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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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  • by Tokolosh (1256448) on Monday April 21, 2014 @08:59AM (#46804503)

    Google employment interview: "Do you think increasing the hole size is good for golf?"

    “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

      John F. Kennedy

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by loufoque (1400831)

      I would share my google interview questions (some of them were pretty original and interesting), but unlike you I happen to remember they're confidential.

    • by plopez (54068)

      Larger hole sizes are handy in a number of places. But those web sites are NSFW.

  • I earned mostly A-B grades in CS and English because I saw value in each. I may have worked harder in some of the liberal arts courses but, as a returning student with a lot to prove, I demanded excellence.
    • It's still about $ (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Graduated CS program with a 2.089 GPA, makes six figure salary in small-mid size city.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Right there with ya. Took me 9 years to get my CS degree, and it was worth every penny. 2.1 gpa, 6 figure salary.
    • Re:Double A (Score:5, Funny)

      by lbmouse (473316) on Monday April 21, 2014 @09:19AM (#46804683) Homepage

      Doesn't Google have on campus coffee shops? If so they need English majors to bolster their barista ranks.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      I agree, high grades in several subject far exceeds having good grades in just one subject. I'd be worried about someone with merely a B average, and extremely worried about someone with a B average from a school that had few breadth of education requirements. For a B average person, what were their minors in, was their writing as sucky as their knowledge of computing theory, do they understand physics or economics, can they do math or cryptography, or are they just another computer support grunt wonderin

  • *sigh* (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jythie (914043) on Monday April 21, 2014 @09:01AM (#46804513)
    Big surprise.. tech hirer not valuing fields they do not hire from.

    Though given how laborious and difficult an actual english degree is and how high the failure rate is, saying that CS has more 'rigor in thinking' and 'challenging' is laughable. Those upper level english courses require a lot of rigors thinking and are quite challenging, even if they do not get the same respect as the more profitable CS degree.

    And this is coming from someone with a Computer Engineering degree. However I wish there were more english majors in tech since they can bring some pretty useful skills and thought patterns to the table and can provide, esp if your department is aspie-culture heavy.
    • Re:*sigh* (Score:5, Funny)

      by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Monday April 21, 2014 @09:07AM (#46804559) Homepage Journal

      Those upper level english courses require a lot of rigors thinking

      I'm sure they did.

    • I wish there were more english majors in tech since they can bring some pretty useful skills and thought patterns to the table

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

      • 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.

        • Re:*sigh* (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ebno-10db (1459097) on Monday April 21, 2014 @10:07AM (#46805089)

          someone shows up with a Lit degree but still knows how to code and program

          Now you're adding additional qualifications. I've known some excellent programmers who had degrees that weren't in CS or a related field. In that case though their degree is irrelevant. Why not hire people who have on HS diplomas? I've know some excellent people like that too.

          • by swillden (191260)

            someone shows up with a Lit degree but still knows how to code and program

            Now you're adding additional qualifications. I've known some excellent programmers who had degrees that weren't in CS or a related field. In that case though their degree is irrelevant. Why not hire people who have on HS diplomas? I've know some excellent people like that too.

            I know a couple of Google employees without bachelor's degrees. One has an associate's degree and the other didn't even complete high school. Both are brilliant people and outstanding engineers. Google doesn't really pay attention to credentials in the interview and hiring process. Bock's point wasn't that the CS graduate was more likely to get hired because of what would be written on the diploma, but because the more challenging coursework would be a better preparation.

            This presumes, of course, that the

        • by doggo (34827)

          Yup. Many of the early Unix folks were liberal arts majors who fell into computer administration, then learned to code.

          A well-rounded education leads to looking at problems from different perspectives. Who wants to be blinkered by specialization?

          Those who choose specialization, typically, are in it for the money.

      • Given what I've seen of Engrish in help files- tech writing?

        • It was better back when such things were written by people who spoke English as their primary language. Some understanding of the subject matter you're writing about doesn't hurt either, but such people have been deemed too expensive.

      • We're here. We're just invisible.
      • Critical thinking skills. Analytical ability. Comparative analysis. Language skills....you know things that would be very helpful for a company that makes a search engine....
        • 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 plopez (54068)

        The ability to communicate. The ability to review, parse, and deconstruct requirements documents. The ability to shift points of view from that of the developer to that of the customer. Those are three things developers get low marks for and which I can think of off the top of my head.

        One thing they are not good at are solving happy little interview puzzles with no real world application.

    • Re:*sigh* (Score:4, Informative)

      by nitehawk214 (222219) on Monday April 21, 2014 @09:20AM (#46804691)

      As someone that makes tech hiring decisions, I do value people with good English skills. (or is it well?...)

      To be serious, though, while I value communication skills. I value engineering skills more. However, if someone failed English class, they probably lack the communication skills to get reach me in an interview.

      • by Megane (129182)
        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, instead of taking classes to learn an actual trade.
        • Re:*sigh* (Score:4, Interesting)

          by schnell (163007) <me.schnell@net> 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.

          • 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.

            I graduated as a double major: English with a writing concentration, and Philosophy with a religious concentration. I know, the McDonalds track, right?

            It's not that hard to understand how someone can look at an MFA student writing poetry for their degree and scoff. However, "English" covers a ridiculously broad spectrum, especially as the definition of a "text" has been broadened to include any context where meaning is being communicated. Ethnographies focus on culture and the spoken and unspoken message

    • by evilviper (135110)

      given how laborious and difficult an actual english degree is and how high the failure rate is, saying that CS has more 'rigor in thinking' and 'challenging' is laughable.

      Swinging a sledge hammer is laborious.

      Community colleges have astronomically high failure rates. That doesn't mean their courses are harder than 4-year colleges.

      Those upper level english courses require a lot of rigors thinking and are quite challenging,

      Art and philosophy require lots of "thinking", too... just not the exacting, logical

      • 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: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.

      • by plopez (54068)

        "Community colleges have astronomically high failure rates. That doesn't mean their courses are harder than 4-year colleges."

        1) What is the failure rate of Community Colleges (CCs). Or did you mean students at CCs.

        2) If you meant the students, what are their rates of failure (ROF) compared to those of all 4 year universities, which is what I assume you meant?

        3) What are the FORs of students at CCs vs universities controlled for socio-economic levels and high school performance?

        4) What is the definition of "

    • Re:*sigh* (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sribe (304414) on Monday April 21, 2014 @09:25AM (#46804751)

      Though given how laborious and difficult an actual english degree is and how high the failure rate is, saying that CS has more 'rigor in thinking' and 'challenging' is laughable. Those upper level english courses require a lot of rigors thinking and are quite challenging, even if they do not get the same respect as the more profitable CS degree.

      Oh, bullshit. Do not confuse laborious with learning to think rigorously. Do not confuse sophistry with rigor.

      • by Jawnn (445279)

        Oh, bullshit. Do not confuse laborious with learning to think rigorously. Do not confuse sophistry with rigor.

        I don't. Neither do you, apparently, but in a much different way.

    • Big surprise.. tech hirer not valuing fields they do not hire from.

      Big surprise.. tech hirer not valuing fields from which they don't hire.

      Stupid non-English majors...

    • For all disciplines.
      If you are an A Student then chances are you were not challenged in school.
      The A Student is usually the following...
      Took classes in topics that they already knew about.
      Sacrificed a bit too much human skills just to get the grade.
      Are well rehearsed in cheating/pay off people to do the work.
      Weasel the professors to up their grade.

      When I applied to Grad school, the Dean asked me about a couple of C+ on my transcripts, My response was those were the classes I learned the most in, because th

    • His English comment doesn't even make sense. The kid wanted to switch to economics.

      I know that there are some pretty lackluster econ programs out there (I have heard of some that will grant a degree in econ without requiring even single variable calculus), but I went to a school with a fairly rigorous econ program. I'm not going to say it was the most rigorous program in the school, but there were plenty of people who thought they would rather get better grades in an "easier" major than tough it out in

  • Riiiiight (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GrumpySteen (1250194) on Monday April 21, 2014 @09:02AM (#46804519)

    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.'

    So, basically, you should be ridiculously highly skilled in multiple specialized fields so that we can hire you and make you take on the work of three to five people for the pay of a single position (or maybe just for the glory of being an intern so that we can pay you even less!).

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Exactly. If you want skills party for them, don't offer shitty internships.

    • Erh... yes? Of course?

      How long have you been on this planet that you come to the realization just now?

    • Re:Riiiiight (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2014 @09:50AM (#46804967)

      I'm a radiologist. I interpret MRI scans. Doing so requires 4 year undergraduate training, followed by 4 years of medical school, an internship year, and 4 years of residency training. I've had to pass numerous national boards exams to get where I am today. What training does it require to staff a call center?

      The analogy is preposterous. There is an absolutely enormous amount of anatomy and pathology required to properly interpret MRI scans. One cannot go from being a call center operator to a radiologist overnight.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I am a systems administrator who works for a radiology department. First, I would like to say that I wouldn't want a call center tech reading my MRI no matter how adaptable he or she is.

        It is a poor analogy, but I think I understand what the recruiter was trying to explain. Working with computers, you may need to understand how to capture counts and calculate glucose metabolism from a PET study, then how to write customized drivers for a robotic platform, then how to set up a network of unix and Windows P

    • by Sarten-X (1102295)

      we can hire you and make you take on the work of three to five people for the pay of a single position

      Do you mean to say the work, or the roles?

      If you're actually being as productive as several people, as though they had been working productively 100% of the time, then you should be paid more.

      On the other hand, if you're just doing the same amount of productive work, but able to help with other tasks outside your primary discipline when you otherwise would be waiting on something, then you're doing exactly the work you're being paid for.

  • Well .... duh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr_Silver (213637) on Monday April 21, 2014 @09:03AM (#46804527)

    In other news, industries where command and use of the English language is the priority will state that it's better to be a 'B' English Grad than an 'A+' CS Grad.

    Google's comments don't prove anything new about the value of the degrees of either course - short of the fact that it's generally better to have a degree in the industry you intend on working in.

    • by houghi (78078)

      What? Now you tell me? I have an arts major. Hey, perhaps I can make images in milk foam or something like that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2014 @09:05AM (#46804545)

    Was that supposed to be a pitch for or against CS?

  • Or win the lottery (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rob the Bold (788862) on Monday April 21, 2014 @09:06AM (#46804547)

    '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.'

    Sure, that's a good idea. If you were able to do every job, then there would always be something useful to do if your job or industry disappeared. But since we're talking magic here, why not win the lottery of inherit a fortune instead? Provided you've got a good finance guy, that's an even better plan for long-term economic stability in your household.

  • Context (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Monday April 21, 2014 @09:16AM (#46804645) Homepage

    Note the context:

    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.

    I think it's important not to drop out the first part of that sentence. The message here is not really about the superiority of CS over English (at least I hope it wasn't), but the idea that "If you're worried about your post-graduate future, worry less about grades and more about what you're studying." There may be very rigorous, interesting, challenging English programs out there. From my experience talking to some CS majors, it seems that not all CS programs are very good. Making a strict comparison between different subjects isn't easy.

    • by petes_PoV (912422)
      It seems to me that the Google guy either wasn't listening or doesn't know the difference between English as a subject and economics.

      As it is, in other parts of the world, the quality of degree is more of a door-opener than the subject - or the university. So you're sometimes better off getting a 2-one from a less rigourous college than a 2-two from a more prestigious establishment. As so many places only ask for an upper second or better and care little about the subject or where you studied.

  • GPA does not show much. also grade inflation mixes stuff up.

    grade inflation also can very school to school so a B at one can be just as good as A at an other one.

    there should be a split GPA or some classes that are just pass / fail.

    Like have an GPA for core classes one for general education classes and one for the filler / fluff classes.

    • Actually, that's the case for some electives at the university I attended. PE classes were pure pass/fail, usually based on attendance.
  • MRI ????? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 21, 2014 @09:21AM (#46804701)

    This Bock dude is full of it.

    Quote:" 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"

    I've been looking at MRI's for over 15 years professionally, as a medical specialist, though i'm not a radiologist. I still don't think that i can " interpret an MRI". Sure i see a lot. Sure i know what to look for in my field. But i will never be able to " interpret an MRI"

    He/she doesn't know what he/she is talking about.

    • I still don't think that i can " interpret an MRI"

      You're playing word games unless you define what you mean by "interpreting an MRI".

      BTW, who can do it?

  • You cannot predict how "fluffy" a major is simply by looking at the name. There are killer CS programs out there, and killer English or Economics programs. And I am sure there are schools where one or more of those programs are "fluff" instead.

    Your best bet in picking a major is to, obviously, pick one related to the field you'd like to go in. That doesn't mean that an English major can't be a successful developer, or that a CS major cannot write literature. But if you have to pick something to major in

  • "I told that student they are much better off being a B student in computer science than an A+ student in English

    -might be re-phrased-

    "I hire people that I think are like me."

    I'll grant that there are a lot of unskilled liberal arts majors out there, but I've also interviewed hundreds of people with technical degrees and no skills, sense, or insight. Degree is just not an accurate enough heuristic to use as a filter. Unfortunately, there's not degree available in Generalized Problem Solving.
  • by mlwmohawk (801821) on Monday April 21, 2014 @09:33AM (#46804815)

    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.

    What I learned in this time is that Google was no better than FAST, and is no better than any other company. They won because viable competition walked away. Google's only real innovation was thier revenue model. Right now, Google has BILLIONS to toss at projects. We hear about a LOT of successful or nearly successful projects, but how many failures are there that we never hear about? Its easy to be innovative when you are grossly profitable.

    For any "hiring practice" to be better than any other, you need to *prove* that the cost of labor compared to productivity (innovation, etc.) that is directly related to revenue has a better ratio than that in other companies. Frankly, I don't see it. Google sells ads, nothing else even comes close on their books.

    Google is just the Microsoft of the late '80 and early '90s. A pundit's darling, a fictional yardstick by which the ignorant measure what they don't understand.

    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmail. c o m> on Monday April 21, 2014 @11:21AM (#46805887) Homepage

      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 mlwmohawk (801821)

        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.

        So, you are saying, two competing companies doing about the same thing. One quits the business, the other goes on to be HUGELY successful, and I'm the idiot for calling the quitting company's manegement idiots? Sorry Bjorn and Larvik screwed the pooch and killed a potentially golden goose.

        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).

        You may have missed what I wrote: "Google sells ads, nothing else even comes close on their books."

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Monday April 21, 2014 @09:40AM (#46804881)
    It sounds like that Google guy already has a career mapped out for the B-grade students:

    You need to be very adaptable, so that you have a baseline skill set that allows you to be a call center operator today

    Google: Avoid

  • [...] who was thinking of shifting to an economics major [...]. I told that student they are much better off being a B student in computer science than an A+ student in English

    Except being a B student in economics is probably better than being an A+ student in English as well.
    But is being a B student in economics better than being a B student in English?

    Also, wanting to not be rigorous is apparently better than wanting to be rigorous, seeing as this student has gotten an internship.

  • Google is the king of the new IT bubble. Last time there was an IT bubble Yahoo! was that same king. Guess what is going to happen, one day the bubble is going to explode and then implode and Google is not going to be king (monopoly) any more. There are many good reasons not to apply for an job at Google. But people have to find those reasons for them self.

  • So now he's been anointed by the Goog and will be viewed as a golden child at every job he interviews for in the future.

  • by rockmuelle (575982) on Monday April 21, 2014 @10:29AM (#46805313)

    "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."

    I'm not sure if this is just naivete or Silicon Valley hubris, but this statement doesn't really make much sense. MRIs are interpreted by MDs (radiologists) with years of training. Call centers can be staffed by high-school drop outs. I have friends from both ends of the spectrum in exactly those jobs and I can tell you the starting point for each career and baseline skill set are not the same. Note that baseline intelligence may be the same - my call center friends are all phenomenal musicians who put their intellectual effort into music and use call center jobs to pay the bills, but there's no way they're interpreting MRIs in this lifetime.

    I'm seeing the same high level of hubris in tech right now that I saw (and was guilty of) in 1999. There seems to be this feeling that good software skills are a proxy for any other discipline. After all, if I can write an MRI app for an iPhone (or, in the 90s, if I could write a Web 1.0 MRI viewer - which I did, fwiw), then I'm clearly qualified to take the next step and start diagnosing patients (or better yet, just write an app for that, too). Once you know the jargon and basic requirements, everything else is just implementation details, right? Of course, the reality is is that those implementation details are years of dedicated training, not a few weeks of hacking. You only get so many years in life - you can't do everything with them.

    In Bock's comments, I see either ignorance or sleaziness. Maybe he really believes that anyone can and should be anything and everything. In that case, he's wasting his time in HR and should become a motivational speaker. But, it also seems like he's just using this as a way to get more call center operators to believe that there's a career path at Google that will allow everyone with a CS degree to be true renaissance people. Sure, every now and then one will pull it off, but people also win the lottery. That doesn't mean everyone will.

    -Chris

  • by techsoldaten (309296) on Monday April 21, 2014 @10:36AM (#46805381) Journal

    Well, I am an English major who learned programming and started a technology shop I have been running for the last 10 years.

    During that time, I have had programmers working for me with CS degrees, but also with degrees in law, economics, theater, criminal justice, business, political science, and other pursuits.

    We build websites and CRM systems using open source content management systems. To be honest, the people who have worked out best over the years came to programming from another background. The people that have really thrived have tended to be lawyers, they are able to apply logic on the fly.

  • 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.'"

    • by PPH (736903)

      Meanwhile, an English major can always get a job at Starbucks.

      Try outsourcing that.

  • by Theovon (109752) on Monday April 21, 2014 @10:51AM (#46805549)

    Usually double-blind is a good thing, like when doing a scientific study or reviewing one. But in the case of Google, the hiring method (for software engineers) involves a sequence of engineers asking you to solve toy problems and scribbling notes on a single sheet of paper. That single sheet of paper is mostly what the hiring committee sees, along with your resume (which nobody looks at any more than superficially) and maybe some comments from your recruiter. There is absolutely no consideration of things like personality, team work, cross-polination from other fields, or even CS disciplines outside of software engineering (they do 90% algorithms, 10% computational complexity, 0% operating systems, 0% computer architecture, 0% programming language theory, 0% anything else).

    I have a PhD in computer engineering, and I currently I work as a CS professor at a major SUNY research center. Based on Google’s request (they called me!), I interviewed at Google's NYC office for a software engineering position (although my research area is computer architecture, which they didn’t quite seem to understand). I went there, I was friendly and didn’t stick my foot in my mouth, and I answered all of their algorithms questions (some I could have done better, but I think I did a good job). A few weeks later, I get a call from my recruiter. They were declining to make me an offer for two reasons. One was some vague statement about me not fitting with their culture. No idea why. The other was that I had appeared to have jumped around jobs too much. That last one made no sense. I worked one industry job for almost a decade, then I went to grad school (where I worked a research assistant and did a couple of internships), and then I got hired as a professor. How does that constitute jumping around too much?

    I checked out Google’s hiring practices on glass door (before I interviewed, of course), and I see a similar trend. Google has no compunctions against wasting people’s time. They regularly cold call people to interview and then decline to make an offer, even for people with doctoral degrees and/or substantial industry experience. I have two good friends who work at Google, and they’re brilliant at computer science theory, but even so, I still really don’t know what Google is looking for.

    Of course, maybe I just suck, and Google figured it out. I doubt it, though. I have a PhD for Ohio State, my dissertation is 120 pages (not including references), I currently have 13 major publications, three at top-tier conferences, first author on 9. I recently won an NSF CAREER award ($450,000 over 5 years). I started the Open Graphics project, which is basically dead right now but did produce real open source graphics hardware. And before all that, I worked in a small company where I had to do everything from tech support to IT to software development in a dozen languages to chip design. Among many other things, I designed a graphics accelerator ASIC that’s present in most air traffic control towers around the US (among so many other things I can’t keep track of). In the early 90’s I released ANSITerm for the Atari ST, which was very popular at the time and is still a very popular BBS terminal program among retro computing enthusiasts. I’m pretty sure I don’t suck.

    • 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.

  • CS is one of those fields that is so difficult that only the very best can master it. We have far to many people getting CS and CS related degrees. Most are not very good and, due to the high difficulty level, have negative productivity, i.e. they cause more problems than they solve. (Might take a little longer perspective though as the terminally incompetent "management" that is so common these days has.)

    But that is not the only issue. I know straight-"A" graduates that are also a problem, because they hav

  • On behalf of sysadmins everywhere I would like to thank Larry Wall's linguistics professors instead!
  • Bottom Line: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Monday April 21, 2014 @11:44AM (#46806149) Journal
    MOST employers really don't give a flying fuck about your grades. You have a degree in CS? Cool - show me some code - show me an app you developed. Is it good?
    Yes? Cool - you're hired. You got a C in (major subject in CS)? Who the fuck cares? Your code is good enough for our purposes.
    No? Then you should have switched to English, and found some MEANING IN THIS CRUEL EXISTENCE other than being an entry level code monkey, which you clearly suck at anyway.

    As a professor in a media dept, I always tell my students to have *exploitable skills*. I don't care what it is. Bicycle Repair. Programming. Editing. Whatevs. Because working in the arts is a crap shoot at best. Even the most determined and talented people don't necessarily make a living at it. So, sure - grind out a degree in something you dislike, get the job, and then get a Masters in English Lit or Comp or Painting or whatever. Then you will have the financial basis to do what keeps you sane (creativity) and the means to put food on the table (grinding out code for some bank to vertically extract billions off the backs of the taxpayers). Eventually, you will figure out what matters most to you: being true to your inner voice and convictions, or, finding out that your inner voice and conviction is being a slave and putting food on the table for your family. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH EITHER POSITION.

    You are not a better person for going for the practical degree and being trained to do some skill for the mindless heartless maw of capitalism, any more than you are a better person for being that special snowflake and finding your purpose in life as a poet while you deliver letters as a postman, or as slinging coffee at Starbucks. Society needs all of it. I would much rather have the world's wittiest barrista serve me coffee and go home to attempt writing the Greatest Novel Ever than some mouth-breathing drone who goes home and watches TV and masturbates to re-runs of Baywatch. And if you're a mouth breathing drone, but have a knack for numbers - there's a place for you cranking code for some bank vertically extract billions off the backs of the taxpayers. Go for it. It pays really well.

    In other words: there's room for everyone, and you need to find your place in things - just: Don't Be Stupid. It hurts to watch.

    • by swillden (191260)

      Cool - show me some code - show me an app you developed. Is it good?

      FWIW, Google doesn't really pay attention to what you've done. They pay attention to what you do during the interview.

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