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Zoho Don't Need No Stinking Ph.D. Programmers

timothy posted about 4 years ago | from the shoveling-it-on dept.

Education 612

theodp writes "When it comes to tech academic credentials, Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu has The Right Stuff: a Ph.D. in EE from Princeton. But Vembu has eschewed Google's Army-of-Ph.D.s approach to software development in favor of tapping into the ranks of high school grads who would not normally go to college for Zoho. Seeing his youngest brother succeed at programming without a college degree convinced Vembu that others could follow that example with the proper training and guidance. And studying the best employees in his own company led to another epiphany: 'What if the college degree itself is not really that useful?' thought Vembu. 'What if we took kids after high school, train them ourselves?'"

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612 comments

Yay for common sense (5, Insightful)

Lord Grey (463613) | about 4 years ago | (#32763958)

Whoa. Someone with common sense. Someone in charge with common sense! I need to get some people around my workplace to read this blog entry.

Based on a few years of observation, we noticed that there was little or no correlation between academic performance, as measured by grades [and] the type of college a person attended, and their real on-the-job performance. ...

While I'm sure that everyone's personal experience is different, this observation matches perfectly with what I've seen over the last 30 years or so in the field. On-the-job performance is the application of skills that are atually needed somewhere. Education in school is teaching something that may be needed at some future date. A new graduate still has to learn how to adapt their knowledge to the real world. Given what schools seem to be teaching these days, and the typical student's retention rate and enthusiasm, I'm not surprised that grads and non-grads are about equal in skill after working for awhile.

... That was a genuine surprise, particularly for me, as I grew up thinking grades really mattered.

Kudos for admitting that, Vembu. I hope others follow your example.

Re:Yay for common sense (5, Interesting)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | about 4 years ago | (#32764014)

Many, many people have gotten themselves trapped into paying off student loans for the rest of their lives for a degree that is inherently worthless. Expect a lot of denial of this truth contained in this article because for some people the idea that they sold themselves into debt slavery for nothing is too much to bear.

Re:Yay for common sense (5, Informative)

OzPeter (195038) | about 4 years ago | (#32764210)

Many, many people have gotten themselves trapped into paying off student loans for the rest of their lives for a degree that is inherently worthless.

On the other hand I got a 4 year electrical engineering degree from a respected university for a grand total of about US$500. Thats what you get growing up in a country where the government thinks that education was important. I have no idea what student loan is and I think made my money back about 25 years ago.

Re:Yay for common sense (5, Insightful)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | about 4 years ago | (#32764694)

You paid for it just like the rest of us. The only difference is that your payment came (and comes) in the form of taxes, rather than student loans (or whatever else).

I'm not trying to make judgements as to which way is better. I'm merely saying you shouldn't be deluded into thinking that it was free (or nearly free, in your case), simply because you didn't write a check to your school.

Re:Yay for common sense (4, Insightful)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | about 4 years ago | (#32764218)

That's not true. A degree is a requirement for access to lots of different kinds of high-paying jobs, if only because the HR manager has a degree and decides on wages.

Whether a degree is actually useful in day-to-day work, well there I might agree with you.

Re:Yay for common sense (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 4 years ago | (#32764376)

[Saying that you have a] degree is a requirement for access to lots of different kinds of high-paying jobs

Fixed that for you. I have never, ever been asked to provide evidence of any qualification or previous employment.

Re:Yay for common sense (1)

changedx (1338273) | about 4 years ago | (#32764658)

Me neither, but people get fired for false claims on their resumes. Depending on how close-knit your industry is, you don't want to be that guy.

Re:Yay for common sense (1)

Caerdwyn (829058) | about 4 years ago | (#32764532)

When I am hiring, the only time I look at the "education" section of a resume is when it's someone who is fresh out of college and who has little-to-no experience (in which case I want to see projects, thesis topics, extracurriculars, etc.). I don't care about degrees one bit; I care about past job experience and performance.

Your degree gets you your first job. Your first job gets you your second job and all subsequent. Maybe it's different in non-tech fields, but for me and my hiring decisions in my field (networking infrastructure software and hardware), that's the way it is. Show me your projects, show me your code, show me your references.

And hiring manager (5, Insightful)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | about 4 years ago | (#32764578)

That's not true. A degree is a requirement for access to lots of different kinds of high-paying jobs, if only because the HR manager has a degree and decides on wages.

Whether a degree is actually useful in day-to-day work, well there I might agree with you.

and hiring manager....

Two stories:

The first one is about a supervisor I had who felt one must have a college degree to program device drivers. He blew off a really brilliant (I've never worked with a guy since who was that smart - even the PhDs at IBM) guy because he had only a HS diploma.

Second - a bit longer:

There's a company in SE Florida that needed someone to test circuit boards. A two year technical degree was all that was needed: plug board in, read test equipment, note failure.

When they were looking for someone, an EE shows up. They hired him. This guy then takes advantage of the tuition reimbursement and gets a MS EE. He leaves for greener pastures and maybe to actually use his education. Now, they list his job. Guess what? Requirements for thejob: MS EE. A test job. All because this guy got one on the job. They're reasoning? Well, because he got one he must have needed one.

It wouldn't have surprised me if they were one of the companies that said "We can't get any qualified Americans" and eventually hired a H1-b.

Re:Yay for common sense (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32764604)

None of this musing changes the fact that sometimes solving a hard problem requires a deeper or more theoretical understanding of the problem space. One typically doesn't get that kind of understanding from googling for ready-made solutions.

Re:Yay for common sense (1)

avandesande (143899) | about 4 years ago | (#32764674)

If you also add the opportunity cost of the 4 years of pay and experience which you missed out on the degree looks even less attractive....

Re:Yay for common sense (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about 4 years ago | (#32764064)

More like Business $ense. That way you don't have to pay Ph.D.s 2x-5x (or experienced programmers) what you can pay non-college kids.

On the positive side, the company is investing in itself, assuming they can teach good coding practices.

While I feel the University degree in Computer Science was largely a waste of time, it did expose me to a terminology and concepts that I probably wouldn't of studied on my one. I was programming LONG before going to college. College provided more of the Theory then worry about hand-waving those "implementation details in the Real World(TM)."

Re:Yay for common sense (1)

poetmatt (793785) | about 4 years ago | (#32764606)

investing in your employees advancement is one of the smartest decisions a business can make.

Re:Yay for common sense (1)

Vannion (445857) | about 4 years ago | (#32764116)

Its about time!

Re:Yay for common sense (1)

Foofoobar (318279) | about 4 years ago | (#32764136)

Couldn't agree more. Speaking as a web developer, mosy kids out of high school can do LAMP development or javascripting without formal training. You don't need a 4 yr degree to be a web dev. Unless you are building libraries that industry runs on (and only a handful do that) then you can just use others libraries and occasional suggest or submit code changes.

Re:Yay for common sense (5, Insightful)

GreatAntibob (1549139) | about 4 years ago | (#32764184)

Gotta disagree with you. College is NOT a glorified vocational school, even if some people in CS treat it as such.

Any decent college won't claim that the knowledge you gain is worth anything in 5 years. Their purpose is (and should be) teaching some fundamental principles of a particular major discipline (CS, in this case), and, more importantly, a set of attitudes and philosophies that teach you how to teach yourself. In engineering, you know your basic skill set will be obsolete in 5 years (and the Head of our EE dept. told us this before classes even began), so it's more important to get the basic mental framework in place and learn how to learn.

Even at my place of work, some talented high school students could probably be taught how to do the job about as fast and well as college graduates. The difference comes 2 or 3 years down the road. The people most able to keep up with emerging trends and extending their abilities tend to be the ones with degrees. And it tends to be the ones with PhDs or Masters that do better at it. The ones whose skill sets don't seem to expand as quickly or as much do tend to be the ones with less schooling.

Re:Yay for common sense (5, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 4 years ago | (#32764576)

Teaching someone how to learn is like fucking them into virginity.

Re:Yay for common sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32764232)

and their real on-the-job performance

Note: Experience may vary wildly based on value of "job performance"

Re:Yay for common sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32764516)

if (programmers == uneducated)
        goto ProjectFailure;

No degree, bad citizen (5, Insightful)

Improv (2467) | about 4 years ago | (#32763990)

College is a mix of vocational training (particularly important for some professions) and personal growth in the "learn to be a good citizen" sense. It's socially irresponsible to encourage people cut back on the latter, and being lax on the former results in a lot of "not seeing the big picture" kind of thing. I suppose it might be good for businesses that want to lock their employees into working for them long-term, but it's bad for society.

Re:No degree, bad citizen (4, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | about 4 years ago | (#32764088)

Nonsense.

These high school graduates will get much more "learn to be a good citizen" benefits
from merely being encouraged to better themselves on their own time and to travel
outside their little bubble and visit another continent.

Re:No degree, bad citizen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32764134)

socially irresponsible?
you seriously used that phrase in this day and age?

what "social graces" are you going to learn in college? how to play beer pong and sleep with as many women as possible? maybe if you're going for the president.
but in high-tech.. (and i say this with 15+ years experience) the MAJORITY of good hires are high-school graduates or drop outs, almost none are college educated.

self-taught folks are almost ALWAYS better than a "school educated" employee.

and i weep for the species if we're going to go ahead and claim that you learn to "be a good citizen" from upper education. that really should be taught before someone reaches high-school.

Re:No degree, bad citizen (2, Insightful)

Improv (2467) | about 4 years ago | (#32764340)

Human brains are not fully developed in high school. In university, one is exposed to a variety of ideas as part of general education (apart from one's major(s)). Students rub shoulders with people who believe different things, often have different faiths, are of different races, and have different backgrounds. It's one's only real shot to learn and grow outside the controlled environment of the home or a small town. That's precious.

Re:No degree, bad citizen (1)

ep32g79 (538056) | about 4 years ago | (#32764478)

university, one is exposed to a variety of ideas

And chemicals. ;)

Re:No degree, bad citizen (0, Troll)

AuMatar (183847) | about 4 years ago | (#32764464)

Bullshit. I've worked with high school grads over the course of a 10 year career. I've never met someone without the degree that I'd trust to change the colors on a website, much less do real programming. The fact is that 4 years of time to focus on learning instead of working is immensely valuable, and the curriculum of a decent school is going to tell you what you need to learn that the average self-taught high schooler would never have been exposed to. And quite frankly if you don't have the focus and dedication to go through college, there's no way in hell you have it to study the same thing out of college.

Now getting a degree isn't sufficient to be a good programmer- you need hands on experience out of classroom over and above your homework assignments to learn the craft. Which is probably where the myth of the high school/college drop out comes from. But its the combination of self motivated and knowledge that's needed, and you just won't get that self taught alone. What you get instead is someone who threw together a few websites or read a book or two on C++ and thinks they can program. They know the syntax, but not the foundation. Someone with the degree but not the work outside knows the foundation but doesn't have the hands one experience to apply it well. The good hires are those who have both. And the chances of finding that in someone without a degree are slim to none.

Re:No degree, bad citizen (1)

Improv (2467) | about 4 years ago | (#32764538)

I'd rather say slim than none - some rare people really are able to pick up the theoretical foundations on their own. Instruction helps a lot though, and for some types of programming, the theory is not quite as necessary (although it's still very helpful over a career). If someone could read Knuth's works and intelligently discuss them despite a lack of degree, I'd consider them to be part of that small group of people who actually did self-teach themselves enough. (Still leaves the general learning issue out though)

Re:No degree, bad citizen (1)

talkingpie (1443621) | about 4 years ago | (#32764698)

I've never met someone without the degree that I'd trust to change the colors on a website, much less do real programming.

Seriously? I've never met anyone with a degree who I would trust to change the colours on a website. In all seriousness. CS degrees (in my experience, granted) just churn out people who think they know how to code and refuse to accept when they're wrong because they're the one with the formal training.

Re:No degree, bad citizen (4, Interesting)

RingDev (879105) | about 4 years ago | (#32764708)

After high school (with AP Comp Sci classes) I joined the military. I became a 4067 (computer programmer) in the USMC. I did my tour and got a good conduct discharge (ie: Good citizen). I joined the ranks of software developer consultants and did pretty well for myself until the market went to complete crap after the .Com blow out. I figured I'd use the down turn in the economy along with my GI Bill and veterans benefits to go get a degree and make myself more marketable.

Picked up a Comp Sci Assoc first and followed it up with a double load BSIT and BSTM program.

All in all, I learned virtually nothing about writing code in college. I learned a lot about working with other people and many of the soft skills that go along with coding. But at that point, even the highest level programming classes at the school were child's play.

Point being, you can get excellent programmers from high school graduates, but their soft skills are likely going to be horrendous. If that's fine for your environment, then go for it. But realize that what you are getting is a junior coder, not a senior developer.

Then again, most high school kids picking up high tech jobs (in my experience) are freaking sponges. They suck up every bit of knowledge they get exposed too. College grads, especially the ones from more prestigious institutions, constantly rebut and argue against the tried and true. Any time I hear, "My professor said..." it makes me want to vomit.

-Rick

Re:No degree, bad citizen (1)

Improv (2467) | about 4 years ago | (#32764858)

I would not want to compare military training on CS with university classes - I don't know enough about the military's instruction to make an apt comparison. I also don't want to compare community colleges because they vary significantly in content on the topic. My comparison was primarily meant to be between university graduates and high school graduates. For all I know, you may have received a top-notch education from the USMC.

University-level CS is theory-heavy by intention - one may learn to write code, but that's not the main point of the instruction.

Re:No degree, bad citizen (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32764216)

That's why, when I go to Delaware, particularly Dewey, all the college kids are puking in the streets and counting how many times they can lap across major intersections without getting run over, right? And yelling at girls from balconies telling them show their tits, right in front of little kids? Because they're learning to be good citizens. Right.

*shrugs*

Re:No degree, bad citizen (2, Insightful)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | about 4 years ago | (#32764254)

Bull.

University in the United States is not a mix of vocational training and citizenship.

That's what the United States military does, they take someone out of high school and train them up to steer 4 billion dollar warship or "own" a 140 million dollar fighter-bomber in 2-4 years as a maintenance tech. While installing a work ethic and respect for elders, society and other citizens.

I've lived in the dorms with 17-22 year olds and now I live in an apartment complex with a mix of 18-25 year old soldiers and airmen, I have no illusions about who acts and lives like a "good citizen".

And before you go on about how all the military does is train killers, only about 6% of the US military are combat occupations. Yea, there are some combat MOS living here and you can tell they are steely eyed killers, but they hold the elevator for you and say "good morning sir" every time you see them.

Re:No degree, bad citizen (2, Interesting)

Improv (2467) | about 4 years ago | (#32764404)

Why would I spit on the military? What they do is necessary.

What university offers is a chance, not a guarantee. A chance that that kid who comes from a small town with evangelical parents might hear some things his town and family didn't plan. A chance that the kid whose family told him that not to be of a particular ethnic group marks someone as inferior. A chance that the kid whose high school science teacher believes in astrology might be exposed to actual science. A chance that the kid raised in a Yeshiva might meet some Muslims and get along well with them. No guarantees, but a shot. (Of course, these are stereotypes, but they are also often real, and I can put names to people in these situations and more that I saw when I went through college).

Re:No degree, bad citizen (4, Interesting)

aztektum (170569) | about 4 years ago | (#32764414)

Do you have any data to back up your claim that non-college educated folk are dim-witted drains on society? Or are you just being a douche?

I know a lot of people that have no college at all. Some volunteer at shelters, most have traveled the world extensively, and continue to challenge and learn new things on their own just fine. The difference being is they don't pay some stuffy institution for the privilege.

Attending college doesn't make you better at anything. In fact most people I knew back in college were a bunch of binge drinking twats that hardly turned out to be better citizens.

Re:No degree, bad citizen (1)

Improv (2467) | about 4 years ago | (#32764482)

Some people manage to make up some or all of the loss on their own. Many people do not. Knowing people in many smaller towns, the ones who didn't get a college degree almost all ended up staying in their home towns, believing almost the same as their parents did, and failing to really understand the world. Among those who went to university, far more (but not all) journeyed in mind and/or body and had a lot more personal growth. Sure, it's possible to waste one's time in university, but many people do not, and those people are not the sort you'll see drawing attention to themselves with alcohol and misbehaviour.

Re:No degree, bad citizen (1)

GreyWolf3000 (468618) | about 4 years ago | (#32764720)

Some people manage to make up some or all of the loss on their own. Many people do not. Knowing people in many smaller towns, the ones who didn't get a college degree almost all ended up staying in their home towns, believing almost the same as their parents did, and failing to really understand the world. Among those who went to university, far more (but not all) journeyed in mind and/or body and had a lot more personal growth. Sure, it's possible to waste one's time in university, but many people do not, and those people are not the sort you'll see drawing attention to themselves with alcohol and misbehaviour.

I don't buy it. Who's to say those people would actually succeed at college? Who's to say they would change their belief structure if they attended college?

I find that recent college graduates almost always share the mutually reinforced views of their social clique, and have no ability to relate to anyone who is of a different age group or has a different worldview.

Re:No degree, bad citizen (0, Flamebait)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 4 years ago | (#32764680)

I don't know which country you're in, but here in the USA, I'd say that non-college-educated people are generally dim-witted drains on society, mainly because 1) the public school education system in this country is so bad, that virtually no one graduating from high school has anything approaching a decent education, and kids here HAVE to go to college in order to overcome their poor prior education, and 2) everyone with half a brain in this country realizes this fact, and goes to college because of it if they can.

Furthermore, you don't have to go to some stuffy institution to get a better education. State schools are just fine, and there's community colleges all over the place that are quite cheap and definitely not stuffy.

Finally, I believe that living in a dorm in college is also a good preparation for life, for children who have lived protected lives with their parents up through high school and have no idea to live on their own.

And yes, attending college DOES make you better at something: learning. The pace at which you have to learn material in any college is so much higher than any public high school it's not even funny. I think I learned as much in freshman Chemistry in two weeks as I did in a whole year in high school science class.

Now, if you live in a country that actually has a decent public education system, then you can disregard this and feel good that you're lucky to live someplace where you have that luxury. But for us in the USA, we're cursed with a 3rd-world-quality public school system, so going to college is a necessity if you want to be considered "educated" beyond the level needed to clean toilets.

Re:No degree, bad citizen (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 4 years ago | (#32764736)

In fact most people I knew back in college were a bunch of binge drinking twats that hardly turned out to be better citizens.

You are either your own counter-example or just another binge-drinking twat.

Re:No degree, bad citizen (1)

GreyWolf3000 (468618) | about 4 years ago | (#32764624)

Graduate of the school of hard knocks here.

I've grown personally so much since I quit school. I look at the whole world and its issues way differently. It's very sobering to see how the real world works, and I think that the very insulated and imaginary environment that a classroom creates hinders growth as much as it develops it.

Re:No degree, bad citizen (1)

Fallingcow (213461) | about 4 years ago | (#32764676)

College is a mix of vocational training (particularly important for some professions) and personal growth in the "learn to be a good citizen" sense.

I would define it as a year's worth of review of junior high and high school material followed by a year's worth of actual new material spread out over three years.

But maybe that's just the schools I've been to.

and 2 very important business traits (2, Insightful)

snooo53 (663796) | about 4 years ago | (#32764682)

I agree with you and also from a business perspective another large benefit is that by going through a college degree program, you have developed the skills necessary to be diligent at slogging through very mundane work and presumably developed intelligent communication skills as well. Probably the two most important things you will need in the white collar business world.

Horrible idea, for both parties (2, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | about 4 years ago | (#32763996)

The company gets crappy code written by people who understand the syntax of the language, but has no deep understanding of algorithms or data structures. They might think they know what they're doing, but having been at that point myself once, they really don't.

The workers end up not really knowing their craft, and have a much harder time getting their next job without a degree.

The only winner here is management, who makes a quick profit off bonuses for cutting costs so much, and don't need to worry about long term maintenance.

Re:Horrible idea, for both parties (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32764162)

This could be done right. But you will need a mix of those who know and those who dont. Like what other types of work do such as electricians, plumbers, carpenters...

When I was hired out of college my first boss pulled me to the side and said "your *REAL* study begins now, you have the theory but none of the knowhow". He was right, it was also why I got paid very little. However, as you rightly point out you can have tons of knowhow but none of the theory. Which is just as bad. You want the master/apprentice type thing going. The downside to this is you end up with much time spent teaching theory, which is good, but distracts from the tasks at hand. You do however end up with a very loyal and very competent workforce.

Re:Horrible idea, for both parties (2)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | about 4 years ago | (#32764166)

Where exactly do you get the notion that people are still learning to write real algorithms in university ? Sure they get shown the result of algorithms. They might even get to implement a binary tree search algorithm (though without the memory allocation part that makes all the difference in real programming). But that's pretty much it.

The days of getting 2 years of education with only Maths + Scheme and C with at least 2 hours per day spent programming are over. Long over. I don't think these kids will be much worse than college or university graduates.

Let's hope they never find out that the difference between high school graduates in America and India is not all that different.

*sigh*

Am I getting old ?

Re:Horrible idea, for both parties (2, Interesting)

rwa2 (4391) | about 4 years ago | (#32764572)

Oh, I don't know... coming from an environment where there are lots of well-degree'd coders writing crap code and doing stupid things with computer systems, I can see why there's a backlash. Many of my magnet high school friends did great academically in high school, but floundered in college for several years, despite being very clever coders. CS education in particular was crammed with weed-out classes and poorly-arranged "team" projects where most of the effort had to be carried by the 1-2 competent self-taught coders. The "deep theory" is neat, but most people who go out to work in IT aren't writing languages and compilers, they're just trying to piece together snippets of code to get lots of little buttons to do simple functions per customer spec. Maybe that makes them technicians or mechanics relative to the "software" engineers who truly need CS degrees, but that's what most of the work on software projects is all about ... I'm just kind of surprised there isn't a formal route for these technical coders vs. programmers.

As far as long term maintenance goes, it seems like high level programming work migrates to a new favored language or at least a new framework every few years anyway. So architecturally, as long as they can make well defined components, they'll often be completely refactoring software instead of maintaining legacy code.

Re:Horrible idea, for both parties (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32764668)

Bitter much?

I work with lots of people with advanced degrees who fit your description just fine. It's not like a college degree magically dispels that. You sound like you think it does, which leads me to believe that you have one :)

Re:Horrible idea, for both parties (1)

GreyWolf3000 (468618) | about 4 years ago | (#32764752)

I knew a guy with a PhD in computer science that once wrote a function in C++ that spanned over 10,000 lines of code.

Re:Horrible idea, for both parties (2)

revlayle (964221) | about 4 years ago | (#32764782)

However... there are so many college graduates I have known with good grades and credentials and cannot develop, design or architect their way out of a paper bag. I find it 6 of one and half dozen of another... it depends on the person and what and how the company (or even a university) teaches and trains prospective professionals. A company can do it... if they do it right.

Re:Horrible idea, for both parties (1)

revlayle (964221) | about 4 years ago | (#32764838)

That being said... companies are in it to reduce fiscal liability. This is a great way to do, not sure the the poor souls that buy into it get any more than they would out of college.

In this day and age... (2, Insightful)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | about 4 years ago | (#32764826)

...no deep understanding of algorithms or data structures.

That depends on your job. Realistically, how many folks graduate with a CS degree and actually do CS? Very very very few work on operating systems, database engines, and other really intense CS type of stuff where you really would need datastructures and other CS skills. Embedded systems and device drivers are usually done by engineers from I can see and as far as algorithms are concerned, companies hire the folks with graduate degrees in math for that. Business algorithms? The accountants and business types developed those.

Let's face it. You graduate with a CS or MIS degree you're going to be a code monkey. You need to go on to grad school to get into real computer science. A BS CS makes one no more a computer scientist than a BS Physics makes one a physicist.

Data structures? Please. When was the last time you had to code a linked list or sort an array or any of that second year CS type of stuff? I stopped coding that in the mid nineties when the Standard Template stuff came out. And if you coded any of that in Java, C#, Python, or whatever, you'd just be reinventing the wheel - a wheel that has been thoroughly tested and debugged. All you need to know is the basic difference between them and that's it: there's no reason to know how there implemented.

Programming is becoming more and more of a skilled blue collar job.

Why else might he want high schoolers? (4, Insightful)

BlueBoxSW.com (745855) | about 4 years ago | (#32764022)

Any other reason? Perhaps they are a bit cheaper?

I do think he has a point that a degree in anything doesn't mean you're going to be any good, and I learned a heck of a lot of programming back in the 80's on my own, in my basement.

But, the motive here seems to be cost, not anything else.

And Zoho products show it. They are poor quality knock-offs of other, more commercially popular packages.

The are the Rodger Corman of software.

(Apologies to Mr Corman)

Re:Why else might he want high schoolers? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32764424)

Don't forget that the entrenched "can't be a good programmer without a degree" mentality in the rest of the industry means that these kids are basically unable to leave the company, except to go to school. It's nice to have a captive workforce - well, at least until they start jumping off the company buildings...

Re:Why else might he want high schoolers? (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 4 years ago | (#32764766)

Exactly. A formal education is mainly just a big test, to show that you can learn, that you're reasonably intelligent, and that you've gone through a modern rite-of-passage. As such, just about everyplace requires it. And it also means you can easily move around between jobs as you need to.

Being stuck in one company is not healthy. That leads to company towns, with company stores and pay in scrip. I am surprised that more companies haven't tried something like this, however, since many companies these days seem to be more interested in improving their bottom line by raping their employees and keeping salary and benefits low, rather than making more revenue and profit by improving their products.

Re:Why else might he want high schoolers? (3, Insightful)

kurokame (1764228) | about 4 years ago | (#32764854)

Business 101:

Find the cheapest workers possible who can accomplish a given task.

Hire them.

Run spin control to make it look like you're doing it For The Good Of Humanity.

Bring Back Apprenticeships (3, Insightful)

snooo53 (663796) | about 4 years ago | (#32764026)

I admire what he is doing here. I think that any reasonably intelligent person who's willing to learn can do any job reasonably well, regardless of their background. I think too many HR idiots assume that someone gets far enough down a career path, they are incapable of doing anything else.

What if we took kids after high school? (1)

wjousts (1529427) | about 4 years ago | (#32764084)

Answer: we could pay them a lot less.

That is how I started. (5, Interesting)

sir lox elroy (735636) | about 4 years ago | (#32764086)

That is how I learned to program. I started out at 13 with basic and have moved up. That is also how I learned about computers. 22 years later I am a full-time programmer and a Network Admin. Self taught all the way.

Re:That is how I started. (1)

biryokumaru (822262) | about 4 years ago | (#32764434)

Funny story, my grandfather was an electrical engineer and did a lot of design stuff for a big aluminum smelting company on the west coast. He decided to teach me to code at the tender age of 6, and I really took to it. I kept teaching myself right through high school (QBasic, VBasic, PHP, Java, C/C++, C#, ASM (using debug, not pansy NASM junk)) and decided to go to college for CS. I flunked out after the first year of doing idiotic crap in ADA.

Joined the military, now I'm back at university (BE in EE) with a 4.00.

Things might've turned out better if I'd skipped the university in the first place and decided to go self-taught all the way myself. Well, there might have been less horrible failure in the mix, at least.

But, ya, university = not so good for high schoolers.

A testament to the value of CS education. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32764092)

Hiring an engineer without a degree in any other industry is ridiculous. Perhaps, CS didn't evolve much from being a voodoo science?

I spot a slight flaw (4, Interesting)

OzPeter (195038) | about 4 years ago | (#32764108)

The students are taught very little theory, avoiding computer science altogether.

Yes there are many things you can do in programming without a formal education, and I'm all for rewarding people who want to make an effort. But by not studying theory they are missing out on all those giants whose shoulders they could be standing on. This will lead to wasted effort as they reinvent everything from the wheel to Unix badly.

Why not? Take a look at the game industry. (4, Insightful)

EWAdams (953502) | about 4 years ago | (#32764110)

It's full of self-taught, degree-free programmers who learned on the job... just like what this bozo wants. It also kills two out of every three projects that it starts. Job security is terrible. Much of the code is unmaintainable. Software engineering discipline is regarded as a waste of time for bureaucratic wusses.

Teaching people on the job means they make their costly, disastrous mistakes on the job instead of making them in college, where nobody gets hurt.

Re:Why not? Take a look at the game industry. (4, Insightful)

quietwalker (969769) | about 4 years ago | (#32764224)

In fact, the game industry thrives on just-out-of-college developers, or technically-interns-but-not-going-back.

You've all seen the articles, they burn through developers like mad. They need the young and inexperienced because they don't complain when they make 1/3 of industry average for 2x the hours and no job security. There are only a few senior members that stay on. The 'complex' parts of the program are bought from middlewear or game engine companies or developed by their seniors. The tailoring - that's left to the newbies. I got to see the team for one of the cookie-cutter Madden-20xx games, and 80% of them appeared within a year of 20.

You hire young, keep the price and expectations low, train em how you want, and ditch them as soon as they become too expensive, or you can find another kid who costs less.

Re:Why not? Take a look at the game industry. (1)

Caerdwyn (829058) | about 4 years ago | (#32764642)

Teaching people on the job means they make their costly, disastrous mistakes on the job instead of making them in college, where nobody gets hurt.

Except for one thing: I have been interviewing a lot of people with recent degrees who obviously didn't get it in college either. A degree is no guarantee that someone knows how to write collaboratively, understands structures and best practices, or much of anything else. That's why I place far more faith in someone who has a project on Sourceforge or who has sample code. A university may be a great place to learn all those things, but I do not consider a degree to be proof that the learning has actually occurred. I've seen too many cases to the contrary.

But then... I'm a QA engineer. Costly, disastrous mistakes on the job are my bread and butter :)

College is good for other things... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32764120)

So you apprentice to a company, and develop no other marketable skills. Maybe they use some language that no other company will ever touch...suddenly, you have to take whatever pay they give you, because you've got nowhere else to go!

No arts or studying outside your field...That doesn't sound too hot. Oh yeah--and do YOU really want to maintain code written by a guy who's never taken college-level writing courses?

I'm glad to see it -- (1)

thewise1 (955170) | about 4 years ago | (#32764122)

But I hope that they are actually training them in real computer science. Algorithms, data structures, patterns, etc. I have no college degree, but I love to learn (just couldn't afford it when I was that age, and now I'm too busy!) and I did just fine. Worked in management consulting as a developer and then architect, it's definitely possible. However, ignoring the other areas of learning the university can offer may be a mistake - it's great to know your computer science, but it's nice to be well rounded. As long as you're the type of individual who pursues that learning on your own, however, you'll be just fine without that massive student loan debt!

Turn it around (5, Insightful)

theskipper (461997) | about 4 years ago | (#32764144)

Would Google's index (and infrastructure) be as good as it is if they relied on high schoolers?

Umm...no.

Non-cookie cutter programming requires serious, well-educated people.

Re:Turn it around (1)

Mike Buddha (10734) | about 4 years ago | (#32764436)

It might not be any better without PhD's, but then again, they might actually have a product that's not eternally in Beta, either.

Re:Turn it around (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 4 years ago | (#32764670)

There is software development as a craft, and computer science as ... well, a science. Both are useful and required, and both are very different. I would think the people who have been taught the computer science would be less likely to reinvent something, which is good, bit also bad. trying new things is how we get ... new things. It goes without saying that 99.9% of the time the re-invention that untrained people do is absolute inefficient crap, but every once in a while it will be innovative.

The craftsmanship part of coding is hard to teach, and I think a good percentage of the people at 'lower' education levels will be at least as good as those with Ph.Ds. Some of the best coders I've known (in the areas of readability and maintainability) have been largely self-taught. You just need to make sure they get exposed to the science part of software development as they learn.

Re:Turn it around (1)

PinkyGigglebrain (730753) | about 4 years ago | (#32764716)

Umm...maybe.

Non-cookie cutter programing relies on thinking "outside the box", and the knowledge to carry out the idea.

I have met several people who, as summer interns, had really interesting and innovative ideas. Many where impractical in real world applications but they had a spark that made them ask "what if ...". When they returned to work full time after being "well-educated" at the Universities they were know it all, narrow minded, by the book, confrontational asses.

They would shoot down any new idea because it "wasn't how it was done at the University".

Education, understanding and imagination are more important than a piece of paper saying you could show up on time, retain information long enough to pass a test, and think inside the confines of what the course material said was "the right way" to do things.

On several occasions I have blown the sox off fresh faced University grads with obscure little tricks they didn't even know you could do that I had picked up over the years working in the real world.

Education has its place, but a person should also be evaluated on their talent and skill, not just on how many letters they have after their name.

Re:Turn it around (1)

JamesP (688957) | about 4 years ago | (#32764754)

Well... guess what, in a sense, they relied on high schoolers, since:

1 - google started in 1996
2 - hence, relied on linux kernel 2.4 series (from 2001 and 2.6 appeared in 2004)
3 - Maintained by a high schooler at the time http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcelo_Tosatti [wikipedia.org] (and no, he was not at the university at that time)

Re:Turn it around (1)

GreyWolf3000 (468618) | about 4 years ago | (#32764796)

Having a PhD no doubt increases your likelihood of being a brilliant engineer, but there are also statistical outliers that have the same gift with no paper to show for it.

I think that companies should have a "must have a degree, or else be able to demonstrate that they're really freaking good." That would be my approach, personally.

good programmers? sure? Good software engineers? (1, Insightful)

Nadaka (224565) | about 4 years ago | (#32764150)

Nope.

Programming isn't that hard. I began at the age of 8 myself. You can go from zero to a hacking code monkey in a month, and from there to a decent programmer in 6 months if you are willing to learn.

But when it comes to the hard problems: design, algorithms, efficiency; most everyone is going to need a broad spectrum of formal education to be able to handle that properly.

Re:good programmers? sure? Good software engineers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32764322)

Why bother? Let the Indians and Chinese get the formal education, learn the theory and be able to do something useful once they've done their apprenticeship.

As for the US, use the uneducated but enthusiastic young programmers until they burn out, discard them, and get new ones.

Re:good programmers? sure? Good software engineers (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | about 4 years ago | (#32764496)

We follow a similar strategy only at the college level. I have degrees in international business and german, but spent the last 10 - 12 years doing systems work. Roughly half was systems admin, the other half systems integration. I know enough programming that I could get the job done and build something that worked. The company I now run, I wrote the initial the two versions of the software myself. But we started hiring CS & ECE students as interns first and then some full time when they graduated and it's a world of difference to look at the code now compared to what I created.

The school has a reputation as an okay university, but it's not a top tier school by any shot. However, with that being said I can find people just as talented as I can anywhere else and it doesn't hurt that we're pretty much the only shop in town. When we get interns, they know they will be working on a project that will be going into real world production. They aren't sitting around writing documentation nobody else wants to do or reports for some project as their "internship"

The biggest problem we have is scaring off potential candidates because we throw them into the fire day one. Now we're careful not to put them on anything that is time critical. Often times they are working on modules and pieces of the puzzle that are "Nice to have but not critical" and it takes about 2 semesters before they've got enough experience under their belt and we can turn them loose. However, they find their 4th year classes to be a breeze after working for us because they've already done it in the real world.

How about looking tech school not dropping resumes (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 4 years ago | (#32764180)

How about looking tech schools not dropping resumes from people who when to them they tech stuff that uses in the real work places vs the big schools that some are more about sports then classes also they have less filler classes that have little to no use in the work place that most IP people / codes are in.

Re:How about looking tech school not dropping resu (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32764522)

How about looking tech schools not dropping resumes from people who when to them they tech stuff that uses in the real work places vs the big schools that some are more about sports then classes also they have less filler classes that have little to no use in the work place that most IP people / codes are in.

How about hiring people who can construct sentences that make some fucking sense?

Good god man, this is the Internet in 2010 not a telegram in 1910. There isn't an extra charge for punctuation.

Re:How about looking tech school not dropping resu (1)

Glonoinha (587375) | about 4 years ago | (#32764744)

Yes.
Do all that and require four semesters of grammar so developers can express themselves in coherent English.

That said - I'd imagine that Zoho isn't doing rocket science - I would bet a dollar that they make 'web applications', which is a nice way of saying they move buttons around on a web page. It doesn't take four years of theory and design training to move buttons around on a web page. Maybe recent high school grads will work out nice for him, and if so - good for everybody involved.

Code monkeys (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32764238)

Congrats to the CEO with a PhD who has just discovered that "code monkey" actually means "code monkey"

1 trick ponies. (4, Insightful)

dwpro (520418) | about 4 years ago | (#32764250)

The students are taught very little theory, avoiding computer science altogether. Instead students practice solving problems and doing real work. They learn programming, English (many only know Tamil), and math. None of the students really like math and they learn just enough. Sridhar made a comment that might shock educators and employers: "Math is the new Sanskrit, the new Latin." He believes we overestimate the value of math as a tool to assess a student's ability.

With almost no computer science and a disdain for math, these guys will fit right in with the majority of the programming workforce, probably on par with a technical college grad (and perhaps myself) in coding ability. However, in my experience, I have seen very little correlation between raw ability to code and the success of projects. Zoho better have some kickass business analysts and project managers for these coders.

Re:1 trick ponies. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32764456)

Remember that for a lot of low-level business software projects, "programming" has a similar meaning to "data entry", or maybe "spreadsheet jockey". Not all "programming" needs theory, I guess, but if you don't have any then you won't move up in the world much...

The PhD requirement is age discrimination (0, Offtopic)

pslam (97660) | about 4 years ago | (#32764264)

Google's hiring criteria are a joke these days, and I'm not just saying that as an outsider: I used to work there and take part in interviewing etc.

They essentially give a "+100 score" bonus to candidates with a PhD, which doesn't necessarily get them hired, but does get them through the first level of filtering. It's absurd that this can give fresh-out-of-graduation candidates a chance at an interview, whereas someone with 10 years of industry experience doesn't.

It's not just the worst hiring policy I've ever seen - it's also a form of age discrimination. Getting a PhD in Computer Science and related fields wasn't all that popular until just recently (and by recently I mean the last decade). Hell, getting a degree in CS wasn't all that popular until "recently" either. So what we're seeing is a PhD in CS is more common for the younger (It'll bite Google eventually, because they're going to end up with a mono-culture of academics. Or more people will realize just how absurdly discriminatory the PhD requirement is, and how 10, 20 or even 30 years of experience in the field counts for a hell of a lot more than a dissertation about one specific project. Don't get me wrong: every company in this industry needs its share of PhDs, but it's idiocy to make your entire company from them.

I don't have a PhD or even Masters, and even that gives me issues. Getting a Masters wasn't all that popular until "recently" either. My goal was to basically get a decent degree as fast as possible and get started in the real world. But now every company - and even immigration for most countries - wants to see a Masters, not a Bachelor. Again, that's just a "recent" fad as everyone tries to increase the value of their degree because they're so damn popular. So it ends up being another form of age discrimination. It's pretty weird having that happen to me when I'm not even 40. I'm guessing there's a lot of folks reading this in an older age group than me who've seen far worse.

I have seen masters for help desktop level 1 that (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 4 years ago | (#32764284)

I have seen masters for help desktop level 1 that is way over the top even 2 years with tech schools being passed over is way to high.

Same thing with jobs hoppers and people who have been out work for more then 3-6 months. I thing that HR is to stuck in the old ways doing things and today high cost of school / hard to find jobs. Also places don't like to hire people who been in the work place for a long time for low level jobs.

Excessive Specialization (1)

Capt.Albatross (1301561) | about 4 years ago | (#32764350)

The danger of highly focused training is that you can end up with people who don't know how shallow their knowledge is, like the author of the Therac 25 code, who apparently didn't understand the dangers of concurrency and ended up killing people. Fortunately, at Zoho, nothing of that importance is likely to be worked on. When they are as innovative as Google, I will believe their model is superior.

Yeah, maybe (1, Interesting)

Myopic (18616) | about 4 years ago | (#32764420)

This might work. This might not work. One thing, though, is clear from Google's example: hiring a huge number of incredibly well-educated people does, apparently, also work.

My two Google friends are both motherfucking good programmers. I was in college and asked one of them his strategy for handling exceptions in his code. He shrugged and said, without any sense of irony whatsoever, "I don't really know how to handle exceptions. I find it easier to just write code without any bugs in it."

For almost anyone else, I would have rolled my eyes. For him, I nodded in agreement.

Re:Yeah, maybe (3, Insightful)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 4 years ago | (#32764730)

He'd better learn. On some occasion in the future, he'll need to interface with someone else's code.

Four years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32764440)

A college cs degree (or similar) is equivalent to four years of job experience. Someone who will never be good at programming graduates from college with about the same abilities as someone who is similarly bad but has worked in the industry for four years. Someone who is/will be good at programming graduates from college with about the same abilities as someone who is similarly good but has worked in the industry for four years. This is because it's not about what you learn to do, but rather what you learn not to do*. Advanced degrees, while nice for certain things (eg. advanced search algorithms), are not about programming and represent little to no additional skills to most programmers.

* To illustrate this point, I'll share an anecdote. A few years ago I worked with a decent programmer who had not gone to college. One day in a meeting, he came to the sudden conclusion that all relationships in tables should be modeled as many-to-many, in case requirements changed some day (because this had happened to one relationship in our product). Obviously, he had no knowledge of database normalization, and to be fair, he didn't need it for most of his work. It took me a considerable amount of time to convince him that approach would give horrible performance. Had I not stopped him, he might have gone on to create a database like that, and would have known better only after seeing the results. This is where the four years come in: it takes that long to experience all of the anti-patterns (and maybe some patterns, too) that would be intentionally presented to you in college.

Just like the old days (4, Insightful)

Caerdwyn (829058) | about 4 years ago | (#32764444)

This actually isn't new... it's a return to the classic "apprenticeship" model. I think it's a great idea.

Consider the benefits. It's all real-world experience, learning how things actually operate and how they are actually used. The modern academia "ivory tower" model, in which people with no industry experience are teaching students only a small portion of what they need to know, isn't serving the industry particularly well. There is also the issue that college/university these days seems to be at least as much about political indoctrination as job skills, but that's another discussion.

Additionally, the instruction in the apprenticeship model is much, much more effective. The mentor-to-apprentice ratio is far better than the teacher-top-student ratio, and the instruction is always what the apprentice needs (you're not going at the least-common-denominator pace, time isn't wasted on rehashing things you already know, you can ask questions as they arise, and you can't hide what you don't know behind standardized Scan-Tron style tests). As a result, the apprentice learns much more quickly, and will become a seasoned veteran in less time.

The one hazard I see is that there is the potential to lowball the apprentices on pay. At the very least, a conventionally-trained college grad has demonstrated they have what it takes to make a four-year plan and get it done in... um... let's call it five years. They aren't going to settle for minimum wage (except in the video game industry), and they aren't going to pull down the average wage for others (again, except in the video game industry). The potential does exist for these issues arising, but it's by no means certain that they WILL arise, and if an employer gets a rep for either turning out ill-trained apprentices or for being an exploitative sweatshop that leverages the naivete of an 18-year-old (sorry, if you're 18 you're a rookie no matter who you are or what grades you got), that employer is going to get blackballed by the rest of us real quick-like.

I do hope Zoho's approach succeeds and gains traction.

Haven't ever seen this work (1)

LBArrettAnderson (655246) | about 4 years ago | (#32764452)

People with little or no formal education in programming can very well be capable of programming whatever tools you need, but they are much less likely to be able to do it well. Before I took any classes in programming, all I knew how to do was make things work for myself. That didn't mean they were secure, and that didn't mean they were optimal or user-friendly. They just accomplished a single task, and it took me much longer to create those tools than it would take me now.
 
This is only kind of related, but at my current job my boss insists on hiring a lot of low-paid programmers for the dozens of projects that we have on the horizon. There are normally 5 of us programmers, but I am the only one who ever accomplishes anything. The others have never been able to finish a single project that they've been given. One good software engineer is better than 4 lowly "code monkeys." Hiring qualified programmers is a must.

Finally (3, Interesting)

Zenin (266666) | about 4 years ago | (#32764472)

After some 15 years in the industry one thing is amazingly clear; Formal computer science education is more of a warning sign then a merit badge.

The vast majority of people I've worked with that actually had a CS degree have been inept to put it kindly. Regardless of experience, if they went to college for computers chances are good they have trouble wiping their own ass. While I've worked with a few very notable exceptions, the rule still firmly stands. Maybe it's because I'm a product of the dot.com boom, but most people that get a CS degree did it purely for the money and not at all because they had a talent or interest in computers.

The one unifying trait in good, practical computer professionals is an aptitude for music. Pretty much all played an instrument and most still regularly do. Any college degree they have tends to be in something random that interested them, like sociology, if they have a degree at all.

Zoho products are hit or miss (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32764498)

Having used Zoho monitoring products, I've found them to be inconsistent depending on the team that wrote them. Their Netflow Analyzer is rock solid. But there SNMP tool, OpManager, is fraught with problems. I wonder why the difference? Did they give SNMP to the high schoolers?

This seems quite risky... (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 4 years ago | (#32764618)

How many kids finish high school saying "I want to do XYZ" and then actually do it? For that matter, how many kids finish high school and have even the slightest idea of what they want to do? This company could end up investing a fair bit of time and money into training this kids straight out of high school only to find that many of them don't want the job anymore. At which point they are back to looking at the next graduating class...

Hiring PhDs for programmers? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 4 years ago | (#32764634)

Only an idiot would hire a PhD for a programming job. PhDs are research scientists.

Am I the only one... (4, Insightful)

Revotron (1115029) | about 4 years ago | (#32764636)

who finished the story still thinking "What the fuck is Zoho?"

Opposite experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32764640)

I had been programming since early adolescence, and by the time I graduated from high school I thought I knew all there was to know about programming.

However, my eyes were opened in the university. After every year I wondered at my previous ignorance and looked forward to the next year.

After I entered the job market (having finished the PhD studies but not the thesis), learning ground to a halt. While there has been a thing or two I've picked up over the past 20 years (mostly about project dynamics), I still remember with nostalgia the fireworks of the college years.

At the same time I knew many who graduated without learning much. University studies are an opportunity to learn, not a guarantee of learning.

What the .... ? (2, Insightful)

tatomaste (1329931) | about 4 years ago | (#32764644)

I'm surprised at the amount of posts supporting these ideas? Are any of the supporting posters university/college trained programmers? I'm not going to rant too much about the subject, it has been discussed by many others much better than I could. There is a reason why the Software development industry is in crisis (in terms of quality) Bjarne Stroustrup has an excellent interview on the subject: http://itmanagement.earthweb.com/features/article.php/3789981/Bjarne+Stroustrup+on+Educating+Software+Developers.htm [earthweb.com] Ideas like this of taking high school graduates and give them developers positions without the proper education is taking steps backwards. There is a reason why Google produces some of the best software in the world (starting by the algorithms behind their search engine), their employees have all the required education credentials to go with their experience.

I see a problem (1)

pigwiggle (882643) | about 4 years ago | (#32764650)

"Based on a few years of observation, we noticed that there was little or no correlation between academic performance, as measured by grades & the type of college a person attended, and their real on-the-job performance. That was a genuine surprise, particularly for me, as I grew up thinking grades really mattered."

I never gave a shit about grades until I wanted to go to grad school. Pulled it out in the end, but just. High school was another matter. Did very poorly. Never responded well to the shock collar authoritarian motivation. Which makes me wonder how good an employee my type of personality really can be. If it doesn't interest me, I have a very hard time getting it done. Pretty much the fear of being unemployed is all that gets me going on the mundane bullshit. I bet he sees a drag in the less interesting tasks. Maybe not.

These guys need to consider their own future (5, Interesting)

ugen (93902) | about 4 years ago | (#32764666)

Hiring coders out of high school may very well work for some projects, and those kids may be happy to have a "real job". But in the long run the joke will be on them. Unless they plan to spend the rest of their life in that company (unlikely, as they seem intent on using a cheap supply of fresh young kids) they will find that most projects do appreciate (and need) a bit more education. Back to school for them, and not at the time when it's most convenient - it's hard to go back.

On the specific issue of coding vs. education. 20 years ago I started working as a software developer full time before I had any education above high school. I did some useful things that seemed "cool" then and worked out well enough for my employers. 20 years forward and two masters degrees later (Comp. Eng and Comp.Sc./Infosec) I can see that I am by far a better engineer (and coder too, but that's almost secondary), in part due to all the experience and in part due to education. I would have never been able to do what I do now without additional years of studying.

YMMV

Not high school graduates (2, Insightful)

tthomas48 (180798) | about 4 years ago | (#32764696)

I'd prefer English majors. Then I'd teach them to program. I find communication is easier.

Programming is a craft (3, Interesting)

HalWasRight (857007) | about 4 years ago | (#32764724)

In my experience commercial software programming productivity is greatly hampered by the successful completion of a PhD. To complete a PhD you need to convince a committee of professors that you have done unique work in your field. You do this by publishing research and collating it into a dissertation. The type of software required to obtain research results for publication in most fields is completely different then what I need my programmers to deliver for me to ship a marketable product on time and on cost. PhDs often don't get things like O(n^2) algs should NEVER appear in commercial code because they will always blow up, and that not anticipating invalid input and just crashing isn't allowed. Both of these practices are just fine in research code. You may need a couple pointy heads around to make sure you are applying the best solution to your problem at hand, but give me anyone with a BS and demonstrated skills over a PhD any day for writing production code. (I want the BS/BA because it shows me you can complete something and can deal with crap you don't like because I'm paying you to do it).

forget about it.. ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32764836)

It's so funny to read all these self thought programmers writing how good an initiative this is.. I must admit, i come from Denmark where education is free heck.. the gov't pays me about a 1000$ every month of my education, even the in the 2 months of the summer break.. But still.. listen to me..

Yes.. Everyone can teach himself to code, but as someone mentioned earlier this will NEVER give you the inside of what is really happening with data structures, patterns and code-maintenance, so yes.. if you want a mediocre code monkey job for the rest of your life.. go ahead and skip college, and you might even get lucky and invent the next facebook.. But.. Fact is that if you have spent 5 years on getting a masters in CS or as i in Software Engineering chances are, that you will be so much better than a greasy nerd comming from a code monkey job with 5 years of experience.. Yes it is possible for a tiny fraction of people to make without education.. But face it.. These days are GONE.. LONG GONE.. If you want to work for Google i bet they will expect you to know a great deal about code maintenance, best practices, algorithms and the list keeps going.. Fact is that if you are self tought, you are probably a niche coder who maybe knows very well how to make web sites in .NET or something like that.. And wtf can Google use that fore ?

So all of you thinking that you will make it big without a master degree.. forget about iit.. this initiative is complete nonsense and should not be picked up by anyone.. or well.. If you have a shitty company writing shitty code for shitty programs.. This might just be the way.. And maybe also a hell lot cheaper.. But thats it..

This explains everything. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32764840)

I once had to work with a product (OpManager) written by Zoho. Completely incompetent.

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