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Self-Taught: What do employers think?

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  • User profile image
    thumbtacks2

    I'm curious...what do employers think of "self taught" programmers? Is it viewed as a positive trait or generally ignored? How would you convey that on a resume (or not)?

  • User profile image
    Cybermagell​an

    thumbtacks2 wrote:
    I'm curious...what do employers think of "self taught" programmers? Is it viewed as a positive trait or generally ignored?


    If you're gonna be self taught, have a decent portfolio....

    My blog was loud enough to get me noticed....which coincidently my blog is now being linked to by official blogs which is wierd.

  • User profile image
    rcardona

    In interview processes I interview self-taught programmers a bit more broadly to make sure they're not just trained monkeys.

  • User profile image
    blowdart

    rcardona wrote:
    In interview processes I interview self-taught programmers a bit more broadly to make sure they're not just trained monkeys.


    Strange, I do that to graduates, especially those from a bank background, as they usually have no idea how to think for themselves.

    *shrug* I prefer to see people learning themselves, with or without a degree. It's the only way to keep up.

  • User profile image
    ScanIAm

    All decent programmers are self-taught. 

    Of them, some have graduated college. 

    By doing so, they've proven

    1) they have the tenacity to fight through the bureaucratic nightmare of college.
    2) they are willing to work toward a long term goal

    Pansy-a$$ slackers who only 'think' they are good programmers need to spend some time in the trenches one way or another.  

    Unfortunately, I get the feeling that sometimes, people aren't willing to suffer in the trenches. 

    I've met people who say "Well I know everything there is to know about technology X, why don't I get a job programming it/using it".

    They don't realize that reading a book about something doesn't equal experience working with it.

  • User profile image
    glennyboiwpg

    So, I too would love to bounce something off of you guys, below is a description of a self-taught project I’m doing for experience, I would really appreciate people telling me if this would look good on a resume. I am not a self-taught programmer, I went to a 2 year community college program, and had 4 years PowerBuilder experience, but now I’m in java land. In order to get out of PowerBuilder I got 2 java certs and got a beginner java web position. In order to make up for lost time (after 4 years I shouldn't have to take a beginner's position) I am starting a self-taught project. Basically it’s a suite of 3 java web apps. a web store, a maintenance app, and a cashier's app. (I’m not planning to sell the apps) So first I’ll build the web store, get it to a somewhat useful level, then do the maintenance app then build up the 2 of them incrementally until they are both good, then ill do the cashiers app. All 3 apps will be able to be run from the web. So I’ve read allot of books and I’m going to build a java spring/springMVC/hibernate app on a Linux mysql apache/tomcat box. (I've also read books on databases, analysis and design, ajax, etc) But... I'm not just going to have this app. i'm also going to have a public repository. Its basically going to be a quick and dirty website (just plain html/css) that will have all of my requirements/Use cases/class diagrams/etc) for all of the major builds, I will also have release notes and test plans. Then for minor builds I'll just have release notes, test plans. I will also keep a list of bugs found and fixed, as well as a blog listing my thoughts. I won't put up source code but I will put up a API as well as code snippets detailing special features that I want to showcase, for example if I developed a cool sort algorithm or something. I doubt anyone will look through it all.. But I don’t think they have to... I would just want them to look through it and see how much work I have put into this thing and see all the learning that’s going on. So what do you guys think? Any ideas comments are welcome.

  • User profile image
    glennyboiwpg

    sorry for the bad formatting, I had line breaks in there, but for some reason they were taken out. Sad

  • User profile image
    Johnny​Awesome

    In my experience the best "developers" are self-taught and the primarily speaking the best "programmers" are usually the products of an institutions' Computer Science or Engineering departments.

    "Programmer" is really thrown around incorrectly and too frequently, IMHO. In the words of Yoda, 'Building a website a programmer does not make'.

    I think that Eric Sink does a really good job separating the difference between the two. I have been a developer from the beginning, and have been working on becoming a better programmer most of the time. For me personally, coming from a Political Science/Public Relations background educationally speaking; it has meant increasing my mathematic skills. I love the logic and structure afforded to me by developing clean software, but I always hated math. The only thing I have going for me is that Jeff Atwood (http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000770.html)  feels the same way.


    If your question is will employers look down on you because you do not have a formal "programming" education, I can say it is ALWAYS about what you can do. I have never blown away an interview panel and then had my education credentials come into conflict a job offer (Except for a state agency a looooong time ago, because often bureaucracies will place weird requirements on positions that allow for NO wiggle room. ie - "B.S. required" really means that).

    Just work on being apt and get your code in front of others you respect and compare your approaches to others to see how you stack-up. If you're good the rest will always follow.





  • User profile image
    RichardRudek

    I've been out of the contract programming scene for a number of years, now, but have recently started to send out my Resume.

    Guess what, I can't even get an interview... looks like I'll have to start calling up old acquaintances, or maybe, shock, horror, I'll have to get one of those MS certs...

    PS: I don't have any formal qualifications, other than 20+ years of various forms of development/programming. ie The people who do the first-stage of veting must obviously be removing me very early in the process... Well, I have my ego to consider... [A]

  • User profile image
    DoomBringer

    Self-taught people can be fraught with poor practices.  Or they can be really good.  Before I went to university, I taught myself a lot of C and C++ among other things, but I wasn't a good programmer I'd say.

    A degree does prove a bare minimum of skills, so I tend to take that more seriously than someone who claims to know what they're doing.  In any event, I have to quiz somebody at length to know if they really know what they're doing.

    I have plenty of gripes about school, but I did learn some things.  I got to take some really high level concept and theory classes, which was good: I was curious about operating systems, and my OS class was amazing.

  • User profile image
    blowdart

    DoomBringer wrote:

    A degree does prove a bare minimum of skills, so I tend to take that more seriously than someone who claims to know what they're doing.  In any event, I have to quiz somebody at length to know if they really know what they're doing.


    That depends on the degree, obviously. Too often I've found graduates who think the world owes them a job and who have no critical thinking skills, instead they believe everything their degree taught them was right and believe they have no need to learn anything else.

    Good example, yesterday I asked someone to write some code to load a database with short URLs, by taking a title field, stripping the punctuation and replacing spaces with hyphens. His code was a chain of string.Replace statements. 40 of them. And then replacing ----- with -, then looking for ----, ---, --, -.

    Yet he has a degree, and has been a "developer" for 5 years.

    Another example; I'm doing a part time degree with the OU, a rather well respected UK institution. Their database course is required for the degree I'm following.

    Set aside that they're teaching sybase, without teaching ansi joins. One question was to retrieve a result set with the null values of a column replaced with 0. So I used coalesce, like you should. I got 0 marks. Why? Because the course doesn't teach coalesce and wanted you to join the table to itself and replace nulls that way.

  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    blowdart wrote:
    Good example, yesterday I asked someone to write some code to load a database with short URLs, by taking a title field, stripping the punctuation and replacing spaces with hyphens. His code was a chain of string.Replace statements. 40 of them. And then replacing ----- with -, then looking for ----, ---, --, -.


    "database with short URLs"?

    But anyway, besides Regular Expressions or chaining Replace operations within SQL, how else would you do it? (Granted, I'd remove the punctuation first too)

  • User profile image
    blowdart

    W3bbo wrote:
    
    blowdart wrote:
    Good example, yesterday I asked someone to write some code to load a database with short URLs, by taking a title field, stripping the punctuation and replacing spaces with hyphens. His code was a chain of string.Replace statements. 40 of them. And then replacing ----- with -, then looking for ----, ---, --, -.


    "database with short URLs"?

    But anyway, besides Regular Expressions or chaining Replace operations within SQL, how else would you do it? (Granted, I'd remove the punctuation first too)


    Regular Expressions obviously, which having been a "developer" for 5 years he should have at least heard of. And if he couldn't produce the regex (heh, or googled it) he should have asked.

    Chaining 40 replaces (and missing out some non-alphanumeric characters) simply isn't acceptable.

    And even without regex the replacement of multiple hypens should have been recursive, as opposed to "Well 5 is going to be the maximum I'll check for")

    Mind you, this is the muppet who said "Oops" when he overwrote the client live database

  • User profile image
    TommyCarlier

    W3bbo, besides regular expressions you could also use a StringBuilder, like this:

    public string Sanitize(string title)
    {
    StringBuilder lResult = new StringBuilder(title.Length);
    foreach(char c in title)
    if (Char.IsWhiteSpace(c))
    lResult.Append('-');
    else if (!Char.IsPunctuation(c))
    lResult.Append(c);
    return lResult.ToString();
    }
  • User profile image
    Maddus Mattus

    I think self-tought and tought programmers is not an issue. Sure you have good and bad developers (as I like to call them) on both sides.

    But what I think really matters is motivation.

    It has been mentioned before. Someone thinks someone else owes them something and is not willing to put any effort into it to get what he thinks he deserves.

    If you are willing to put in the effort for becomming a good java/.net/powerbuilder developer. You will eventually get there.

  • User profile image
    fkerrigan

    blowdart wrote:
    

    Another example; I'm doing a part time degree with the OU, a rather well respected UK institution. Their database course is required for the degree I'm following.




    Oh I'm doing a part time degree with the OU; Math currently as I've got an interest in modelling (math modelling that is).

    Are you doing IT based stuff ?

  • User profile image
    blowdart

    fkerrigan wrote:
    

    Are you doing IT based stuff ?


    Yup. And I keep arguing with the text Big Smile

  • User profile image
    Colin Angus Mackay

    thumbtacks2 wrote:
    I'm curious...what do employers think of "self taught" programmers? Is it viewed as a positive trait or generally ignored? How would you convey that on a resume (or not)?


    From my point of view I don't have a problem with self-taught software developers / programmers.

    If they can show on their CV that they have the relevant experience for the job then I wouldn't reject them out of hand. When invited in I'd make sure that they can actually do the job and it isn't all bluff and bluster.

    At the company in which I work we have a technical test we give candidates that requires them to sit at a PC and write a small program. From that we can see if they can actually walk-the-walk as well as talk-the-talk.

    It is actually amazing the number of people who fail the test - and these are people going for senior developer positions.

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