IT Employment

Hiring IT pros: Looking for "the wrong stuff"

Trying to fill a position? You may be using the wrong criteria.
By Paul Glen

Now that IT departments are starting to do just a little recruiting, it's time to think about how to hire the best and brightest people. Despite having had a few years when they could be really choosy, hiring managers seem to have lost sight of how to pick great employees.

We've all seen job postings with statements like, "Must meet all requirements below to be considered. Otherwise, don't waste our time by applying." What follows is invariably a list of required experience that would elude even the most energetic and accomplished centenarian. Usually the list includes a long string of ill-considered, mutually incompatible skill sets and temperaments. Statements like, "Must have a successful record as a sales hunter, a seller of large-scale software solutions to senior executives and a J2EE programmer, with a minimum of 25 years of experience," seem all too common.

I imagine some junior HR person fresh out of college sitting in a windowless cubicle sifting through piles of resumes. "Hmm. Here's one. Oops. Only 24 years of Java. Reject. Next. Steve Jobs; that name sounds familiar. Oh, didn't finish college. Next."

I'm not suggesting that hiring managers shouldn't be choosy now that they have the chance, but they should use the opportunity to choose based on meaningful criteria. Too often, it seems, these attempts to be selective are based on a few myths that lead to poor decisions.

Myth 1: Past experience equals future success

At the heart of absurd selection criteria is the assumption that an applicant's previous experience doing exactly the same job implies future success. But there are a number of problems with hiring someone to re-create a previous performance.

People frequently try to repeat past success by doing things exactly the same way as before, failing to recognize the uniqueness of the new situation. In fact, if someone has done a job before and been wildly successful, he's unlikely to reproduce the results. Early success doesn't lead to learning. Failure is a much better teacher.

Also, people get bored doing the same things over and over again and don't engage completely with the job.

A much better rule to follow when hiring would be "past drive for success implies future drive for success." The desire to be effective is much more enduring and important than some specific experience. You can see it in a progression of increasing responsibility, but mostly it comes through in the interviews.

Myth 2: Specialization equals productivity

This myth has deep roots in the business community. Ever since studies of scientific management were conducted at the turn of the last century, specialization has been considered a bedrock of productivity. The more specialized someone is, the more productive he must be. Obviously, this belief has served us well over the past 100 years or so, helping to multiply the productivity of physical labor by a factor of more than 50.

But just because this assumption has proved true for improving the productivity of physical labor, that doesn't necessarily mean that it will work the same way for improving the productivity of knowledge work.

A better assumption would be that every organization and project needs a blend of both deep specialists and broad generalists. Hiring a bunch of specialists more often results in internal competition and posturing than in outstanding productivity. In the right environment, people with varying perspectives find the most efficient and creative solutions to the problems at hand.

Myth 3: You can do only one thing well

This myth assumes that each of us is entitled to only one primary skill. If someone has pursued a career writing mystery novels, he clearly can't be much of a programmer.

For me, one of the great privileges of being in IT has been working with just these sorts of talented polymaths. I've worked alongside people who started their careers as opera singers, concert pianists, high school teachers, mathematicians, physicists, historians, salespeople, factory workers and psychologists. They all bring varied perspectives from their other careers, enriching our work experiences and the quality of our technical products.

If we allow these people to be forced out of the industry by checklist recruiting, our projects and work lives will be poorer for it.

Paul Glen is the author of the award-winning book "Leading Geeks: How to Manage and Lead People Who Deliver Technology" (Jossey Bass Pfeiffer, 2003) and Principal of C2 Consulting. C2 Consulting helps IT management solve people problems. Paul Glen regularly speaks for corporations and national associations across North America. For more information go to www.c2-consulting.com. He can be reached at info@c2-consulting.com.

152 comments
Jaqui
Jaqui

with that type of required skills, I know that the company is using an HR department, and won't even bother taking the time to respond. HR does not understand what is needed for anything outside of HR, and should not ever be involved in the Hiring Process. They will always pick the worst possible people.

SciFiMan
SciFiMan

I don't think it's so much they pick the worst candidates. HR and recruiters get a 100 applications. They go through them one after the other. The first 10 or so that seem to fit get sent on to the hiring manager to choose from. The other 90 resumes are never even read. It isn't HR's job to pick the Best candidate from all submissions. They just do screening so that the hiring manager, probably a busy person with a department to run and project deadlines, can just interview a couple people that might be able to do the job. The process has been flawed for many years.

JamesRL
JamesRL

When I am hiring, I ask my HR group to screen based on certain criteria, generally my absolute minimums as opposed to the ideals in the ad/posting. I end up reading more resumes that way, but thats ok, its part of the job. I did once do all the screening when we used an internet site. You could read a resume and flag it. It was a lot of work (300 resumes) but I felt better about the whole process. James

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Blessed with luck according to some who feel my lack of academic qualifications shows a lack of intelligence, intellect, drive and commitment. ;\ Given I've suffering this handicap for twenty years it's a pity my luck didn't transfer over, to winning the lottery. :^0

cherubcalf
cherubcalf

"Lost algorithm" guy here. Been busy the last week visiting with "condescending muppets"? Some bite back, I notice. Not believing in dumb luck, I'd say you've been highly favored and blessed; Divine Providence goes far beyond our own abilities. Plus, programming is utilitarian. Try talking pure math to ANYONE outside the university, beyond the little gleamy eyes of dark alleys looking for any tidbits to make their own name. Sorry, waxing Elizabethian there.

Beoweolf
Beoweolf

I can somewhat see your point; regarding why a qualified candidate wouldn?t be able to explain what something as basic as a transaction is. However, at some point in your career, you begin to develop situational memory, and depend less on rote memory. Can I explain to Jr, how to divide fractions? Probably not, can I do or show Jr how to evaluate quadratic equations, sure! At one time I had memorized multiplication tables to 12. Today, more often than not, now I use a calculator. The question is, ?if I hit the wrong buttons on the calculator, do I know enough to recognize a wrong answer as well as a right answer?. As I said, sometimes simple questions are the hardest to answer. The problem is when you are hiring a supposed senior staff member, the quality of the question can elicit answers that are not representative of the position you are hiring for. What?s funny, to me, is all too often the arbiter of an interview test is a junior staffer that can be spared for the process. Where is the actual decision maker, someone that intimately understands the requirements of the position, someone who can properly evaluate the candidate; at the level being demanded? So often on this forum you hear reasons why non-certificated people complain/explain why they can't or won't take exams that measure competence, yet at the same time have difficulty with the concept of certificated or degreed candidates not being "brilliant-on-demand". ?Tis a puzzlement! Yes?

Jaqui
Jaqui

which is why my mentioned example is perfect, it answers exactly what an employer really wants to know. As well as not trying to hide from the fact I make mistakes. for the record, this was a cooking position, as shift leader, I sent all the trained cooks home except myself, keeping a dishwasher with no cooking experience as the only other kitchen staff. 5 minutes later we had 180 people walk through the door to eat. kitchen: no staffing. 1/2 torn apart for cleaning. I trained the dishwasher on cooking one item, to start, then reassembled the kitchen as I went along cooking everything else. Every time I had to make something new on the station the dishwasher was working at, I trained him on making that item as well. deadlines, restaurant policy, 12 minutes from time the order is taken until it is served. 180 plates of food, 178 under 12 minutes. [ dnner rush, fully staffed, 180 plates of food, 178 under 12 minutes ] food and labour costs dropped to 24% and 8% respectively, exactly where the Owners wanted them. That dishwasher was one of the best cooks we had in the restaurant 2 week later. I didn't freak, I did my job and dealt with the problems. afterwards, I got his help to restock and clean the cooking area, sent him back to the dish pit. when the restaurant closed and the cooking area was ready for the next day [ cleaned ] I went in and helped him get caught up from the backlog his helping me out created for him. The half torn apart, literally half the equipment was in pieces getting cleaned, it needed to be reassembled and gotten heated back to cooking temperatures to use it again. At no time did I yell and freak out, I made a mistake, based on faulty information caused by someone else's mistake. I dealt with it. The dishwasher saw how to handle the job when you are royally screwed, without histrionics. Also taking those extra few seconds to train him as items were made there, gave him the impression that I wasn't worried or stressed, besides his skills improving, he really did a lot to help get the meals out quickly. The incident also shows thhat when I'm part of a team, I don't avoid tasks I could ignore, like most cooks would, and walk past the dishpit without helping him out.

JamesRL
JamesRL

What I want to know is how you react - do you panic? How do you go about troubleshooting? How do you communicate your problems? Do you learn from your mistakes? That tells me a lot about someone. James

Jaqui
Jaqui

My favorite example for those actually shows where I made a mistake, and had to fix the resulting mess, working under extremely tight deadlines, with minimal support. and wound up smelling of roses afterwards, to the point of my immediate supurior was replaced for trying to make me look bad. The company records made him look bad and me look good... the records He had completed himself. ~rotflmao~ I don't play politics, if I did my job right, I'll stand by it, if I screwed up, I'll fix it, don't try to shaft me for it, cause it will most likely backfire on you.

Jaqui
Jaqui

"5 years experience sing Delphi 2005" or my favorite I saw recently: "10 years experience with AJAX." It's requirements like these that keep me away from companies using HR departments, since it's obvious that those doing the weeding out process have not got a clue about what they are supposed to be hiring for. a really funny one, six months after .net was released, an ad for a position wanted 15 years .net experience. and yup, take these examples and show them to your HR department, telling them that they make the company and the HR department look like absolute morons when they post ads with insane requirements like that.

JamesRL
JamesRL

We ask those behavioural questions.... Tell me about a time when you faced an undrealistic deadline. Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with your boss/coworker Tell me about a time when something blew up... Far too many candidates claim to have never had a conflict or faced a challenge. They think thats the "right" answer. In reality, experienced workers will have run into these things through no fault of their own, and its how you handle life's challenges that we want to know. If your greatest challenge was studying for the cert exam, I don't want you(I don't have position for entry level, others do). I've got a few gurus on my team that do third level support. None of them have certs. They support a second level group, some of whom have certs. Thats so proven to me that having a cert doesn't mean you have the experience and the instincts to make the right decisions. We spend far too much time cleaning up the mess from some poor judgements. James

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

that it makes sense to offload the initial filtering of candidates to a specialist. Having been the filtered many times. I have grave doubts about what they are specialist in though! Five years experience in Delphi 2005 please, er hello? In some ways I don't blame them. The dot com bubble bursting and Y2K fizzling out left a lot of candidates on the market. That coupled with certification farms and diploma mills left them with a wealth of candidates and absolutley no simple way of sorting the wheat from the chaff. It's got to be galling to expend all that time and effort gaining recognition, to be then judged as a potential muppet who is either lying or who has very few skills in terms of applying what they knew at exam time. 8 candidates, all with claims of qualifications and experience and yet only half of them could answer questions I knew the answer to in 1997, which was a year after I started with that particular language. Interestingly enough, the four who could answer most, made less claims to expertise. Just in case someone thinks my ah bias might have affected things, they were the same questions I answered to get my job. Not one of them answered them all, I did. Well I had to give a don't know in the telephone interview. I looked up the answer for the face to face and they asked me it as again as well. The idea behind them is to gauge the candidates limits and to validate the claims on their cv. I had guys telling me they'd got degrees and certs and were experts in client server database programming with mssql yet they couldn't answer the question What is a transaction? Er Hello again? HR and recruiters wouldn't think to ask it and probably wouldn't know the answer anyway. So how do we get to the promised land. Formal IT training and education is very expensive , there's always going to be a temptation to short cut the process and a lot of money to be made out of providing that shortcut mechanism. Effectively we are back to where we were before certifications started. In fact we are worse off, because the lead in time where a new mechanism for validating someone's skills as effective will be about zero. They'll have the boot camp together before the paper is dry. Yet business' are still insisting on them, so those who can't get by on experience have no real choice but to spend their hard earned cash on them, if they can't get their current employer to. No wonder they are p'ed off, don't understand why they are blaming me though, I'd only look at qualifications for entry level positions, if they had no experience. If they've got experience in what I need I'll be confirming that claim. I'm far more interested in what they learnt from doing something with what they know and what they learnt from that. Oh well, guess saving the universe will have to wait another day, wearing my undies outside my tights has still left them stained.

Too Old For IT
Too Old For IT

... sounds like the beginning of a story involving "we hired too many qualified candidates, but didn't pay sop to the politically correct reverse discrimination hiring quotas". A lot of companies back inthe 70's were caught in that conundrum: Hire the best or hire the tokento make quota.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

First eight candidates only two could answer the technical questions (very basic) that according to their cvs they should have all been able to answer. With the agency buffer or a HR one in the way, you can't help thinking that some good candidates are being filtered out becasue the non-technical types doing the vetting didn't understand what the cv meant. I got my current job after an eight month search by an agency for my employer. I was the first candidate in all that time who could do what they claimed, something like 20 interviewed. I'd been sniffing around on the market for that long though. No degree and no certs, so they were scraping the bottom of the barrel by that point. Which made it strange when they offered me the job before I got off the train going back home. Still I'm sure they add some value to the process. A money saver even, eight months salary for starters.

mindilator
mindilator

i believe the author clearly implied that approaching a new job using the same methods is unlikely to reproduce the same results. his qualifier is that a new job is a unique environment that makes the needs of the job vary at least slightly from a person's previous job. all you have done is nitpicked a single sentence that was meant to be taken in context with the rest of the article. indeed, with his closing statement about numerous successful people in IT coming from other careers, the author undoubtedly is saying that people can have a list of successes, but not if they don't adapt and apply the right kinds of change and ingenuity, rather than apply the same formula that worked for a particular instance.

Twaka
Twaka

I have been on both end of the hiring process within the IT industry and I am tempted to send this article to some of the job postings I see. Currently I am on the "I'm a generalist with more than a decade of experience who knows how to get the job done" but some of those requirements....whao!! Too many are looking for you to have a PhD in all areas; experience in, and total knowledge of, their work environment; be available 24/7, and be willing to accept minimum wage. I think the dot com bust still has a lingering bad taste in people's mouths.

CG IT
CG IT

Most grads in Computer Science haven't a clue on what networks, domains, directory services, routing, switching, WAN security is. They can write oracle stuff all day, create nifty web sites for Linux but when it comes to DCs, AD, Group Policy, Disaster planning, they haven't a clue. I'd pick someone with actual field experience over a grad but HR guys, they make it tough to hire the non college grads.

Industrial Controller
Industrial Controller

I have been in IT for 15 years and been on both sides of the hiring desk. Hiring well is very difficult and if you are good at it, it's not because you have a well-defined checklist to fit candidates into. You have to be able to get beyond degrees, certs and resume blather. And even if you pick a quality person, you have to get someone right for the team as well. A little humility goes a long way here. If either side makes a hiring mistake, just say goodbye after the trial period and get on with life. The problem is the bad apples can be the hardest to get rid of.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I just sat on the other side of the desk for the first time in my career. Hoping I've signed up the right person. He's working with us, so seemed ok from that point of view and technically he's up to snuff, but there's still loads to go wrong. Which is why I can't get my head round why any firm would handicap themselves by not at least satisfying those two pre-conditions.

jkowolf
jkowolf

True, being successful in one environment does not guarantee it will carry-over to the next job. Was the person successful because everything was laid out for them or did they have to do some research, learn a new skill, or deal with small failures along the way? If someone took part in a failing project in their last job, you must find out if they learned anything. Most people blam it on others and cannot provide any solutions. I think there are core-compentencies all good employees demonstrate in previous positions regardless of how related they are to the job you're looking to fill. Someone may not have a lot of programming experience, but they have shown they were a power user who picked up on technology quickly because they are an inteligent person who is pationate about learning more. This person could be developed. Take an experienced programmer who never finishes anything on time and is still using out-dated techniques because they are not interested in learning anything new will be the worse hire in the long run.

Sandy Rideout
Sandy Rideout

I totally agree that past experience is a great indicator. I recently interviewed a person for a Storage Engineer position and when I asked him several technical questions to determine what kind of experience he had, his answers were no. I would rather have heard something like "no, I haven't actully done that but I have read white papers on xyz and have some great ideas on how I would implement it." and then proceed to give some specific examples of some ideas. So someone who is willing and able to research a new technology and come up with a game plan is much more valuable than someone who waits for that technology to "happen" to him or her! I am very frustrated with the applicants I have been receiving!

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I've been getting reams of absolute bs. What is foreign key ? An unkown one. SQL expert with several years in database design. Yeah right.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

into our recruiting process recently, they got told to erm go away, something along those lines anyway.

Old Timer in PDX
Old Timer in PDX

worked at a place where they needed a 2nd sr. unix admin. resume looked great, interview with the suits on the interview panel put him as the top pick. I put him at the bottom, just a small issue, he did not know what sdtout,in,err were. he got the job, it was that kick in the butt for me to get out as fast as i could.

Consultant-1
Consultant-1

First Myth--Oh sure, let's hire a failure because he knows more than a success...right. Second Myth--Knowledge is a journey, not a destination. Generalists don't know much, that's why they're generalists. Specializing is inevitable, as most folks find an area they are comfortable with, have experience in, and everyone knows that a Cisco Engineer makes more than a PC support tech. Duh Third Myth--Polymaths? Look, here's my math. Let's say you have 30% of your time to learn. (after sleeping and eating) If you split that time between two bodies of knowledge, you have devoted less time to each one. Duh again. Hope this guy's company continues to hire folks for IT--for our competition!!!

DFO_REXX
DFO_REXX

"A specialist knows everything about almost nothing. A generalist knows almost nothing about everything." A company needs both. I work with a bunch of specialists, and they're lost outside of their field of expertise. This leads to inefficient databases, procedures, bad security, and a whole host of other problems. Worse, because they're specialists they don't even think to ask about things, they think they know it all. On the other hand, with several years' experience in many fields, I know when I'm not certain I've got it right and am willing to go to the experts to find out how close I am. Each time I learn a little more, form networks of colleagues, and I believe my career is better off for it. Besides, I'd be bored if I specialized and would have changed careers long ago.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Science vs philosophy for instance Brian Greene A scientist knows more and more about less and less and a philospher knows less and less about more and more. However in terms of career longevity, over twenty years I've seen a lot of specialities come and go. If I'd have limited my self to many of them .... You still see jobs for foxpro expert or fortran even vms but market wise you'll be better of describing your self as a dba, a developer or an admin. I don't even think it's that worthwhile to concentrate on one of those disciplines in IT. I've done all three and the experience I gained has stood me in good stead several times. I wouldn't claim to an expert in any of them. I did the job well enough though and being multi skilled ( a much more marketable decription of a generalist!) has got me some very good opportunities.

Bert_C
Bert_C

You're obvioulsy one of these idiots who argues with people by completely misinterpreting what they just said, putting words in their mouth and then disagreeing with them 1) Nowhere in that article does it say hire a failure. It simply says that past success is not a guarantee of future success which is true. It also says that you can learn as much if not more from failure (including how to handle failure, take it on the chin and keep going) as you can from success, which is also true. 2) Generalists dont know much....yeah that's right. In the same way a person who has their money is several different bank accounts has less money than a person with all their money in one bank account. DUH ! And anyway, knowledge is qualitative not quantitative. It's not how much ya got, it's how well you can use it. 3) Jesus, how did you ever make it out of kindergarten ? How come you didn't just stay there and become the worlds greatest genius at finger painting ? Learning doesn't work like that. It's not a function of time spent.

Synthetic
Synthetic

Brilliant! Very nicely put! Have a great day Bert_C

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

A generalist is someone who knows what he doesn't know about everything A specialist is someone who knows nothing about anything else. That might be useful if you've a lot of cisco kit to look after, it's absolutely no use whatsoever to a dba or a developer though. Surely you are capable of mapping your skills with cisco kit to an other vendors? If not you might as well be kept in a box with the spares and then powered up when required. Don't specialise, if your niche goes so do you.

Synthetic
Synthetic

I work for a international firm supporting two offices in two cities. I have 150 geographically coded user "clients" and another average 30-50 who are auditors working and therefore being supporting in me region, but not coded here. I have 2 routers( Cisco 3600), 2 switches (Cisco Catalyst 4006), two secuirty systems (one still using a mutiplexor into a VHS the other is a nice DVR system with IP connectivity, two PBX systems both a mix of Octel and Avaya, both with different levels of the Definity OS, I have two Novell servers, one MS 2000 server, one 2003 server, two snap blade servers running Guardian Linux, and two Raritan devices, and the work stations of my clients cover 7 different systems. I do a varying level of administration to each of these systems, for example I handle every last bit of Novell administration, building the servers hardware and OS and all data and tree administration. Same for the MS systems, PBX, and secuirty systems. I handle all break fix and I am certified to do non FRU repairs to the work stations (95% HP laptops) or I can just send them in for warranty repair with three day turn around. I do every system build, disaster mitigation, all back-ups and server recover, for the Raritan and snap servers I do only varied degrees of administration, same with the routers and switches, though I do handle all port level 802.11 administration/access level rights to these units. I am currently installing non-broadcast (VPN accessible) wireless in our conference and training rooms. I do all new hire training locally before the user new hire national training. On top of these (and not all duties can be brought up here like the forensics duties, etc) all of us in the firm work on multiple processes a year creating new hire processes, or the making of the next internal proprietary OS image, or IP telephony needs, or working on making a encryption tool and support techniques to deploy firm wide. I am on call 365/24/7. I am a generalist, I have only two certifications (A+ and CNA) and I love my job. I have no advanced college degree. Over the years we have moved from distributed to centralized models for our US administration. All of the specialist either had to move to Montvale, NJ or they were out a job. Those of my contemporaries who specialized in only Novell have had a tough time make a transition to the Linux and MS environment that now dominates our landscape. I am good at finding answers, that would be my best skill (and my customer service). I can't sit down and have a long technical dialog concerning many of the systems I administer, sure I can talk Abend errors for ever and I write my own reg scripts, and on and on, but I am limited (as is my interest) in Knowing all the technical minutiae of the Catalyst system. What I can do is get tasked with a problem and find the solution, quickly! When my clients needs a system to deliver more than it does, I have specialist I can work with to identify answers, or if it is local, I can pull out a book, or anyone of dozens of web resources and find a way to get it done. I have found one the biggest differences between myself and many consultants, is that I can deliver, not just spout the products company line about what can be done and hire a contractor to do it, often to less than adequate satisfaction to the client. Due to hurricane Katrina and the post New Orleans reality, I might be moving on soon, which is too bad because I love my job, and I am very committed to the firm I work for. The attitude, the short sighted ness of Consultant_1 frights me at time, but it also ensure his/her clients will eventually need some one with a broad level of experience to fix what a narrow mind has screwed up, and from your responses to the other points of this article, I am guess you probably transfered from HR into consulting.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

you weren't relpying to me. LOL A bit over the top accusing him of having a HR background though, more likely he wants a return from the cost of the certification merry-go-round he's been forced onto because he only has one 'skill'. Systems admin, dba, web master, programmer and designer, course nobody could be good at all them. Systems admin was never really my strong suit though. LOL

jerome.koch
jerome.koch

Philosophy. After he graduated he became a chef at a large metropolitan restaurant. After 2 years of this, an old college buddy offered him a job doing desktop roll-outs for the new Windows 95/NT workstation enviorment. Within 3 years, this indivdual was working as a network tech at the commodities exchange in Chicago. By 2004, he was managing a global enterprise network infrastructure. Last spring he accepted a 6 figure position for a Wall St firm as a senior infrastructure admin. Not bad for a former philosopher/ line chef. Only in America

OldMainframer
OldMainframer

Music - Piano. In fact he was a PhD.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

That makes sense, there is a close relationship between music and mathmatics. Before there were computer science departments computers fell under the scope of mathmatics.

riotsquirrl
riotsquirrl

The cognitive connections between music and math have long interested scientists.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

There's a lot more to designing an interface than MyLabel.Caption := 'Order Number'; When you think about it devlopement languages are an interface as well and you need much more than IT skills to successfully implement one, never mind design it.

RknRlKid
RknRlKid

I would like to suggest a book called "Mindstorms" by Seymour Papert. Papert was one of the people who helped develop the LOGO programming language. Papert was no a computer person, but a behavioral scientist. He understood how people learn from symbols without having to read, and set about to develop LOGO as an experiment to teach children. He successfully had children programming computers even though they did not have adult reading skills. This is why my degrees are NOT in computer science. They are in Behavioral Science. Do you think that your Windows/Linux/name one desktop has anything to do with computers? Nope. Its all to do with symbols...which is behavioral science.

JamesRL
JamesRL

We hear all the time about the linkages between music and math in young kids.... I was very musical in school, and still perform classical music today. I studied political science in University and it was poli sci stats that got me hooked on computers. One of the brightest computer minds I ever met was a former sushi chef. If you have read "The cuckoo's egg", Cliff Stoll was an astrophysicist who fell into computers and became a security guru. James

davesims2
davesims2

The nature of Information Technology requires people who can think and learn. I don't imagine thinking and learning are exclusive to us I.T. folks. I know a great developer who was formerly a pretty reputable Historian.

hembin
hembin

The state of "hiring IT pros" is dissmal, because 1) Often the hiring staff is experienced 2) The hiring managers want cookie cutters and not any challangers or improvers, or else their positions will be in jeopardy 3) The hiring managers want short term gains (who can blame them, as they are following their CEOs) What is the way out? If you are confident (in a new piece of technology, bluff your way - follow your CEO).

drcdiva
drcdiva

Although a college degree is great, there are many capable people that have learned their skills the hard way - through hard work.

Old Timer in PDX
Old Timer in PDX

A friend of mine worked at a Fortune 50, he was turned down for an posting at a different division. He didn't even get an interview. He had the opertunity to ask why and it was because he didn't have a degree in math. He asked both the HR and Hiring manager if he was Donald Knuth would he have at least been interviewed ? The reply was not if who ever Knuth is didn't have a degree in CS. My friend just thanked he only had a few years before retiring. -pete

SciFiMan
SciFiMan

You can apply for the FBI if you have no college but enough work experience. Most companies probably don't count it much. It does however help weed out people that learned to program at night after their job of flipping burgers. Now that fry cook may be a very good programmer technically, but may not be a good candidate for other reasons. Besides years of attending classes, college grads also learned how to learn; The learn-at-home IT guy learned one thing he was passionate about; not how to do extensive research on topics they didn't even care about. How to interact with a wide variety of humans, and if the techie has to occasionally interface with customers that's important. A grad has also had to create, prepare, and present information to a crowd (sometimes hostile). He/she has also likely come across a much wider range of situations and discussion topics of all kinds that helps prepare them better for the more intense jobs. Gone are the days of geeks in the back room churning out code or configuring routers.

Calson
Calson

"college grads also learned how to learn" Not in my experience. They either knew how to learn before they came into college, or they learned how to fake it in college.

SciFiMan
SciFiMan

I'll agree that people going into college probably don't shy away from learning new things. But seeing how this is a tech forum, I dismiss degrees in things like philosophy, etc. Maybe I wasn't smart enough, but I was unable to fake learning Cobol, Fortran, Pascal, database design, accounting, etc. And everyone here, college or not, has had to learn new things many times over. If they didn't want to do that, they'd get a union job tightening bolts in Detroit. Oh wait, those jobs are gone now....

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Must be the cubicle mentality. I've been in IT over twenty years as a developer, and I've never not interacted with customers ! I find the idea that college prepares you for work absolutely hilarious. You try explaing to a lorry driver why he's got to wait four hours for his load, 'cause you screwed up. Hostile? What did they dop miss you off their xmas card list? I don't know where you get your stereotypes from, but you need to get out more.

listeneraa
listeneraa

you are also an ignorant bigot. Many people get past this by going to college or becoming consultants, so they have an opportunity to interact with large numbers of people with different goals and different areas of specialization. In this way, they learn to appreciate that there is no one way to do anything. I've seen you insult everyone but yourself. How would someone become your peer when you devalue every kind of criterion that might establish value?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I'd still get a lot out of it and I'd enjoy it too. It's the so called life experience argument that does me in. By the time I would have left universyity, I was keeping a woman, raising two kids, going through a self study program to get out of the dead end job I was in , while averaging 50 hours a week on shifts. If college is harder than that, I'm glad I missed out.

Twaka
Twaka

I hadn't read this reply, and I told him the same thing...get out more! :)

BC12
BC12

Like I said in my previous post, I have worked with people that were self educated and I couldn't have chosen a better person to be at my side. With that being said, no college is not mandatory, it is just my opinion that in "some cases," I have noticed that it has made some people more prepared for a variety of things. Also, there have been people without a college education who are definitely the rock stars. This is just my opinion, and by no means a cut and dry one at that. No intentions of offense to anyone.

BC12
BC12

Well, getting my college degree was a ton of hard work, so I don't follow the comment that people who learned outside of the classroom are the ones that learned the "hard way." Also, in college you are forced to do a lot of things that you do not want to do, or that you are not good at. In my work experience, I have also been forced to do things that I was not pleased with, but I have been primed for that through my college career. In my previous position, I was one of a few in a tech department of about 30 that was college educated and I could tell a difference in the way many people approached different situations. Not to say that without a college education, you cannot be good in IT, because I have worked with a few people that have been outstanding. But, in my experience, those without the college piece have been lacking in the skills outside of their realm of certifications.

SciFiMan
SciFiMan

you're a prick. I can see that from most of your other posts. Like to pretend to be a victim of the Establishment? You still haven't figured it out, so I'll go ahead and point it out to you. You aren't the center of the universe. I replied to " psk_=) " and you were never involved until you jumped in with your little rant against society. Get over yourself. Perhaps you have self taught yourself the wrong things. I don't have the free time you have, so I didn't read past the second sentence of your latest whimpering. But it's a shame that you lack drive and commitment but I see that you have built up plenty of rationalizations to help you through life. Good luck with that.

Too Old For IT
Too Old For IT

My college career began and ended when dad told me (a) there would be no money for college (b) he would never sign a student financial aid form, because someone might find out what he made (never mind that he worked for the state, and his salary was a line item in the budget) (c) there will always be a job for a good man with a high school diploma. Kinda why I kick my daughter's ass to get into college and get it over with so she can move on with life. RknRlKid, I'm just afraid that when I do finish my bachelors (sociology) I'll lose the bitterness that drives me to stay up until two in the morning cranking out the non-fiction prose.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

You belittled mine. Hence condescending muppet. How do you think I managed to go from general office clerk to a highly respected senior developer in the biggest, best and most successful IT firm in the UK? I could have got lucky once or twice, but I suspect if I didn't have what it takes someone would have found me out over the last twenty years ! You insulted me with a stupid generalisation, if you can't take it, don't give it out! I gave up my correspondance degree when I realised I wasn't learning anything. The only coures I could do to make up the points so I could get the mortar board were non IT related, I'd done all those. I've took many course that would lead to certification, but I've never bothered with the exams. Painful as this might be to you. I don't need to. Equating lack of education with lack of qualifications would mean you know nothing else apart from what you were formally taught. That isn't true is it? The only thing the qualifications would do for me is help me through HR muppet's obstacle courses. But I don't need to do that either. Any one who looks at my cv and bins it because I don't have letters after my name, isn't good enough to employ me. The arrogance is not unjustified I've been employed all but three months since Jan 81 and those gaps were when I was between contracts when I was consulting. Would my life have been better if my dad could have afforded for me to go through college so I could go on to university? To be quite honest I doubt it. Six years of academia vs six years of applying what I knew in the real world with current technology. Which would you value? You could say I can't compete with someone with the same level of experience and a degree, but after twenty years you would be struggling badly to prove why. So tell me again I don't have drive and committment.

SciFiMan
SciFiMan

you piece of shit! Because I sure wasn't talking to you! Learn how to follow a thread. If you are able to, read my post again- that part where it says I'm raising my family. I live paycheck to paycheck to keep my kids in a good school. Last fall worked my 9 hours a day, excluding my 65 mile commute, then spent another 5 hours on a UPS dock so my kids could have a Christmas. Lost our house years ago in the no hiring days after the dot com crash and 9/11. I've lived in my car and eaten out of dumpsters for several months waiting to get a job. I've had projects that were 105 hour weeks for 3 months straight. Put myself through college years ago on half what I make now. I've finished two 400 page novels by working nights after the kids are in bed, and invest money and 8-10 hours a week spring a summer supporting my son's traveling baseball schedule. Cry me a river you turd. Your little "self teach' bullshit doesn't impress me. I'm sure you think you're the only person in the world that's ever had a tough row to hoe, but you aren't, dipshit.

RknRlKid
RknRlKid

you validated his points, not criticized them. I worked full time (on shifts too), raised 4 kids, got a BS and finishing an MS degree, plus got A+, MCP and MCSA certifications, as well as some others. AND I am self taught. So there is NO excuse allowed. He is right. Its all about priorities and goals. If you don't want that as your priority, fine. But don't criticize anyone who does have that priority. To paraphrase an old humorous proverb: "Being degreed or certified is like being a virgin...you are or you aren't. If you aren't, no one wants to hear your excuses." I'm sorry if people don't like that, but its how it is in life. Nothing makes someone "better" than anyone else, but it does make them different. Rancor toward someone who has something you don't doesn't change their achievements.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I definitely have n't floated through life. I have no educational regrets about not going to college and my career is quite on track. When you've brought up a family, holding down a full time job on shifts and self teach, get back to me we'll discuss committment. Condescending muppet.

SciFiMan
SciFiMan

Sounds like somebody wished they would have gone on to higher education. Almost everyone has the time for classes, if you make the time to invest in your future. Almost anyone can afford it, through loans even, if you want to invest in your future earnings. Will it take you 10 years to pay for it? Maybe, but so what? You'll be working for 20, 30, 50 more years, and at a higher pay scale. Not everyone goes to MIT you know. For instance I got a AA at a little tech school in Wisconsin that just started a data processing degree and they were still working out what they wanted to teach. Got laid off at my real first job in just 7 weeks, the day before Thanksgiving. Got a loan, bought a new car and drove it to Texas and lived in it for 3 months before landing a job at Motorola in assembly. Took me 1.5 yrs of night shift work to transfer into a mainframe operator job. Later saw the beginning of networks in the mid eighties and went that direction (everyone said I was crazy, mainframes were the future). Eleven years of global network design later I finally went back for a BS in Business Administration, as I didn't need a CS degree anymore. It all comes down to how much you want something. Are night and all day Saturday classes less fun than pizza with the guys watching the game. Yes, but it's temporary. But if you don't have the commitment and drive to invest in yourself, who will? You think your employer cares about what happens to you after the next round of layoffs? I'm also almost finished with my second novel while raising a family. Decide if you want to float through life adrift on the current, or if you will pick up an oar and propel yourself to a destination of your choice. Don't be on your deathbed looking back at wasted years and lot's of, "I should have's."

SciFiMan
SciFiMan

hell kind of college did you go to? North Korean U?

PSK_
PSK_

How else are you going to self-validate thy elitism and justify the huge amount of money you wasted...

Scatcatpdx
Scatcatpdx

"Also, in college you are forced to do a lot of things that you do not want to do, or that you are not good " Like knowing how to kiss up to the professor to get the grade. I guess it will help in becoming boss's brown nose. My rub with college 50%-to-%65 of the time out of the Engineering and Computer science departments. At issue is the Intelligentsia?s fetish with left leaning ideology. There was a time even the professors left leaning one taught history and philosophy, to day it more like totalitarian indoctrination by a mad man. it is no wonder why college students are flunking history. Note below. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/09/27/DUMBBELLS.TMP I hardly call today?s students well rounded. I consider them almost dangerously unhinged.

Calson
Calson

They think they know what they are doing.

Synthetic
Synthetic

You and me both, no real college, no real certs, only 9 years of muddling through somehow, but my clients seems to like, and I get a raise every year. hmmmmmmmm..... to hear some of these post, you would think we are just retarded, but with an enormous sense of luck.??

Twaka
Twaka

get out more

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

you can call me thick if want, don't you be sayin' ah'm certified though. Course college is a plus, wish I could have afforded it. Still my lack of skills doesn't appear to have held me back too much. No college, no university, no certs, just twenty years of muddling through coping with my lack of education and skills.

davesims2
davesims2

College is important. Technology experience makes you a good technology practicioner. College education is designed to make you a "well rounded" person / professional. Hence all those darned classes that have nothing to do with your major. There is no technology certification program that I know that teaches you to be well rounded. They are almost all specilizations aimed at making you better at X. Where X is one part of your professional life. We all know someone terribly good at X who just can't cut it in a meeting, or write decent emails or... I agree that education is not the key to creating personality, and that there are many people out there who are very good at what they do without the benefit of higher education. Further I acknowledge that College doesnt geneticly improve you. Certainly there are people who are very capable without additional training but in reality they are fewer in number than one might think and even they would benefit from additioanl formal education. Just as certification gives you a feel for minimum technical capacity a College degree gives you a feel for minimum professional capacity.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Everybody would benefit from more formal education. Same as every one with one would benefit from using their education in the real world. It's life that wears off the corners not college. In those terms you get more out of college living away from home, having to cook, clean and possibly get some work. Class wise it's no different to any other school.

Ed Woychowsky
Ed Woychowsky

The purpose of college isn?t to teach a person everything about a particular subject, rather it is to teach the basics as well as how to learn. Unfortunately the majority of graduates look upon a piece of paper as the end all and be all. These people never crack open a technical book or technical magazine again, so their abilities stagnate. There are, however, those that do as well as those that already knew how to learn on their own. These are the people that really don?t need a piece of paper from the Wizard of Oz that states that they are knowledgeable.

Too Old For IT
Too Old For IT

I could not have summed up my 35-year long opinion on college degrees any better.

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