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Ad Exec: Learn To Code Or You're Dead To Me 339

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-can-you-do-for-me? dept.
theodp writes "In a widely-read WSJ Op-Ed, English major Kirk McDonald, president of online ad optimization service PubMatic, informed college grads that he considers them unemployable unless they can claim familiarity with at least two programming languages. 'Teach yourself just enough of the grammar and the logic of computer languages to be able to see the big picture,' McDonald advises. 'Get acquainted with APIs. Dabble in a bit of Python. For most employers, that would be more than enough.' Over at Typical Programmer, Greg Jorgensen is not impressed. 'I have some complaints about this "everyone must code" movement,' Jorgensen writes, 'and Mr. McDonald's article gives me a starting point because he touched on so many of them.'"
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Ad Exec: Learn To Code Or You're Dead To Me

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  • O'rly? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ArcadeMan (2766669) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @04:12PM (#43703653)

    Guy who owns a technical company tells people they're no good to him if they can't be technical.

    News at 11.

    • Re:O'rly? (Score:5, Informative)

      by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @04:21PM (#43703711) Homepage

      Who in the hell wants to listen to an "English major" who runs an online ad service? This guy should be drawn and quartered, not quoted.

    • Re:O'rly? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 12, 2013 @04:54PM (#43703951)

      Job creep. This is the kind of who wants people to be able to do much more than their normal job descriptions.

      You want to be a graphic artist and create artwork for our ads? That's great! If you can't mark them up in HTML & Javascript, and code the PHP/PERL/Python backend, then GTFO!

      You get what you pay for, asshat. If you hire "amateur" or non-programmers to do your programming then enjoy the fruits of your laborers.

    • Re:O'rly? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Monday May 13, 2013 @07:25AM (#43708439) Journal
      No, he is telling the NONTECHNICAL people filling NONTECHNICAL jobs in his pseudo-technical company they are useless to him if they can't do something technical that isn't their job. He is saying this to accountants, HR people, administrative assistants. To make this clear to you, imagine the CEO of a medical laboratory company telling college grad he considers them unemployable unless they can claim familiarity with at least two medical diagnostic tests. How about if the CEO of an electronics supply company telling college grad he considers them unemployable unless they can claim familiarity designing amplifier circuits? Or, the CEO of a financial company telling college grad he considers them unemployable unless they can claim familiarity with at least two methods of analyzing stock performance. Or, the CEO of a musical instrument company telling college grad he considers them unemployable unless they can play two methods different musical instruments. To put it bluntly, McDonald is an idiot.
  • Moronic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrHanky (141717) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @04:14PM (#43703667) Homepage Journal

    There are thousands of occupations with no need for programming skills. Ah, how about nursing, for instance. This is just an ad salesman trying to give off the impression of being relevant in this day and age. He's an ad salesman. An idiot.

    • Re:Moronic (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 12, 2013 @04:21PM (#43703713)

      There are thousands of occupations with no need for programming skills. Ah, how about nursing, for instance. This is just an ad salesman trying to give off the impression of being relevant in this day and age. He's an ad salesman. An idiot.

      I agree!

      I'm a technical recruiter and I can tell you that we need people who can program in askee! Really! Why the other day, I demanded an askee file from a candidate and he sent me a file with a ".txt" extension!

      Really?

      Are people that stupid?

      I asked again, and he sent me a file with an extension of ".asc"!

      Come on!

      We just can't find qualified technology people!

      Finally, this brilliant kid from Deli sent me a ".askee" file.

      Finally!

      We hired him to program SeeKwell in C+#.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Lets say that you are a nurse. Part of your job is to move (one by one) all patients from the hospital database into dead or cured folders, depending on which flag they have on the database.
      a) You don't know anything about programming, so you spend an hour every day doing this task.
      b) You know a little about programming and you ask from yourself: I wonder could the computer do this task for me.

      I'm a programmer and I see the world in a very different way than everyone else. When ever I see people at work, do

      • Re:Moronic (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MrHanky (141717) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @05:17PM (#43704077) Homepage Journal

        Yeah, and if you programmers were half as smart as you think you are, you'd notice that if all employees were to stop and model every little repeatable task on their computers, you'd have lots of employees stopping and modelling all the time. You'd have dozens of different models and no standard for how things should be done. One employee calls in sick, and there's no one to replace her because everyone does the job slightly differently and the whole place is in total chaos. How about leaving the programming to one person who's really good at it, or a small team, and just have the rest of the workforce report their problems to them.

        I swear, if you programmers were a little less infatuated with your skill set, and a bit more attentive to how your products actually work, software wouldn't suck nearly as much.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        b) You know a little about programming and you ask from yourself: I wonder could the computer do this task for me.

        And then you buy yourself a huge lawsuit because the person doing programming as a hobby has no idea about how to handle HIPAA regulations in coding, how to handle concurrency when talking to the database, or much about security and opens a nice security hole.

        Now orders are messed up, people have died because they didn't get medication because their data was screwed up, and the hospital is facin

      • by pepty (1976012)

        I think the real answer is:

        c) teach non-programmers to view the world like that so that they can recognize these situations, submit an intelligently written ticket that actually explains the problem, and have the presence of mind to mention possible exceptions (transferred to a different hospital, etc) when talking about the possible solution.

        I don't think medical facilities are really willing to pay nurses to write and debug code or scripts. Even if they didn't already cost more per hour than IT, they wo

    • by hedwards (940851)

      Well, to be fair, if you're a programmer, then you should know how to program and if you're asking programmers to program something for you, then you really ought to have at least some familiarity with the process. Makes it a lot easier to negotiate the features and get work done smoothly.

      For pretty much everybody else, don't waste your time and energy unless programming is of genuine interest to you.

    • Fair's fair... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ZeroPly (881915) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @07:20PM (#43704873)
      I have no problem with him requiring his sales people to know how to program.

      But when you come by looking to sell ads for our hospital, you need to demonstrate knowledge of least a couple of basic surgical procedures. Someone who doesn't understand surgery shouldn't be making ads for us. You don't need to be able to fix an aortic dissection on your own, but you should at least know what instruments to use, and the overall procedure.
      • by tehcyder (746570)

        But when you come by looking to sell ads for our hospital, you need to demonstrate knowledge of least a couple of basic surgical procedures. Someone who doesn't understand surgery shouldn't be making ads for us.

        Why on earth not? What sort of ad for a hospital is going to have any technical content whatsoever?

    • Yep, adguy is a bit moronic. However, nurses do need technical skills. I have a friend who is a nurse. She is also a manager of a department of 100 nurses. They have to train the older nurses how to use email, spreadsheets, etc. because a lot of the data is automated/online.

      My friend had to extract data from a database to make a presentation related to future planning. The data extraction necessary was not one of the database's standard reports, so she was doing it manually [cut-and-paste] (e.g. no scr

    • by readin (838620)
      There are thousands of jobs with no need for algebra skills. There are thousands of jobs with no need for knowledge of biology. There are thousands of jobs with no need for knowledge of great works of literature. There are thousands of jobs with no need for knowledge of art. There are thousands of jobs with no need for an understanding of evolution, history, or geography.

      Yet we require these classes for pretty much everyone who goes to college.

      Computers are such an integral part of life today that
  • by Lendrick (314723) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @04:15PM (#43703679) Homepage Journal

    I've been a programmer for 15 years now, and the absolute worst people to work with are the ones who know just enough about programming that they vastly overestimate their knowledge. I don't want to work with a bunch of people who are on top of Mt. Stupid [imgur.com], least of all some exec who thinks a tiny bit of coding knowledge will help you make estimates about how long a bit project will take.

    Let programmers program. Be serious about it, or don't do it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This.

      FTS: "Teach yourself just enough of the grammar and the logic of computer languages to be able to see the big picture." Yeahhhh, I'm gonna have to go ahead & disagree with you there, yeahhhhh. I think we can all remember when we first had a taste of a programming languauge or 2, and there is no way one can "see the big picture" after simply dabbling with a language -- it takes a lot of hours of sustained effort & dealing with many failures along the way before gaining an understanding. T

    • the absolute worst people to work with are the ones who know just enough about programming that they vastly overestimate their knowledge.

      That's very true, but the BEST non-coding co-workers are those with similar levels of knowledge who then have a better understanding of what is possible, why some things may be hard and a tolerance for mysterious delay.

      • Agreed. And it's not just useful for interaction with coders or other IT folks; most of the better knowledge workers know a bit of coding to make it easier to process and manage information for their own job. Some macros, VBA in Excel, life hacking, ITTT, or even setting up a little Access database (yes) can make ones life a lot easier than if one has to ask someone else for help on these tools. Because in a lot of cases (especially MS Access), if you have to ask for it, you won't get it.
    • the ones who know just enough about programming that they vastly overestimate their knowledge.

      . . . those are the ones who always say something like:

      "I have done some programming, so it can't be that difficult to . . ."

      . . . insert your intractable problem here . . .

    • by Dracos (107777)

      ...absolute worst people to work with are the [marketing/advertising people] who know just enough about programming that they vastly overestimate their knowledge.

      FTFY. And those people invariably think they are omni-gods. I used to work at a place where the marketing director's secret office nickname was "King Dumbshit" (KDS for short), and it was painfully apropos.

  • That is all, and I say that as someone who knows more than one programming language.
  • by Shados (741919) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @04:26PM (#43703747)

    Everyone should know at least the basics of what is part of our daily lives.

    Everyone should know how to read and write, even if they're not professional authors (and, like me, are pretty bad at it in general)

    Everyone should know basic math, even if they never use it, at least to be able to calculate tip at the restaurant and be able to read their tax report.

    Everyone should know enough biology to be able to make a basic informed decision when discussing a problem with their doctor or dentist.

    Everyone should know at least basic economics and finance, so that they can at least understand the graphs on their 401k.

    And.....everyone should know at least the very very very elementary basics of programming, as it is now part of our everyday lives. No need to know python and APIs or how to compile a linux kernel. Know just enough to understand what a conditional and a loop statement is, why software can crash, and why a single programmer cannot write an entire ERP suite in 2 weeks by themselves.

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      The basics of computer programming is mathematics (formal logic and algorithms in particular).
      This should be taught at schools already.

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        No it's not. Formal logic and algorithms are are things that the majority of programmers have probably heard of, but don't really know and don't use very often. That's like saying the basics of general contracting and construction is physics and chemistry.

      • by Cederic (9623)

        The basics of programming are logical thinking. That's an approach to problem solving that primarily adds value through introducing objectivity and supplemental purely emotional decision making.

        Even artists benefit from multiple modes of thinking.

    • by tnk1 (899206)

      Know just enough to understand what a conditional and a loop statement is, why software can crash, and why a single programmer cannot write an entire ERP suite in 2 weeks by themselves.

      What you say may be helpful, but I've never had any hand in building a building before, and I can tell you that I understand very well why it may not be a good idea to rush the job.

      As for the opposite, I don't think I'd want a slightly trained person to tell me that I should be able to do it *faster* than I am. Bullshit detection is one thing, but that's why you hire *technical management*, who are presumably people who used to do something at least tangentially related to programming.

      I get what this guy i

  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @04:28PM (#43703763) Homepage

    This guy is head of PubMatic, which is one of those companies on the fringes of on-line advertising. Here are their job listings [pubmatic.com]. The programming jobs are in Puma, India. The US jobs are for things like "Mobile Account Executive" [jobscore.com] (i.e. ad sales rep.) Requires "proven track record of meeting or exceeding sales targets." No mention of any tech skills.

    The PubMatic site is so full of business buzzwords that it's difficult to tell what they actually do. "From brand awareness initiatives looking to reach broad demographic segments through to lower funnel campaigns focused on reaching those expressing purchase intent, PubMatic has a targeting solution to fit advertisers' needs." What they seem to do is match up low-end advertisers with unsold ad space on web sites.

    If this company dropped off the face of the earth (or AdBlock became popular enough to delete all their ads) nothing of value would be lost.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'd consider myself an experienced web developer (PHP, CSS, HTML. JS, DOM API). I wanted to learn more languages, but I found it very inaccessible to learn different "languages" since it seems these are merged nowadays in frameworks with deep learning curves. It tried Visual studio 2010, Titanium frameworks and some others. Either giving me dependencies-error during installation or a complexity level that feels disastrous to cope with as a newbie.

    I just feel that it seems most programmers/developers and the

  • Let me guess (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @04:43PM (#43703875)
    He's probably the type that thinks for example that for example C# is totally different than any other object oriented language. Most likely he would be honestly surprised to find out somebody that understood general OO concepts and was in an expert in another one like C++ could pick up a second OO in a matter of days or less. (Sorry, I get that a lot. I think it took me 1-2 days to get up to speed from C# from C++. Not sure how long it'd take me to pick up java but I'd expect a week at most.)
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Ah, so you're still at the "I know everything" stage of programmer development.

    • It depends on how much you consider "knowledge". I can read pretty much any OO language well enough to understand any recent graduate's code for hiring purposes. I also understand enough to be dangerous in all of them; that is enough to open the IDE, change behavior to suit a requirement, and make sure it works. What I don't know in most of them is when I'm re-inventing the wheel, when I'm doing something a backwards-ass way, etc.

  • He's Right (Score:3, Insightful)

    by echusarcana (832151) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @04:51PM (#43703939)
    The guy is completely correct.

    The situation: You've got a thousand applicants. You've got one or two job openings.

    If you don't have the slightest idea what makes the internet and the information age run, you probably don't deserve the job. But the converse is also true: programmers should learn something of art, literature, and history. Too many software people don't even know anything about science. A person that can't think broadly in a well-rounded way is useless.

  • by melonman (608440) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @04:51PM (#43703943) Journal

    I think that everyone should learn to code. Not because it will make them a programmer. Not because it will enable them to estimate how long something will take, not least because experienced programmers are legendarily bad at doing that anyway. Everyone should learn to program because programming makes the modern world go round, and it's good for everyone to have at least an inkling of what that involves.

    We teach a lot of kids chemistry, without any expectation that they will invent a new compound that will change the world. We teach a lot of kids physics, without any expectation that they'll make a significant contribution to subatomic particle research. We teach most kids to do creative writing and poetry, without expecting the vast majority of them to produce fiction or poetry of publishable quality. I don't see why we wouldn't teach programming alongside all those other topics that most students never master and never "need".

    One argument for teaching a lot of academic subjects widely is that the skills you learn along the way have wider application than the topic itself. And it seems to me that this argument holds at least as well for programming as for, say, pure math. As programmers keep saying, programming is about analysis, structure, models... is there really no application whatsoever for those skills outside of hardcore programming? Does no-one ever wish that their managers had a better grasp of "system"? Yes, of course, you can acquire these skills in other places. But the thing about programming, pretty much from the outset, is that your pious beliefs about system will stop your code from performing correctly unless those beliefs are reasonably accurate. I sometimes tell people that I do executable philisophy - it's all about logic, but, unlike the philosopher, my logic has to work.

    No, a bit of Python won't enable people to produce estimates for projects. But it may enable managers to understand why writing code once to do something that needs doing often is often a good plan (and, also, why it sometimes isn't). It may enable managers to understand why "Can we just change this one assumption" at the end of a project may involve restarting the entire project.

    Yes, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. But the little knowledge is out there already on the TV station of your choice. I don't even like Python that much, but I'd still much rather deal with erroneous assumptions based on a bit of Python experience than deal with erroneous assumptions based on watching Mission Impossible and NCIS.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by iggymanz (596061)

      pffft. of far higher priority to most humans:

      I think every one should learn public speaking, to help effectively communicate ideas.

      I think everyone should learn to cook well for more than one person, there is nothing like "breaking bread" with others to build relationships from the most fundamental of human needs.

      I think everyone should learn to play a musical instrument or make visual art or poetry, for that stimulates the parts of the brain that mere technical subjects do not.

      I think everyone should stud

  • With everything ever written both protected by copyright and patents, what is this guy proposing? I think it's clear that only companies with big legal budgets can be allowed to have coders on staff. Everyone else is a risk.

  • Ad Exec: Learn to code or you're dead to me

    It might be worth it to forget what languages I know, if it meant the online ad companies would start considering me to be dead.

  • by Tom (822) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @05:19PM (#43704095) Homepage Journal

    If you've ever worked in IT, you know that the clueless secretary isn't your worst enemy. At least she knows the knows nothing.
    Your worst enemy is the "power-user". The guy who knows just enough to fuck everything up. This is the same thing. Breeding people who know a little bit about 2 programming languages is breeding a catastrophic collection of idiots who don't know that they know nothing.

    Teaching someone the basic principles of programming, that's cool. Let them know a little about how algorithms work and stuff, a little bit of basic understanding of what, exactly, programming is. But please don't teach someone a little bit about a programming language or two.

  • Remember COBOL? Remember what it was intended for?

    Those who forget history are doomed to... um... something, right?

    • and java is the COBOL of the 90s that still lingers like a really rancid fart in a church long after the congregation left.

      • C'mon, that's unfair. COBOL was in all seriousness meant to let "Managers do Programming", and so it had syntax like "ADD 1 TO X".

        Java really was like an easy C/C++. The the object system wasn't bolted on like with C++ and memory management was GC done for free. I program in C for a living but I don't see the hate for Java. It seems like some trendy bullshit to me.

        j2ee on the other hand, holy crap what a stinking turd..

  • What's this guys smokin'? Crack?
    Sorry charlie, if you want to work at any companies *I* ever worked for (current included), you had to have a proper technical degree. Period.
  • He's president of an ad optimization company. They deal in programming. Of course he thinks he needs people who understand programming. If he were selling cars he would think differently.
  • ...I couldn't care less about anything a fucking ad exec says.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Sunday May 12, 2013 @07:20PM (#43704871) Homepage Journal

    This is pretty funny. An advertising executive telling college students what they have to know to not be "dead to him".

    A guy who makes his living by getting people to buy stuff.

    He doesn't realize how little it takes to make his entire existence meaningless. Plus, don't you hate guys who go speak to college students and tries to do this kind of tough talk? Too many people got boners when they saw Gordon Gecko give his speech in Wall Street. They thought, "I wanna be that guy who makes young people quake in their boots". I bet his family hates him.

How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else. -- R. Buckminster Fuller

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