Self-Taught Programmers vs Programmers with Degrees?

This was an interesting question to answer via Wiselike:

Do you think that self-taught programmers have as much to offer as those with degrees?
While programmers do have to keep learning new languages to keep up with the latest trends, most seem to get a programming/computer science degree as the basis of their education. In your career, have you found that self-taught programmers without a degree lack certain skills? What are the differences, if any, between the two educational backgrounds?

Here’s my response:

Bonnie,

I’m a self-taught programmer and I think I have a lot to offer (and I think I have)!

I don’t actually think it’s a this-or-that type scenario… or something that can be easily compared or contrasted… whether your “self-taught” or someone with a formal degree doesn’t matter as much as…

  1. Being a person of integrity, being trustworthy, being authentic and genuine.
  2. Being curious about software and self-motivated to continue to learn.
  3. Understanding that great software is built by teams. Businesses are built by great teams.
  4. That leadership doesn’t require one to be a manager… an individual contributor can still be an incredible leader.
  5. That software and engineering is just as much about people than actual bytes and bits.
  6. That skills outside of coding can be taught, learned, and acquired, and not all software engineers retire as software engineers. Some go on and do other things. This is really okay (I’m doing that now with my career… and have been in that transition period for a while).
  7. That everyone’s path is different, not better nor worse.
  8. That a degree in software engineering provides different signals to different people, but that doesn’t mean they are more effective signals, just different.
  9. That not having a degree also can be a signal to people, some interpreted more positively than others.
  10. People (and companies) that care about pedigree or things like degrees as a top-line figure or priority have completely missed the point of hiring great talent and you should never work for those companies.

I am a self-taught programmer. I went to Georgia Tech to get a Comp Sci. degree. I failed out my freshman year. I then built a career building software for big Fortune 500’s and then for myself. I then got 2 master degrees, one in education. I then co-founded a code school that became the largest one in the United States (and then acquired by the parent company of The University of Phoenix).

I’m all over the map when it comes to “degrees” and institutions and stuff like that. None of it matters as much as the next problem that I’m trying to solve.

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