Jeff Ballard


Computer-Aided Engineering Center

2018 Session

Title: What is it like to get a graduate degree while working full time?

How hard can it possibly be to get a graduate degree from the UW while working full time? We work at a University after all… this should be easy right? …straightforward? I mean, people do this all the time, right? (Answers: it depends, no, not really, and not super often)

Come hear the tale of adventure, excitement, and lots of stress that involves my process of getting a PhD from Computer Science while working for CAE (Computer-Aided Engineering). Consider yourself warned: this tale is not for the faint of heart.

In this talk I’ll discuss topics like:

  • What is it like going to “part” time grad school at the UW while working full time? (and learn why part is in quotes)
  • What options are there for having your employer pay for some/all of your schooling? (and learn how at the UW this is a trick question!)
  • For what you might have to foot the bill, what are some strategies to reduce costs?
  • If you already have problems with Work/Life balance what happens when it’s Work/School/Life?
  • Learn just how closely you’re going to need to read the guidebook for your department. (and how you can’t just rely on what I’m saying)
  • Bonus round: Can you get an overload appointment and teach a class while working full time? (despite insistence that this is impossible, empirical studies prove otherwise)
  • If nothing else, come learn about the “simple” the three mountains one climbs to get a PhD.


After 10 years of working for University of Wisconsin-Madison, Jeff knew if he was going to get his Masters degree, he should get going. After the Masters degree he thought, “”that wasn’t so hard… how hard can a PhD be?”” If Jeff is lucky, by the next IT Professionals Conference, he’ll have his PhD from the UW Computer Science department in the area of Databases. At this point Jeff’s ABD (all but dissertation), which qualifies him to drive a cab in Madison, so he has possible career opportunities.

At his day job Jeff is a professional computer herder for the Computer-Aided Engineering Center. His specialties include wrangling Linux, VMWare, networks, open-source beasts of various sizes, and coordinating with his fellow ranch hands to keep the College of Engineering’s IT working. Jeff is the Program Committee Chair for the 2018 IT Professionals Conference.