Getting a programming job is not contingent on getting a degree. There's an easy test for competence at programming in a job interview: ask the candidate to write code on a whiteboard. I am aware of at least one Silicon Valley company that does that and have observed them to hire people who never finished their BS in CS. (I'd rather ask candidates to write code and debug on a laptop, but the HR department won't permit it.)

Getting a degree doesn't hurt. It might push up your salary -- even if one company has enough sense to evaluate the competence of a programmer directly, the other companies offering jobs to that programmer are probably looking at credentials, so it's rational for a company to base salaries on credentials even if they are willing to hire someone who doesn't have them. Last I checked, a BS in CS made sense financially, a MS made some sense too, and a PhD was not worth the time unless you want a career writing research papers. I got a PhD apparently to postpone coming into contact with the real world. Do not do that.

If you can't demonstrate competent programming in a job interview (either due to stage fright or due to not being all that competent), getting a degree is very important. I interview a lot of people and see a lot of stage fright. I have had people I worked with and knew to be competent not get hired because of how they responded emotionally to the interview situation. What I'm calling "stage fright" is really cognitive impairment due to the emotional situation; it is usually less intense than the troubles of a thespian trying to perform on stage. Until you've done some interviews, you don't know how much the interview situation will impair you.

Does anyone know if ex-military people get stage fright at job interviews? You'd think that being trained to kill people would fix the stage fright when there's only one other person in the room and that person is reasonably polite, but I have not had the opportunity to observe both the interview of an ex-military person and their performance as a programmer in a realistic work environment.

Group Rationality Diary, January 16-31

by therufs 1 min read16th Jan 201428 comments


This is the public group instrumental rationality diary for January 16-31.  

It's a place to record and chat about it if you have done, or are actively doing, things like:

  • Established a useful new habit
  • Obtained new evidence that made you change your mind about some belief
  • Decided to behave in a different way in some set of situations
  • Optimized some part of a common routine or cached behavior
  • Consciously changed your emotions or affect with respect to something
  • Consciously pursued new valuable information about something that could make a big difference in your life
  • Learned something new about your beliefs, behavior, or life that surprised you
  • Tried doing any of the above and failed

Or anything else interesting which you want to share, so that other people can think about it, and perhaps be inspired to take action themselves.  Try to include enough details so that everyone can use each other's experiences to learn about what tends to work out, and what doesn't tend to work out.

Thanks to cata for starting the Group Rationality Diary posts, and to commenters for participating.

Immediate past diary:  January 1-15

Rationality diaries archive