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Would you hire a developer who do not have a Degre

You're managing a development team to work
on high class commercial application.

Would you hire a developer who do not have a Degree ?

Can the trick of the trade of software engineering
can be self taugh through books and experience ?

Friday, December 7, 2001

Answer: yes and no.

Most of the better developers that I know have degrees in non software subjects. The three that stand out are two chemists and one electronics engineer. I even know a very good developer, who re-trained ino software after working as a baker.

I find that the paper qualifications are fairly immaterial, what counts are experience, interest in the job, intelligence and the ability to work in a team.

Arrogance is in my book a definite no no. Primadonnas (some are even brilliant) can disrupt or even kill a development project.

Friday, December 7, 2001

Yes and No... I've worked with both kinds and find that it varies from person to person. There are those with degrees that knock your socks of when they speak and are totally useless as programmers and there are those that can hardly put a sentence together and are brilliant at coding. It's a question of the person's personality. I, myself am completely self taught with no degree and would class myself as a good System Engineer. For me when wanting to hire someone I give them a piece of code and let them lose on it. I know there are bugs in it. What I'm interested in, is how that person approaches the problem and resolves it. There are many queues one can gauge a person by. The degree only tells me that the person has the will power to sit and learn. Again I must point out that I'm dyslectic, if it wasn't for spell checker I'd be a dead duck. I'm one of those that is inclined to panic a little when confronted with a problem when looked over the shoulder, but if you bugger off and leave me alone, I'll work it out. I may take a little longer than others. But one advantage I have is that I have a memory bank second to none, and I'll see the same problem raise it's head before others.  I'm known to be able to resolve problems and coding solutions while you speak and sometime appear to be far away when spoken to. I shy away form paper work and would rather give it to somebody else on the team. God, this sounds like a job interview :) Don't turn anyone away who doesn't have a degree. Check what they have produced and check there coding out. Also, what I find important when interviewing is, am I able to handle this persons personality if I fell uncomfortable I would rather let them go.

Nigel Soden

Nigel Soden
Friday, December 7, 2001

I'm a yes and no responder as well.  I do have a degree and whilst studying for it I met a lot of people who I would term "clueless".  Not in any particular subject but just a little clueless with "stuff" in general.  Fortunately I met a larger group of people who were very switched on and smart (in the Joel sense of "Smart" and "Get Thnigs Done").

What I'm trying to put over is that a degree says no more or less about a person when compared to someone who doesn't have one.  I would hire the person who could best demonstrate their ability to do the job ("get things done").  Just as important if not more so is the person's ability to work in a team.  Non-team players need not apply.  Right now I'm at the end of a 9 month contract in an IT department that has been literally destroyed by one member of it (it's not me BTW :-)  This disruptive behaviour should have been nipped in the bud but, alas, we don't live in a perfect world.  I'm just glad to be getting out.

This degree/non-degree issue gets me thinking about professional certifcations such as Microsoft's MCSE.  I hate certification.  I've never bothered with it because I sell myself on my experience and my list of satisified clients.  Someone waving a certification in my face does not impress me one bit.  However plenty of companies out there now have policies of only recruiting people with certification.  An insane decision.  They will fill their offices with people from the MCSE "boot camps" and spend years wondering why they get plagued with problems which anyone with an ounce of common sense could solve and more importantly wouldn't have created in the first place.

Bottom line?  I don't want employers to care if I have a degree (for three years I had a resume which didn't mention that I had a degree) and I don't want them to care about certifications either.  What I _DO_ want them to do is ask about my experience but most importantly talk to people I have worked for previously.  Every interview candidate says they are great but do all the people they have worked for say that as well?

Andy C
Friday, December 7, 2001

Degree is not in my hiring criteria, so I will.
I have a brilliant developer that have no degree at all. Maybe he is not good in intellectual battles, but he is a brilliant and highly motivated person.

Roman Eremin
Friday, December 7, 2001

I have to agree with Joel's test on hiring:
"If they're smart and get things done".

Believe me, i've worked with plenty of people with degrees that can't code their way out of a bag.

Friday, December 7, 2001

Only if he could spell degree correctly (har-har).

Seriously, although I am one of those with a hardcore degree (CS, OSU--go Beavs!), I would not hesitate to hire a non-degreed developer. Hell, Gates doesn't have a degree, does he (and no, I don't know if he's a decent developer, I think Paul Allen was the code jockey--did he ever get a degree)?

What do you use for hiring criteria? Experience? What if they claim they worked at a failed References? I'll ask my buddies to tell them I walk on water. Technical interview? I interview well, but am a b*stard to work with.

Doug Schwartz
Friday, December 7, 2001

Doug raises an interesting point regarding references and the failed dot com syndrome.  One of my clients I worked for went bust a month or so ago.  It's a shame because that was a client where I did some really interesting and diverse stuff.  One of my best references just went up in smoke.  Bummer :-(

Even worse yes you can get buddies to give you references which under values my true "reference value".  Hell you can even write your own.  Ask any IT contractor what they do in their first week on site with a new client and they will (or should) say "Get a supply of blank company headed paper and compliment slips".  Armed with these you can write your own reference.  Anyone want a reference from Ericsson? Only joking folks :-)

As with most things in life you can't rely on any one single method.  You need to pull in ideas, best practices and a bit of good old fashioned ingenuity.  Then add a sprinkle of (Trade Mark) luck and your in with a chance.  So like any good crafts person you need to put together an "interview armoury" for all situations.  Smartness, examples of your previous work that you leave with the interviewer (this has worked wonders for me in the past), great references and leaving a positive impression which makes the interviewer think "smart, articulate and a genuine team player".

I guess the way this is going is that having or not having a degree is appearing not to matter when going for a coding job.  This backs up my decision to leave the fact that I actually do have a degree (in Comp Sci to boot) off of my resume for three years.  I hate to say this but my degree is now back on the resume as is my age (34 years).  Why?  Simple - recruitment people told me to for, when you think about it, very valid reasons...

Some companies will only hire graduates, period.  Sad but true (ask an HR person from Cisco Systems).  If a resume doesn't mention a degree then it doesn't touch the desk - only the waste basket.

If you don't put your age on a resume they assume your 60 plus and almost all technology companies are hopelessly ageist.  Resume destination equals waste basket a second time.

We don't need smarter candidates - the world is full of smart candidates.  We need better interviewers.  I've had plenty of interviews in my time and can count on one hand the number that I think were performed by competent people.  The rest of the bunch should have read Joel's "Guerilla guide to interviewing" :-)

Andy C
Friday, December 7, 2001

I leave off my date of birth and give whoever asks for it a hard time.  If someone can't work out that a CV with over 20 years experience is going to be a bit older than 35 I'm not really interested in working for them.

If on the other hand they aren't interested in seeing me because they already think I'm too old, I'm also not interested in them.

Its an irrelevant piece of information that can only be used in a discriminatory manner.

Simon Lucy
Saturday, December 8, 2001

Simon I think you are 100% correct on this.  I really hate myself for "giving in" and putting both my age (34) and my degree (CompSci 2:1) on my resume but the bottom line is if you need a job you have to get the widest audience first and then make your choice.  I like to think that I'm a principalled (spelling?) person but principals won't pay the rent or feed me (which is a darned shame).

The better tactic is to get into these un-principalled (spelling again!) companies and then teach them some.  Start with the HR department!

I'm now going to start a new topic - would you hire someone over 60?

Andy C
Saturday, December 8, 2001

I put what qualifications I have because they have a small but real relevance.  I'm not ashamed of not having a degree, nor of having a HND.  I'm not even embarrassed about having been a 3Wizard.

Simon Lucy
Sunday, December 9, 2001

I would not hire anybody who could'nt spell "degree", or who did'nt check for typos before publishing on a public page.

Mr Bulldog Whitten
Thursday, December 13, 2001

I hope you understand that it's "couldn't" and not "could'nt."  Same with "did'nt."

I'm just hoping you're being ironic, because it happens that someone who corrects another's spelling mistakes almost invariably makes his own.  But that's okay, because Shakespeare didn't know how to spell his OWN NAME consistently.

Friday, December 14, 2001

The very good reason for that is that his name was Shakespeare and was never Consistently.  Even Baconites accept that.

Vague rumours that a Miss Consistently received the Best Bed would tend to show that there may well have been a connection with the Warwickshire Consistently family.

Simon Lucy
Friday, December 14, 2001

Yes Sammy, I was being ironic, although at the time I was really just being childishly silly.  I prefer ironic as it sounds much more adult. I started off with spelling, but Simon has moved the conversation into grammer, putting me way out of my depth. Perhaps software people should leave the English language to the experts, such as consistently.

Mr Bulldog Whitten
Sunday, December 16, 2001

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