Saturday, 17 March 2012

A PhD Is About Getting Things Done

My PhD advisor once told me that only a tiny fraction of accepted PhD theses have some scientific value. What a doctoral degree really proves is that the owner knows how to sell something (the thesis).

A PhD is about getting things done. And about choices. Here's my real-life story.

When I was a PhD student, one of the conditions to get your thesis approved was to have a number of papers accepted at prestigious international conferences. I needed one more, and finally I received a notification that my submission to SEKE'98 had been included in the program. A happy coincidence made it that I had a friend I was really fond of in San Francisco, and he told me that there was enough room for me to share the apartment he was living in. Everything seemed perfect and I started to make preparations.

And then I realized that I would not have been able to deliver my PhD in term, if I went to San Francisco. So I decided to stay in Japan and submit my thesis, despite the fact that one of the professors in the evaluation committee had advised me to postpone for 6 more months. I could not afford to postpone because my scholarship had ended a year before and although I was teaching English to cover some of my expenses, I was still spending more than I was earning and my savings were over.

Sometimes, I still wonder if I was wrong. I don't know. What I'm sure of is that, if I had to make the decision again, I would choose the same road. And maybe in a couple of years, or in five, or in ten, we'll meet in San Francisco. At JavaOne.