I ran into your blog after a google search entitled “how to start as web developer.”
The question I have for you is the following… Is self learning with time enough? Where should I look for these “foundation” setting knowledge? Have you felt, through your web developing career, that not having had the college education on computer science has been a problem when dealing with more complex issues, or experience takes you there?
It’s no secret that, aside from some recent classes through Coursera, I’ve never taken a formal computer science class. To some, this puts me at a significant disadvantage. To others it doesn’t mean much. But how does it really affect me?
It’s What You Know
Ultimately, the position you earn in a company, and the leadership role you can exercise, is far more dependent on your knowledge and how you use it than a degree or certificate backing you up. I’ve met people with Ph.Ds in computer science who couldn’t code a basic “hello world” application. I’ve met teenagers in high school who can code better than many professionals I know.
I attended a graduate business program straight out of my undergrad program. 1 It was an intense program that involved 4-8 hour lecture sections, intensive foreign language study, an international field study trip, and several live consulting projects with businesses in the market. I consulted for technology companies in the US, for academics doing corporate sustainability research, and for a major multinational sports equipment brand.
After I graduated, I couldn’t find a job.
Yes, I had practical experience in business consulting. I had the same alphabet soup after my name that my colleagues had. Actually, I had even tutored many of my peers in grad school because some of the topics came easier to me than they did to others.
I had a powerful degree and the academic savvy to back up my book knowledge. Hiring managers didn’t care.
When I say in in-person interviews, they could almost smell my inexperience. I was young, and I looked it. Knowing I was young cast my streamlined (and wanting) resume in a different light and, more often than not, led me to a “thanks but no thanks” rather than an offer.
Hiring managers were more concerned with my experience than my education.
There is no difference when you’re dealing with developers.
Prove Your Experience
When I review the credentials of a new developer, the last thing I look at is their education. I don’t care how much someone spent for school, how prestigious their university might have been, or what classes they’ve taken. I care about the code they write.
I review developers based on code samples – usually their GitHub repositories – and based on the results of coding assignments. If you know what you’re doing, both are pretty easy bars to reach.
After I’ve seen that you know your stuff, I look at your employment history and educational background. They’re not deal-breakers, but often help me understand why you know what you know and what trajectory your career is taking.
As for my own background, I’ll go out and study what I find interesting (or where I see gaps in my own knowledge). I just completed a course on machine learning, and will be taking several on cybersecurity over the next few months. Additionally, I’ll look for coding projects and challenges to test and build upon this book learning – being able to actually do something is far more valuable than just knowing about it.
Has a lack of formal computer education caused issues in my career? Absolutely not. Will it cause an issue in yours? Only if you also lack practical experience to back up your goals of being a developer.
- I graduated on Saturday, moved back to Portland Sunday, and started classes on Monday morning. I literally started my grad program right after I graduated. ↩