, Management can be improved through technology; how technology effects a society or organization in terms of freedom, security, ethics, quality of life, etc.; how disparate technologies fit together, technology trends.

You also have to decide what you want to do in the future. Outside the military both degrees are valuable, provided you know how to apply them:  With a CS Degree you can go out and develop specific software, you might lead a software development team, and you will probably spend many hours behind computers developing software.  With an IT degree there are many different possibilities:  While you probably won't be hired to develop software, you will have the ability to lead much more complex and diverse projects.  You might develop new technology, or lead a team of web masters, computer programmers, network gurus, systems analysts, etc.

As far as the comparative utility of these degrees to the military, I am unsure.  Personally, I would not recommend training military personnel to be programmers.  Languages, software, and development packages change so quickly that it is usually better to get contractors to do the hard programming and actual development. It is much better for the military to invest in officers who have a strategic understanding of information technologies; these officers will be able to work within organizations to improve and develop new systems.

I guess another distinction here is the level of interaction with the organization. A CS engineer understands the computer and the software, and if he's good he can make some kick-ass applications; yet, he does not focus on improving the organization. The IT bubba should look at the organization, understand its requirements, deficiencies, and challenges, and develop the proper IT acquisition and development strategy.

That's my opinion, hope it helps.

P.S.  As a quick comparison, I could have gotten out and taken advantage of my computer programming skills and worked for a company developing software.  The salaries ranged from $55000 to $70,000.  However, with my background and IT degree my compensation is double that. This doesn't have much application to the military world, but what it implies is that a Jack-of-all-trades with a Strategic understanding is more valuable than an expert. And you see this, in some form, within the military.  The SSgt who can rip apart and fix any problem on an M1 is very important, he is a specialist; then you have officers, who are not experts, but who have a broader understanding of the organization and the different fields, from Armor to Intelligence.

-Paige


Paige,

I truly appreciate the detailed email you sent me. I read it twice through when I got it and then I read it to my wife. We then discussed my options, strengths, interests, etc.

As a result of the information you provided, I realize that I should stick with ITM. Please indulge me while I explain my reasons. BTW, this is probably more for my benefit than yours because I get to get it out in writing.

My college degree is technical communications with a focus on web page design and computer issues. When I was searching for a major, I initially tried to go computer science but succumbed to the "weeder class" aspect of my first programming class. It definitely turned me off of programming as a major.

I did not want to go computer engineering because I did not want to learn to build computers. What I realized is that I wanted to USE computers and learn how to USE existing programs to create something. I know that sounds pretty vague and I was stuck trying to find a field that fit that amorphous parameter.

That's when I found TC. It was almost verbatim what I wanted. I learned many different programs, used a lot of computers, and created everything from online help to newsletters. It had design aspects, translation of technical info to "average guy" speak, and touched so many different areas.

As an Adjutant, I was surprised to find that this diversity helped me succeed in the admin field. Like you mention, it is the difference between being a Jack-Of-All-Trades and a specialist. Ironically, I have always stated that I never want to be the end-all expert at anything but would rather know a little about a lot of different things.

So you can imagine my reaction to your email. If I understand it, I would be a specialized, single-minded, chained to a computer, debugger of programs as a CS guy. But you can see from my background, that is not what I want to do. Also, I am very temperamental when things do not work out right (one of my weaknesses). Ask my wife how many times I throw a fit when I cannot get my webpage to do what I expect it to do. So a lifetime of debugging will probably leave me wifeless and dead within a decade.

On the other hand, it sounds like IT is more along the lines of what I had in mind. I would work in a diversity of fields, be in charge of the pieces of a project rather than actually working the individual specialties, and work on a wider platform where I can take into account the big picture associated with the project. That also fits nicely into my background as a technical communicator.

What I find interesting is your comments on the civilian future of the degrees. From what I gathered, the reputation of ITM is that it is comparatively easier that computer science and that it is for those who rock out of CS. But if what you say is true, your earning potential is double with IT than CS. This seems to be counterintuitive: Harder degree = less money.

Lastly, if you have stuck with me thus far, I have about 9 months before I start. Is there anything I should read up on. Some intro books you would suggest? I am talking basic stuff to get me primed for the course. Any info would help.

Thanks again for all the info. Without it, I could have made a really bad move.

-- Jason


Email -- jdgrose115@polyglut.net
Web -- http://members.tripod.com/~jdgrose115/

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