Don’t interview anyone who hasn’t accomplished anything. Ever.

This post is focused on a post I read on Slashdot. The link and excerpt at below.

Why the New Guy Can’t Code

Don’t interview anyone who hasn’t accomplished anything. Ever. Certificates and degrees are not accomplishments; I mean real-world projects with real-world users. There is no excuse for software developers who don’t have a site, app, or service they can point to and say, ‘I did this, all by myself!’ in a world where Google App Engine and Amazon Web Services have free service tiers, and it costs all of $25 to register as an Android developer and publish an app on the Android Market.”

I have always told my students, even as young as Year 9, that they need a portfolio. That they need original work, no matter how lame it may seem. I have always forced students to use legal music, images, etc., if they are working with media. I have pushed them to realize the benefit of being able to say, “I made this. And it might not be great, but it is mine.”

Many times students want to use an established piece of media for their projects, because that piece of media is clean and polished. It makes their work better, or at least makes it feel better to them. I understand that, but in the same way a DJ is not a musician, a student re-mixing someone else’s creation is not really creating.

I personally work with open source resources all the time. I implement solutions developed by others; I re-work them to fit my needs; and I occasionally have the time to take it and make something new, something it was not designed to do. However, I never advertise myself as a programmer, because most of the time I am implementing solutions and not building them from scratch. To a novice, I am creating- but to an expert – I am just a user.

However, I do have things I have made. Things I have created out of need. Whenever I need to reference my programming skill set, these projects are what I use.

I agree with the comment above that there is really no excuse for students not to have the tools they need and the online presence required to share their work. However, the main issue with students, and even with teachers, is that schools still have a culture of “we own it and we let you use it.” This culture has to change. Many schools have started to shift to BYOD but even with the shift many still seem to hesitate. They seem to worry about control.

If control and software management are the primary goals of an educational institution, then they need to review the meaning of the term, education.

Students need to not only create original content, they need to be able to work with it when they want and how they want. They need to be able to move it around, and where ever they go, it needs to go with them in a usable and demonstrable form.

If students are programming, they need full access to the computer they are working on. Running virtual environments and emulating systems within systems is actually very common. Anyone doing web-based programming knows that tools like MAMP and XAMPP are now required to allow students to develop seamlessly without worrying about a live webserver. These tools require full access to the platform in the same way a carpenter requires access to all the tools they need.

Once a student has worked on a few projects offline, they need the real-world experience of uploading this so the world can use it, test it, and criticise it. It is better for them to face harsh comments when their work is nothing more than a hobby or experiment, than when their work is determining their career. The only way to do this is to make it possible for their creation(s) to live out amongst the griefers, haters, and fans.

What is the cost of this access and opportunity? If the student can own it outright, which is ideal, $10-20 USD a year to have their own name and address online and about $50-100 USD a year for them to have access to a server to run whatever they wish.

Google Apps allows people to write code and publish Apps for free, and it is viable. However, I think going all in for an individual Apps for Business Account in the last year of High School helps make the transition from this is what I enjoy to this what I want to do.

When people invest, even a small amount of resources, they tend to own their work and increase their effort. Like BYOD, personal ownership creates a sense of freedom that all people need to truly reach their potential.

For the record- teachers need to BYOD too. This is another discussion, but it is time to acknowledge that professionals in any other field own their tools and invest in their own work. Learning to manage the tools is part of a life long learning process. A process we profess to students, and often as educators, tend not to follow as rigorously as we should.

Tony DePrato


2 thoughts on “Don’t interview anyone who hasn’t accomplished anything. Ever.”

  1. Great post and good points, but this is a hugely steep uphill battle friendo. Think of our parents where going to college almost certainly guaranteed you not just a job but a career with decent pay. That certainly isn’t the case now-a-days but I don’t think it’s the students we need to convince. It’s the parents.

    To try and fail takes courage and the educational communities (parents, students, teachers, administrators) don’t like failure as a whole. Failure seems to indicate ineptitude on someone’s behalf-then everyone starts pointing fingers.

    I think in order for your vision to take hold, we need to approach education from a different perspective and shift our ideas from simply preparing students to be valuable members of the community to how can we benefit the community now. Now, I have no idea what that would look like and I’m sure there are problems with it, but a grade from a classroom teacher seems to mean less and less these days.

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