It’s like if you walked into a painting class, told everyone that learning to paint was too hard, and then gave everyone a camera and told them that photography was the same thing as painting, only a lot easier to do. No disrespect towards photographers intended.
I hear an argument that business programming isn’t hard. It does not require understanding combinatorial logic and fixed points. There is no value in knowing how to program in OCaml (or why that might be a good idea). Business programming is practical
, and business programmers need practical training to do a practical job.
Ok, I’ll bite. Really. As Keith would say, I’ll climb down from my former position on this. Fine. So here’s my question to you, Mr. “An undergraduate Computer Science program ought to be as easy as business programming:”
Why don’t businesses advertise for vocational college graduates?
You are describing a vocational job to me. The rote application of practical principles is nothing more and nothing less. How is what you’re describing any different than a job as an accounts receivable clerk or a dental technician? Or a land surveyor? Or a architectural draftsperson?
If your comp-sci course is easy then you’re either a genius or you’re wasting your money. The odds on that are not in your favour.
These are all vocational jobs with a well-established and perfectly functional system for training clerks, technicians, surveyors, and draftspersons. Well? Why won’t businesses come clean with everyone and say that’s what they want?
Let me tell you the cold, hard, truth. You aren’t going to like this, but I ask you to believe me when I say that I am telling you this for your own good:
There is a culture of pretending business programming is more than it is. Some of you calling for more Java in University may take false hope that I am on your side. You may think that the people arguing for Scheme, Haskell, and OCaml are elitists. Wrong. They do not have a problem. You are the one with a problem because you don’t want to tell all your friends you have a job as a clerk.So you want to be a clerk
You do a clerk’s job, you settle for a clerk’s working conditions and wages, but you take solace in the thought that you are somehow more than a clerk, because you have a university degree
and the dental technician who cleans your teeth doesn’t.
Only everyone knows it’s a sham, especially the hiring manager who puts “University degree required” in the job advertisement. He wants to hire a clerk, someone who will work long hours doing as they’re told in a top-down, hierarchal command structure. Does that job sound like there is any Science involved? Of course not, everyone knows that, it’s why the industry is trying to weed all of the Science out of a Computer Science degree.
And you’re falling for it, hook, line, and sinker.
The university just wants your money, they’re selling you a gown and mortar for the low, low price of $5,836 a year (books, room, board, and other expenses not included). Business just wants to let you have your little fantasy of being a cut above the X-Ray Technician who does the same, repetitive thing all day working with a big flat screen and data that goes on a hard drive ($45,950 median salary).
The sooner you figure out the game, the sooner you can start playing instead of being played.
So we dumb down the curriculum. Who loses? Please don’t tell me the University loses its reputation. They don’t care, their budget is based on how many people like you they can con into getting a piece of paper that isn’t really any better than a vocational college certificate. If they need any more prestige, they’ll take your fees and give them to someone who will write a paper.
You didn’t write any papers, did you? The one thing that is really, really useful for getting ahead in business is learning to write, learning to speak, learning to persuade
. If a Computer Science degree was really meant to give you an advantage in a business environment, it would involve a lot more writing English than writing Java. You would know that if you went on to get an MBA.
Anyways, the university is doing just fine, thank you for helping to pay for a fancy new building. How about businesses? Are they losing because they're paying university degree wages for clerks? No, because the secret of business is that the market works out the right price unless you can monopolize supply.
And you, my friend, are not monopolizing supply. Did your university have a strict cap on the number of undergraduates entering the CompSci program? No? Then your degree has absolutely zero leverage. Wait, I could be wrong. Do businesses refuse to hire workers with foreign credentials? They do
hire workers with foreign credentials? Well, there goes that component of value.
Let me tell you, and I speak as a hiring manager. We lie to you
. We write in articles and books and on blogs how much we value a degree. Joel Spolsky argues that there ought to be good degrees. But I will bet anyone $100 that he will hire a high school graduate if that graduate is smart and can get things done.
Beyond your actual ability to write programs, a degree is only as meaningful as its scarcity. If degrees are easy to get, they mean squat. Sure, when I’m hiring I might choose to toss all the no-experience resumés without degrees. I’m still left with a pile of two hundred people to interview. Do you think I’m paying any of you top dollar when I have 199 more people to see?
The reality is that your degree is only a pacifier, a way to make you feel good about yourself. The industry is selling you the illusion of respect
I’m telling you this because the sooner you figure out the game, the sooner you can start playing instead of being played. If you really want to be more than a clerk, you can pay more attention to what is to be done and how much freedom you have to do it and less attention to whether there is a title or a degree involved.
be respected for your job. But it has nothing to do with whether we pretend a university degree is required for the position. Everybody knows it isn’t: if it was, there would be no need to dumb down the program to suit the job. Respect comes from what you accomplish, and where programs are involved, it comes from writing programs, not from a title or a piece of a paper (nor from a book or a blog). Nobody on Earth can stop you from writing software and earning genuine respect.
So do yourself a favour. Don’t let them play this game at your expense. Don’t allow them to disrespect you so transparently.
You deserve more respect than that.
p.s. Look, there is nothing wrong with being a clerk as long as you not in denial about your job. There is nothing wrong with educational institutions helping to fulfill a demand for clerks. And although I don’t think it is in a business’s best interests to treat programmers as clerks, there is nothing wrong with a business making that choice.
That being said, there are institutions that offer much more than vocational training in their undergraduate programs. Here’s why it’s in your best interests—not business’s best interests, but your
best interests—to get a degree involving actual Computer Science, not vocational training: What good is a CS degree?
And furthermore, there are plenty of programming careers that are an alternative to clerking. I am not going to say better or worse, just different. You don’t have to follow that road, no matter how many others are going that way.
The point of this post is that you
need to have your eyes wide open when choosing what type of education you need and what type of career to pursue.