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Education vs. Experience

 
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Hello Fernando Doglio,

Congrats on your book: Skills of a Successful Software Engineer.

It's a great topic, and I look forward to reading this book.

What are your thoughts on:

Educations vs. Experience

I have always believed in the importance of Experience and Expertise.
There are many excellent Self-Taught coders, and technology changes very quickly.
Learning is more about Learning to Learn, so you can always advance.

However, lately there seems to be a strong emphasis on the requirement of a Degree (Computer Science, Computer Engineering, or even Masters Degree) required for Software Engineering positions.

Educations vs. Experience... Which candidate gets the job?

Thanks,

Geoff

 
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For general purpose software engineering roles I believe the requirement of a formal degree is a mistake and immediately excludes a set of decent engineers from your recruitment pool. A time when asking for a degree makes sense is when it's beneficial to understanding the problem domain, rather than the tool set.

Having experience usually means you've formed opinions and have a bit of a nose for bad decisions that might be regretted later. There's a saying:

an expert is a person who has made all the mistakes there are to be made in their field


and I think there's a lot of truth in that.
 
Geoff McKay
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I agree Tim,

Recently I have heard the phrase "Education trumps Experience", because of a need to define specific requirements for a position. But, the person who can do the job best, based on expertise, or experience, or education should be the successful candidate.... and those without a formal degree should not be automatically disqualified.

Geoff

Tim Cooke wrote:For general purpose software engineering roles I believe the requirement of a formal degree is a mistake and immediately excludes a set of decent engineers from your recruitment pool. A time when asking for a degree makes sense is when it's beneficial to understanding the problem domain, rather than the tool set.

Having experience usually means you've formed opinions and have a bit of a nose for bad decisions that might be regretted later. There's a saying:

an expert is a person who has made all the mistakes there are to be made in their field


and I think there's a lot of truth in that.

 
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Hey Geoff, I think Tim already said it, but I do agree that experience USUALLY is better than requiring an education.
When looking at CVs, I would usually look for people with practical experience over people who had just graduated, beause the former would already have seen real projects.

That said, formal education should not be dismissed. I'm one that after dropping school decided to go back to it years later, not because of the actual degree but because I felt like I needed it.

The main issue with experience vs education is that  we can all agree on what "education" is, but we can't really be sure what "experience" means. Is 1 year of experience working as a dev better than finishing a 5 year engineering degree?  That's a hard question to answer.
If you're looking at 5 years of experience vs fresh grad, then yes, the question answers itself, but there are situations where it's not that straightforward.

So I would say that when it comes to experience vs education, you should still read both curriculums very carefully and then decide.

Geoff McKay wrote:I agree Tim,

Recently I have heard the phrase "Education trumps Experience", because of a need to define specific requirements for a position. But, the person who can do the job best, based on expertise, or experience, or education should be the successful candidate.... and those without a formal degree should not be automatically disqualified.

Geoff

Tim Cooke wrote:For general purpose software engineering roles I believe the requirement of a formal degree is a mistake and immediately excludes a set of decent engineers from your recruitment pool. A time when asking for a degree makes sense is when it's beneficial to understanding the problem domain, rather than the tool set.

Having experience usually means you've formed opinions and have a bit of a nose for bad decisions that might be regretted later. There's a saying:

an expert is a person who has made all the mistakes there are to be made in their field


and I think there's a lot of truth in that.

 
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Back when I used to work on the Operating System Support Group at a largish company, some exec floated the idea of instituting a "No Degree/No Hire" policy. We looked around and said "Who'd be left in the department?"

Though that was back before you needed a Master's (and presumably a lot of student loan debt) to be considered for a server position at MacDonald's.

The best a proper Computer Science education can generally offer is to teach people how software works, how programming works, and fundamental algorithms. Virtually anything else is going to be outdated or even obsolete before they even get handed a diploma. It's not like the more traditional disciplines where the bulk of what you learn in school is going to serve for the rest of your life (and, alas, for some, actually does despite new developments in the field).

Then again, the idea that the sole purpose of a higher education was to turn out a ready-to-use cog for a specific job isn't historically what college was all about.
 
Geoff McKay
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Thanks Fernando,

Absolutely... experience USUALLY is better... and of course, Relevant Experience.


Fernando Doglio wrote:Hey Geoff, I think Tim already said it, but I do agree that experience USUALLY is better than requiring an education.
When looking at CVs, I would usually look for people with practical experience over people who had just graduated, beause the former would already have seen real projects.

That said, formal education should not be dismissed. I'm one that after dropping school decided to go back to it years later, not because of the actual degree but because I felt like I needed it.

The main issue with experience vs education is that  we can all agree on what "education" is, but we can't really be sure what "experience" means. Is 1 year of experience working as a dev better than finishing a 5 year engineering degree?  That's a hard question to answer.
If you're looking at 5 years of experience vs fresh grad, then yes, the question answers itself, but there are situations where it's not that straightforward.

So I would say that when it comes to experience vs education, you should still read both curriculums very carefully and then decide.

Geoff McKay wrote:I agree Tim,

Recently I have heard the phrase "Education trumps Experience", because of a need to define specific requirements for a position. But, the person who can do the job best, based on expertise, or experience, or education should be the successful candidate.... and those without a formal degree should not be automatically disqualified.

Geoff

Tim Cooke wrote:For general purpose software engineering roles I believe the requirement of a formal degree is a mistake and immediately excludes a set of decent engineers from your recruitment pool. A time when asking for a degree makes sense is when it's beneficial to understanding the problem domain, rather than the tool set.

Having experience usually means you've formed opinions and have a bit of a nose for bad decisions that might be regretted later. There's a saying:

an expert is a person who has made all the mistakes there are to be made in their field


and I think there's a lot of truth in that.

 
Geoff McKay
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Hi Tim,

Likewise I have seen "No Degree / No Hire" policy ideas, but I believe experience should be preferred.

Thanks,

Tim Holloway wrote:Back when I used to work on the Operating System Support Group at a largish company, some exec floated the idea of instituting a "No Degree/No Hire" policy. We looked around and said "Who'd be left in the department?"

Though that was back before you needed a Master's (and presumably a lot of student loan debt) to be considered for a server position at MacDonald's.

The best a proper Computer Science education can generally offer is to teach people how software works, how programming works, and fundamental algorithms. Virtually anything else is going to be outdated or even obsolete before they even get handed a diploma. It's not like the more traditional disciplines where the bulk of what you learn in school is going to serve for the rest of your life (and, alas, for some, actually does despite new developments in the field).

Then again, the idea that the sole purpose of a higher education was to turn out a ready-to-use cog for a specific job isn't historically what college was all about.

 
Tim Holloway
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an expert is a person who has made all the mistakes there are to be made in their field



Nope. Not even close. There's always new mistakes to be made!

/s an Expert


Incidentally, one of the greatest arguments for mixing experienced and inexperienced persons on a project is that the inexperienced people generally don't know what you "can't do". And sometimes do it.

A personal note on education, I've been stuck about 3 terms away from a degree for decades. I managed to disqualify for a 2-year degree by transferring to a 4-year school, then having to return to work lest I starve while pursuing education (not having either Universal Basic Income or Bill Gate's parents to pay for rent and food for me while in school). Although ironically, I've taught as an adjunct professor once or twice over the years.

And no, I probably wouldn't have qualified for a back-breaking student loan; I always paid cash for my education anyway. Back when that didn't require a Brinks Truck.
 
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