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Posted Friday, September 13, 2013 11:25 AM


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patrickmcginnis59 10839 (9/13/2013)

Maybe it would be interesting to consider what phd's were available at the time that many of these folks did NOT choose and instead pursued studies in mathematics, engineering or other non CS studies. For example, should we wonder why Mr. McCarthy or Mr. Turing did not pursue their education in the field of computer science? Would that help us determine whether all the present day companies are mistaken in desiring job candidates with academic credentials in relevent fields?

Perhaps you didn't notice that my text which you quoted contained this:
Do you think that no-one should have been recruited to work on computers before about 1958, since there were no academic qualifications in Computing or IT way back then?
That should have made it clear that I am well aware of what the situation was way back then. Incidentally, I think 1958 may be a few years earlier than the first first-degree course in CS; MU started theirs in 1965, that was the first in the UK, and I don't think the USA was much earlier.

I don't however think that companies are sensible in requiring academic qualifications in computing or IT; a degree in maths, perhaps specialising in formal logic and, logical calculi, type theory, and proof theory, and recursive function theory would probably give a far better grounding than the typical first degree course which uses one or two languages chosen from Basic, C++ Java, and Modula as if they were the only computing languages in the world and doesn't touch the theory of computation, type theory, process-oriented calculi, communication-oriented calculi, relational database theory, error management, queuing theory, formal verification, or anything else other than how to churn out ill-considered third rate code or how to write acceptable bovine waste-product essays despite having no basic grounding in the science and art of computing; they don't even teach the need to be careful about error propagation, or to obtain some idea of the computational complexity of an algorithm you are thinking about using; this results in people computing matrix inverses, determinants, and eigenvectors using recursive descent instead of Gaussian elimination because they don't realise the complexity is O(n!), which is a bad thing already; and will also maximise the error in the end result due to the rounding and representation errors mounting rapidly, which is also a bad thing. There are of course some universities that don't conform to fashion, and do teach computer science, and teach it well, instead of teaching programming, and teaching it badly. A typical physics student is likely to use a computer during his studies, to do complex curve fitting and estimation of probabilities, and does understand both computational complexity and error propagation by the time he gets his first degree, even though he will have learnt to use an unfashionable language like Fortran or Algol (60 or 68) or C, but will have more clue than a typical CS graduate.
Maybe my views are biased because I've seen no-hopers for a computing job from CS or IT courses more often than from other subjects, and know very few universities whose first degrees in CS/IT are worth anything. But I believe that we currently have a problem because many universities are trying to do what industry wants (or what government wants, which here in the UK is keep the costs down regardless of output quality) and because all the job adverts ask for C++ experience (or whatever) they decide to spend most of a three or four year course on C++ (or whatever) and none on computer science or related topics. 45 years ago we had a different problem: very few universities offered first degrees in computer science. In effect, the result is the same: there are too few people gaining first degrees in computer science or IT that qualify them for a job in computing/IT. It's a worse problem now that it was then, because now people are demanding CS/IT degrees - and people who are perfectly well qualified through their maths or physics or engineering or other background - including people who have been working in computing for years and have an excellent track record - are being rejected out of hand because there are people who have meaningless degrees who can be taken on instead.


Tom
Post #1494679
Posted Friday, September 13, 2013 12:48 PM
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L' Eomot Inversé (9/13/2013)
patrickmcginnis59 10839 (9/13/2013)

Maybe it would be interesting to consider what phd's were available at the time that many of these folks did NOT choose and instead pursued studies in mathematics, engineering or other non CS studies. For example, should we wonder why Mr. McCarthy or Mr. Turing did not pursue their education in the field of computer science? Would that help us determine whether all the present day companies are mistaken in desiring job candidates with academic credentials in relevent fields?

Perhaps you didn't notice that my text which you quoted contained this:
Do you think that no-one should have been recruited to work on computers before about 1958, since there were no academic qualifications in Computing or IT way back then?
That should have made it clear that I am well aware of what the situation was way back then. Incidentally, I think 1958 may be a few years earlier than the first first-degree course in CS; MU started theirs in 1965, that was the first in the UK, and I don't think the USA was much earlier.

When I view this as a reply to Mr. crick's comment, it doesn't seem to make sense to me especially with your additional commentary:
L' Eomot Inversé (9/12/2013)
simon.crick (9/11/2013)
Why not base your decision on the candidate's academic qualifications?
Because we know that many of the really great people in computing/IT/database had not a single academic qualification in computing or in IT or in database. Surely we shouldn't restrict ourselves to people who have more academic qualifications in the field than Alan Turing or Fred Williams or Grace Hopper or John McCarthy or Tony Hoare or Ted Codd or Cliff Jones or Chris Date - if they hadn't been allowed to work in computing we wouldn't have got anywhere near where we are today - they might never have been a relational model to give rise to an RDBMS like SQL Server. Do you think that no-one should have been recruited to work on computers before about 1958, since there were no academic qualifications in Computing or IT way back then?

Now that you have acknowleged that there weren't more appropriate fields in your more recent reply (or did you?), who then would be more qualified than say Alan Turing, Grace Hopper or John McCarthy for instance? Why does this reply look like Mr. crick would have rejected these candidates because they didn't have an appropriate set of credentials, when in fact we're now seem to be fairly well in agreement the appropriate set of credentials didn't exist or more preferrably for me, they actually had the best set of credentials to do the pioneering work they did? Ie., it reads like you would hold up Mr. crick as not preferring these eminent pioneers as able to work in the field, heck, the very field they were instrumental in creating.
Post #1494701
Posted Friday, September 13, 2013 6:10 PM


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patrickmcginnis59 10839 (9/13/2013)

Now that you have acknowleged that there weren't more appropriate fields in your more recent reply (or did you?), who then would be more qualified than say Alan Turing, Grace Hopper or John McCarthy for instance? Why does this reply look like Mr. crick would have rejected these candidates because they didn't have an appropriate set of credentials, when in fact we're now seem to be fairly well in agreement the appropriate set of credentials didn't exist or more preferrably for me, they actually had the best set of credentials to do the pioneering work they did? Ie., it reads like you would hold up Mr. crick as not preferring these eminent pioneers as able to work in the field, heck, the very field they were instrumental in creating.

It's simple really. If someone tells us that they want an appropriate degree for a computing/IT job it usually turns out that they want a CS/IT degree. And if someone has a CS/IT degree, that is no indication at all of capacity to do computing or IR work, unless it was awarded by one of the exceptional universities who make a good job of Cs/IT teaching. And there is a great pile of evidence, as you obviously agree, that a lot of people did a lot of really splendid work in computing/IT at the time when they held no CS/IT degree. Given those three things, I'm going to disagree when someone tells me that the thing to look for is "an appropriate degree", or claims that relying on academic qualifications is a panacea for bypassing the untrustworthy certification problem.

There have been times when the bane of my life was having to skim-read the great piles of CVs of deadbeat no-hopers (that's the impression the CVs give of the people they describe, although of course that may be partly because the recruitment agent has rewritten them without clearing the revisions with the candidate) sent to me by recruiting agents because they believed anyone with a degree in CS/IT must be competent.

And be honest about it: would you take on someone with a degree in Literae Humaniores (Latin and Greek literature plus ancient and medieval philosophy)? Would you take on someone with no degree at all, or with a degree in History, or French Language and Literature, or Theology? If not, you would turn down two of the people I named if they came to you with the same qualifications (and lack of fame and world-wide reputation) as they had when they first took on jobs in computing; and you would also turn down a lot of the people I worked with over the years.


Tom
Post #1494766
Posted Monday, September 16, 2013 5:04 AM
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I think it is up to the employer to decide what constitutes a "relevant subject area".

If the employer is a florist and they are looking for a DBA, then they might say that a major in "flower arranging" is a relevant subject area if the candidate has also taken one or two options in computing (or has a proven interest and ability in computing).

Anyway, in my original comment regarding "good grades in a relevant subject area", I certainly didn't mean that employers should only consider CS graduates. (That was a false assumption on the part of one or two of the readers.)

I just wanted to say that I believe academic qualifications are a very good way to measure someone's knowledge and ability to learn, and I don't see any reason to invent a new system (which would surely be just as imperfect).

Simon
Post #1494998
Posted Monday, September 16, 2013 7:56 AM


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patrickmcginnis59 10839 (9/12/2013)
can't tell who wrote this comment

Because we know that many of the really great people in computing/IT/database had not a single academic qualification in computing or in IT or in database. Surely we shouldn't restrict ourselves to people who have more academic qualifications in the field than Alan Turing or Fred Williams or Grace Hopper or John McCarthy or Tony Hoare or Ted Codd or Cliff Jones or Chris Date - if they hadn't been allowed to work in computing we wouldn't have got anywhere near where we are today - they might never have been a relational model to give rise to an RDBMS like SQL Server. Do you think that no-one should have been recruited to work on computers before about 1958, since there were no academic qualifications in Computing or IT way back then?

Alan Turing: PhD from Princeton
Fred Williams: Doctorate Magdalen College, Oxford
Grace Hopper: Ph.D. in mathematics from Yale
John McCarthy: Ph.D. in Mathematics from Princeton

etc etc

Given the time and the contributions, these guys had some pretty solid academic chops and while not disrespecting the ability they in all likelyhood displayed before these academic achievements, they none the less weren't uneducated. Given the state of the art at the time, the sorts of academics they pursued were exactly what you would expect from someone doing the sort of work they did.

I'm not saying that there aren't counter examples of folks without academic qualifications attaining success in computers, but I'm pretty surprised that folks who actually did have the chops were used in the unattributed quote to highlight the supposed uselessness of academics.


Quite true, but IMHO, you're providing an example of the "chef" problem. The leader in computing were academics. Many of the leaders in the tech field today, who are amazing programmers, would be PhD level people if they chose to pursue that. However many of the people teaching in colleges aren't high level computing people. Some are, but as more and more universities have added CS programs, by definition, the talent level has watered down.

We've also seen too many colleges lower their standards to ensure they don't drive too many people away from programs.

It's not to say that someone coming out of a university isn't qualified, but I'm not sure the degree validates this. In some sense, it only validates that they can pursue a 4-5 yr project to completion, not necessarily at any level of quality.







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Post #1495093
Posted Monday, September 16, 2013 8:24 AM


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I went to a community college, a 18 month straight program with courses on computer programming. None of the what I call 'filler' courses you have to take at universities. I looked at it as I would gain valuable work experience while others were in school that extra 2 1/2 years. Has worked out well for me, I had some friends do the universities and either couldn't find jobs right away or haven't stuck with it over the years. I had a job lined up before I even graduated. I've gained almost all of my knowledge on SQL by having to work with it, I did have a two day class way back in 2001. Didn't get a lot out of the second day of the class because it was 09/11/2001.

You need to be able to learn and adapt to the changing times.
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