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This assumes that all programming in analogous to 'graphic design'. This analogy breaks the moment you consider that perhaps at least some programming is more analogous to, say, civil engineering or in-house material science research or in-house statistics... none of these other professionals are going to be able to disclose their 'portfolio' in any meaningful way.

Yet, mysteriously, civil engineers, material scientists and statisticians somehow keep being hired and the work keeps getting done. Baffling, I know.

The difference is that if you graduate as a civil engineer the probability that you can do what the job requires is quite high. This isn't the case for most graduates in the field we work in. This is a tragedy - I share your sentiment, but I can understand why companies are unwilling to use the same process that works for engineers as long as the education doesn't produce equivalent results.

Not to mention that research scientists and engineers often have advanced degrees which required a lot of application.

I bet you'd hire a programmer without a degree who can do the work before you'd hire a civil engineer who learned how to build stuff off the Internet. :)

if nobody could show their portfolio, then nobody would get an advantage from doing so.

but since people can show it in the programming world, you are at a disadvantage if you don't.

if a civil engineer had some way to show what they could do, I'm sure it'd give them an advantage.

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