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IT Degrees (Again)

(I took a three-day holiday) ...

Earlier, X.J. Scott Wrote:
>The way you mentioned it sounded like this is a common >thing. The classes posted look like for an AA degree, or >a 'sham BS' from a Coleman College like place. Is this >correct? Or is this a degree now offered by actualy >universities (say it ain't so) & if so, could you post some >examples?

I'm talking about a specific flavor of degree:  It's not straight CS (which has to be acreditted) and it's not straight BBA (which also has to be acreddited) but it's somewhere in-between.

Part of the theory being:  Every company with 400+ employees needs a network guy/PC Tech, an accountant, and a Accounting/PC Supervisor, but not all of them need a coder.  So the degrees tend to be either old business (COBOL), IT Infrastructure (Networking), A bit of CS, or an attempt at all three.

Examples:

Michigan State University's Degree in "Management Information Science" (MIS)

Grand Valley State University's Degree in "Information Systems"
http://www.csis.gvsu.edu/Academics/ismajor.shtml

Salisbury Unversity's MIS Degree
http://www.salisbury.edu/schools/Perdue/InfoSys/curricula.asp

To be fair, Salisbury and U of M have a lot of accounting and business stuff - I think they are designed so that the graduate go off and do "systems analysis" - setting up things like the technology backbone, automating the accounting and payroll systems, etc, for a bank or other non-technology company.  (See above about 400+ people companies.)

Except, of course, this sets them up for a management position right out of college ... and nobody wants to hire a manager with 0 experience.  So they go out and they become coders ... often in C/C++/Java Environments. (Unless they are lucky and get to work in a COBOL Shop.)

So you've got this guy with one semester of C++ who is working as a coder, and just doesn't get that the bubble sort is inefficient, and people like Bevin end up thinking that a degree is a waste of time. :-)

just my $0.02.  Most hard-core CS Programs (esp U of M, Carnegie-Mellon, MIT, etc.) are very very very good.  It's the compromises that ... compromise.  Comments?


regards,

Matt H.
Monday, June 24, 2002

MIS degrees have a place.  I've known a couple people who should have had one - their ideal early jobs involve installing, configuring, and repairing hardware/software, dealing with networking, and so on.  Eventually they may want formal training and the piece of paper (to go into management, or into larger-scale system design as you mentioned).

Unfortunately, neither of those guys has an MIS degree - one has no degree, the other has a CS degree it took him 5 1/2 years to get based on his complete inability to do calculus level math.  Both of them, interestingly enough, reject the MIS degree because it isn't sufficiently 'h4rdc0re.'

If the MIS degree is intending to appeal to these guys (which I think it is, or should be) it needs to become more technical.  Of course, until managers stop hiring recent MIS grads to write code, there's not much motivation on the college's end to move it away from "CS lite."

Mikayla
Monday, June 24, 2002


I think the MIS-type degrees are best as graduate degree's like Hood College or Harvard's MS in IT Mgt.

There, you can take your very specialized experience as a Coder, or Accountant, or Network Tech, and "Generalize it up" to the next level - at a point where you have the age and exeperience to truely do the Manager in MIS role.

I don't have a problem with a Network Technician's Degree, but I would think you could do it as a AAS and end up with an MCSE.  (I would want a couplea UNIX courses, of course. :-)

just my $0.02.  Other thoughts?

Matt H.
Monday, June 24, 2002

"... and "Generalize it up" to the next level - at a point where you have the age and exeperience to truely do the Manager in MIS role"

Knowing whose butt to kiss.

My $0.01... and I probably should wait for change.

Joe AA.
Monday, June 24, 2002

It's funny, the tension that starts to show between management types and programming types when degrees become the conversation topic.

I myself do not have a degree, something I'm not proud of, but worth mentioning. I've been working as a developer for 7 years (newbie) and this fall I plan to go to college and finally get a degree.

When I first started investigating my options, trying to decide what degree I would pursue, I tended to lean toward the more scientific ones such as CS, EE, Math, etc, thinking that it would enlighten me and compliment my experience well. But as I looked closer I realized I could get an IT degree, focusing on more business aspects of software development, and then pick up the programming/mathmatics classes I need to expand on what I already know. I think by initially choosing the more scientific ones I was stroking my geek ego.

I have a keen interest in the business side of software because succeeding in this industry depends on much much more than just creating elegant code. It takes the know how to finance, schedule, create, market, and distribute it. And those problems are just as complex and interesting as any coding problem.

But in the end it is just an education and it must be applied to be useful.

Ian Stallings
Monday, June 24, 2002


If you've been coding for 7 years, and you're good at it, I think the scientific BS degree might be redundant.  Obviously, you allready know how to solve problems and solve them well.

At this point, I agree, you might want to think a bit about the business stuff.  Have you heard this one?

{
In the middle ages, the bishop went out to visit a work site, and he saw three men chipping stone.  He asked them what they were doing:

The first replied "An Honest day's work for an Honest Day's Pay."

The second replied "I am doing the best stone-cutting in the country!"

The third put down his chisel, lifted his eyes a bit toward heaven, and said " ... I am building a Cathedral."

}

  Once we become advanced it our careers, if we focus on the technical, we can be become very very very good at what we do.  The only danger is to become so good at waht we are doing today that we lose track of what we are doing it for ... illustrated by the second man in the story above.

  Good luck!

Matt H.
Monday, June 24, 2002

Matt... if you are going to tell a story, you really should tell the whole story... roughly from memory... the rest of the story:

"The bishop was so highly impressed with the third man, he had an excellent sermon on this very subject.

Later on, he revisited the construction site.  The third man was no longer there.  He asked the first two men as to what happened to him, and he was told that the management let him go.

The bishop couldn't believe a thing like this could happen, and eventually asked why such a person was let go.  "Simple" said the first man.  "He thought we were building a cathedral... this is supposed to be a barn!""

Joe AA.
Monday, June 24, 2002


uh ... no.  I got the story from "The Practice Management" by Drucker.  I _believe_ it is reproduced in either the Mythical Man Month (Brooks) or PeopleWare (DeMarco/Lister.)

Is that last part like, a joke or something?

Matt H.
Monday, June 24, 2002


It's from Chapter 11, titled "Management by Objectives and Self-Control", of "The Practice of Management" by Peter Drucker.  (3rd Paragraph or so.)

So, are you trolling or am I missing something?

Matt H.
Monday, June 24, 2002

No, I ain't no troll.  I am not surprise that someone like Drucker, still trying to make a living out of MBO would leave the story unfinished.  It suits his purpose much better than the full story.  I haven't read the book but I can imagine the context.

Was it Peopleware?  Could have been... or Brook's book.  I can't really remember where I read the full story - I've never seen it without the true punchline.  My first thought was Weinberg as I usually find myself remembering his stories.

Is it a joke?  Come on Matt, you are an intelligent person.  What do you think would happen if you wrote your "MBOs" along the line of building a cathedral if you really were involved in building a barn! 

Joe AA.
Monday, June 24, 2002


That's the thing.  I don't think anyone ever did any stonecutting to build a barn.  And the Brooks version doesn't have the barn stuff in it either.

Drucker wrote his book in 1954; the "original" version is older?

Matt H.
Monday, June 24, 2002


I searched on Yahoo again.

"I'm building a cathedral" - 191 hits

"Build a Cathedral"+Barn - 12 hits.

None of the 12 panned out.

hmm ....

Sounds like your version of the story if a joke someone made up to show one of the (admitted) weaknesses in MBO, not the other way around ....

Matt H.
Monday, June 24, 2002

Matt,

Thanks, I appreciate your thoughtful reply and discussion. This has been kind of an eye-opener for me and gives me more of an understanding of some of the other debates that I see and have wondered at.

When you listed the typical requirements, I was alarmed to think it was some sort of inadequate CS-lite degree, but I see now that it's actually a nice degree for certain purposes, just not development. A network administrator, a software marketer or middle manager, and others would benefit from such a degree. But it's evident that it would not be anything near adequate training for a developer.

The problem apparently is that, although that curriculum was clearly not designed to produce developers, people are taking it as some sort of easy and fun engineering degree and then getting hired to do development by people who (I guess) don't realize what that degree is really about. So we have managers and workers thinking they are qualifed to do proper development since they have credentials, without anyone realizing that its completely the wrong credential. Many of the debates we see regarding certification and the value of a degree stem from this situation it would seem. Am I getting the general idea here right? If this is indeed part of the problem, it might make sense to educate employers and degree holders what the intent of the degree is so that we don't have people getting confused and unhappy all around.

Thanks again,

X. J. Scott
Monday, June 24, 2002

When I was in school for CS, we always referred to the MIS degree as the 'BS in Microsoft Office'.  I've found that most people that have gone through CS education are well aware of the difference.  I have more respect for the MIS degree now, though.

those who know me have no need of my name
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

noname, I had the same feeling from my peers when I went to Georgia Tech.  I think this is mainly because Georgia Tech offered no such degree, but it was offered by the local state/community college.  However, it was called CIS (Computer Information Systems) and not MIS.


Ozzie

OzzieGT
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

At least in the European context there is also some internal rivalry involved inside the universities. CS type degrees are offered by the CS department, while MIS type degrees are generally offered by the economics\management departments. The MIS offerings often sprang from a desire of the latter to cash in on the popularity of CS in the 80s and 90s. The CS part of the MIS curriculum is often not designed nor taught by people with a CS background, but by the poor sod that pulled the shortest match or had the lamest excuse on why he/she should not have to do it. The "real" CS departments did not want to get involved since they saw this as a direct competition for their own "Applied CS" offerings.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

You know, what I find funniest about all of these threads (I'm sorry - been away for a little while so I missed out on the continuation of the other thread) is the concept that someone trained at an educational institution in math, science or IT is going to be any better than anyone else at problem solving.

Me? I was a voice major (*giggle* Now I'm really showing my true colors - a developer who is not only female but used to be about as far away from the computer science world as far away gets). How did I end up here?

I grew up with computers - starting with a Trash-80 when I was 5 years old (took it's instructions from a cassette tape - I remember when we installed the BRAND NEW 5 1/4" drive) - that's how I ended up here. I started coding in Basic at 5 years old and I can't get away from computers and code no matter what field I'm in *laughing*

Anyhow, my point (and I do believe I had one) is that no one degree "holds" the definitive problem-solving skills that you need in order to code well. In fact, I think an ideal degree would be a Logic degree with a heavy dose of Common Sense, Business Acumen and Real Life skill.

If I see that in a college, I'll go for that, but until I do, I'll be content learning about the world on my own, and applying my knowledge to do whatever I find interesting (which at the moment happens to be coding...might be advertising or sales tomorrow...might be nuclear physics...who knows!)

Bevin Valentine
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Dear Bevin,

I fully respect your position on "finding your own way". I've done a few "odd" things myself before I settled on getting a CS degree, and I do believe that the other stuff actually was as important in shaping myself professionaly as the "topical" degree. However, getting degrees and certificates is only partly about educating yourself. The other part is about "credibility" and "provability". This might not be how things "should" be, but in real life this is just the way things are. Most of the time people do not make the effort to find out about your uniqueness.
Question: Does your boss just say he's special, or does he also drop in his B.A., M.A., Ph.D. and M.B.A. when trying to attract new customers?

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Sure Bevin, the average guy on the street may be a better problem solver than someone with a degree.  But its also a lot harder to teach the average guy on the street stochastic calculus and finance on-the-job.  Sure, my grandma might be able to diagnose me better than my doc, but there's something that draws me towards the doc.  Granted, dear old dad can do amazing things with duct tape & bailing wire, but I still prefer to pay the licensed HVAC guy to show up at my house.  But its more than just technical training.  I went through a good bit of philosophy electives in my day, and you could always tell a pop-philosopher on-the-street from someone who had learnt from professors.  Now, if your reading group happens to include a couple of professors then sure, you could learn philosophy on your own.  But you would have to join them when they had decided to 'start over' and didn't mind a newbie asking them inane questions for the next 4 years.

Better problem solvers?  Maybe not by innate ability, but by training & practicing, yes.

those who know me have no need of my name
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Anyone trying to impress me would do well to hide his or her MBA, if that's what they've got.

Hugh Wells
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Bevin I agree.  A degree doesn't make someone a problem solver...that requires intelligence and isn't something that you 'learn', but it can make someone who is a good problem solver a better one.

OzzieGT
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Hugh, what's wrong with an MBA?

those who know me have no need of my name
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Maybe I come from a different world than most because I'd rather not let a doctor try to figure things out (they often don't). I can cite numerous instances where I had to convince doctors and vets to do an actual test because I knew what was wrong and they doubted me (I love hearing "oh - you really *are* right"). I read Merck manuals and medical journals if I want to figure out what is wrong with me. Same as a doctor would, if they could actually apply themselves toward the job with the same gusto that they do medical school.

Degrees don't impress me, abilities do.

I know the credulity and "provability" thing is a problem. However, am I helping anyone (besides myself - of course) if I just kowtow to it? And maybe that's my grand delusion - that I'll ever change things or pave the way for anyone else like me - but heck - can't hurt to have a dream *wink*

My boss? My boss has a ceramics degree *laughing*

Many people I know do rely on their degree to Prove they are smart and can do the job. I guess I'd just rather see skills - real ones - because just about any monkey can figure out the methods behind getting through college and do that. The people I know who leave college without degrees are usually the ones that have quit or partied too hard - I haven't really seen too many people fail because they couldn't "get it". Yes, some people do get through better than others. I'm not sure how much it shows - maybe just that you know how to manipulate the system?

Maybe it's kind of like the politician thing - when I was young I used to think you wanted a politician with good values in office - now I've grown to realize that you want someone who is a really good negotiator - and really good negotiators don't always have great morals.

Calculus? I can do calculus. I don't need a degree to do so. Heck, I did biomechanics studies with no degree and built a force plate. I learned it on my own. Went out - decided what I wanted to learn, and found the resources myself. Why do I need someone specific to guide me?

Add to my list of desires in a degree the knowledge of how to truly do research and how to apply knowledge across multiple disciplines - to see the linkages within everything - what would you call that "an emphasis in Relations"?

Please understand (once again) I'm not saying degrees are totally worthless. I'm saying that they aren't all they are cracked up to be when you are looking for someone to employ. I'll take skills. aptitude and a desire to learn any day over a degree.

Bevin Valentine
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

I've found they're often clueless on important technology business issues, to a serious extent. This is exacerbated by the fact that holders are often accorded an unwarranted degree of responsibility or respect for their judgements.

I attach much more important to specialists than to MBA's. I have seen some really really dumb conclusions and reports from highly paid MBAs. Like recommending the abolition of the sole unit making money, as a minor example.

Hugh Wells
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

I haven't had a lot of experience with MBAs myself. 

What would you think if the MBA person had a CS degree and several years of experience as a coder?

those who know me have no need of my name
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

I would ask why they saw a need to do the MBA. In my world view, people who do MBAs are not the most successful people of their fields.

Hugh Wells
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Finally, it is money in the bank that counts!!! :-)

Prakash S
Tuesday, June 25, 2002



For the record, there are some "Good Will Hunting" types who just don't need college.  There are a lot of "Dumb and Dumber" types that won't be helped by college, yet can learn to survive and know they will make extra $$$ if they go to college.  (Plus they can party for four years.)

Somewhere in the middle is the group that really benefits from it.  Each of us may be in a different group, and trying to argue for/against each group doesn't make too much sense.  We're different; let's leave it at that. :-)

College can be like anything else, you can get out what you put in - and you get the goal you seek.  I wanted to get world class people to teach me cool stuff - and I learned a good bit.  But, honestly, I am in a slim majority, if that ...

Matt H.
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

"Why do I need someone specific to guide me?"

The same reason I would take a guide on a trip through the Andes:  They are more efficient and I get more out of it.  They've already been on the path, they know what to watch out for, they know the shortcuts, they know why your 'brilliant' idea would surely lead to instant death, they are able to cultivate what you thought was a lesser idea into a better route, you get to travel with other adventurous people, what would've taken me a dozen trips to learn on my own my guide was able to teach me in just one....

YMMV.

those who know me have no need of my name
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

I'm not saying not to consult with anyone along the way - but it's very easy to get in touch with people who actually do what you want to do to get help.

For instance, do you want to get help hiking the Andes by someone who has just learned about it? Or by someone who isn't necessarily trained, but has done it a bunch?

I'll take guy or gal #2 any day.

But hiking the Andes isn't exactly the same as computer programming, is it? (Of course, unless you are on mission-critical programming projects - in which case it might be very similar). You would have testing procedures (ideally) in place to keep you from making that mistake that makes you fall off the cliff.

I'm also not saying I want to be operated on by a surgeon who hasn't had any training.

All I'm saying is that it's not all it's cracked up to be and I really wish people would understand that.  A degree isn't necessarily a measure of competence. It can help, but the proof is in the pudding, so to speak.

Bevin Valentine
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

"All I'm saying is that it's not all it's cracked up to be and I really wish people would understand that. A degree isn't necessarily a measure of competence. It can help, but the proof is in the pudding, so to speak. "

I haven't seen many people disagree with that in any of the recent threads on this subject. It is just that unfortunately we sometimes lack the time and energy to proof all of those puddings, and in an ideal world, a degree or certificate granting institute would have done part of the proofing for us. Alas, as so many of the admittedly anecdotal evidence seems to suggest, there seems to be a world of difference between what the institutes would like to pretend a degree or certificate stands for, and reality.

Just me (Sir to you)
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

I agree, JustMe.

Bevin- I would rather have guide #3:  The one who studied anthropology at a university then spent the next decade roaming the Andes.

those who know me have no need of my name
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

I've been on boths sides of this degree thing.  I earned a bunch of credits toward my MSEE back in the early 90's.  Going to school over a TV set (literally), mailing in homework, taking remote tests.  There just were not enough hours in the day however, and work began taking more and more time with more interesting work to be done.  I wound up dropping out a bit over 1/2 way through.

What's the point?  Well, the degree had an emphasis in solid state physics.  I loved the material though I hated the tests (so much stress).  It had almost zero direct applicability to what I do now or what I did then.  But you know what?  I wish I had stayed in for the duration.  Not because it would help me professionally (I'd probably be doing what I'm doing right now), but because the learning was worth every cent of the $500/credit hour.  The beauty and elegance physcal sciences, and above all math is well worth the effort.

Well, couldn't I have learnt all that by picking up some math and physics books and reading them?  No, not by my experience - in reality I only learn when I "have to".  Otherwise I waste my precious time writing diatribes on weblogs.  I have a copy of Papoulis's "Probability, Random Variables and Stochasitc Processes" on the shelf, right here.    EE606 - I never did complete the course.  My loss.  Mere mortals do not learn this in their "spare time".

Nat Ersoz
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Degrees are symbols.  Symbols are used to signify some difference where no physical difference exists. 

That's why priests and bishops dress funny, street policemen wear uniforms, etc. 

Often times people get confused over symbols, mistaking the symbol for the thing that it is supposed to represent.  Do you believe a priest is a moral person because he wears funny clothes?

In this way, degrees are mistaken to represent a person of intelligence, a person of ability, a person of competence.

Education should not be mistaken for intelligence - regurgitation of knowledge only demonstrates memorization has occurred. 

Skills should not be mistaken for ability.  A person of skills is limited by the skill they know - a person of ability is not limited by the skills they don't know.

Problem-solving is not taught.  It is learned, and maybe it takes a certain natural wiring in the brain in those that "get it" - I don't know. 

Problem-solving cannot be taught because no one knows exactly how we do it - how we suddenly make that grand leap across the "Gulf of Human Intellect" to create a solution where none existed before.  It's like that cartoon of a complex math formula, sometimes a flowchart, and in the middle is a cloud that says "then a miracle occurs".

What is taught, is the fallacy that finding a solution is nothing more than a matchup of the list of "approved existing solutions" with a list of "known problems".  This fallacy is encouraged by our industry's insistance to call software products "solutions". 

In the real world, solutions do not exist independently of problems - they must be made for the specifics of the problem - created by the intelligence mind of a person of ability.

This fact scares most managers to death.  They would rather ignore it and hide behind the safety of symbols - like degrees and fallacies of how problems are really solved.  A person of ability doesn't "fit in", and doesn't care to.  Sometimes we are called "mavericks", sometimes worse.   

You're a maverick also Bevin... and I mean that as a compliment - as a point of pride.  It's not the easy way, but it sure beats being just another member of the herd, and a heck of a lot more fun.

Joe AA.
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Awww shucks Joe, thanks.

I used to call myself a renegade developer, but Maverick is sounding pretty darned good too :O)

Someone (I always forget who, when I'm in the process of replying - I should open two windows but I've got my display set to one monitor due to a weird bug in some software I'm beta testing...never mind *laughing*) mentioned that they wouldn't learn the things they would learn in class in their spare time...

That's my precise problem with education today. Education as it's structured in our society doesn't teach people the value of doing that investigation themselves. People like to sit around and be told how to do that stuff as if some sort of strange osmosis was going to occur.

If you want to learn something go! Do it! You can! Find the books, find the people who are experts in that field. Most TRUE experts are more than willing to help you because they are confident they know what they are talking about (unlike those who posture and strut and are unwilling to explain the whys of things - they are usually totally insecure and mostly bluffing).

I never lost my childhood curiousity about life - perhaps that's why college can be good, because it's been drilled into most people that the only reason to learn is a "darned good one". I learn because it's delightful - as a child does.

I'm sorry to take up much forum space babbling on about this - but I happen to believe that it's very very important.

babble mode off - I'll shut up for now I promise :-)

Bevin Valentine
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

{
Problem-solving cannot be taught because no one knows exactly how we do it - how we suddenly make that grand leap across the "Gulf of Human Intellect" to create a solution where none existed before.
}

Sadly, I have to, well, grudgingly, agree.  :-)

Looking it that way, the best things my Math/Physics courses did for me was to throw me at a problem set again and again with a few very specific rules for manipulating that problem set.  The only reason that I had any motivation to solve the problems was to get the cheese at the end - my degree - and the pressure of knowing that my family/friends expected me to succeed, and my own pride, etc, etc.

I _could_ have just "Done It" as bevin suggests above, getting a job out of HS and writing 3 years of code.  Then, by the time I graduated college, I might have the same skills.  BUT ...

1) I'm lazy. College gave me direction.
2) Me being me, I would have become an expert in CS, know a thing or two about Math/Probability, know a thing or two about military science/history, and otherwise be dumb.  There's no way I would have learned the liberal arts stuff:  Phsycology, Sociology, Communications, Symbolic Logic, etc, etc, etc.
3) The whole unversity ideal of knowledge sharing was just cool.  I picked up some theology in college, read Ayn Rand, More than a Carpenter, lots more, not because I was taking that class, but my friends were interested, and it was interesting.

In other words, if I had got a job after high school where I coded in a nice university town, and found a coffee shop to hang out and bounce ideas, I could probably get the same benefit as I did with my degree.  Of course, I'd _still_ want to take a course or two at night.

When I finish my MSCIS, I'm probably going to take some courses in electrical wiring or auto shop.  Not for credit, just because that's a good way for me to learn.

overall, I've got an open mind, and I think we agree enough that I should just let it go ... :-)

Matt H.
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

In most "professional" fields, a degree usually preceeds some sort of multi-year apprenticeship or residency.  There is often the requirement of continuing education throughout one's career.  Do incompetant people slip through this maze?  Absolutely.  Is the process a "good thing"?  Often it is.

Would such an infrastructure, even if not legally required, help in software development?  Who knows?  The net result could be to help average to dumb companies, by weeding out the bottom 20% that usually end up at these places.  The exceptional companies would be hurt, as bright, competant people would be spending redundant time, energy, and money trying to "prove" they meet a standard that their work shows they obviously exceed.

That's the fundamental rub with software development.  An average and a great HVAC guy may only differ 40% in value.  Even the best dermatologist probably spends most of his time saying "here's the zit cream".  One could argue that most developers do data backed web sites or applications, but you're not typing the exact same lines of code over and over.

There is a place for the "average" developer.  The problem with degrees is that they don't guarantee enough.  Perhaps the system needs to go further and expect an apprenticeship of sorts.

Or, better yet, some sort of advanced, subjective testing criteria.  Current tests examine knowledge of program syntax and specific technologies.  Perhaps essay tests that would go along the lines of "Here is a business problem.  How would you go about solving it".  A bad answer would have a ream of spaggetti code.  A good answer would be "I would talk to sales and marketing about market expectations".  I would find out the relative size of the databases involved.  Here is a flowchart of a conceptual design.  I expect to have performance issues here and here.  These will need attention.  It makes sense to divide the project into the following modules.  Someone will need to investigate load testing tools.  I would expect brief, nightly downtime. etc. etc.".

Maybe there's a market for some sort of third party testing like this.  It would be difficult to regrugitate this type of knowledge.  The best developers have this knowledge and ability, but it doesn't project well on a resume or test.

What does everyone think of this idea?

Bill Carlson
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Tests upon test upon test.  Sure, if third-party testing doesn't do it, then we could have 4th-party testing.

It's no more of the same thing played out the same under a different name.  Certification.  Only those third-parties would benefit.

The employer has the right... and the obligation to hire the best person he can find for the job.  It is his responsibility.  Good employers don't shirk that responsibility through an appeal to a arbitrary but considered wiser "authority".

The ultimate test... is on the job.

Joe AA.
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Hugh, re the MBAs, I know a very good programmer, in fact, one of the best I've ever known (and he also happens to have a CS degree) that is now signed on to get his MBA. He's doing it because he wants to understand not only the technical side (which he does) but also the business side so he can be a better manager.

Your closed-minded "throw out the MBAs" would be ignoring this guy, who anyone would be lucky to have on their team.

Troy King
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

I agree with Joe AA. and believe he misunderstood what I was saying.  The issue here isn't mandated certification, it's about how to gain knowledge about a person in an area where you are not an expert.

There are plenty of instances where a division is formed or a new project taken on, and the person responsible does not have the technical knowedge to even begin to hire the needed personel.  This situation is reality.  I wouldn't know how to hire a good sales person.  Our salesperson wouldn't know how to hire a good developer (nor should he).

Without knowing the personality traits and aptitudes to look for, a degree and experience are a necessary surrogate.  My idea was to give the non-technical hiring person another tool to work with.

Without development experience, it will never be possible for these people to hire in an optimum fashion, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't have additional tools to work with.

Bill Carlson
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Bill, FYI, sales people are NEVER hired on the basis of a degree. That's very much an aptitude and results driven field.

Hugh Wells
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Actually, my attitude towards the value of MBA's is not  "closed-mind." It's open, based on experience working with them. The closed-mind approach accepts the rah-rah that says an MBA is a terrific degree and MBA's are all brilliant managers.

Hugh Wells
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Hugh, I agree.  My point is not "pro-degree" (I don't have one myself).  I was trying to illustrate the need for better tools to allow people to hire "cross-specialty".  I'm a professional developer and wouldn't know how to hire a great sales person.  A support manager isn't going to know what questions to ask of a prospective developer.  Unfortunately, business needs often require this kind of hiring.

In the absence of objective measurement, a degree subsitutes.  Is it a good measure?  Absolutely not, but it's quantifyable.

Just for the sake of stereotyping, you have three classes of developers:

1.  Useless.  Can't do anything at all.  Developer only by title.
2.  Competant.  Not going to embarass.
3.  Brilliant.

I don't like certifications, but it would be nice if there was a way for your typical non-technical MBA to make sure they're getting 2 or 3, not 1.

Rather than blast what I'm saying, maybe some suggestions could be offered?  This is a real problem in IT, and no good solutions appear to be available.  Recruiters are supposed to be the answer here, but if you don't know what acronyms to match to, how can they help?  You can always call IBM, who advertises to these people endlessly on TV, but who wants to drop $250K to get some data massaged?

Do you see the problem I'm trying to address?

Bill Carlson
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Yeh, sure. It's a good point. I'm not against it. My original post was actually against the statement that self-taught people were less capable than university taught people, which is just not the case. (I'm university taught myself, but most of the useful stuff I know has been picked up under my own steam.)

Hugh Wells
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Hugh, let me see if I've got this straight...

You've had some bad experiences with MBAs, therefore the degree is worthless.  Is that it?

No one claims that the MBA makes a person into a leader.  What the degree does do is give a person the requisite knowledge of accounting, quantitative analysis, finance, economics, marketing, organizational behavior, etc., to be more effective decision makers.

That, and its pretty much considered a rite of passage if you want an upper level management job in a medium to large company.

those who know me have no need of my name
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

And another thing -

"sales people are NEVER hired on the basis of a degree"

All the pharmaceutical sales jobs I've seen required a bachelor's degree before they would even interview you.

those who know me have no need of my name
Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Do an analysis some time of the involvement of MBA's in failed dot coms ( actually, we could define this further - dumb ideas that smart people could see would not work ) and things like Enron and, I guess, World.com.

Hugh Wells
Wednesday, June 26, 2002

What of it Hugh?  What the hell is that suppossed to prove?

those who know me have no need of my name
Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Bernie Ebbers was trained to be a high school basketball coach for christ's sake!

those who know me have no need of my name
Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Hugh by saying to 'look at MBAs in failed dot-coms' you are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.  You are saying to look at MBAs, but only the MBAs of failed dot-coms...so you inherently saying to look at only the MBAs that failed...then you are using this analysis to say that ALL MBAs are stupid...it's a very flawed argument.

A much more interesting analysis would say how many failed dot-coms had MBAs and how many didn't, and the do the same analysis on successful corporations....although I still don't know if that would do much.

OzzieGT
Thursday, June 27, 2002

Don't just limit it to dotbombs... roughly 1/3 of the Fortune 1000 CEOs have MBAs.  Then factor in all of the CxO people that MBAs.  What does it prove?  Not a damn thing, really.  It may mean that the degree will be required more & more in the future - MBAs do like to hire other MBAs.  However, an MBA won't gaurantee success, and its not required to have an MBA to achieve success. 

You know what else?  In the top schools, only about 1/4 of the class is made up of undergrad business majors.  The rest comes from engineering, sciences, and liberal arts.  Engineering usually has about 1/3 of the seats, but at schools such as mit its around 1/2.  What does that mean?  Again, not a lot.  Admission is competitive though, so I would say these people are pretty smart.  I doubt business school turns otherwise bright people into dumbasses, as Hugh seems to be implying.

those who know me have no need of my name
Thursday, June 27, 2002

Oz, "analysis" means assessing something in context. When I recommended that "those who ..." do an analysis, there's nothing in that recommendation that says he should consider only the role of dot com clowns.

Those who..., I contend that most MBA students are not the best in their fields, whether they're engineers or lawyers, so I'm not sure I would agree they're bright. Sorry. My experiences have been with the so-called best from the so-called best universities. My views are not based just on my experiences, but also on those of others.

I also think there's increasing evidence of rampant avarice and arrogant disregard for ethics among MBA's. Enron was known to be an MBA haven.

I think "business school" and perhaps MBA's were different in the era leading up to about the mid 1980's.

Hugh Wells
Thursday, June 27, 2002

arghh!  I've got to quite spending so much time on this board.  I need a new project!

Seriously Hugh -- What is your point?  Is it that MBAs are only pursued by idiots?  And that once there, they are turned into even bigger idiots? 

You are a fine troll.

those who know me have no need of my name
Thursday, June 27, 2002

Hugh - I wonder what would happen if YOU went to bschool?  Maybe you could set some of those profs straight about how things really are?  Think about it, you could be a shining star.

those who know me have no need of my name
Friday, June 28, 2002

Re the novel concept of sorting out the teachers at MBA schools, I'm not sure whether you're being facetious, but my observations have been on MBA graduates, not the teachers and researchers.

I think, in any case, there have already been some reforms following the dot com crash and subsequent caution of investors towards empty ideas. As well, the string of corporate frauds will result in other reforms by people with a lot more influence than me.

Hugh Wells
Friday, June 28, 2002

So what's the deal Hugh?  The teachers are good but the schools just get crappy students? 

those who know me have no need of my name
Friday, June 28, 2002

Those ..., you're not an MBA are you? My views are clear and have been stated several times. I have not commented on the teachers or schools; that is another subject.

Hugh Wells
Friday, June 28, 2002

No Hugh, I don't have an MBA, although I've thought about getting a CPA.  You state that the majority of MBAs are incompetent, but you offer no proof other than a few anecdotal incidents.  You state that you have been around MBAs and they made stupid decisions.  My guess is that you are either incompetent, or you can't communicate effectively in the language of business.  Why so harsh?  Well, surely you raised objections when that group of MBAs shut down the sole profitable business unit?  And if you did, you were overruled, otherwise the unit wouldn't have been shut down.  Well, shutting down that unit might make sense in certain situations.  Can you guess in which ones?  What if that unit makes money, but the financial forecasts indicate that it won't next year or any year thereafter?  Maybe it makes money now, but the forecasts indicate the ROI would be far greater in another area.  Well, now would be a good time to do a retransition, don't you think?  I'm not saying these are the reasons, but its a plausible scenario.  Maybe you just didn't understand the reasons?

I don't have a lot of experience with MBAs, but the ones I've had have been stellar.  These weren't even people that went to the top schools.  In your world, that would mean that all people that go to unranked schools are brilliant mangagers.  Can you understand what I'm getting at here?  There are numerous, well documented shortcomings of an MBA (see http://www.business2.com/mba for one).  Your arguments, however, are specious.

Unless you have evidence, not anecdotes, take your trolling elsewhere.

those who know me have no need of my name
Saturday, June 29, 2002

Those, no the profitable business unit was not shut down. The MBA's were the joke of the company when they presented that one.

Again, as well, I have never said I have trouble communicating with MBA's. What I have said is that when I see their reports, not necessarily prepared in consultation with or for me, I find them lacking.

As far as I can recall, I have mostly phrased my views here as views, not some attempt at statistical fact. Take it or leave it. You could also read the papers, these days.

Hugh Wells
Tuesday, July 02, 2002

But you see Hugh, you always have to throw in something like "you could also read the papers", like that is proof of something.  Pathetic.

those who know me have no need of my name
Tuesday, July 02, 2002

Reading the papers is proof of something, and I don't do what it proves - it would prove I like fiction.

Joe AA.
Tuesday, July 02, 2002

Yes, that's right. The MBA's were creating fictions, and they knew it. Enron, Worldcom, ... and the many, many smaller entities. Perhaps most importantly, let us consider the 100,000's if not millions of trusting retirees and loyal workers screwed by these jerks.

Hugh Wells
Tuesday, July 02, 2002

I give up.  You are Pathetic.

those who know me have no need of my name
Tuesday, July 02, 2002

A bit late on this one!!
However Hugh has a valid point.

You don't need an MBA to be an excellent businessman/manager[history already proves this].

MBA == legal license to defraud.
Another example of expensive certification that yields virtually no value to society!!!

It's sort of like OH yeah we're not going to codify the process of  how  to make common sense[now that is pathetic].

By The Numbers
Thursday, July 04, 2002

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