Thursday, May 08, 2008

Are Experience and Education Mutually Exclusive?

I'm back.

Thanks to those who gave me a nudge. Promise I'll put some more technical posts up (MVC seems to be highly requested.)

So, most of you know, I got one of those non-traditional starts in the job market, like quite a few developers did in the 90's. I came from a totally different industry, without a 4 year college degree. But I had a knack for computers, a great friend and a small company took a chance, and here I am.

About 3 years ago, the small company was purchased by a much larger company, and introduced a tuition reimbursement program. So, I decided to enroll in a Bachelor's of Science program.

The reason I did so, was that I thought that because of my lack of formal education, I was missing so much lower level, "to the metal" concepts. I'd never written a Binary Tree, or a Quick Sort or a compiler. I'd never determined the order of an operation over a set. It was never an issue of improving my resume, it was always an issue of wanting to learn all the things that most of the people around me had learned.

So, for the last 3 years I've been chipping away at my degree. It's been an okay experience so far. I've found that a lot of what I thought I'd been missing, I'd already had. I've also found that what I thought would be mostly new, turned out to be mostly inefficient tedium.

Recently, as I was complaining (again), about how I felt like I was wasting my time, a noob young buck at work (who happens to be a recent grad), suggested that it would be a better use of my time to spend blogging and learning new things on my own than working on my undergraduate degree.

Ironically, my response to him was that it would be best if I finished it out, because it would look good on my resume. I also started thinking about how graduating would give me a good reason to buy a keg and have a party. Neither of these two reasons were very true to my original intent.

So, my (really long winded) question to you is: Do you feel like an experienced developer needs a degree to be marketable and to get a foot in the door, or is experience (including an active blog, twittering, speaking, networking) more valuable?


Anonymous said...

Glad to see you back.

Not that I know anything about it, but I think experience is probably more important.

On the other hand, if you ever end up with your resume being scanned by computers or underlings, it's possible they will pass it by if that degree has been stated as required.

Once your resume is seen by a human who can exercise judgment, however, I expect the experience would easily win them over.

Anonymous said...

I also think, in North America, experience is probably important unless you are applying for a research or academic position where your degree would be taken into consideration.

But in other parts of the world e.g. China, I hear that degrees are very important for engineering positions. So much so that people go to grad school to stand out from the BSc crowd.