Article created on: 1528997557 | 2018-06-14 18:32:15 IST
Recently a mentor of the UCC university came to visit me to my office, in order to do the following of one of the members of my Team, an intern.
Conversation was well, and then at some point he asked what courses could do the university teach to their students in order to be more prepared for working with us.
The Head of Business Development, that was in the meeting with me, mentioned something interesting:
– Make the publish their best code in github, bitbucket or similar git repository, and maintain it. It is like a CV.
He pointed that some of the students sent me their repository page, and they have not committed a thing for more than a year. And usually the code that I find there is less than a tic-tac-toe exercise.
– Obviously, to have git experience.
– Having contributed to an Open Source project
I exposed some things that would be helpful to have in the interns and grads that I hire:
– git experience
– Python programming
– C programming
– Unit Testing experience
– Networking experience, in particular iSCSI exports, tcpdump
– Programming Best practices, PEP-8 at least for Python
– Usage of Professional Tools like PyCharm, JetBrains IntelliJ, PHPStorm, Code Lion, Netbeans, Eclipse
– Linux experience. Many of them use Windows at home cause they also play video games. Really few programmers in real life use windows. So at least guys install Virtual Box or VMWare and run Linux in an Virtual Machine.
– Cloud experience. Using instances, CDNs, APIs, tools…
And as the talking advanced I gave him a hint of the Epic fail that all the universities are committing.
They teach git for a semester. They teach Python for one or two semester, the first year usually one, the second year another. And that’s it. Is gone.
When they exit the university they have not programmed in Python for 2 or 3 years, they have not used git, they have not used SQL for the same amount of time, etc…
My boss pointed that the best candidates do side projects in their spare time, and have that bright in their eyes. That sparkling in the eyes is what I call the eye of the tiger, the desire to improve, to learn. That spark.
I told the mentor of my intern that the big mistake is doing things in small parcels, isolated, one block and is gone. That the best way to proceed would be to:
Make the student start a project from the very beginning, from the first semester. Then keep making it bigger and better over time.
Let them improve it over time. Screw it in all the ways possible. Make them reach the limits of their initial architecture. Allow them to face having to redo the thing from the scratch. Allow them to do screw it, to break things, and to learn from their mistakes. Over and over.
Nobody becomes a great programmer coding average things for two semesters.
But let them realize where the problems are. Let them come back to their code of two or three months ago, before holidays, and realize how important is to make comments, to give proper names to the files and to the variables. Let them run that project over so many time, that at some point they have to change computer and they realize that what worked with windows Uppercases and Lowercase mixed files, does not work with Unix (case sensitive).
Let them grow.
Let them see their mistakes over the time.
Let them run the project for so long so they switch several times from Cloud provider, and discover the pros and the cons and the not-to-do, and things like run for your life before using sharing hostings that limit your CPU quota even that kills your MySql instances when they look at the email (true history, connecting to POP3 was raising the CPU and the provider was killing the MySQL instances, and so the queries) or that limits your queries per second, and then ask them to install a drupal and they will learn the hard way why Quality is always better than price and will make the right decisions when they work for somebody else or for their own Startup.
Even many of the supposedly Senior guys never learned from their mistakes, for example the Outsourcing guys, cause they work 6 months to a year in a project and then jump to another. Nobody explains the hell in maintenance and incidental they have left there. Nobody teach them.
Programming an small project for 6 months doesn’t make a master. Doing it for 5 years, growing it, learning from your mistakes and learning the YES and DO-NOT the hard way, the real way that works, cause makes you understand why something is better than other things, is the path.
That also remembers me why I love the MT Notation and many of the guys in Barcelona that saw it criticized the method, while my colleagues at Facebook and Dropbox actually told me that they use it, specially for Python and C/C++.
Allow them to thing about how to solve sorting a list of 1000 items by themselves. Let them think. The lazy will copy, but they will not grow.
Then let them implement a Bubble sort. Let them improve it, if they can. Allow them a week to try to improve that. Then make them sort 1,000,000 items so they see that is bloody slow. How can I improve that?. May I read the data from the drive at once, reading line by line was slow… let them think. Like if they were learning Martial Arts, and so discovering their strengths, that they have fast reflexes, allow them to grow.
Universities have to create good professional, not just machines of passing the exams. Real world demands talent, problem solving abilities, passion, ability to learn, and will to do the things well and to improve, and discipline.
After 5-6 years of programming on a daily basis, with an IDE, git, deploying to the Cloud as the basic, and growing a program and seeing the downsides of the solutions chosen, observing that the caveats where for a reason, learning that the Hardware is important, that is not the same to write to memory that to disk or to network, detecting the problems, redoing things, ending in a cul-de-sac, fixing, improving, learning, growing the project, growing himself/herself as a mind, as a programmer, as a thinker, as an expert, daily, even if it’s 30 minutes per day, then that person is prepared for some serious business.
Like piano, guitar, painting, writing… and any other activity, one require continue training in order to improve.
Students have to follow a journey in order to improve.
Let them start with Command Line, i.e. in C and files. Let’s do add later database support.
Deal with buffer overflow, file descriptor, locks and conversion types. Let them migrate to another language the entire project, using Git from the beginning.
Allow them to use a new Database, new Webserver or technology that is fashion and everybody on Twitter talks about, so it crashes in their face. And so they discover that they will not play or discover new technologies in actual project time in the Company of their future employers, cause shit happens, and impacts the Schedule, and the Company loses money. Universities: Teach them, let the students learn this for themselves, rather than screwing it up in several companies after university.