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Zoho Don't Need No Stinking Ph.D. Programmers 612

Posted by timothy
from the shoveling-it-on dept.
theodp writes "When it comes to tech academic credentials, Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu has The Right Stuff: a Ph.D. in EE from Princeton. But Vembu has eschewed Google's Army-of-Ph.D.s approach to software development in favor of tapping into the ranks of high school grads who would not normally go to college for Zoho. Seeing his youngest brother succeed at programming without a college degree convinced Vembu that others could follow that example with the proper training and guidance. And studying the best employees in his own company led to another epiphany: 'What if the college degree itself is not really that useful?' thought Vembu. 'What if we took kids after high school, train them ourselves?'"
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Zoho Don't Need No Stinking Ph.D. Programmers

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  • by Lord Grey (463613) * on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:12PM (#32763958)

    Whoa. Someone with common sense. Someone in charge with common sense! I need to get some people around my workplace to read this blog entry.

    Based on a few years of observation, we noticed that there was little or no correlation between academic performance, as measured by grades [and] the type of college a person attended, and their real on-the-job performance. ...

    While I'm sure that everyone's personal experience is different, this observation matches perfectly with what I've seen over the last 30 years or so in the field. On-the-job performance is the application of skills that are atually needed somewhere. Education in school is teaching something that may be needed at some future date. A new graduate still has to learn how to adapt their knowledge to the real world. Given what schools seem to be teaching these days, and the typical student's retention rate and enthusiasm, I'm not surprised that grads and non-grads are about equal in skill after working for awhile.

    ... That was a genuine surprise, particularly for me, as I grew up thinking grades really mattered.

    Kudos for admitting that, Vembu. I hope others follow your example.

    • by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:15PM (#32764014) Journal

      Many, many people have gotten themselves trapped into paying off student loans for the rest of their lives for a degree that is inherently worthless. Expect a lot of denial of this truth contained in this article because for some people the idea that they sold themselves into debt slavery for nothing is too much to bear.

      • by OzPeter (195038) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:27PM (#32764210)

        Many, many people have gotten themselves trapped into paying off student loans for the rest of their lives for a degree that is inherently worthless.

        On the other hand I got a 4 year electrical engineering degree from a respected university for a grand total of about US$500. Thats what you get growing up in a country where the government thinks that education was important. I have no idea what student loan is and I think made my money back about 25 years ago.

        • by bigstrat2003 (1058574) * on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:55PM (#32764694)

          You paid for it just like the rest of us. The only difference is that your payment came (and comes) in the form of taxes, rather than student loans (or whatever else).

          I'm not trying to make judgements as to which way is better. I'm merely saying you shouldn't be deluded into thinking that it was free (or nearly free, in your case), simply because you didn't write a check to your school.

          • by OzPeter (195038)

            You paid for it just like the rest of us. The only difference is that your payment came (and comes) in the form of taxes, rather than student loans (or whatever else).

            Sure it was paid by taxes. But once I had that degree it was never incumbent on me to have to earn money to pay it back

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by ToasterMonkey (467067)

              Sure it was paid by taxes. But once I had that degree it was never incumbent on me to have to earn money to pay it back

              You keep digging a deeper hole.

              Good for you, you got a taxpayer funded education and (apparently) it was a good investment for us. Want a cookie with that too?
              The taxpayer funded educations that turn out to be BAD investments are arguably a worse situation than what the GP said - people with only personal debt. I don't know, maybe you LIKE the idea of free government handouts with no strings attached?

          • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @06:31PM (#32765332) Homepage

            I'll take their taxes and free higher education over the mess we have any day.

            Even if they quadruple my taxes, it's still far cheaper than what I owe for my education + the interest I have to pay. Only a complete fool thinks the USA system is better than elsewhere. Paying 4X my current taxes for 40 years will be cheaper than my student loans.

            • by russotto (537200) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @08:12PM (#32766792) Journal

              Even if they quadruple my taxes, it's still far cheaper than what I owe for my education + the interest I have to pay.

              Please post the name of your accountant. Because if you quadruple my taxes, I owe a lot more than I make. Actually I think quadruple my current taxes for one year would about pay for my entire college education (at a state school, granted), though that's without interest and without accounting for inflation).

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by BetterSense (1398915)
                Same here. I pay well over 25% of my income in taxes, and I think most in the middle class who have real jobs do too. If I quadrupled my taxes, I would be well in the red.

                Texas by the way.
          • by priegog (1291820) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @07:12PM (#32765992)

            Another way to look is that while your taxes go into funding a couple of wars for reasons you don't even know (no, it's not about terrorism, but I don't want to end up discussing this), his country used that same money to put him through college.
            I'm not even going to get into the whole healthcare bit, but if you think paying somewhat higher taxes (and to a goverment who has it's priorities right on where to put that money) is NOT WORTH not ever having to worry about saving up money for your kids' college education (and even after that, watching them struggle to pay off the debt), then I don't really understand your way of thinking.
            It all boils down to you (and people who think like you) apparently thinking that having higher taxes lowers europeans' acquisitive power, when that couldn't be further from the truth (could someone back me up with some links?). Now, having a huge-ass student-loan debt to pay... I think that would diminish your acquisitive power for quite a number of years.

      • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:28PM (#32764218) Homepage

        That's not true. A degree is a requirement for access to lots of different kinds of high-paying jobs, if only because the HR manager has a degree and decides on wages.

        Whether a degree is actually useful in day-to-day work, well there I might agree with you.

        • by Rogerborg (306625)

          [Saying that you have a] degree is a requirement for access to lots of different kinds of high-paying jobs

          Fixed that for you. I have never, ever been asked to provide evidence of any qualification or previous employment.

          • by lgw (121541) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @06:22PM (#32765202) Journal

            My current employer did a background check that included my high school records. Sadly, the cuniform tablets had crumbled.

            Almost every employer will veryify that you in fact worked at each place that you claimed on your resume, and most large companies now have automated systems to facilitate this. Claiming that you worked somewhere that you didn't is a very stupid way to pad your resume.

            Just because they're not askinng you for proof means nothing.

        • And hiring manager (Score:5, Insightful)

          by AnonymousClown (1788472) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:48PM (#32764578)

          That's not true. A degree is a requirement for access to lots of different kinds of high-paying jobs, if only because the HR manager has a degree and decides on wages.

          Whether a degree is actually useful in day-to-day work, well there I might agree with you.

          and hiring manager....

          Two stories:

          The first one is about a supervisor I had who felt one must have a college degree to program device drivers. He blew off a really brilliant (I've never worked with a guy since who was that smart - even the PhDs at IBM) guy because he had only a HS diploma.

          Second - a bit longer:

          There's a company in SE Florida that needed someone to test circuit boards. A two year technical degree was all that was needed: plug board in, read test equipment, note failure.

          When they were looking for someone, an EE shows up. They hired him. This guy then takes advantage of the tuition reimbursement and gets a MS EE. He leaves for greener pastures and maybe to actually use his education. Now, they list his job. Guess what? Requirements for thejob: MS EE. A test job. All because this guy got one on the job. They're reasoning? Well, because he got one he must have needed one.

          It wouldn't have surprised me if they were one of the companies that said "We can't get any qualified Americans" and eventually hired a H1-b.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        None of this musing changes the fact that sometimes solving a hard problem requires a deeper or more theoretical understanding of the problem space. One typically doesn't get that kind of understanding from googling for ready-made solutions.

      • If you also add the opportunity cost of the 4 years of pay and experience which you missed out on the degree looks even less attractive....

    • by Foofoobar (318279)
      Couldn't agree more. Speaking as a web developer, mosy kids out of high school can do LAMP development or javascripting without formal training. You don't need a 4 yr degree to be a web dev. Unless you are building libraries that industry runs on (and only a handful do that) then you can just use others libraries and occasional suggest or submit code changes.
    • by GreatAntibob (1549139) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:26PM (#32764184)

      Gotta disagree with you. College is NOT a glorified vocational school, even if some people in CS treat it as such.

      Any decent college won't claim that the knowledge you gain is worth anything in 5 years. Their purpose is (and should be) teaching some fundamental principles of a particular major discipline (CS, in this case), and, more importantly, a set of attitudes and philosophies that teach you how to teach yourself. In engineering, you know your basic skill set will be obsolete in 5 years (and the Head of our EE dept. told us this before classes even began), so it's more important to get the basic mental framework in place and learn how to learn.

      Even at my place of work, some talented high school students could probably be taught how to do the job about as fast and well as college graduates. The difference comes 2 or 3 years down the road. The people most able to keep up with emerging trends and extending their abilities tend to be the ones with degrees. And it tends to be the ones with PhDs or Masters that do better at it. The ones whose skill sets don't seem to expand as quickly or as much do tend to be the ones with less schooling.

      • by Rogerborg (306625) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:48PM (#32764576) Homepage
        Teaching someone how to learn is like fucking them into virginity.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Teaching someone how to learn is like fucking them into a slut. Except not as fun.

        • by ahankinson (1249646) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @07:11PM (#32765980)

          Hm. You have a very charming witticism, but I think you're wrong.

          You can teach critical thinking, which is a major component in learning how to learn. True, some people are better at it than others, but it can be a skill you pick up. If not, everyone would be born understanding Plato and Wittgenstein.

        • by Alex Belits (437) * on Friday July 02, 2010 @04:36AM (#32770088) Homepage

          Teaching someone how to learn is like fucking them into virginity.

          The difference between smart (apparently lacking in this thread) and witty (as seen above) is pretty much the same as between an educated person and someone who cuts and pastes C++ source from tutorial.

      • by cervo (626632) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @06:45PM (#32765556) Journal
        I gotta disagree a little bit. A lot of a college CS program is not outdated in 5 years. Consequently a lot of it does not apply at all to most jobs....

        Operating Systems -- The underlying principles are mostly the same
        Algorithms -- New ones are constantly being discovered but the most popular ones have been the same for 30+ years mostly (the undergrad level ones are generally not newer things)...
        Networking -- Some changes with wireless but most of the TCP/IP protocol that is taught in undergrad courses is the same
        Discrete Math -- Again mostly the same for the past 30 years
        Computer Organization -- Mostly this is the same (assuming the course on digital system design/k-maps/binary number systems/etc...)
        Some Intro Programming Class -- The underlying concepts apply, although the specific language is changing all the time. Although they are not that different...C#/Java/C++ all imperative languages

        The rest is all math (Calculus...not changing, Linear Algebra, etc...) and electives (Compilers, Databases, etc.). A lot of the electives are mostly the same at an undergraduate level. Although there do seem to be more fad of the minute classes, ie iPhone game design or state of the art classes...ie Video Game Design..... But they are in the minority and in 1998-2002 when I was an undergrad they didn't exist...in my school (today they do)

        What seems to change hourly are the various libraries/programming language of the day/framework of the day. And my college didn't teach any of those. It focused on the core CS concepts, not specific technologies. Although we did use Oracle/MySQL a bit in database class, we did not learn Oracle/MySQL, we just used it as a vehicle for expressing concepts in class. Programming assignments were mostly straight forward algorithm implementations which just used programming concepts and easily can be ported into any language. We didn't get crazy into C++/Java specific things.

        But one of my complaints has been that I really don't use any of that... I use some common sense things from algorithms about linked lists/arrays/hash tables and the various orders of magnitudes of common applications, but mostly I use libraries that implement them. And I knew that stuff before algorithms class. Mostly in business program you are using the STL/Java Library/C# libraries and all the collections are implemented. For building a quick GUI to a database it really doesn't take the advanced math/concepts of a CS program.... Admittedly if you were building video games or working for Google then sure computer architecture and advanced knowledge comes in handy. In a Google phone interview they took everything into consideration, the memory hierarchy, the swap space, disk access times, etc... With a job like that it is good to know the PC to wring out performance... Or video game programming because games are constantly pushing the envelope. But those are the exception, not the rule.

        Where I have failed and a lot of companies are failing is that for the first job it is important for a lot of grads to learn how to organize big programs and program with an eye towards maintenance. That is where you really learn how to program (or working on an open source project). Colleges don't teach that. Most assignments are short, maybe 1,000 lines of code or less. Also you usually don't need to maintain them, so you can throw a bunch of garbage together that runs correctly and then wash your hands of it. Implementing a Hash Table, or maybe your own database class that writes to a file is not the same thing as taking over some 10,000 line accounting package....
        • by David Greene (463) on Friday July 02, 2010 @01:16AM (#32769056)

          Operating Systems -- The underlying principles are mostly the same Algorithms -- New ones are constantly being discovered but the most popular ones have been the same for 30+ years mostly (the undergrad level ones are generally not newer things)... Networking -- Some changes with wireless but most of the TCP/IP protocol that is taught in undergrad courses is the same Discrete Math -- Again mostly the same for the past 30 years Computer Organization -- Mostly this is the same (assuming the course on digital system design/k-maps/binary number systems/etc...)

          My experience is that the ability to grasp the complexity of the above areas varies widely but generally the higher the degree, the better one is able to appreciate trends and anticipate them. The above areas only look static to one who hasn't studied them very deeply.

          • Operating Systems -- Manycore is causing huge upheaval. Scalability is not a solved problem.
          • Algorithms -- The algorithms aren't nearly as important as the ability to analyze complexity, a non-trivial skill most B.S. grads don't possess.
          • Networking -- Networking goes way beyond the internet. High-speed interconnect is a big area of research, for example.
          • Discrete Math -- Like complexity analysis, this is foundational knowledge. The concepts reappear over and over again. When one recognizes the patterns and how they interact across disciplines, interesting things can happen.
          • Computer Organization -- This is very much not the same as even 10 years ago. We've hit the frequency ceiling and manycore combined with power constraints is fundamentally shifting what is possible. Things that seemed silly a decade ago may be the right answer today and some things we've taken for granted as "good" probably aren't anymore.

          A higher-level degree is not an advanced apprenticeship. It is about knowing what came before and anticipating what's coming next. Someone with a B.S. is likely to think he knows everything. Someone with a Ph.D. is smart enough to know how ignorant he is.

          Not everyone needs or should get an advanced degree. But to claim that such degrees are worthless is the height of hubris

      • by Weezul (52464) on Friday July 02, 2010 @07:16AM (#32770928)

        Zoho only writes very basic online office applications. I'd imagine they've got people who know some statistics working on those functions for their spreadsheet, but otherwise we're not talking very advanced programming work. Imagine you're writing a Farmville knockoff, would you hire a PhD or a high school kid?

        Google otoh sees themselves on a mission to change the world by making all human knowledge accessible. Ain't so surprising they want PhDs even when just building web applications now is it?

    • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @06:28PM (#32765294) Homepage

      Yup.. Cue up the people that spent too much for their Masters and PHD clamoring how they are far better than the unwashed masses...

      I know high school dropouts that are smarter than some that hold multiple Masters degrees.

      I also have met many people that work in a foundry or factory that know far more about engineering than the idiot engineers that the same company hires.

      When you are in IT, you get to watch the fun of the engineers that have never assembled the item fight with the guys that actually touch their design and know it's a mess.

  • by Improv (2467) <pgunn@dachte.org> on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:14PM (#32763990) Homepage Journal

    College is a mix of vocational training (particularly important for some professions) and personal growth in the "learn to be a good citizen" sense. It's socially irresponsible to encourage people cut back on the latter, and being lax on the former results in a lot of "not seeing the big picture" kind of thing. I suppose it might be good for businesses that want to lock their employees into working for them long-term, but it's bad for society.

    • by jedidiah (1196) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:20PM (#32764088) Homepage

      Nonsense.

      These high school graduates will get much more "learn to be a good citizen" benefits
      from merely being encouraged to better themselves on their own time and to travel
      outside their little bubble and visit another continent.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Wyatt Earp (1029)

      Bull.

      University in the United States is not a mix of vocational training and citizenship.

      That's what the United States military does, they take someone out of high school and train them up to steer 4 billion dollar warship or "own" a 140 million dollar fighter-bomber in 2-4 years as a maintenance tech. While installing a work ethic and respect for elders, society and other citizens.

      I've lived in the dorms with 17-22 year olds and now I live in an apartment complex with a mix of 18-25 year old soldiers and a

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Improv (2467)

        Why would I spit on the military? What they do is necessary.

        What university offers is a chance, not a guarantee. A chance that that kid who comes from a small town with evangelical parents might hear some things his town and family didn't plan. A chance that the kid whose family told him that not to be of a particular ethnic group marks someone as inferior. A chance that the kid whose high school science teacher believes in astrology might be exposed to actual science. A chance that the kid raised in a Yesh

    • by aztektum (170569) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:38PM (#32764414)

      Do you have any data to back up your claim that non-college educated folk are dim-witted drains on society? Or are you just being a douche?

      I know a lot of people that have no college at all. Some volunteer at shelters, most have traveled the world extensively, and continue to challenge and learn new things on their own just fine. The difference being is they don't pay some stuffy institution for the privilege.

      Attending college doesn't make you better at anything. In fact most people I knew back in college were a bunch of binge drinking twats that hardly turned out to be better citizens.

      • by Improv (2467)

        Some people manage to make up some or all of the loss on their own. Many people do not. Knowing people in many smaller towns, the ones who didn't get a college degree almost all ended up staying in their home towns, believing almost the same as their parents did, and failing to really understand the world. Among those who went to university, far more (but not all) journeyed in mind and/or body and had a lot more personal growth. Sure, it's possible to waste one's time in university, but many people do not,

        • Some people manage to make up some or all of the loss on their own. Many people do not. Knowing people in many smaller towns, the ones who didn't get a college degree almost all ended up staying in their home towns, believing almost the same as their parents did, and failing to really understand the world. Among those who went to university, far more (but not all) journeyed in mind and/or body and had a lot more personal growth. Sure, it's possible to waste one's time in university, but many people do not, and those people are not the sort you'll see drawing attention to themselves with alcohol and misbehaviour.

          I don't buy it. Who's to say those people would actually succeed at college? Who's to say they would change their belief structure if they attended college?

          I find that recent college graduates almost always share the mutually reinforced views of their social clique, and have no ability to relate to anyone who is of a different age group or has a different worldview.

      • In fact most people I knew back in college were a bunch of binge drinking twats that hardly turned out to be better citizens.

        You are either your own counter-example or just another binge-drinking twat.

      • by ShakaUVM (157947) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @08:10PM (#32766756) Homepage Journal

        >>Do you have any data to back up your claim that non-college educated folk are dim-witted drains on society? Or are you just being a douche?

        In a startup, I took a group of 6 very bright community college guys (active game modders and the like, but no formal training) and taught them technical skills, like programming, sys admin stuff, etc.

        Verdict: I'd rather hire people with a four year degree in computer science.

        As much as I liked the guys, they just didn't have enough background in computer science to succeed. I'm not in the business of running a four year university to train them, and they had the net effect of increasing my workload instead of decreasing it. Being involved in three other businesses already, I had to scrap the experiment after a half year.

    • Graduate of the school of hard knocks here.

      I've grown personally so much since I quit school. I look at the whole world and its issues way differently. It's very sobering to see how the real world works, and I think that the very insulated and imaginary environment that a classroom creates hinders growth as much as it develops it.

    • College is a mix of vocational training (particularly important for some professions) and personal growth in the "learn to be a good citizen" sense.

      I would define it as a year's worth of review of junior high and high school material followed by a year's worth of actual new material spread out over three years.

      But maybe that's just the schools I've been to.

    • I agree with you and also from a business perspective another large benefit is that by going through a college degree program, you have developed the skills necessary to be diligent at slogging through very mundane work and presumably developed intelligent communication skills as well. Probably the two most important things you will need in the white collar business world.
  • The company gets crappy code written by people who understand the syntax of the language, but has no deep understanding of algorithms or data structures. They might think they know what they're doing, but having been at that point myself once, they really don't.

    The workers end up not really knowing their craft, and have a much harder time getting their next job without a degree.

    The only winner here is management, who makes a quick profit off bonuses for cutting costs so much, and don't need to worry about

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This could be done right. But you will need a mix of those who know and those who dont. Like what other types of work do such as electricians, plumbers, carpenters...

      When I was hired out of college my first boss pulled me to the side and said "your *REAL* study begins now, you have the theory but none of the knowhow". He was right, it was also why I got paid very little. However, as you rightly point out you can have tons of knowhow but none of the theory. Which is just as bad. You want the master/app

    • Where exactly do you get the notion that people are still learning to write real algorithms in university ? Sure they get shown the result of algorithms. They might even get to implement a binary tree search algorithm (though without the memory allocation part that makes all the difference in real programming). But that's pretty much it.

      The days of getting 2 years of education with only Maths + Scheme and C with at least 2 hours per day spent programming are over. Long over. I don't think these kids will be

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rwa2 (4391) *

      Oh, I don't know... coming from an environment where there are lots of well-degree'd coders writing crap code and doing stupid things with computer systems, I can see why there's a backlash. Many of my magnet high school friends did great academically in high school, but floundered in college for several years, despite being very clever coders. CS education in particular was crammed with weed-out classes and poorly-arranged "team" projects where most of the effort had to be carried by the 1-2 competent se

  • by BlueBoxSW.com (745855) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:15PM (#32764022) Homepage

    Any other reason? Perhaps they are a bit cheaper?

    I do think he has a point that a degree in anything doesn't mean you're going to be any good, and I learned a heck of a lot of programming back in the 80's on my own, in my basement.

    But, the motive here seems to be cost, not anything else.

    And Zoho products show it. They are poor quality knock-offs of other, more commercially popular packages.

    The are the Rodger Corman of software.

    (Apologies to Mr Corman)

  • by snooo53 (663796) * on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:16PM (#32764026) Journal
    I admire what he is doing here. I think that any reasonably intelligent person who's willing to learn can do any job reasonably well, regardless of their background. I think too many HR idiots assume that someone gets far enough down a career path, they are incapable of doing anything else.
  • Answer: we could pay them a lot less.
  • by sir lox elroy (735636) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:20PM (#32764086) Homepage
    That is how I learned to program. I started out at 13 with basic and have moved up. That is also how I learned about computers. 22 years later I am a full-time programmer and a Network Admin. Self taught all the way.
    • Funny story, my grandfather was an electrical engineer and did a lot of design stuff for a big aluminum smelting company on the west coast. He decided to teach me to code at the tender age of 6, and I really took to it. I kept teaching myself right through high school (QBasic, VBasic, PHP, Java, C/C++, C#, ASM (using debug, not pansy NASM junk)) and decided to go to college for CS. I flunked out after the first year of doing idiotic crap in ADA.

      Joined the military, now I'm back at university (BE in EE) with

  • I spot a slight flaw (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OzPeter (195038) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:21PM (#32764108)

    The students are taught very little theory, avoiding computer science altogether.

    Yes there are many things you can do in programming without a formal education, and I'm all for rewarding people who want to make an effort. But by not studying theory they are missing out on all those giants whose shoulders they could be standing on. This will lead to wasted effort as they reinvent everything from the wheel to Unix badly.

  • by EWAdams (953502) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:21PM (#32764110) Homepage

    It's full of self-taught, degree-free programmers who learned on the job... just like what this bozo wants. It also kills two out of every three projects that it starts. Job security is terrible. Much of the code is unmaintainable. Software engineering discipline is regarded as a waste of time for bureaucratic wusses.

    Teaching people on the job means they make their costly, disastrous mistakes on the job instead of making them in college, where nobody gets hurt.

    • by quietwalker (969769) <pdughi@gmail.com> on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:28PM (#32764224)

      In fact, the game industry thrives on just-out-of-college developers, or technically-interns-but-not-going-back.

      You've all seen the articles, they burn through developers like mad. They need the young and inexperienced because they don't complain when they make 1/3 of industry average for 2x the hours and no job security. There are only a few senior members that stay on. The 'complex' parts of the program are bought from middlewear or game engine companies or developed by their seniors. The tailoring - that's left to the newbies. I got to see the team for one of the cookie-cutter Madden-20xx games, and 80% of them appeared within a year of 20.

      You hire young, keep the price and expectations low, train em how you want, and ditch them as soon as they become too expensive, or you can find another kid who costs less.

  • Turn it around (Score:5, Insightful)

    by theskipper (461997) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:24PM (#32764144)

    Would Google's index (and infrastructure) be as good as it is if they relied on high schoolers?

    Umm...no.

    Non-cookie cutter programming requires serious, well-educated people.

    • It might not be any better without PhD's, but then again, they might actually have a product that's not eternally in Beta, either.

    • by Nerdfest (867930)
      There is software development as a craft, and computer science as ... well, a science. Both are useful and required, and both are very different. I would think the people who have been taught the computer science would be less likely to reinvent something, which is good, bit also bad. trying new things is how we get ... new things. It goes without saying that 99.9% of the time the re-invention that untrained people do is absolute inefficient crap, but every once in a while it will be innovative.

      The crafts
    • Umm...maybe.

      Non-cookie cutter programing relies on thinking "outside the box", and the knowledge to carry out the idea.

      I have met several people who, as summer interns, had really interesting and innovative ideas. Many where impractical in real world applications but they had a spark that made them ask "what if ...". When they returned to work full time after being "well-educated" at the Universities they were know it all, narrow minded, by the book, confrontational asses.

      They would shoot down any new
  • Nope.

    Programming isn't that hard. I began at the age of 8 myself. You can go from zero to a hacking code monkey in a month, and from there to a decent programmer in 6 months if you are willing to learn.

    But when it comes to the hard problems: design, algorithms, efficiency; most everyone is going to need a broad spectrum of formal education to be able to handle that properly.

    • We follow a similar strategy only at the college level. I have degrees in international business and german, but spent the last 10 - 12 years doing systems work. Roughly half was systems admin, the other half systems integration. I know enough programming that I could get the job done and build something that worked. The company I now run, I wrote the initial the two versions of the software myself. But we started hiring CS & ECE students as interns first and then some full time when they graduated

  • How about looking tech schools not dropping resumes from people who when to them they tech stuff that uses in the real work places vs the big schools that some are more about sports then classes also they have less filler classes that have little to no use in the work place that most IP people / codes are in.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:45PM (#32764522)

      How about looking tech schools not dropping resumes from people who when to them they tech stuff that uses in the real work places vs the big schools that some are more about sports then classes also they have less filler classes that have little to no use in the work place that most IP people / codes are in.

      How about hiring people who can construct sentences that make some fucking sense?

      Good god man, this is the Internet in 2010 not a telegram in 1910. There isn't an extra charge for punctuation.

  • 1 trick ponies. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dwpro (520418) * <dwpro777 AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:29PM (#32764250)

    The students are taught very little theory, avoiding computer science altogether. Instead students practice solving problems and doing real work. They learn programming, English (many only know Tamil), and math. None of the students really like math and they learn just enough. Sridhar made a comment that might shock educators and employers: "Math is the new Sanskrit, the new Latin." He believes we overestimate the value of math as a tool to assess a student's ability.

    With almost no computer science and a disdain for math, these guys will fit right in with the majority of the programming workforce, probably on par with a technical college grad (and perhaps myself) in coding ability. However, in my experience, I have seen very little correlation between raw ability to code and the success of projects. Zoho better have some kickass business analysts and project managers for these coders.

  • I have seen masters for help desktop level 1 that is way over the top even 2 years with tech schools being passed over is way to high.

    Same thing with jobs hoppers and people who have been out work for more then 3-6 months. I thing that HR is to stuck in the old ways doing things and today high cost of school / hard to find jobs. Also places don't like to hire people who been in the work place for a long time for low level jobs.

  • Yeah, maybe (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Myopic (18616)

    This might work. This might not work. One thing, though, is clear from Google's example: hiring a huge number of incredibly well-educated people does, apparently, also work.

    My two Google friends are both motherfucking good programmers. I was in college and asked one of them his strategy for handling exceptions in his code. He shrugged and said, without any sense of irony whatsoever, "I don't really know how to handle exceptions. I find it easier to just write code without any bugs in it."

    For almost anyone e

    • Re:Yeah, maybe (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Nerdfest (867930) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:57PM (#32764730)
      He'd better learn. On some occasion in the future, he'll need to interface with someone else's code.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Quasar1999 (520073)
      Nobody is infallible. This friend of yours may be smart, he may be extremely good at writing bug free code, but he is worthless as a developer for a company that needs to create anything useful if he is naive enough to believe he can write totally bug free code.

      I rather have someone working with me that is an average developer who does their best to write bug free code, but deals with unexpected situations than one who thinks they're smart enough to forsee every possible outcome during code execution.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by owlstead (636356)

      He must be one of the guys that thought that building an entirely new computer language without exceptions (Google Go, for a name that doesn't Google) was a good idea too.

      Oh, how I love code that is written like this:

      boolean ok = true;
      if (!someMethod()) {
      ok = false;
      }
      if (ok && !someOtherMethod() {
      ok = false;
      }

      return ok;

      Now you've got rid of all the exceptions. Oh, but the method calls are hidden within if statements, and although you have a single return at the end, the *

  • by Caerdwyn (829058) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:39PM (#32764444) Journal

    This actually isn't new... it's a return to the classic "apprenticeship" model. I think it's a great idea.

    Consider the benefits. It's all real-world experience, learning how things actually operate and how they are actually used. The modern academia "ivory tower" model, in which people with no industry experience are teaching students only a small portion of what they need to know, isn't serving the industry particularly well. There is also the issue that college/university these days seems to be at least as much about political indoctrination as job skills, but that's another discussion.

    Additionally, the instruction in the apprenticeship model is much, much more effective. The mentor-to-apprentice ratio is far better than the teacher-top-student ratio, and the instruction is always what the apprentice needs (you're not going at the least-common-denominator pace, time isn't wasted on rehashing things you already know, you can ask questions as they arise, and you can't hide what you don't know behind standardized Scan-Tron style tests). As a result, the apprentice learns much more quickly, and will become a seasoned veteran in less time.

    The one hazard I see is that there is the potential to lowball the apprentices on pay. At the very least, a conventionally-trained college grad has demonstrated they have what it takes to make a four-year plan and get it done in... um... let's call it five years. They aren't going to settle for minimum wage (except in the video game industry), and they aren't going to pull down the average wage for others (again, except in the video game industry). The potential does exist for these issues arising, but it's by no means certain that they WILL arise, and if an employer gets a rep for either turning out ill-trained apprentices or for being an exploitative sweatshop that leverages the naivete of an 18-year-old (sorry, if you're 18 you're a rookie no matter who you are or what grades you got), that employer is going to get blackballed by the rest of us real quick-like.

    I do hope Zoho's approach succeeds and gains traction.

  • People with little or no formal education in programming can very well be capable of programming whatever tools you need, but they are much less likely to be able to do it well. Before I took any classes in programming, all I knew how to do was make things work for myself. That didn't mean they were secure, and that didn't mean they were optimal or user-friendly. They just accomplished a single task, and it took me much longer to create those tools than it would take me now.

    This is only kind of rela

  • Finally (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Zenin (266666) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:41PM (#32764472) Homepage

    After some 15 years in the industry one thing is amazingly clear; Formal computer science education is more of a warning sign then a merit badge.

    The vast majority of people I've worked with that actually had a CS degree have been inept to put it kindly. Regardless of experience, if they went to college for computers chances are good they have trouble wiping their own ass. While I've worked with a few very notable exceptions, the rule still firmly stands. Maybe it's because I'm a product of the dot.com boom, but most people that get a CS degree did it purely for the money and not at all because they had a talent or interest in computers.

    The one unifying trait in good, practical computer professionals is an aptitude for music. Pretty much all played an instrument and most still regularly do. Any college degree they have tends to be in something random that interested them, like sociology, if they have a degree at all.

    • Re:Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

      by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @06:42PM (#32765500) Homepage

      I agree about the music. I think everything else you said was horseshit (and I say that as someone who matched your profile - my degree was EE - who programmed for twenty years and has been managing programmers for the last twenty). Those of us who were not formally trained in CS and succeeded in the software world learned material that was the equivalent of a CS degree. I took my own time to study algorithms, data structures, compilers, databases, complexity theory, programming language theory, project management, and other topics that a well-rounded software engineer should know. It would have been a lot easier if I had done this in college, rather than studying transistors, amplifiers, power systems, and antenna theory. However, I got into programming via the electronic CAD field and I needed to become a good software engineer, too, so I learned the other stuff on my own.

      I've worked with plenty of folks who had CS degrees and they did fine. I've also worked with plenty of folks (sometimes CS trained and sometimes not) who were idiots. In general, a CS degree was not sufficient to show quality, but neither was there any indication that it marked the bearer as deficient. However, it usually meant that when I asked them why they didn't use a hash table, they were able to understand what I was talking about and usually were able give me a good reason for it. But then, maybe I was programming in fields where you actually needed to know this material. I guess if you were hacking Perl scripts for some craptacular website, you wouldn't need to know any of this stuff - the site you built wouldn't scale, but then, chances are you wouldn't ever have been successful enough for it to need to anyway.

  • How many kids finish high school saying "I want to do XYZ" and then actually do it? For that matter, how many kids finish high school and have even the slightest idea of what they want to do? This company could end up investing a fair bit of time and money into training this kids straight out of high school only to find that many of them don't want the job anymore. At which point they are back to looking at the next graduating class...
  • Only an idiot would hire a PhD for a programming job. PhDs are research scientists.

  • by Revotron (1115029) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:52PM (#32764636)
    who finished the story still thinking "What the fuck is Zoho?"
  • What the .... ? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tatomaste (1329931)
    I'm surprised at the amount of posts supporting these ideas? Are any of the supporting posters university/college trained programmers? I'm not going to rant too much about the subject, it has been discussed by many others much better than I could. There is a reason why the Software development industry is in crisis (in terms of quality) Bjarne Stroustrup has an excellent interview on the subject: http://itmanagement.earthweb.com/features/article.php/3789981/Bjarne+Stroustrup+on+Educating+Software+Develo [earthweb.com]
  • by ugen (93902) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:53PM (#32764666)

    Hiring coders out of high school may very well work for some projects, and those kids may be happy to have a "real job". But in the long run the joke will be on them. Unless they plan to spend the rest of their life in that company (unlikely, as they seem intent on using a cheap supply of fresh young kids) they will find that most projects do appreciate (and need) a bit more education. Back to school for them, and not at the time when it's most convenient - it's hard to go back.

    On the specific issue of coding vs. education. 20 years ago I started working as a software developer full time before I had any education above high school. I did some useful things that seemed "cool" then and worked out well enough for my employers. 20 years forward and two masters degrees later (Comp. Eng and Comp.Sc./Infosec) I can see that I am by far a better engineer (and coder too, but that's almost secondary), in part due to all the experience and in part due to education. I would have never been able to do what I do now without additional years of studying.

    YMMV

  • by tthomas48 (180798) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:55PM (#32764696) Homepage

    I'd prefer English majors. Then I'd teach them to program. I find communication is easier.

  • by HalWasRight (857007) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @05:56PM (#32764724) Journal
    In my experience commercial software programming productivity is greatly hampered by the successful completion of a PhD. To complete a PhD you need to convince a committee of professors that you have done unique work in your field. You do this by publishing research and collating it into a dissertation. The type of software required to obtain research results for publication in most fields is completely different then what I need my programmers to deliver for me to ship a marketable product on time and on cost. PhDs often don't get things like O(n^2) algs should NEVER appear in commercial code because they will always blow up, and that not anticipating invalid input and just crashing isn't allowed. Both of these practices are just fine in research code. You may need a couple pointy heads around to make sure you are applying the best solution to your problem at hand, but give me anyone with a BS and demonstrated skills over a PhD any day for writing production code. (I want the BS/BA because it shows me you can complete something and can deal with crap you don't like because I'm paying you to do it).
  • by Nicolas MONNET (4727) <nicoaltiva@nOSPAM.gmail.com> on Thursday July 01, 2010 @06:15PM (#32765072) Journal

    I've worked with god awful programmers, and a few excellent ones. My conclusion is that the majority of programmer graduates of elite schools are very good; but the reason is probably that their degree affords them plenty of choices of career, and they would have no reason to stick to programming if they didn't excel in it.

    There's another problem, though, and it hasn't got much to do with the reputation of their alma mater, but the vast majority of programmers did not study CS. I didn't (and I'm a sysadmin anyway) but I tried to educate myself in theoretical stuff. Take for instance compiler theory; formal grammars and what not. Most programmers I've worked with have absolutely no idea what the fuck it is. The result is brain dead regex-only based parsers full of glaring bugs. The other day I discovered that a piece of software I had been delivered stored financial transaction amounts in floats. I dare to advance that no CS graduate who didn't get his degree from a diploma mill would commit such a sin. But here the self-taught developer looked at me as if I was nitpicking.

  • by AlgorithMan (937244) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @06:20PM (#32765152) Homepage
    In school I was considered a "whiz kid" and (from my wife) I know what a programming apprenticeship looks like (there is NOTHING that you don't learn in the first 3 months of the first semester of computer science studies). When I look back to my codes from school and add the content of apprenticeship - that would be a friggin tinkerer!

    You can teach them to use iterators, to use hardcore object-orientation, derive classes, overload streams etc.
    but to be really good, you need profound knowledge about thread-synchronisation, discrete math (esp. graphtheory), automatatheory, and complexity classes, because without these, you will unavoidably code shit!

    your programs will be slow:
    you will use backtracking (exponential running time) for polynomial problems (e.g. problems related to matching- or network-cut problems). You will not use branching-vector minimization or kernelizations (you won't even understand why you should use those and your programs for NP-complete problems will be to slow to actually use them and you won't even be able to recognize these problems). Hell, you won't even be able to understand why polynomial running time is good and exponential running time is bad...

    your programs will have race conditions and mutual-exclusion problems
    or don't you want to benefit from any further processor-developments? processor development means more cores at the same speed nowadays, so you need multithreadding or you are stuck at using one core (which will not improve speed anymore)

    you won't model parsers as (pushdown-)automata and you will NEVER be remotely able to know whether your program is reliable (whether it works for all inputs)

    you won't be able to distinguish a fast program from a slow program, so you won't even know the quality of your programs.

    My wife works at a software company's support hotline today and just ask her: bazillions of problems with all programs except those from the graduate computer scientists...
    If you really think that ALL major software companies pay so much just for fun, then you are out of your mind! They just know and value how much more quality you get out of graduate computer scientists.

    IMHO this guy just tries to make "we are nearly broke and can't afford good programmers anymore" sound good to the shareholders...
  • by cervo (626632) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @07:19PM (#32766082) Journal
    Anyway I am now on the fence about a PhD. But overall it won't make me a better programmer. It will make me a researcher. And in fact many companies won't hire a PhD to be a programmer because they will see them as overqualified (in fact my work mate who is almost done with his has mentioned he wouldn't hire a PhD to work in his team).

    As far as me, college basically added some advanced math and a broad overview of computer science. But do I actually use any of that on the job? No. Basically I use high school algebra and the same basic loop structures you could get from Teach yourself C# in 20 days or something. I taught myself SQL as a freshman in college for a summer internship, and in both my undergrad and graduate database jobs the SQL was much less advanced than what I did on my own. In college I have not met a program that I couldn't do. They mostly consist of stringing together a few algorithms to do this or that based on concepts learned in class. On the job you don't even code the algorithms, you use the collection libraries (C++/Java/C#/Almost all the scripting languages have these...). Most of it is about taking the business rules, and converting it to code with loops, conditionals, etc... I could do all this after high school (because I learned C on my own to fiddle with a MUD).....

    Anyway once I finish my Masters I hope to find one of those few jobs that actually uses at least a Bachelors level of computer science education..... In some places there are a few senior guys who do the interesting work and then all the normal guys end up using their libraries... In others it is all just business applications to link to files/database and it is all about the business rules. And then there is Google where the company is on the bleeding edge in many things... Or even Microsoft, although I think the windows kernel would be a nightmare to touch... And office as well.

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