What is a SIG?

In 2024, Softec is building a SIG network in Santa Maria and SLO, and you can help. SIG is an acronym for “Special Interest Group.” SIGs are to professionals like classrooms are to students. SIGs are a topic magnet for professionals designed to connect them with their peers. 80% of my knowledge came from discussions and debates with my peers. My aha moments came not in the classroom but in discussions with my peers and team members.

Here are a few brutal truths that make SIGs essential:

  • Advanced Professional Skills come from peer discussion and debate, not lectures.
  • The rate of change will never be slower than it is today.
  • Keeping pace with change strains everyone.
  • In business, it is not what you know but who you know.
  • Innovation is not found in classrooms; it lives in debate with smart people.
  • Living within a business silo creates tunnel vision; SIGs are a path out.

Are SIGs an alternative to a university?

No. Universities are a great way to kickstart a professional career but are not the only path. Academia often presents a university degree as the only path forward, which is untrue. Data shows that 37.7% of Americans have a BS or higher degree. So, 62.3%, the majority, took a different life path. Universities are now economically impossible for all but the most privileged. In 2023-2024, the all-in cost for a California Resident at UCLA was $43,161, making four years $172,644. Only 75% get out that cheap because the other 25% take more than four years. The result is that the student graduates have a stupid amount of student debt that often takes them 20 years to pay off. In the programming field that I have lived in, it is well-known that 25% of the best are self-taught.

Another Path

My career in the tech industry started as a customer service rep, data entry operator, programmer, systems designer, project manager, and VP of IT. That sequence took me seven years to earn each of those promotions. Since then, I have been the CEO of seven tech startups and have developed multiple successful commercial software products and custom systems. I have succeeded and failed in big and small ways. All this without ever being a full-time college student or borrowing one penny for school.  

If I knew then what I know now

I have loved my life path, except for when I didn’t. As a young man, my family did not have the money, and I did not have the grades or desire to attend a university. I would still be one of the self-taught but given the opportunity to be in a Programmer SIG, I would have jumped all over of that. The Internet and Books can give a person all the necessary lectures without breaking the family bank. Please do not misunderstand me. I think that for the privileged 37.7%, a college education is a great thing, and for many professions, it is required; software development is not one of those.

Consider this!

Success in life is driven by what you know and who you know. If you are interested in a subject, join a SIG, read books, watch videos, and explore the subject with others with the same interests. Expand who and what you know, become one with your goals, and go for it.

Before You Flame Me

I am not anti-academia; for some, pursuing a college degree is a brilliant decision. Like all big life decisions, there is more than one way. If you want to be a Doctor, Lawyer, or other fields that require specific education, then do that. But if your chosen field does not require that, there are other options.