The real underlying problem, not addressed in the WSJ article or the response to the WSJ article, is that companies are no longer willing to invest in their employees. Back in the old days, companies would train their employees in the “latest and greatest” technologies as required.
Don’t let The Powers That Be distract us and turn this into a “passionate self-taught vs. CS degree” battle.
I read the WSJ article and as someone who really values their CS degree, I disagree with it for the following reasons:
I want to stress that I don’t think one type of candidate is objectively superior to the other, it depends on the circumstances and what is needed at the time. I think the author is throwing this nuance away and providing an easy-but-wrong solution. And generating some PR for his startup at the same time.
You are responding to the original WSJ piece but what I linked to was a response to that, which largely agrees with your comment!
Very good response.
In particular I thought the same about your 4th point, it felt like the WSJ article’s author was forced into a decision and then tries to justify it with (what I think are) incorrect or short-sighted statements.
At the company I work for, the specific trait we look for when deciding to hire someone is the ability to build real world systems. In the final stage of the interview, we have candidates try to design a limited version of our product (effectively a simple search engine). The interview has been able to tease out people who can write code, but are unable to come up with a scalable solution that makes good tradeoffs. On the other hand of the spectrum, we’ve had people who can come up with design that makes sense, but then struggle with actually implementing their design. I find all of the dozen or so people we’ve hired through this process to be incredibly bright engineers. Every one of them has built out an entire piece of our infrastructure.
I don’t have a CS degree, but I’ve been coding since I was in high school (Pascal, C++, VB5 & 6). I’ve built a ton of apps, sites, databases, apis, whatever else.
You could use that info and try to hire another person who went to school for design like I did, but I doubt you’ll get the same results in most cases. Realistically, the degree shouldn’t matter as much as the work someone has done and can do outside of just school. I’ve known too many CS majors that can’t really code at all, but the best 2 coders I’ve ever met were CS majors. I’ve also known a few great devs who have GASP have no degree at all.
I guess my point is that the degree someone gets isn’t really that important to me. What is important is willingness to learn, interest in the field, and if they can work with other people.
As a side note, I was once turned down at the resume phase because I didn’t have a CS degree. I have some pretty good things on my resume, too! Shoot, ESPN Gamecasts (yes, multiple) that I wrote over 5 years ago are still going. I kind of laughed when they told me they don’t interview people without CS degrees.
Everyone here is assuming that if you don’t have a CS degree that you don’t know CS fundamentals, which is false. While I don’t have a CS Degree, I have 2 years of college CS and have supplemented that knowledge with open source courses (such as the ones provided by MIT).
My lack of a $50k paper doesn’t limit me to a subset of skills my CS-degreed colleagues have. It does, however, effect my pay.
I know the WSJ needs to make money, but given their paywall I am not able to reason about the linked WSJ-article and its criticism presented here, which is sad.
If you search for the URL in google then open it via the google search result (possibly in a new tab/window), it should work.
Sounds like a crime ;)