Thursday, July 21, 2011

You don't need a formal education to be a good programmer

Y Combinator is a startup funding founded by Paul Graham. He is a programming guru as well as a popular author. One of my friends suggested me look at "Hacker News" of their website, where job openings of many startups are listed.

Hacker News at

As I looked into it, I found some interesting features regarding the long list.

Very few of these job openings require candidates to have a formal education in information technology field. They emphasize how active their companies are and how exciting their jobs are. They list programming languages and technologies they use to perform projects. However, they don't say "you need to have a master degree or above in information technology or related disciplines" or something like that.

I don't have any formal education in the field of information technology. I started programming at thirteen. I studied economics at university. I learned everything about being a professional software engineer on the job. It didn't take long before I became a decent programmer at work.

As I observed people working at workplace, paradoxically, many of the most excellent programmers have any formal education in neither IT nor computer science. And some of the most useless programmers had degrees in computer science. I thought this mystery over and came to a conclusion. For the most talented people, probably, programming is too boring to learn in the classroom. All they need to be a good programmer is a cheap ordinary personal computer. You can learn almost everything about programming from computers themselves. If you still don't understand, then, you can also rely on the Internet (when I first started programming, I didn't have access to the Internet. I had to read technical books then. Nowadays, you don't need to read books any longer).

Therefore, it is quite a correct attitude that you don't ask candidates for a formal IT education when you try to hire good people. I think that people who put ads at Y Combinator know how software should be created. I like it. Their way of thinking resembles mine.

I am a kind of crazy person who can't adapt a normal society. My way of thinking is too little of conformist to fit an ordinary conservation organization. Bay Area seems to attract this kind of eccentric but smart people. If so, I have no choice but to go there, no matter how difficult it is.

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