Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

Expectations of a Computing Professional

IMG_20130322_081358A recent anonymous post, on a certain social media website, lamented about the quality of our Computing graduates. The poster gave examples on how some are unable to create/code websites, and the poor quality of released apps. Not surprisingly, many people rose to defend Computing students, the school, and the profession in general.

The OP has, of course, made some very broad generalisations. A fundamental assumption was that every Computing graduate should be able to write programs. Some respondents argue that computing is very broad area, and it is entirely possible that in some specialisations, coding (i.e. writing programs) is not required at all.

There were also several other issues discussed, and I’m sure everyone has  their own take on the matter.

At the risk of offending more people, I do think the OP’s point bears further discussion.

There is always going to be some sort of layman assumption about what sort of things a person in each profession should know. Yes, doctors can specialise in so many areas of medicine, but you will expect all doctors to give you some advice on some ailment. You expect all lawyers to be able to help you with some legal advice.

In the same way, is there something we should assume of all Computing professionals? I thought that would be programming. And making websites too. (And helping your family and relatives fix various computer problems.)

I don’t want to agree completely, but it seems that is the general expectations from other people. Let’s not get into the nitty gritty technical details of how much of knowing is considered as knowing. The main point is that there is some basic expectation of various fundamental skills.

The feedback I’m hearing from many employers is that, sadly, our graduates are sometimes quite technically challenged. Their resume looks good. They appear to have the required skills. But set them on a real problem, then you realize they are totally lost.

To our Computing students: That’s why there is now the need to have practical programming examinations. The truth is, once upon a time, students could actually graduate without having written a single program on their own.

It’s alright not remembering how to program after graduating. But at least, the graduate should have acquired some deeper understanding of what programming is about. Other people can tell if they once knew, as opposed to someone who has never actually done programming at all.

Personally, I feel there is no excuse for a computing professional to not have any true appreciation of programming. It’s like a nurse who has never drawn blood. Or a firemen who has never fought fire. Alright, I admit, these are not the best analogies. But the point is that there are some fundamental skills one should expect of all Computing professions.

Don’t make excuses about not knowing how to program. Or create websites.

Speaking of creating websites. The Internet, and the web, were just emerging technologies during my time as a student. No one taught about websites. In fact, I was still learning about COBOL programming on an IBM mainframe then. While I, honestly, would not consider “creating websites” as a fundamental skill of Computing professionals, it really isn’t an excuse for not knowing an emerging technology simply because it happened after your time of study.

We are in an industry that evolves very quickly. Continuing education is absolutely essential, otherwise we’ll quickly become a dinosaur. Don’t blame the school too! The sort of ATM network (fyi, that’s a computer network, not the cash machine) that I learnt about as a student was already completely different from the ATM network I had to work with after I graduated. Then, not long after that, let’s just say no one talks about ATM anymore. Or FDDI.

I’ve digressed. The original point was, again, about some fundamental skills of Computing. If you feel those basics aren’t your cup of tea, perhaps you’re in the wrong course of study. Or profession.

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