Author Topic: Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?  (Read 6242 times)

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Offline embeddedguy85

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Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?
« on: October 21, 2017, 03:56:11 AM »
For anyone who has ever done hiring before, would you ever hire a self taught embedded software dev?

What would you look for in them? How many projects would it take and what type of projects would it take for you to know this
person is skilled?

 

Offline dmills

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Re: Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2017, 05:05:43 AM »
I was hired this way, well the job was punitively analogue and mixed signal with some DSP, but somehow it actually seems to involve a **lot** of C and assembler, mostly not on DSPs.

Getting past the HR filter is easier at smaller companies which are generally less prone to let the HR folks wag the hiring manager dog.

I would be looking for real projects, involving other people and specifications from a third party that keep changing (This is a very different sort of thing then doing something to a spec you are basically making up on the fly).
Also exposure to things like version control systems and on the technical side I would be certainly asking searching questions about things like what volatile and static mean in C and what does memory fragmentation mean.

But really the way to get hired in this situation is to exhibit significant task domain knowledge (In my case it was live broadcast audio and DSP that sold it). Embedded programmer is a 'meh' thing, embedded programmer who understands exactly what the product should do and who can make sane contributions to the hardware design and specification is actually far more valuable.

My favourite interview questions is "What is your favourite thing that you have you built?", then start digging, the good people will talk about the design, problems and trade offs (And what they would do differently). Show me that you are an Engineer and not a failed MBA or marketing type...

Regards, Dan.
 

Offline AndyC_772

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Re: Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2017, 05:14:15 AM »
My favourite interview questions is "What is your favourite thing that you have you built?", then start digging, the good people will talk about the design, problems and trade offs (And what they would do differently). Show me that you are an Engineer and not a failed MBA or marketing type...

The favourite thing I've built is a fairly easy choice to make.

Unfortunately, like pretty much everything non-trivial I've ever designed, the internal workings are proprietary and confidential. I simply wouldn't be able to talk about them in any detail.

An interviewer would either (a) completely recognise, understand and respect that fact, and move on, or (b) miss the point, and assume I'm being vague and difficult because of a skills shortage on my part.

Fortunately, the likely outcome is probably the more desirable in both cases.

It's actually quite a good reason to do a project of your own. It gives you something you can actually talk about in as much detail as you want to.

[upd]: One similar question I've used on recent engineering graduates, is simply, "tell me about the project you've done that you'd most like to talk about". For good candidates, it gives an opportunity for them to talk enthusiastically about almost anything, and gives them their best opportunity to shine. It also stumps poor candidates who don't really have any projects to draw on.
« Last Edit: October 21, 2017, 05:17:42 AM by AndyC_772 »
 
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Online tggzzz

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Re: Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?
« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2017, 06:58:02 AM »
One similar question I've used on recent engineering graduates, is simply, "tell me about the project you've done that you'd most like to talk about". For good candidates, it gives an opportunity for them to talk enthusiastically about almost anything, and gives them their best opportunity to shine. It also stumps poor candidates who don't really have any projects to draw on.

That's always a good starter, for the reasons you have given.

However, there are also "theoretical" topics that I would require an engineer to know, whether they are self-taught or otherwise. I would ask questions to determine to what extent a candidate had understood them and how they had dealt with them. Examples: the byzantine generals problem, effects of L1/L2/L3 caches on performance and correctness, different ways of structuring a design and then implementing it, uses problems and solutions of FSMs, whether threads can be implemented as a C library, etc.

A formally educated engineer ought to have a better chance of providing decent answers, but regrettably it is only a chance. The candidate in front of you is what is important, not the statistics.
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
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Online bd139

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Re: Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?
« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2017, 07:08:00 AM »
In the commercial software sector we get more luck out of self taught / autodidacts or people who did unusual degrees for software engineers.

They give you the tools to learn at a university. Some people are born with them in their hands.

You want someone who enjoys it as well. Some people really don’t and will naively turn out turd after turd.
 

Online nctnico

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Re: Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2017, 08:17:41 AM »
In my experience the people who are good at programming AND have a degree are better than the self-taught ones. This difference surfaces with larger projects and/or projects needing some (basic) math. Taking on big projects in a structured manner and math are the typical things taught at a school.
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 

Online dr.diesel

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Re: Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?
« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2017, 08:26:31 AM »
I'm assuming your question is/means, without a degree, which has been asked here many many times.

One gotcha, big corporations usually have hiring requirements, ALL of the big companies I've worked for have.  Without a 4-year degree for a developer your resume would never make it to my desk, even with 10000000000000000000000000billion years of experience, doesn't matter, NO exceptions.  Might not be right, but it's the way it is for many places.

On multiple occasions I've even tried promoting people with decades of proven ability, no go.   :palm:

Small companies, start-ups, YMMV.

Online mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?
« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2017, 09:01:35 AM »
Probably more likely to succeed with smaller outfits where ability to get the job done is top priority, over things like "House style" and working on big teams.
However things move so quickly that someone who got a degree 10 tears ago could be pretty out of date.
Being self-taught does show interest and enthusiasm, which can be very valuable.
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Online tggzzz

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Re: Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?
« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2017, 09:25:29 AM »
In my experience the people who are good at programming AND have a degree are better than the self-taught ones. This difference surfaces with larger projects and/or projects needing some (basic) math. Taking on big projects in a structured manner and math are the typical things taught at a school.

Yes, that's a sound starting point. But there are exceptions.

There's a standard long-standing tension between doctors and nurses. Doctors need nurses to do the things that doctors are usually bad at doing, e.g. inserting a needle. Nurses need doctors to do the things they don't understand, e.g. deciding between various possible treatment regimes. The problems arise when either side don't recognise their own limitations and the  strengths of the other side. To give a patient optimal treatment, we need both doctors and nurses; neither is better, they are complementary.
There are lies, damned lies, statistics - and ADC/DAC specs.
Gliding aphorism: "there is no substitute for span". Retort: "There is a substitute: skill+imagination. But you can buy span".
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Offline frog

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Re: Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?
« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2017, 10:39:02 AM »
Well I did my degree a long time ago, when embedded wasn't a thing because nobody could stray far from the bare metal.  However, there are a few things that you need to know to be really good at embedded: don't to anything at runtime that you could have done at compile time, don't make your CPU perform any instructions that aren't necessary to get the job done etc.  Things may be different now but back in the 80s anyone wanting to become good at embedded would have to find their own way.
 

Offline embeddedguy85

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Re: Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?
« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2017, 11:06:27 AM »
If there were a way to get a degree without going into massive debt, I would do it. But I dont see that being possible.

Here's another line of thinking. What if I could get a job at a smaller company.... would a larger company care that I dont have a degree even though I have the experience from the small company?
« Last Edit: October 21, 2017, 11:09:05 AM by embeddedguy85 »
 

Offline cdev

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Re: Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?
« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2017, 11:10:32 AM »
If you could get a job soon, you might have a several year window to become established and invaluable.

Have you thought about pursuing college in Germany?
« Last Edit: October 21, 2017, 12:00:40 PM by cdev »
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Offline blueskull

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Re: Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?
« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2017, 11:18:50 AM »
If there were a way to get a degree without going into massive debt, I would do it. But I dont see that being possible.

Consider studying abroad? Chinese tuition for state owned tier 1 (best) universities is ~4800 CNY (~730 USD) per year, plus you need another $200~$500/mo for living allowance.
You need to compete Asians on math to get into one, though.

Here's another line of thinking. What if I could get a job at a smaller company.... would a larger company care that I dont have a degree even though I have the experience from the small company?

I would hire only people with a degree, but I don't care if it's computer engineering or EE. Basically, university education gives a platform, and that's more important then the textbook knowledge.
The best PHP/HTML/CSS programmer I know of studies philosophy and social science, and the best Java programmer I know of studies math.
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Offline embeddedguy85

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Re: Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?
« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2017, 11:50:53 AM »
If there were a way to get a degree without going into massive debt, I would do it. But I dont see that being possible.

Consider studying abroad? Chinese tuition for state owned tier 1 (best) universities is ~4800 CNY (~730 USD) per year, plus you need another $200~$500/mo for living allowance.
You need to compete Asians on math to get into one, though.

Here's another line of thinking. What if I could get a job at a smaller company.... would a larger company care that I dont have a degree even though I have the experience from the small company?

I would hire only people with a degree, but I don't care if it's computer engineering or EE. Basically, university education gives a platform, and that's more important then the textbook knowledge.
The best PHP/HTML/CSS programmer I know of studies philosophy and social science, and the best Java programmer I know of studies math.

What do you mean by platform in this context?
 

Offline embeddedguy85

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Re: Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?
« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2017, 11:58:40 AM »
If you could get a job soon, you might have  several year window to become established and invaluable. Maybe they would sponsor you for college. But, do it soon. There is a lot of pressure from developing countries firms to open up service markets. With no opposition because people have no idea this is happening. And the quite influential firms and countries have successfully changed the framing around job loss and income loss (which are projected to be huge in countries like the US)  to instead be about "efficiency gains" from lowered wage costs, despite this analogy from the world of trade in goods, not really being applicable. Once inked, deals become impossibly costly to reverse in 3 years. They do nothing or almost nothing during that time so no public discussion has any chance to occur. And then the window shuts forever.

(See Ins ide US Trade for March 10, 2016)

Are you saying that people from other countries will come here to work? Because remote working is already a thing, right?
 

Offline cdev

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Re: Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?
« Reply #15 on: October 21, 2017, 12:09:59 PM »
It doesnt matter where in the world they're from. Whoever has the best education, who can work for the least amount of money the longest. Legally.


Is there a cult of efficiency?  Google this: "efficiency gains" "trade in services"

Whomever can make them richest the fastest? Here is another term "efficient breach" (of contracts, and promises) 

Read Coase "The Problem of Social Cost".

Blueskull means that you're considered better if you have a degree. Only if you have a degree. They don't care that you don't have one because of -----whatever---

Thats your problem, not theirs. You just don't have one. Unless your skills are literally the best around, in your area, Then you'll be a hot property wherever you go. Otherwise to most hiring managers, you won't exist.

So, while you still are young, you have to work ten times as hard, now, to get one. Now, before the rush. Imagine what it will be like, when people have no work, unless they have some really difficult skill. You will need that degree just to get any job at all.

« Last Edit: October 21, 2017, 02:35:41 PM by cdev »
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Offline blueskull

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Re: Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?
« Reply #16 on: October 21, 2017, 01:59:04 PM »
What do you mean by platform in this context?

Calculus, university writing, understanding to social science such as politics and psychology, having a grasp on cutting edge technology and how leading edge academic research works (so you can use the outcome properly, even if you don't want to do academic).

The list goes on.

No matter how good a nurse is, a nurse is never a doctor. This might be discriminatory and politically incorrect, but that's how companies looking for a new people.

Literally, the planet is packed with 7 billion other people, and why should an HR pick you up while there are better educated people lining up in the queue?
« Last Edit: October 21, 2017, 03:25:24 PM by blueskull »
SIGSEGV is inevitable if you try to talk more than you know. If I say gibberish, keep in mind that my license plate is SIGSEGV.
 
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Offline cdev

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Re: Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?
« Reply #17 on: October 21, 2017, 02:49:36 PM »
Go to Germany or China to get a degree.

Broaden your horizons while you can.

If there were a way to get a degree without going into massive debt, I would do it. But I dont see that being possible.
"What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away."
 

Offline hendorog

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Re: Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?
« Reply #18 on: October 21, 2017, 07:38:31 PM »
Once you are old enough to have experience a degree is irrelevant.

If you are hiring people solely based on their degree and disregarding experienced and skilled people without a degree then you are doing it wrong. Simple as that.
 

Online NANDBlog

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Re: Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?
« Reply #19 on: October 21, 2017, 08:02:27 PM »
I probably wouldn't hire someone without degree. For accountability. If he screws up something, which is taught at programming 101, I'm the one to blame. University is pretty much around 8000-10000 hours of educaton, impossible to self teach it. Maybe for something like Linux errand boy or code monkey.
Are you saying that people from other countries will come here to work?
That is how the USA operates since forever.

If there were a way to get a degree without going into massive debt, I would do it. But I dont see that being possible.
I had positive cash flow at university. Scholarship was paying me money, and tuition fee was 0, only for failed credits I had to pay a small fee.
 

Online mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?
« Reply #20 on: October 21, 2017, 08:06:05 PM »
Go to Germany or China to get a degree.
possible.
I believe The Netherlands is also a popular destination for college courses, taught in English
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Offline b_force

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Re: Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?
« Reply #21 on: October 21, 2017, 08:10:23 PM »
In fact I would probably hire someone who is self taught much sooner than someone with some kind of degree. A degree really doesn't say anything and in my opinion it's also not important at all.
It's all about mentality and the will to grow and learn.
The fact that someone taught himself all these things already shows he is not afraid to get his hands dirty.

My personal experience is also that self taught people or mostly more open minded, can think better out of the box and sometimes are even much smarter theoretically and in practice.
« Last Edit: October 21, 2017, 08:12:13 PM by b_force »
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Offline janoc

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Re: Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?
« Reply #22 on: October 21, 2017, 10:29:50 PM »
It depends.

The problem is usually not whether the guy can or can't do the job but getting the foot in the door past the HR filter in the first place.

E.g. I may have quite a bit of electronic design experience but I am very unlikely to ever get hired for it - my education is "wrong", I have degrees (including a PhD) in software. So my resume will most likely never get through the (mostly automated these days) filters at the HR level where they don't look at what you have done and can do (a typical 20-something HR "consultant" or "specialist" frankly has no ability to judge it anyway) but whether your CV matches their keyword list. (and, frankly, I don't have the skill level for many of those jobs neither, but that's beside the point)

So I concur with the others here - better chances at smaller shops that are unlikely to use these kind of hiring filters/services and where you have more chance to actually speak with someone who knows what they are talking about.

And don't underestimate the value of education - self-taught is great but there are plenty of things where you simply won't even realize that they could be an issue or that there is a better way to do it unless you are shown by someone else - or you are so exceedingly brilliant that you are able to rediscover many of the research results of past century or so all by yourself (but then what are you doing there instead of being in the research somewhere?). This is what the university is great for, even though most students (me included!) don't realize it at the time. The education is mostly an enormous time saver - instead of having to rediscover and learn the basics of a (unfamiliar to you) problem on the job you can often go straight to solving it.

Get a degree if you can - it solves both the HR problem and the "filling your toolbox"/"getting armed for the fight" issue.

« Last Edit: October 21, 2017, 10:34:18 PM by janoc »
 

Online nctnico

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Re: Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?
« Reply #23 on: October 21, 2017, 10:53:35 PM »
It depends.

The problem is usually not whether the guy can or can't do the job but getting the foot in the door past the HR filter in the first place.
Well you could lie about it. I never had to show any paperwork to back up the education I claim to have on my resume.  >:D
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 
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Offline b_force

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Re: Would you hire a self taught embedded software developer?
« Reply #24 on: October 21, 2017, 11:18:19 PM »
It depends.

The problem is usually not whether the guy can or can't do the job but getting the foot in the door past the HR filter in the first place.
Well you could lie about it. I never had to show any paperwork to back up the education I claim to have on my resume.  >:D
Haha, lol, yes .

Or just be creative, say you studied software technology and electronics, if they ask about it, say that you've done many electronics minors.
I don't take any company serious at all if they still ask about your study if you have more than 5-10 years of experience.
Than they don't even really read and understand your resume.
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