About few years ago I wrote an article about trying to break into the IT industry.
It was a rather desperate plee for help on how someone would be able to get into the industry when all traditional education has been against you.
This is what I mean:
I have always been somewhat of a nerd, being really interested in technology from an early age, and especially alternative technologies and markets such as Linux.
But I always seen it as a hobby when I was little. I wanted to always be an actor, or a history teacher. Like most people, I was asked to choose which path I wanted to go on far too early.
My most important academic time was spent in the UK, where the education system in secondary education goes like this:
The first 3 years of high school (that would be seen as Junior High in the US) is spent taking all the classes of subjects that are available, from languages, to mathematics, the sciences, sports and drama. At the end of the 3rd year you will be asked some choices.
Except for the sciences, mathematics and English, you may choose between German and French, between sports, drama, computer technology and religious studies, etc etc.
At the time you make those choices, you are about 15. Now, which person at age 15 can choose what they want to do the rest of their adult life? Well, I choose drama instead of sports, religious studies and IT. As a result, I never got an IT education. It was only around 6 years later that I realized that my IT hobby was actually something I wanted to persue.
This proved to be an uphill battle. I tried to go university for a computer science degree, and was very lucky I tried to do that in the Netherlands as they allowed me to begin the first semester whilst they got my certificates from the UK translated to the Dutch versions. And I passed those early tests without issue, and when my certificates came back, it wasn’t up to scratch to what they allowed, but they could see that I was good enough so allowed me to continue. But due to psychological issues in my second year, after passing my propedeuse (first year), I was unable to continue.
I tried to just get a job and got refused time after time due to a lack of certificates. I got my LPIC1 to ease it but still found it tough. I almost threw in the towel when a company decided to give me a shot. And that changed everything.
By pure chance I was asked if I could write a small Python application which grew into an application used worldwide by businesses. Years later and approaches by HP, Google and other large companies later, and I am now able to choose what company I work for.
This is a huge problem we have in IT today that needs to be addressed.

IT is not what it was decades ago

Unless your company is tech orientated, the chances are that you look for a computer science degree in a CV of a possible applicant when you require a new IT person.
Please stop that.
It seems people who have freshly came out of university with a degree are far below the industry standard than those who are self taught. This isn’t always the case, but universities aren’t known for keeping up with IT’s moving breakthroughs. A good example is that in university I was asked to make a game in Java that would run on a phone from around 10 years ago, a java applet. This is just not good.
This means that the technologies that students learn to use, are no longer used by the time they graduate, and they have to spend the next year just getting up to speed to the current technology.
Also the approach we take at IT in education hasn’t changed at all since the 70’s. When you study IT you tend to become a jack of all trades, but a master of none. This means you learn too many things, most of which you never really intend to use again.
So why do we still see so many people take computer science? Well unless you really want to become a computer scientist, which is a whole different story, it’s likely for payment. If you have a Computer Science degree you will get paid far more than without. Whilst in my opinion you might not be as good.

Fixing the education system

So, how do we fix this?
Firstly in my opinion, we need to split IT entirely.
If you want to be a software developer, you should be able to learn only those things relevant to that.
And since you cleaned off the excess fat from the schedule, you can spend time getting into the nitty gritty of your art.
This way you will become a master of the art.
Secondly, universities and schools need to keep up to date with current trends. This means that a person teaching should be actively involved in the industry. It is no good having a lecturer who hasn’t been in the industry for the last 10/15 years. IT changes at a rapid pace, and if you haven’t been in IT for 15 years, you simply aren’t an expert anymore. Just look at technologies we had 15 years ago (2000) and you will see what I mean.

The alternative grading system

All in all, we now live in a time where the answer to every problem and question possible, can be answered in a matter of minutes thanks to the internet. Whilst traditional education is still great, I don’t think it serves it’s original purpose anymore. In a time before the internet, you needed to know your craft since if you got stuck, you really were stuck, so a good education meant that you would not get stuck as often. Now, even as a novice, you only need an internet connection and you will most likely fix any issue you may come across. So a certificate to prove you know how to program is pretty much useless.
What we now need is a way to prove who is better than another, or better at certain tasks.
One of the most often heard questions I get during talks with recruiters is if I have some code they can see.
GitHub certainly helps, but it isn’t about the code per se, it’s about being able to see how well a person tackles problems.
So here is my proposition (and my idea is not intellectual property should you want to go and make it):

We need a system where a developer can make an account and get’s real life problems in code, or just problems.
The developer then has to provide a solution to the problem and gets scored on it. Not on how many he/she got right, but on their solution. Most problems can be fixed a few different ways, but only a few of those are viable and efficient. So a user who provides a solution that works but isn’t so great may get scored a 4, whilst someone who provides an efficient solution may get an 8 or a 9.
Then a general score is formulated. A future employer can then search for what it is they are looking for by these scores. They won’t need to see the code, and don’t need to hope that CV, or that computer science degree is a good reflection on their ability. It eliminates cowboys, and those who may not have a strong background in education but are masters of their craft get paid accordingly.
This is a solution the problem in the modern age.

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