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Google: Better To Be a 'B' CS Grad Than an 'A+' English Grad 358

Posted by samzenpus
from the take-the-hard-road dept.
theodp (442580) writes "In a NY Times interview on How to Get a Job at Google with Laszlo Bock, who is in charge of all hiring at Google, the subject of grit-based hiring came up. Bock explained: 'I was on campus speaking to a student who was a computer science and math double major, who was thinking of shifting to an economics major because the computer science courses were too difficult. I told that student they are much better off being a B student in computer science than an A+ student in English because it signals a rigor in your thinking and a more challenging course load. That student will be one of our interns this summer.' Bock also advised, 'You need to be very adaptable, so that you have a baseline skill set that allows you to be a call center operator today and tomorrow be able to interpret MRI scans.'"
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Google: Better To Be a 'B' CS Grad Than an 'A+' English Grad

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  • Re:*sigh* (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nidi62 (1525137) on Monday April 21, 2014 @09:19AM (#46804675)

    Which of those would be useful to Google or another company that writes a lot of software?

    A different point of view? If you have a company full of programers with CS degrees and someone shows up with a Lit degree but still knows how to code and program and meet the qualifications, why not hire them? They might look at a situation differently than everyone else due to a different education and might come up with a solution no one else would have thought of. It never hurts to hire people of different backgrounds as long as they are qualified for the job.

  • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Monday April 21, 2014 @09:24AM (#46804739) Homepage Journal

    The difference being, the A in CS will usually be an objective measurement, whereas the A in English will be dependent on adopting the grader's ideological hobbyhorse and imitating the style of whatever postmodernist gobbledygook is currently popular.

  • Re:*sigh* (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday April 21, 2014 @09:45AM (#46804925) Homepage

    Art and philosophy do actually require rigorous thinking, for much the same reason as engineering.

    When designing, the engineer must consider all possible scenarios in which his design will be used. Some scenarios may be assumed from the start, and others may be accounted for in the design. Regardless of how careful the engineer is, there are always people who will use the design in an unintended manner, perhaps better or worse than the original goal.

    An artist, when creating a work, must consider the environment the work will be viewed in. Some aspects may be controlled through framing or instructions to curators, but there will always be different interpretations for different people. Philosophers, too, must consider every implication of their theory, and must understand the universe of discourse in which their theory holds. Another person may interpret a particular situation differently, so a comprehensive philosophical theory must account for that.

    Consider, for example, Michelangelo's statue of David. Michelangelo designed the work to be placed high on a cathedral, so the hands and head are enlarged so they'll be noticeable from the ground. A modern viewer ignorant of David's history would see the statue as grotesque, obscuring the quality of the work.

  • Re:*sigh* (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Monday April 21, 2014 @10:19AM (#46805185) Homepage

    If Google wanted to hire non-CS-degree people that show critical thinking about language skills, they would more likely turn to people with a linguistics or maths degree who have at least some familiarity with computational linguistics. Indeed, as a Iinguist, though working in a different part of the field, I have a number of colleagues who swiftly found gainful employment at IT companies because they could demonstrate interest in the computational side of the field.

    However, as much as I respect the scholarship involved in an English degree, and read quite a bit of literary criticism as a hobby, I don't think that that field really prepares students in a way that makes them desirable to specialist IT teams.

  • by BonThomme (239873) on Monday April 21, 2014 @10:50AM (#46805541) Homepage

    'You need to be very adaptable, so that you have a baseline skill set that allows you to be a call center operator today and tomorrow be able to interpret MRI scans.'"

  • In 1999 Fast Search and Transfer was neck and neck with google for speed, volume, and accuracy. The board at FAST were idiots and said there was no money in search and basically stopped trying and let google win.

    From the fate of other 'search' companies (some of which were very good), I'd say the board at FAST were correct - and that you're the idiot.

    Google isn't a multi-billion dollar company because they're exceedingly good at search - they're a multi-billion dollar company that's exceedingly good at delivering advertisements (only a fraction of which are on their search pages).

  • by gweihir (88907) on Monday April 21, 2014 @11:28AM (#46805967)

    I can confirm that Google is wasting people's time. I did interview with them, and I think I did pretty well (except that some interviewers did not understand the questions they were asking, and consequentially failed to understand the answers I gave, because some things I had a lot of experience with and was not giving them the "bright beginner"-level answers). They then told me that my application was "on hold" and did not actually hire many people that year, despite a dire need in my field. (I have insider-knowledge, I did apply because somebody really wanted me for their team.) Then they had a fat profit at the end of the year which pissed me off no end.

    A year later they called me again, to interview me again. I just told them that they could very well do so, but it would cost them a $1600 consulting fee for that day, since all they get is one free interview-day. Took them 3 more years to finally get the message. And no, they did not go for it, unfortunately. I could have used that money. On the plus side, after the first interview I had decided that Google was of no interest as an employer to me, also in part because I had looked at some of the "research" that came out of that place. Pathetic, not even the engineering was any good. The public perception of what Google-people can do is vastly inaccurate.

  • Re:15" Golf Holes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jedidiah (1196) on Monday April 21, 2014 @12:17PM (#46806467) Homepage

    You really don't want some random schmuck trying to interpret your MRI scan. The idea that you can be a help desk schlub one day and be responsible for the health of people's spine the next just smacks of utter cluelesssness and contempt for other technical specialities.

    Everyone seems to think that what everyone else does is trivial.

    No one respects anyone else's education, skill, or experience.

  • Re:*sigh* (Score:4, Interesting)

    by schnell (163007) <me@schnellCOBOL.net minus language> on Monday April 21, 2014 @12:40PM (#46806685) Homepage

    I think there's a bit of a difference between having "good English skills" and spending four or more years of your life taking classes about it

    I think there is (unsurprisingly) a lot of misunderstanding among the CS crowd about what an English major actually studies. I was not one myself (journalism and Russian language double-major), but from what I understood from my English major friends in college, it's not poring over obscure grammar rules for four years. It's actually more of a degree in writing and communications, learning how to structure and present information in essay form. It's also studying the various kinds of writing out there for different purposes - ranging from artistic to practical - and learning about how other writers have communicated in the past (literature) and what can be learned from them and applied to written communications today.

    You can find an example of typical English 300-level courses here [louisville.edu] or 400-level courses here [umaine.edu]. English gets a bad name because there are many unfocused students who pick it as a major because they can't think of anything else to do, but for someone who's serious about it, it can be very intellectually engaging and useful.

  • Re:*sigh* (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2014 @01:18PM (#46807009)

    Art and philosophy do actually require rigorous thinking, for much the same reason as engineering.

    When designing, the engineer must consider all possible scenarios in which his design will be used. Some scenarios may be assumed from the start, and others may be accounted for in the design. Regardless of how careful the engineer is, there are always people who will use the design in an unintended manner, perhaps better or worse than the original goal.

    An artist, when creating a work, must consider the environment the work will be viewed in. Some aspects may be controlled through framing or instructions to curators, but there will always be different interpretations for different people. Philosophers, too, must consider every implication of their theory, and must understand the universe of discourse in which their theory holds. Another person may interpret a particular situation differently, so a comprehensive philosophical theory must account for that.

    Consider, for example, Michelangelo's statue of David. Michelangelo designed the work to be placed high on a cathedral, so the hands and head are enlarged so they'll be noticeable from the ground. A modern viewer ignorant of David's history would see the statue as grotesque, obscuring the quality of the work.

    I took some art and philosophy courses as electives while getting my CS degree. The faculty did, indeed, try to explain the social and historical backgrounds in which the various works were conceived.

    From a perspective of rigor, they were absolute hacks. Nothing was falsifiable. Maybe Prof. Smith would argue that David was carved the way to compensate for the viewers' perspective; Professor Jones would say that it was done that way to show off Michelangelo's detailed study of human anatomy. (I'm making that one up, but it doesn't matter. Hell, just doing that probably qualifies me for a PhD in art.) So long as it was plausible, it was all great. If you were and undergrad, all you had to do was parrot back Professor Smith's opinion on exams in her class, and Professor Jones' opinions in his class, and you'd be fine. Exact same deal in Philosophy; take the professor's pet theory as Gospel, rearrange and regurgitate, pass the course.

    Fuck it up and substitute one learned academic's preferred paradigm with another's, and you'd get a B-, obviously you put some thought into it but didn't quite grasp the subtleties of the assignment, try again next time.

    I'm sure it gets better at the higher levels of the discipline, but it's still just an exercise in group masturbation. I have an opinion, you have an opinion, we may disagree but neither of us is wrong.

    Math, science, and engineering don't work that way. There are actual, verifiable answers, which absolutely must be correct, or the whole goddamn bridge collapses and people die.

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