Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

I've been really involved in teaching people with non-traditional backgrounds (e.g. no cs degree) to program lately, and this has been my biggest struggle. There are people who are working in the field as a web dev and have been for years and can't do simple stuff like iterate. They have no understanding of what the stuff they're actually doing means or does. It's just copy and pasting snippets they see online and fiddling with it til it works.

I've taken to offering three pieces of advice to these people:

1) Go through the basic language tutorial of whatever language you use (e.g. how to declare variable, conditionals, loops)

2) Go read through the essentials guide to your languages (will be slightly higher level stuff)

3) Go read the sections on Data Structures, Concepts and Algorithms and Knowledge Base in Cracking The Coding Interview skipping the problems that aren't answered in chapter. Why? Because it's a solid primer for CS Concepts that people just don't pick up unless they have to, and most importantly short enough (< 100 pages) people will actually go through it. Large CS books with the dense writing intimidate people and so they never follow through.

I've had a lot of success with this method. It's not a formal cs education by any means but I've found it's enough to get people past the constant beginner part.




It is funny that people constantly mention these supposed developers who have jobs but cant program. Where are these jobs? I have a recent cs degree, did resume coaching, and worked through a couple coding interview exercise books. Still having trouble finding work. Show me one of these mythical jobs poorly trained programmers get, I will blow them out of the water. In reality I think most of those jobs have been outsourced and no longer exist.


Apply for bank outside of a tech hub, or any job outside of the major US cities. There's plenty of positions full of people riding the "expert beginner" status, blissfully unaware of how far behind they are because top performers leave for the hubs and the better opportunities offered there.


Oh, they exist, I've worked with a few. Luckily, no more than that.

We all know hiring and interviewing are basically a crapshoot. Good people sometimes don't get hired and bad people sometimes do.


Try large boring corporations, such as banks and insurance companies.


Boring corporation jobs are fantastic in these cases. The performance bar is low, and due to inertia within the org, you can usually learn faster as an IC and bounce somewhere better rapidly, versus being somewhere like a startup where the treadmill moves too fast for your own personal development needs.


Or the government. All you need to do is:

a.) Be able to pass a drug test

b.) Not have any problematic debts or associations with problematic groups (e.g. Aryan Nation, ISIS)

c.) Have a certification or degree that is related to the very specific thing they are asking for.

It's entirely clearing a checklist when they're recruiting. They have no idea how to evaluate for actual competence.


That's heavily dependent on where you are in government. It's not true any of the places I've worked.


Sounds like he’s talking about defense contractors. Many contracting firms just need “butts in seats” that they can bill out. Mediocre developers are better in some regards there: they bill out more hours since they’re slower, don’t mind 10+ year obsolete tech, and they don’t complain as much, which could endanger relations with the bureaucracy (customer.)


I am a defense contractor. That's not how it works. Every person on the contract has to be approved by the government individually.


Often "approved" by people who have very little idea about what they actually need in a hire. And even they're measured on how well they can keep things staffed and they're often requesting requirements for roles that are unreasonable or downright ridiculous at the pay rates they expect. So they end up with people who are good at formally ticking the right boxes, but have no Godly idea about how to enable the mission or be aware of the broader purpose behind the tasks set out for them.

It depends heavily on your COR and government leads, but the good ones are few enough that they don't get to send the norm. There are enough people who are sufficiently checked out that contracting/staffing firms can get away with murder. Indeed, it might just be impossible for them to do a good job based on what sorts of requirements they're expected to adhere to.


I worked at a defense contractor for years. Some of the guys I knew could barely program, despite years of experience, but looked good on paper. Approving them individually doesn't mean that they're not a "butt in seat" kinda person.


> Show me one of these mythical jobs poorly trained programmers get, I will blow them out of the water

Unsolicited feedback: I think it should be pointed out that your attitude probably isn't helping in your job search.


It's always a real shock to get an elite CS degree and then be told we aren't as smart as the people who got their job because they were friends with someone at the company and just happened to know Java.




Applications are open for YC Winter 2020

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: