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  • 30. Re: Instructor led course requirement??
    796440 Guru
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    YoungWinston wrote:
    jverd wrote:
    (I will qualify this stance somewhat, however. I am talking specifically about SCJP and similar certs that, from my personal experience, say nothing about a programmer's actual ability. I'm not denying that there could be certs that are more meaningful.)
    I guess one counter-question would be: have you ever taken a cert yourself? For anything? If so, why?
    SCJP about 7 years ago, because my boss made it a goal on my annual review, because he mistakenly thought it would be somehow valuable.
    Another might be: given 50 candidates, and 1 post to fill fairly quickly, might you look at certification as a basis for deciding which people to interview?
    Not likely. Only if there were a particular cert that 1) I was confident was relevant, 2) I was confident had a very low rate of both false positives and false negatives, and 3) there was no good reason the majority of candidates wouldn't have attempted.
    I have taken (and passed, just in case you wondered : )) the SCJP exam and, while certainly not perfect, it's no pushover. And for an entry-level exam, its focus is pretty good. It's an aptitude test.
    I found it trivially easy, but then, given the nature of the test, about all one can derive from that is that I have a good chance of being well suited to fill the position of Language Lawyer.

    I've interviewed a fair number of people who have passed it, and every single one of them was unqualified for even a junior level position. Granted, I think I only saw the actual cert for one of them, but I consider it unlikely that every single one of them lied.

    On top of that, it is the kind of test that one can cram for and pass without actually learning or understanding much about Java, or remembering anything a week later. Given the number of questions I've seen here that ask for exam dumps and that focus on how to pass the exam for the sake of the cert (as opposed to focusing on learning the language and core API well enough to pass the exam "honestly"), I'm further convinced that a large percentage of people that have the cert are grossly unqualified for a programming position. At least a large enough percentage to make it useless as an indicator of skill.
    For a long time, many companies have required a Bachelor's degree as minimum, presumably on the basis that if you can persevere for 3 years on a major subject and pass a refereed exam, you at least show some application. Upshot: I've worked with one guy who had a BA in History of Art and another whose degree was in Soil Science. The Art guy was pretty lousy, but the Soil Scientist was an absolute whizz. Go figure.

    And where does that leave someone like me? No degree, but 35 years in the biz. 15 years back, that garnered me a place on a Master's degree course; doubt whether it would happen now.
    It's been a few years since I've been looking to hire anybody, and obviously the economic climate of the time has its own effect, but, in general, if these things are left up to me (which they usually aren't), I prefer a degree, but don't require it if the person has decent experience and can talk intelligently about the subject matter. While there are plenty of unqualified idiots that have degrees, I consider it a far better measure of ability and potential than a simple cert.
    I'm not sure exactly what I'm trying to say here, but to me any form of "checkbox acceptance", be it a degree, certification, or anything else, is hogwash; but it might just be one of the things that get you past HR and onto the people that actually speak "programming".
    Right. That's the reality of it in a lot of cases. I realize there has to be some filter, and no filter is perfect, but unfortunately a lot of times it's nothing more than checkboxes and buzzwords. I'm fortunate enough to be have the experience that lets me fling a fair number of those around, but I still find the process frustrating, whether I'm on the hiring side or on the searching side.
    BTW - I was going to do the SCJD exam this year until Oracle decided to add the $2,800 tag to it, in the form of their "prerequisite tutored courses"; no doubt given by someone who was a glint in the milkman's eye when I was already working. Per-lease.
    I still have the voucher for the 1.4 SCJD from right after I passed the SCJP. That was the next checkbox on my performance review. I was never so glad to leave a job as I was that one. I can't imagine doing another cert of that nature.

    One thing I've considered looking into, though, is the IEEE Professional Engineer cert, or something like that. I read about it several years ago, and that seems like a more rigorous and well rounded measure of one's skill as an engineer. It will require a lot more time than I've been willing or able to invest though, and I'm not really sure what value it would actually add to my career. It might make me a better engineer though, so I still find it intriguing as a matter of pride if nothing else.
  • 31. Re: Instructor led course requirement??
    YoungWinston Expert
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    jverd wrote:
    One thing I've considered looking into, though, is the IEEE Professional Engineer cert, or something like that. I read about it several years ago, and that seems like a more rigorous and well rounded measure of one's skill as an engineer. It will require a lot more time than I've been willing or able to invest though, and I'm not really sure what value it would actually add to my career. It might make me a better engineer though, so I still find it intriguing as a matter of pride if nothing else.
    For once, something I can talk about with confidence : )

    I come from a family of engineers. My dad was one (MgrInz. from Poland, PEA in England and Canada (and worked on the Avro Arrow)); his dad before him; and his dad before him; and my brother's an engineer too (2011 MSc (first) - University of Sussex) ... and the two that I know (dad and bruv) would both make lousy programmers.
    In fact, I suspect my brother might even admit it (dad - never ).

    Programming is NOT engineering; despite all the books that would lead you (by title or content) to believe otherwise. It's true that the two disciplines have a lot of parallel lines, and our biz has learned a lot from our mechanical brothers, especially in terms of project management, and particularly in the early days.

    Back in the days when programming was about bits and bytes and putting things in the correct order: Yes, we needed engineers.
    In these days of 4GLs and late-binding and closures, the theory is in the realm of mathematicians; and (I suspect) the purer, the better.
    And in the age of Object Orientation, the big stuff is best left up to programmers. We have a whole generation of them now, and the discipline is different. And I speak as someone who took 10 years to really understand the difference. Chalk one up for 'layers of indirection'.

    That's no reason not to do it; I just caution you in expecting too much.

    Winston
  • 32. Re: Instructor led course requirement??
    796440 Guru
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    YoungWinston wrote:
    Programming is NOT engineering; despite all the books that would lead you (by title or content) to believe otherwise. It's true that the two disciplines have a lot of parallel lines, and our biz has learned a lot from our mechanical brothers, especially in terms of project management, and particularly in the early days.

    Back in the days when programming was about bits and bytes and putting things in the correct order: Yes, we needed engineers.
    In these days of 4GLs and late-binding and closures, the theory is in the realm of mathematicians; and (I suspect) the purer, the better.
    And in the age of Object Orientation, the big stuff is best left up to programmers. We have a whole generation of them now, and the discipline is different. And I speak as someone who took 10 years to really understand the difference. Chalk one up for 'layers of indirection'.

    That's no reason not to do it; I just caution you in expecting too much.
    Indeed. But then, I don't want to "just program."

    I want to create software. I could be wrong, but I believe that a lot of the principles that are common across the "hard" engineering disciplines can apply to software development as well. Things like project planning, resource management, scalability, protoyping and modeling, capacity planning, expected lifetime, safety factors, margins of error, redundancies and backup systems, graceful degradation under load, even when the load exceeds the spec, planned maintenance, quality assurance, statistical analysis, future expansion and scalability, grokking the system from the pins and signals up through the buttons and knobs, and more. I'm not sure how much of that really falls under the purview of that cert, but it's something I hope to investigate further at some point.
  • 33. Re: Instructor led course requirement??
    YoungWinston Expert
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    jverd wrote:
    I want to create software. I could be wrong, but I believe that a lot of the principles that are common across the "hard" engineering disciplines can apply to software development as well. Things like project planning, resource management, scalability, protoyping and modeling, capacity planning, expected lifetime, safety factors, margins of error, redundancies and backup systems, graceful degradation under load, even when the load exceeds the spec, planned maintenance, quality assurance, statistical analysis, future expansion and scalability, grokking the system from the pins and signals up through the buttons and knobs, and more.
    It certainly does now, and I suspect that things like scalability, modelling, lifetime and safety are likely to be around for a long time to come; but a lot of the others are terms we've inherited from the hard engineering and manufacturing sectors, and I'm interested to see how they hold up in the next generation of proper distributed systems and projects, work-from-home and multi-TZ service and maintenance (and probably many other things I've left out).
    I suspect we've had a breather because of the slump, and companies have been able to fall back on the old "bums on seats" mentality; but I don't think the time is far off when programmers (at least senior ones) will be walking around with laptops and blackberrys and doing a fair bit of their work on trains or from home; and I suspect that some of those 'manufacturing' measurements will have to change along with it. It's already happening in the SysAdmin world.
    I'm not sure how much of that really falls under the purview of that cert, but it's something I hope to investigate further at some point.
    And I wish you good luck with it. Honestly.

    Me, I'm a programmer; and I suspect I'm too old a tiger to change my stripes now. If I can't write code, or teach other people how to do it well, I think I'd rather drive a bus, or run a bar or something.

    Winston
  • 34. Re: Instructor led course requirement??
    796440 Guru
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    YoungWinston wrote:
    Me, I'm a programmer; and I suspect I'm too old a tiger to change my stripes now. If I can't write code, or teach other people how to do it well, I think I'd rather drive a bus, or run a bar or something.
    Oh, don't get me wrong, I definitely enjoy programming. And realistically, at this point in my life, it's not likely that I'll really take such a huge step as that. But I like knowing there is a path for professional growth there, should I be ready to start following it at some point, and even if I only ever go a short way down that path.
  • 35. Re: Instructor led course requirement??
    875329 Newbie
    Currently Being Moderated
    YoungWinston wrote:
    I suspect we've had a breather because of the slump, and companies have been able to fall back on the old "bums on seats" mentality; but I don't think the time is far off when programmers (at least senior ones) will be walking around with laptops and blackberrys and doing a fair bit of their work on trains or from home; and I suspect that some of those 'manufacturing' measurements will have to change along with it. It's already happening in the SysAdmin world.
    Good news, Winston. In some environments, all programmers already work remotely regularly. In my last job, I normally worked on my laptop from my house, but I also worked in cafes, on trains, in other cities, and at a beach house, among other places. I would visit the office once a week so they could see my face.

    I know that many folks who work for a particular big software company (not my employer then or now) rarely work in an office or, when they do, work in spaces that look more like bars (high tables with tall chairs, but no taps or beer mugs). Even those who do have offices don't expect to work from them often. Of course, the drawback to freedom of work location seems to be an invasion of normally non-working hours. If you can work from anywhere at any time, someone in management is bound to expect that on any Sunday evening, he can expect you to be working.

    My current employer is definitely a "bums in seats" employer. Remote access for developers is not even imagined.
  • 36. Re: Instructor led course requirement??
    YoungWinston Expert
    Currently Being Moderated
    872326 wrote:
    Good news, Winston. In some environments, all programmers already work remotely regularly. In my last job, I normally worked on my laptop from my house, but I also worked in cafes, on trains, in other cities, and at a beach house, among other places. I would visit the office once a week so they could see my face.
    Strangely enough, I did a paper on it (working from home/outside the office) a while back when I was working on my MBIT, and was surprised to discover that one of the major motivations for businesses to do it was land costs (maybe not so urgent right now : ), but they'll start going up again).

    One case (I think it was Shearson's) saved so much money on their pilot project that they decided to implement it "as is" - despite protests from the researchers that they'd made tons of mistakes and should be allowed to re-vamp the whole set-up. And that was back when "mobile technology" costs were far higher than they are today.

    But one conclusion that pervaded all the cases I studied was that management had to fundamentally re-think all their metrics, including many statistical ones.

    Winston
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