Please drop your nonsense job requirements now

by Randy Gingeleski

3 minutes to read

There's an over-valuation in the technical job market on years of experience, degrees, bootcamps, and certifications. It's hurting everybody. Not just my sister.

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If you read my resume, it seems like a linear computer science success story.

  1. Do well in high school C++ class
  2. Get my bachelor’s degree in computer science
  3. Land a “comfortable” software engineering job
  4. Later transition into software security

The average person will make some assumptions here.

  • Action #2 was a major force behind action #3
  • Action #3 was a major force behind action #4

False. I credit #1 (yes, high school programming class) and lots of self-guided, free online learning for any technical job I’ve ever held.

Someone could jump in here and say I wouldn’t have ever worked at Lockheed Martin without a four-year degree. That might be fair… given when I started.

Nowadays LM is a Udacity hiring partner, scooping up people with “nanodegrees.” Very forward-thinking.

Their traditional job requirements are going away, and that’s what this post is all about.

Why am I worked up? My sister got shit on disparaged at Uncubed last Thursday for lacking a “traditional” data science background.

I’ll make a few notes before I get myself in trouble, though.

  • Not all the companies at Uncubed were rude to my sister. Zocdoc, for example, was very nice and you should use them.
  • The idea of a “traditional” background for data science is hilarious because of how nascient the field is.
       - Would a computer science B.S. and a stats M.S. help? I don’t think there’s enough data to support that hypothesis.
       - As far as I’m concerned, data science degrees face the same problem as cybersecurity degrees: nobody good would want to teach as a traditional professor because those skills are so bankable. The difficulty and time investment to earn $200K plus as a professor doesn’t compare.
       - These fields also move so fast that, if you’re not working actively in them, you’re quickly obsolete.

Companies everywhere are struggling to fill technical positions with good people. How many articles have you seen about talent gaps?

These stupid degree, certification, and work experience requirements on technical jobs aren’t doing anybody good. They’re an invention of HR people who are completely out-of-touch with what qualifies engineers they hope to hire.

Loosening said requirements expands good candidates to self-motivated, smart people like my sister.

Ashley has learned statistics and data science by herself online. I’ve watched her work very hard this year doing so, doing Codecademy’s Intro to Data Analysis then various interesting projects.

At this point I’m confident my sister knows more programming and computer science than anyone coming out of my alma mater (St. John’s University) with their bachelor’s in it. No exaggeration. And it’s not even her core competency.

Unfortunately, all the rude people at this job fair saw was that she…

  • Has an environmental science degree
  • Is growing marijuana for a living

Some people asked if she’d done any “bootcamps”, as if spending $20K to learn what she did for ~$200 at Codecademy somehow legitimizes it.

They don’t get that, in fields like cybersecurity or data science, teaching yourself stuff is crucial. If you can’t do that you’re not any good. Make me change my mind.

I’m sure my sister will transition jobs soon enough. I just hate that we’re in this weird transition period where these hard requirements still exist. Figure out how good people are in the interview cycle.

Here’s to a future “gig” economy where demonstrable excellence is all you need. ✌️