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Informal vs. Formal - Experience

Does informal experience count as much as formal experience on a resume.  I can't seem to get much formal experience, but I sure have a lot of informal, do it yourself, type experience.  Why would one rate higher than the other? and how the heck do you get formal experience when you can't get a job?  Does informal/formal experience count as much as a degree? (I do have a degree.)

I know I can code with the best plus I'm pretty good at analyzing problems.  (I would prefer a real software company and not some IT department, but both seem to have some tough entry requirements.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2004


If you have results,  tangible stuff, then whether its formal, informal or bought off the back of the lorry, it makes no difference.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

If you lasso up as all those jobs where you don't hide by yourself in a basement talking to yourself on a computer all day as Formal, then it's better to say that formal experience is important. Programming is not just about completing the maze as a really intelligent mouse--it's a lot of people work. You have to deal with clients in presale. Deal with account managers. Deal with your boss and your bosses' boss. There's arguments you hvae to resolve. There's perceptions of professionalism you have to maintain. It's hard work. And if your informal experience gives you none of that then you should be concerned. However if what you mean by informal really means volunteering for non-profits and schools and you actually obligate yourself to show up and deal with people and you can actually put this down on your resume then that has value.

Li-fan Chen
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

A resume gets you an interview not a job and a degree is no proof of intelligence.

Formal experience does have the added advantage (and this is true for any field, not just IT) of teaching the messiness of projects. Life is not theory although and understanding of the underlying theory is certainly an advantage.

Bottom line: you either know your shit or you don't and the manner in which you came to know your shit hardly matters.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Umm. I think I agree with the above but for different reasons.  If I managed an IT software environment I would not have my programmers dealing with clients and sales managers, I'd have them dealing with project managers and analysts and code and themselves. However, experience shows me that you get project managers and analysts and bosses who have little clue and if they see a programmer who has some people skills (or heck, even if not) they will, in their hurry to push the project out of their hair, connect you with the customer.  Often times they may think they should be able to give you requirements you can code from and they'll try and do it themselves and you'll try and code from the mish mash they give you but in the end you'll have to meet with the customer (internal or external) eventually to straighted the whole thing out.

So ... working on the premise that we are talking about how most people will value experience, Formal wins. Just in case you did not get the gist of the preceding paragraph, it will win because you will be expected to do everything regarding a software project and not just the programming. And even though you  did that during your informal experience you did it usually only with yourself. I guess it would be like saying you are a great basketplayer if you are playing against yourself.

Now, if you happen to meet a good person then they will judge you not by whether your experience was formal or informal but by what that experience was.

Imagine if in your informal projects you wrote up some specs using UML for example. You kept your code in CVS or similar. You wrote test scripts for your code/application. You used an MVC pattern for web apps (or at least you used something other than some ad hoc system).

Then imagine if in your formal projects you just did whatever you had to do to keep your job.

I'd prefer the latter.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Li-fan Chen, that's one way of distinguishing between formal and informal experience. You describe informal as hiding in a basement, and formal as dealing with people.

Another way of describing the two would be to say informal experience means you had the intelligence and drive to understand and execute something well on your own. Generally self-projects are by definition successful. Otherwise the person has no interest in them.

On the other hand, formal experience might mean the person is skilled at coasting along behind others, and lacking the ability to engage with projects well.

Me And The View Out The Window
Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Is this informal or format?

Berlin Brown
Thursday, May 27, 2004

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