Sunday, August 30, 2015

Not Hiring Computer Scientists?

The CEO of Dittach wrote an opinion piece in yesterday's Wall Street Journal with the title Why I'm Not Looking to Hire Computer Science Majors. (Behind paywall.)

Let's look at a few of his statements.

"Finding [software developers] is the toughest task." Not really. Finding good ones is.

"Startups have to compete with hegemons like Google and Facebook that offer extraordinary salaries for the best talent." Yes, and it's not just the money; it's the name recognition. They could work for Google or they could work for... what's your company's name again?

"Computer science departments prepare their students for academic or research careers and spurn jobs that actually pay money." Then where are Google and Facebook finding all the people you complain they hire?

"There isn't a single course in iPhone or Android development in the computer science departments of Yale or Princeton." Repeat after me: college is not a trade school. You don't go to college to learn a skill, a language, a tool. Skills can be learned. Skills can be taught (by you, the employer). You go to college to learn to learn the science of programming. Also, I have nothing against our Ivy League friends, but are Yale and Princeton really the first place you're looking for CS grads?

"Today we insist on higher education for everything." Yes, college isn't for everyone. Let's get kids into the trades when appropriate. Have you read in the WSJ about how much welders are getting paid these days?

"A serious alternative to the $100,000 four-year college degree wouldn't even need to be accredited - it would merely need to teach students the skills that startups are desperate for." Didn't you just poo-poo the 12- and 19-week programs for cranking out people only interested in career transition and not the "love of coding for its own sake"? Maybe this is the business opportunity: a 2-year, for-profit institute of programming practice. Hell, make it for women only and you'll kill two birds with one stone (i.e. attracting women to the STEM fields.)

To view this from another perspective, think about the legitimacy of the following statements. I'm not looking to hire Ivy Leaguers. Mathematicians. People with graduate degrees. Men.

So I guess in the end I don't really grok Mr. Gelernter's bias. Some of the best programmers I know are CS majors. Others are engineers. And others are mathematicians. All have college degrees. All love what they do. None are Ivy league.

But, this is just my opinion. I could be wrong. All I've done is co-founded and boot-strapped a 20-year-old 30-person software company.

P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, I am on the advisory board of my alma mater's engineering department. My oldest son has a masters degree in CS and is gainfully employed. My youngest son is an undergraduate CS major. Furthermore, I recognize that the title of Mr. Gelernter's piece is click-bait for an article that's really a jab at higher education (misplaced IMO) and not a revelation of his hiring practices.

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