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My opinion on self-taught developers

Often, I have been asked to weigh in on whether or not I would ever interview a self-taught programer. Well, I have not had the opportunity yet, but I thought about this a lot. Also, this question popped into my Quora feed The top answer leans to pretty much what I think about the matter. I don't care about your background, I care about your experience.

8/25/2017 1:52:52 PM


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Exactly my take on it as well. To add to what you're saying, I'm 100% self-taught also, and currently working for a telecom company here. I don't have a fancy piece of paper, but I showed up, talked to them, and showed them what I was made of. My experience far outweighs any piece of paper pretending to represent me. I've been here past 10 years now, and actually run a team of people with degrees, even though I don't have one personally. For this type of thing, going to college is basically paying someone to tell me to read a book, which I have no problem doing without someone guiding me to a book.


I have met graduates from formal education who lack experience as well. I have rejected their application for employment as well. For me, if you show a lack of understanding of what you wrote in projects, or just can't tell what your project does, or cannot rewrite a portion in a different way, it shows me that you are not understanding, and it makes me look at you and doubt your ability to solve a problem.


I recently saw a job offer that required 8 years of experience of programming in Swift. Swift first appeared in 2014. Just goes to show how out of touch with reality some companies are.


I am technically bot self taught. I learn Python in school. I have sololearn. I have the Community. Noone is technically a Solo-learner


By experience, I mean I need to see that you are able to apply what you know to solve a unique problem, or even solve some of your own projects in a different way. Knowledge can come from anywhere, formal or informal. I need to be able to assess your understanding of what you know to be an adequate fit for our teams. This is understanding, and the best way to get this is by experience. As an aside, the company I work for now does hire interns, so I would probably refer the person in the Quora situation there.


@Gustavo The problem is that the person in that situation couldn't apply what she spent her time learning to some simple situations... The person asked her about doing some of her projects in a different way, and she couldn't do it. Like if you wrote a program to implement a search one way, and I asked you to implement it slightly differently, I expect you to understand what you wrote and make such a simple change. If you can't, you're basically telling me that you don't understand what you wrote, making me suspicious of your problem solving ability


self-learners are the best



completely agree with you sir!!


Of course experience matters - no one ever disputed that. What they teach at university in software engineering or computer science are just the basic building blocks needed to have a solid understanding of what it is to solve problems. But it is not enough to get a job because there is always a new language or a new framework that comes out that you have to learn in order to advance. They don't teach Windows programming in college, so I had to learn it on the side while taking my CS classes. Since I was interested in game programming, I also had to learn DirectX because they only taught OpenGL basics in my classes - and the game industry is vastly dominated by Microsoft. But even that was not enough because junior level jobs are very hard to find so I had to work in another field. You will find that the most successful programmers are sometimes self-taught but in terms of percentage (according to a recent stackoverflow survey) they are rather in the minority. The real problem is that universities don't have a very good job market integration program for graduates - companies will usually choose candidates with the highest grades for internship even though grades have been proven to not reflect realistically the potential of the person.


Although it might seem to make sense, that's the view of all employers. I mean, and I quote: "She was like a copy cat, doing tutorials and learning them extremely well, but when she needed to handle a small problem, which happens a lot as a researcher, she lacked creativity or basic skills in order to approach the problem and solve it." That description is the same to me that you hear when you finish high school and looking for your first job. Of course I don't have a clue. I was learning. Now I ask you for the opportunity to keep improving. No one is hired knowing everything. So I think the point is, would you give the self taught developer a chance to keep improving and learning? I'm pretty sure you won't. But that's not your fault. Is the system's. Many self taught and/or scholarships are in the no job situation for one simple reason which is the lack of opportunities to prove their value. There are exceptions, of course. But they're just that. The system leaves you out at some point for reasons that are beyond any effort you might do, unless you comply with the "standards".


@Ace, that's the situation with most self taught individuals. And keeps proving my point. The system doesn't have time to pay to someone that, say, is 30 years old, and learned online during a year to be front end developer but needs to improve. Is the who came first scenario. I'm great coder because I went to school, or because I've learned to basis and someone gave the opportunity to improve? They would rather pay to a "20-year-old-just-graduate" with "more future". The system is hypocrite, lets be honest. I'm included. We're all part of it. And all employers or bosses with power making decision have always their "hands tight". Despite someone's best intentions. Having said that, self teaching is not for everyone. You still need a natural set of skills that a LOT of people doesn't have.


@ace then we agree. the whole thing has nothing to do if you're self taught or not


Started from highscool dropout, warehouse employee. At 23 I've started an official French superior degree plus my work, plus I've learned web development by myself. Never tought learning was that cool. My highschool teachers wouldnt believe. Today 24, in my 2nd year degree, made my website, motivated to quit my job for web development or system/network admin. My website : Im not pretentious I fail every day, my life is a failure, and Im proud of it cause now I got to fight, that's why I'm motivated ! Hope it will inspire, age is a number and nobody decide for you, NOBODY !


thats the spirit... if only employers could be as open minded. it would apply to more sectors than programming .who knows maybe the outputs would be much more appealing at jobs


Experience do matter but as an interviewer I should not ignore passion. It is true that many youngsters with bookish knowledge lack the pragmatic approach to a problem. But there are many who do not have an adequate exposure but is passionate about the job. As an employer I will be benefited if I recruit him/her. As far as the debate on Self-taught individuals is concerned, I do not feel it makes much difference. There is a huge gap between the academic learning and industry application in my country. Hence anyone joining a company has to modify his knowledge according to the need of the job.


Wish everyone was like that. I learned ruby on my own, but everything else is form school, and practice on here. every job listing requires a bachelor's degree, so after I finish at JJC, I get to go to a University for two more years and take the same classes again, and a bunch of math I have no idea why I'll ever need to know.


what I learned in school for my MOS in the Army, teaches just enough that you don't show up looking like an idiot. everything is learned hands on at the unit. I would think it's the same anywhere, like what was just said no one shows up knowing everything. even if you have a masters, you would just have been shown what you need to know to get the masters, nothing else. I think time with hands on would mean more than time in school. says the guy in college...


The self taught developers are way much educated as well as skilful..but they ain't meant for the technical jobs as they interpersonal skills.Moreover they haven't interacted well and confined with their own lessons.This deviods them off the actual competitive exposure to the brilliant technicals out here.


It's my experience that employers want to see qualifications, so if you are self-taught you have to get good stuff online to point out. Just my 2 cents.