Education Helps Program People For A Successful Career In Dallas’ Technology Sector

SMU alumna Thomas Perkins '75, '80, talks about how earning graduate degrees helped his professional career.

By Robin D. Everson

Earning bachelor’s and master’s of science degrees in civil engineering from Louisiana State University and a master’s and doctorate degrees in computer science from Southern Methodist University points to Tom Perkins’ desire to understand how things come together.

Since the early 60s, when Perkins saw a computer tell a printer to print 40 lines of text in a minute, computers intrigued him. While working on his civil engineering master’s degree, he began to train himself in computers. There were no formal courses in the early days of computers.
“How one learned was by getting a manual and start working to program it. I didn’t take a formal class in computers until I was working on my master’s in computer science. I had already been working as a computer professional for the past 15 years by the time I took my first formal computer class,” said Perkins.
Why did you go back to school?
“I was trying to keep up. The computer field is a very dynamic field. People in the computer industry try to keep up with the developments in the software industry. It is like trying to drink from the fire hose. There is an incredible volume that comes out. It is very difficult to discern which direction to go in when there is so much information available.”

What is the benefit of going to formal classes instead of learning it on your own?
“Schools can really help a lot because they bring things into focus and can train you quickly. Schools are much more responsive to the needs of industry. There are a wide variety of schools that are available in the computer field – from technical schools to community colleges and universities. Anything you can take is well worth the time because you can talk with someone to try to figure out how to program a computer better than you can just trying by yourself. The complexity of computer development has gone way beyond what an individual can handle right now.”...