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Ask Slashdot: Minimum Programming Competence In Order To Get a Job? 466

First time accepted submitter Wisecat (3651085) writes "So we all know that computer programming jobs are hot right now. Heck, even President Obama has been urging Americans to learn the skill. But all of us in tech know that not everyone can hack it, and what's more it takes a while to learn anything, and keep up your skills as technology changes. Add to that the fact that companies (and their hiring managers) are always looking for 'the best of the best of the best' talent, and one starts to wonder: just how good does one actually have to BE to get hired? Certainly, there must be plenty of jobs where a level 7/10 programmer would be plenty good enough, and even some that a level 5/10 would be enough. And perhaps we can agree that a level 2/10 would not likely get hired anywhere. So the question is: given that we have such huge demand for programmers, can a level 5, 6, or 7 ever get past the hiring manager? Or is he doomed to sit on the sidelines while the position goes unfilled, or goes to someone willing to lie about their skill level, or perhaps to an H1-B who will work cheaper (but not necessarily better)? I'm a hardware engineer with embedded software experience, and have considered jumping over to pure software (since there are so many jobs, so much demand) but at age 40, and needing to pick a language and get good at it, I wonder whether it would even be possible to get a job (with my previous work experience not being directly related). Thoughts?"
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Ask Slashdot: Minimum Programming Competence In Order To Get a Job?

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  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @11:10AM (#46989711) Homepage
    People often ignore their non-programming skills. Get fired from a manufacturing job? Learn to code and try to get a job coding the software that runs the machines that took your job. Your industry xp will be a plus. Work as an orderly in a hospital? Code for medical machines.
  • Re:Relax (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SnapShot ( 171582 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @11:17AM (#46989797)

    Ah, you work in government contracting too?

  • by Wycliffe ( 116160 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @11:33AM (#46989959) Homepage

    What is your bias against Perl? Every perl programmer I've met was a decent programmer with the possible
    exception of the ones that have done mostly sysadmin and only used perl for simple tasks not programming.
    Php and Python on the other hand seem to have alot of people who have picked up the bare minimum to
    do a "hello world" and not much else. I have nothing against php and python (except php's random naming
    conventions and python's horrible use of whitespace) but it seems like there is alot more beginners using
    php and python. You see alot fewer beginners using Java, C, and Perl. Even less for Perl as Perl is usually
    a second (or third) language for developers so they are usually highly skilled developers.

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @11:34AM (#46989977) Journal
    Exactly this. It's worth mentioning that your interview skills are more important that your actual programming skills. Sad but true.

    The main thing is to do a self-analysis. Instead of thinking of things in terms of 2/10 or 7/10, think of actual skills. Can you get the computer to do what you want? 99% of programming is not complex algorithms, it's straightforward moving data from a DB, or reading form data. Being able to validate form data is more important than knowing quicksort.

    So if you can write straight-forward code, and can interview well, then you can be a programmer.
  • by vikingpower ( 768921 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @11:39AM (#46990031) Homepage Journal

    Your age does not play as large a role as you may think. In 2004, I had 13+ years of experience in pure software on the odometer, but - due to mental illness - first lost my job, then became homeless. I did the only thing I was still able to do: I walked. All over Europe. Homeless, but not giving in. Once back in my home country, in 2006, I managed to settle down again: the clouds in my head had cleared, and a large aerospace constructor gave me chance. I was 39 years old, and it started a great ride in my career, one that I am still on.

    What I did, you can do. As to the language: there is not really a problem discernible to me. You probably already master C, or a C-like language. The jump to C++ is not that hard, in that case. Otherwise, you might want to consider ADA, a stunningly elegant language that could very well land you jobs with e.g. Rockwell, Boeing etc. etc. ( assuming you are in the USA ). Good luck, and do not forget: it is not your success that counts - it is the fact that you keep trying.

  • by WillAdams ( 45638 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @01:47PM (#46991495) Homepage

    My favourite take on lines of code as a metric is from the early days of the Macintosh: []

    In early 1982, the Lisa software team was trying to buckle down for the big push to ship the software within the next six months. Some of the managers decided that it would be a good idea to track the progress of each individual engineer in terms of the amount of code that they wrote from week to week. They devised a form that each engineer was required to submit every Friday, which included a field for the number of lines of code that were written that week.

    Bill Atkinson, the author of Quickdraw and the main user interface designer, who was by far the most important Lisa implementor, thought that lines of code was a silly measure of software productivity. He thought his goal was to write as small and fast a program as possible, and that the lines of code metric only encouraged writing sloppy, bloated, broken code.

    He recently was working on optimizing Quickdraw's region calculation machinery, and had completely rewritten the region engine using a simpler, more general algorithm which, after some tweaking, made region operations almost six times faster. As a by-product, the rewrite also saved around 2,000 lines of code.

    He was just putting the finishing touches on the optimization when it was time to fill out the management form for the first time. When he got to the lines of code part, he thought about it for a second, and then wrote in the number: -2000.

    I'm not sure how the managers reacted to that, but I do know that after a couple more weeks, they stopped asking Bill to fill out the form, and he gladly complied.

  • Re:Age (Score:5, Interesting)

    by david_thornley ( 598059 ) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @03:00PM (#46992381)

    The secret for me was hair dye. Suddenly I started getting offers. It doesn't seem like it should make that much difference, but it did.

Marvelous! The super-user's going to boot me! What a finely tuned response to the situation!