InfoWorld Programming trends: Education matters less, more JVM/JavaScript-target languages

December 2, 2011 at 8:20 am 6 comments

I found this piece at Infoworld really interesting.  Originally, I was going to blog on it because of the growing trend of languages that target the JVM or JavaScript — what are the implications about Java and JavaScript when there’s so much interest in creating specialized languages on top of them?  But then I got to Programming Trend #8 and realized that this was really a piece for us to talk about — does traditional computing education matter anymore?

Ask any project manager and they’ll say there’s not enough talent from top-tier computer science departments. They may go so far as to say they would hire a new CS major from a top school without reading the résumé. But ask this same desperate project manager about a middle-aged programmer with a degree from the same school, and they’ll hesitate and start mumbling about getting back to you later.

Indeed, it isn’t unheard of to find major technology companies complaining to Congress that they can’t find Americans capable of programming, all while defending themselves in age-discrimination lawsuits from older programmers with stellar résumés and degrees from top universities.

Some of this may suggest that education doesn’t have the same value it used to hold. Older workers with degrees that used to be valuable are saying companies want only young, unfettered bodies that will work long hours. It leaves you to wonder whether it’s the age and implied lower pay expectations, not the knowledge that makes fresh college graduates so desirable.

via 11 programming trends to watch.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alfred Thompson  |  December 2, 2011 at 10:41 am

    This is a really complicated issue. Some job hunters have not kept up with the latest technology. Some hiring companies don’t want to train at all. Others will train cheap young hires but not experienced older workers already on the payroll. Some people over value graduates of top schools and under value graduates of solid but less well known programs. Of course graduate schools are the same way in my opinion – preferring to accept from top schools while ignoring candidates from lesser known schools. A lot of short sighted thinking going on across the board.
    My experience is that hiring from top schools can be a risky proposition at times. While many, perhaps most, of them are great I have seen far too many who expect (feel entitled) to advanced roles that they are not ready for. They think that the semester long projects they have done alone or with one or two people are “large projects” when in industry such a project would not rise to the level of medium sized projects. Even graduates of top schools take a while to become fully productive in many large companies. This is why I feel that many companies would be better off spending some training dollars on older more experienced people. But I’m old so what do I know? 🙂

  • 2. Aaron Lanterman  |  December 2, 2011 at 11:42 am

    See the video game industry for a prime example. They reel them in, chew them up, and spit them out.

  • 3. Errol Thompson  |  December 2, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    I am not based in the US but I have experienced this discarding of experienced programmers both in New Zealand and the UK. It didn’t matter that my CV showed that I was a self learner and had taught myself languages. My CV shows that I have even taught others to use them.

    If you ask why? It is usually you don’t have years of business experience in the language.

    I challenged Jane Gray on this at ITiCSE 2010 in Turkey when she talked about Computer Science Departments not producing enough graduates. The truth is that the industry is shooting itself in the foot because it won’t employ experienced people simply because their CV doesn’t match exactly their requirements.

    Yes, I still teach in a university but I don’t have much sympathy for companies that claim they can’t get enough experienced people. They need to get their heads out of the sand and look at what they are doing.

  • 4. Bonnie  |  December 2, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    It has been this way for years. First of all, many companies do not put much value in computer science degrees. I think that is especially true here in the NYC area, where companies who employ computing professionals tend to be either in the financial industry or in media. I worked for a software company, though, for years, and helped to hire lots of people. We did not ever specifically look for computer science graduates, although that degree was considered “nice to have”. In my experience, most companies look for very narrow, specific skillsets, and are more interested in whether the candidate can answer the questions on the screening test than anything else. The screening tests make it very difficult for candidates who do not have immediate, extensive experience with the particular technology that the hiring company wants.

    Another factor is the role of technical recruiters. I don’t know if it is like this in other areas of the country, but in NYC, a lot of hiring happens through recruiters. They tend to have their own biases, and are very conservative – they will only send a candidate to a client who wants Technology XYZv4.5 if they know the candidate has hands-on experience with TechnologyXYZv4.5. It makes things very hard for older professionals who may have been working on v3.2, or worse yet, TechnologyABC.

    • 5. Errol Thompson  |  December 9, 2011 at 4:01 pm


      Both in the UK and NZ, recruiters tend to work from keywords. If the keywords are in your CV then you have a chance of getting an interview. If they are not then don’t waste your time sending in your CV. I became an expert in reading the job ads looking for the keywords that they most likely wanted and then adapting my CV so it included them. The interview rate increased and so did the job offers.

  • 6. Bonnie  |  December 10, 2011 at 9:03 am

    Yep, they use the keyword method here too. But if you include a keyword in your resume, you can expect to be “tech’ed” on it (that is the industry-speak word we always used for giving the candidate a paper or phone test on technology trivia). So, for example, if you claim XML on your resume, you better be ready to be tested on any of the arcanities of writing XML Schemas.


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