Musings on education (and some boasting)

I never mentioned here that I finally completed both of my certificates from University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies: “Enterprise Risk Management” and “Financial Analysis and Investment Management”. It took about 3 years of intermittent study. (To achieve a certificate, one has to take 5 or 6 courses, core and elective, within 3 years; but I was clever and saw that the tracks for the two certifications overlap, so to get both I only had to take 8 courses instead of 11 if I chose wisely, which I did. Unfortunately, the track for ERM has been changed since then and this shortcut is no longer possible.) At the same time I was taking a 4-courses certificate program in Technical and Business Writing from York University / Glendon which I also completed. (It’s actually 6 courses but they honoured my degree and credited me 2 computer science courses that one also has to take to achieve the certificate.)

Each course was a semester long and took 3 hours once a week, plus home assignments. The time I invested in all three certificates is roughly equivalent to 36 credits which is roughly equivalent to one year of full-time studies. SCS courses are non-credit courses, though, for some reason, and that’s a shame because if they were, I probably might take some more to eventually turn them into another degree. (The one I hold now is in Math and Computer Science from Moscow State University and it’s been a while since I got it.)

Why did I do that? Wasted so much time (add the commuting) and money, especially considering that I am not going to work as a financial consultant? For several reasons.

1. I sometimes get texts on financial matters for translation. It is crucial to understand the subject matter in this case (as in all the other cases, of course).
2. It is good to have something that gets you out of home if you work from one.
3. I got a lot of information on accounting and corporate finance that may or may not be useful for me in my SR&ED work.
4. It is good to learn something new that gets you out of the old rut. Besides, I noticed that learning something unrelated triggers your imagination. I get a lot of business ideas while attending some totally unrelated events.
5. Learning new things is good for you, it is like a fitness program for your brain. My grandfather learned to play the piano when he retired. (He lived to be 99 and was lucid almost to the end.)
6. I always felt a slight awe towards risk management people, but now I know that risk management is really nothing special; it’s basically glorified Probability 101 plus some common sense. (Well, common sense is a rare thing, and it is definitely worth to spread some even through university education.)
6. I met some great people as classmates and teachers. I’ll list some: Donna Zathy, who managed to make accounting exciting; Saman Kiriwattuduwa whose 2 courses were the last I had to take, of the entire certificate thing, and also the hardest; Hussein Amad who read us Enterprise Risk Management proper and provided plenty of other related and interesting material to read, besides the textbook. By the way, the name of Hussein Amad may seem familiar: you saw him on the UofT SCS ads on TTC where he looks like a real star.

Actually, that’s one of the reasons I love Toronto: there is a good chance that the people you see on billboards are someone you know, and not just synthetic faces from TV.


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