When I got into this industry 10 years ago, the world was a completely different place. Bootcamps weren't a thing. Computer Science programs were still something just for the nerds. And the industry was almost entirely autodidacts like myself who grew up immersed in technology and did it for the joy of it. Fast forward a decade, and now literally everyone and their uncle wants to be a software dev, and CS programs are churning out hundreds of thousands of graduates. The thought of competing against someone credentialed with 5 years experience vs. myself with 10 years and no degree, feels hopeless. It almost seems like the path I took back then would be completely impossible today.
The thing about Computer Science nowadays is that the machines are stupidly fast so that a lot of the algorithm stuff is redundant. Bubble sort can be good enough or isn't even required for implementation as the higher order primitives are already implemented. In a lot of ways it's why SW development nowadays is nauseatingly awful. Sprints and all that web baggage have killed the enjoyment and challenge. The only challenging SW roles I see nowadays are close to the HW.Reply
If it bothers you so much why not do a degree? It’s like 2 yearsReply
you have ten years of exp, you shouldn’t be worried about having no degree at all… unless you are not in US?Reply
I feel this. I’ve done pretty well for myself — I have decades of practical experience and have risen to be a principal engineer at my work. I can write what I feel is pretty solid, robust, performant, and well-architected code in many different languages across all ends of the stack from high-level UI to low-level system-level components. I don’t have a CS degree and am largely self-taught. I tend to struggle a lot with theory and I stink at algorithms. (I can generally understand them, but coding one from scratch would be a struggle since these fundamentals aren’t committed to memory and in the real world are rarely necessary to recall at the drop of a hat.)
Given my non-traditional background and keen awareness of my blind-spots, I really struggle with impostor syndrome. I also fear the interview process because I don’t want to look stupid and come to realize my past success was driven by chance rather than smarts. I also know how much of a grind the entire process can be and how it seems like many interviewers are more interested in making themselves look smart rather than honestly assess a candidate.
All of these things are probably more of a function of projection and insecurity rather than reality, but they all feel real to me.Reply
Have you (did you) consider hiring an interview coach?
Often the first few layers of interview are the most difficult, then it eases up as you get to just talk to real human beings.
Having someone help you play the game to get to the next step could be helpful.
(None of this is to say I condone the asinine hiring paths so many companies have adopted.)Reply
I can't agree. I find most interviewers are very utilitarian here--they want proof you know your stuff, not proof of formal education. A CS degree is great, and I wish I had one (for the knowledge more than the sheepskin), but talented developers with some soft skills should not have a problem finding work in this industry.Reply
>> When I got into this industry 10 years ago, the world was a completely different place.
10 years is a lifetime in the tech industry.
>> The thought of competing against someone credentialed with 5 years experience vs. myself with 10 years and no degree, feels hopeless.
This is a vague comparison. Someone with 5 years of stack-specific experience vs. someone with 10 years of general experience?
Personally, I am very bad at interviewing. I need lots of practice before any interview. Don't be afraid to ask others for help for interviewing prep.Reply
Why be scared? Worst case is they don't hire you and there were good odds of that regardless. Take an interview-- if it doesn't go well, you'll know what to beef up for later.
if you learned it for the joy and have 10 years work experience on top of that you've got some massive advantages that many new graduates will lack.Reply
I am an old timer, back in 1978 after getting my PhD, I interviewed with a bunch of companies. One was Bell Labs. I remember the recruiter, did not make me take a test on programming or anything. He just asked me to explain the most interesting project that I had worked on. I told him about a music synthesizer chip I had designed... after about 20 minutes of going on about it, I stopped and said sorry, I went on too long. He just said, nope, you are exactly the type of person we are looking for and hired me on the spot.
I think there is a piece missing now days, I could just be an old fart that does not know what I am talking about (probably), but it's the idea of finding someone with passion, even if they are not the slickest programmer in town.Reply
I'm more-so terrified of taking the risks that would be required to break "back into" that part of the industry. I have been developing since I was a kid in some capacity. Life took me down a different path career wise that put me in just enough of a comfortable spot to make me nervous about switching it up. I feel like I have a lot of intuition and experience throughout the years - it's just not enterprise-level nor something that someone in a senior dev role could attest to.
I finished my BSCS recently because it was paid for (GI Bill), and I kind of feel the opposite about it than you do. The amount of "shotgun" messages from recruiters from LinkedIn, etc have certainly increased, but I don't feel any closer to breaking into a dev role high enough up the food-chain to make it worth the risk of leaving my cush fringe-industry position. I have been asked internally if I'd like to help out more with dev-related things, so I guess that's a start.
I'd look first at the contacts you've amassed throughout your decade in the field. I'd be willing to bet that's where your best opportunities will come from. Good luck and stay confident!Reply
I'll probably never be able to go through whiteboard leetcode questions :/Reply
I had been programming for over ten years when I first ran into FizzBuzz, suffice to say I failed the exercise and wasn't offered the job. So I just moved onto the next interview and passed that one.
Sure, you can't prove that finding subcycles in a directed-graph is an NP-Hard problem on a whiteboard, or implement a linked-list or invert a binary tree by hand: But what you have is hard-earned common sense and a meaningful understanding of how software evolves over time. This is valuable to any company and many have identified that they are in desperate need of it.Reply
It's important to keep in mind that the vast majority of people who are currently employed had to work through rejections before landing their current role. Meaning that rejections are nothing to fear, they are simply part of the process. So it's important to not internalize a rejection as some deficit in yourself, just understand that it comes with the territory and move on to the next evaluation. The more zen you are about each rejection, the more motivation you will have for the next opportunity, and the quicker you will complete the process.Reply
I graduated in early 2000s, and I heard same things from CS students/graduates and self-taught developers. They all said the golden age of computer science was 60s, 70s, 80s, or early 90s when people got into computers for love of it not money. Now everyone is computers for money.
Sadly though I did meet a lot of students in my CS program who were in it for money and openly admitted they hate programming, logic, etc and cannot wait until they get a job and then move into management.Reply
With the demand for software, I don't think it matters that much how many devs are churned out. Most of them are going to be mediocre and have poor interviewing skills. Boot camp grads really don't pose serious competition to anyone besides other junior developers. With a resume that has good formatting and spelling, people skills, networking, and maybe a few personal projects, it's entirely possible to get hired today. With 10 years of experience, I'd be surprised if anyone gave a f--- about whether you have a degree in most cases.Reply
Considering how many candidates are out there who have B.S., M.S., or even Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science, but can't even manage to write FizzBuzz, I think your fears are a bit overstated IF you are actually reasonably competent and are capable of showing it.
Anyway, in my experience degrees are more about simply getting past the first-level HR filter than anything, and don't get you hire per-se. And with 10+ years of experience, you'll get past the first-level HR filter just as easily, so really it comes down to demonstrated competence. Can you show/convince (an) interviewer(s) that you are competent? If you can, you'll be fine.Reply
Why do you think it’s hopeless? Having a CS degree is just one attribute a candidate brings. I’d personally value 10 years without that 5 with but there are so many other factors to consider in candidates.Reply
I'm not only terrified, but petrified...literally!
After getting rejected for years, I have decided to stop from even trying.
It has cost me a lot of pain, physical and psychological, not to mention the emotional damage.
You know, panic attacks, stomach ulcer, colitis...the whole package!
I have been telling this for years, but people think I lost my mind :/
I'm fortunate enough that more and more friends that are around my age (40+) or even younger have noticed the same thing and don't know what to do.
I have no idea how to interview anymore; whatever I say it's either wrong or not enough.
...I could go on and on and on and on, but this is your "Ask HN", not mine LOL!
* If I speak more than they want, I'm wrong. * If I say near nothing, again I'm wrong. * If I say EXACTLY what they want to hear, they go "meh". * If I show my skills, I'm considered a smart ass. * If I don't show my actual skills, again I'm considered an asshole for hiding my knowledge from them, therefore I'm considered untrustworthy.
Feel free to check my submissions and my comments on related topics and you will find you are not alone in this.
Virtual hugs my friend, we are together in this.Reply
Sheesh, most jobs just want a warm body that can type so many lines of compiler-ok code per day.
"Show up on time" is not just for Hollywood.Reply
Been this way since there was a tech industry. I felt the same way 23 years ago with no degree. Just keep learning and be more motivated than the competition.Reply
I'm not terrified of interviewing. I just think it's an even bigger pain in the ass than dating. The older I get the less patience I have for people who need me to sell myself to them as if I were a commodity and not a human being.
I don't think you need to be a feminist to say "WE ARE NOT THINGS".
I am not a resource.
I am not "human capital".
I'm a man who happens to need to work for a living. Deal with me as such or not at all.Reply
Can you dig further into the specifics of your worry? I find that most interviews focus on my knowledge or experience, I’ve never really had the degree come up. You are somewhat alluding to two problems though, interviewing with 10 years of experience and the path you took to get there. Starting out may be harder(although it’s an employees market out there right now so it may be a great time to start)
But it’s funny you say 10 years ago. I started 20 years ago and don’t feel like 10 years ago is that much different from today(though would say it seemed easier to start out 20 years ago)Reply
I'm pretty sure 85% of the people I interviewed with didn't read my resume and my education never came up.Reply
as someone who is responsible for hiring in this space: i miss the autodidacts.
I see too much buzzword-hype-cycle candidates, and not enough people who have really built something, including real world stuff like badly performing apis, broken edge cases, etc.Reply
I’m not in the US but from France.
I know two things for sure : - Hiring is stupidly hard. There is basically nobody applying. - For any non junior position, we dont even care about the degree. Personally, I don’t even read this part of the CV. Experience matters way more.
For me, as long as you are doing decent work, nobody will avan care about what degree you have. Furthermore, I’d say that companies filtering you on this is a good thing : you really don’t want to work for a company that recruit people based on a piece of paper they got decades ago.Reply
I don't know if I can relate.
Was the industry really "almost entirely" autodidacts 10 years ago? Were CS graduates "nerds" in a way that autodidacts weren't?
It's still very possible to get into tech without a traditional CS education, and it's not clear why it seems hopeless to you to compete against someone with a degree -- ACAICT most interviewers don't even look at candidates' resumes.Reply
Change your mindset. With 10 years of experience, in my last two job searches I felt incredibly well positioned to interview for senior roles, and ended up with dream jobs in both cases. I have no degree. I've noticed a trend in the last 3 years where companies require a degree OR equivalent experience. Which is awesome. If you're a great engineer and you're friendly, be confident in yourself!
I did struggle initially with the "coding challenge" nonsense used as a candidate filter these days, then realized I'd never paid attention to data structures and algorithms (which is covered heavily in computer science degree), so I spent time learning this and I was fine. I still wish these would go away.
TLDR: Don't worry about competition. Worry about yourself.Reply
Not at all -- I have no degree with ~8 YOE. Recruiters and hiring managers don't even inquire about my education anymore.
I assume your worries come from the leetcode trend in interviews.
Personally, I let recruiters that are knocking down my door via LinkedIn or email my expectations up front. Salary & no leetcode (algorithmic problems), I have found a lot of success. There are many companies willing to give sane interviews with real world SWE problems.
Experience is highly valued in this field. Someone with 10 YOE isn't really competing with someone with 5 YOE. If you talk to anyone involved in hiring nowadays it's extremely difficult to find experienced devs. Experience will always trump education.Reply
No. I learned algorithm complexity in secondary school and started early enough that coding my own hash table was a normal exercise because the standard library didn't come with one (Turbo Pascal).
I also discovered competitive coding via the International Olympiad in Informatics (also a school thing, pre-college), and the kinds of problems in those turn out to be almost identical in form to today's style of coding interview. I only had to learn recursion and I could start hacking away at problems.
Fancy techniques like "dynamic programming" are normally amenable to memoized (i.e. cached) recursion implementations, but in practice most interview problems aren't even that hard.
Now, I went to college, but it was a mixed degree with business and it didn't teach things like hash table implementation, let alone pointers. Algo analysis material was weak. I was the best student only because I knew it already. The degree is mostly useful for visa qualification. I also got very good at pool.Reply