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The IT Pro Podcast: Do degrees make better developers?

There are many routes into the tech industry - and higher education may not always be best

The IT Pro Podcast: Do degrees make better developers?

The lucrative rewards of the tech industry are enticing a growing number of people into the industry, but while degrees in computer science and software engineering remain widely popular, there are many different ways to prove your credentials as a budding developer - and spending three to four years being taught the fundamentals in the classroom may not necessarily be the most effective.

In fact, for those wanting to make a career for themselves as a developer, the best strategy may be to learn the basics and then get stuck in directly, either through an entry-level apprenticeship or by launching your own projects. We’re joined this week by Rob Zuber, CTO of DevOps provider CircleCI, to discuss the value of some of the less traditional routes into the industry, and the skills that set truly good developers apart.

Highlights

“To be totally honest, you come out of a university degree in computer science scratching the surface of what you're going to do as a job. And particularly as you proceed, as you grow to higher levels, you move from technical proficiency into a whole bunch of other aspects of what the job entails. I mean, we were joking before we started that the one thing I definitely do not do now is write code as CTO. So the kinds of mental tools that you need to have can be very, very different as you proceed through the levels of software engineering. And so the technical proficiency, honestly, you could pick up a lot of different ways.”

“It's a question of understanding what kind of attributes to look for. And I think that one of the things that I personally look for - and this is probably a bias because I've spent a lot of my life in small startups - is best described as scrappiness. People that have perhaps left school early, didn't go to college, but started something.” 

“If you have experience with a breadth of tools, then I get the indication that you know how to select a tool for the right purpose, that you know how to use a new tool when it comes along, as opposed to the thing that you were using two years ago. Because one thing we love to do in software development is just keep changing the tools that we use all the time, so that our jobs are harder; it's a weird choice, but it's a reality, right? The discipline is evolving so quickly, that the thing that matters is your ability to pick up new tools, and use those tools to come into a new environment.”

Read the full transcript here.

Footnotes

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