Sympathy for my professors.

One of the recent challenges I was faced with was explaining to graduating CS majors why Network Appliance was a place they would love working at. And the challenge is not that I don’t think NetApp is a great place to work. The problem is that I think it’s a great place to work because we are growing at 30% a year, are working on the most important and hardest data management problems out there, have the best executive team out here and will work with some of the smartest people in the industry.
But if you’ve never had a job, are 21 years old, just got a degree in CS, I just might as well have said:

Network Appliance eivai isws n kallntern etaireia stov kosmo gia kapoiov pou molis teleiwse to pavepistimio. Megalwvei 30% to xrovo, ta problnmata pou lunoumai eivai snmavtika, exoume tromera avwtata stelexoi, kai para polous e3upvous upallnlous.

Which brings me to my challenge. Sometimes what you are trying to explain is so basic, that you don’t realize that it’s actually pretty complex and it’s only basic to you because you’ve been living and breathing it for years.

This reminds me of a professor of mine who in class had the following dialog with a student:

Student: Why can you add and multiple nxn matrices but not divide them?

Professor: because matrices and integers have the ring property.

Student: Huh?

Professor: integers and matrices are both rings

Student: ???

Professor: Integers have the ring property as do matrices

The problem was that the Professor just did not get that the student had no idea what the word ring actually meant.

It turns out that going to that place where you have to explain what the ring property is, is a hard thing to do. And everytime I try, I keep going back to: well the integers are a ring.

So to the professor I mocked mercilessly for years, I apologize. Understanding what the gap is and explaining it, is a very, very hard thing to do.

One thought on “Sympathy for my professors.

  1. Michael Rubin

    I am not sure it is really that hard. What you want to convey are:

    1) Netapp is growing
    2) It has hard problems
    3) It has important problems.
    3) The execs are great.

    I think these are some very simple concepts. Try just:

    1) Netapp is a place with more and more stuff to do, you will never get to all the fun.
    2) These problems are hard, they will make you work and grow and solving them. You won’t be bored.
    3) What you do matters and can both make lots of money and even saves lives.
    4) The guys in charge are not jerks they are cool.

    These are very simple concepts you could explain to a kid in grade school.


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