Right? Wrong. Anyone who follows music knows that, especially in non-classical genres. Sure, going to Julliard will make you a better musician, which in turn will make you a better rock star, but not everyone does and not everyone needs to. After all, Hendrix never got out of high school.
What does this have to do with programming?
There seems to be this elitist assumption that the best of the best developers all happen to have a ton of money lying around. Joel says it here and this company decided to publicize the idea.
If you’ve read more of Joel on Software (I happen to love that archive, and you should consider buying his book) you’ll probably have read his criterion for a good candidate. One of things he likes is some kind of selective membership, like an Ivy League school. Google prefers candidates that went to Ivy Leagues as well This seems to be a fairly well-known fact everwhere, if you went to Harvard or Yale or Stanford, you’re a more attractive candidate. That makes sense, they’re more selective, their students are more likely to be better developers.
42floors up there loved Dan Shipper so much for his entrepreneurial success that they decided to write a blog post courting him. They said that’s the way all developers should be found, because the real rock star developers are always out there creating their own products and working hard to achieve their goals.
Furthermore, a common theme among these discussions is also that rock star developers don’t go looking for jobs. I don’t know why this is, but apparently rock star developers are too focused on being rock stars to care about looking for internships or applying to things. They’ll just be discovered or recommended by a professor.
All of this seems to completely ignore the fact that all of the above take copious amounts of money.
An Ivy League education is almost certainly a 6 figure sum of some kind, depending on where you go. They have need based scholarships, but if you’re in the middle class those aren’t really applicable to you, and your parents can’t afford to send you to that expensive a school. There’s no way in hell you’re going to work your way through an Ivy League education.
You could take out loans, but then again student loan debt is over one trillion dollars, and can’t be absolved by bankruptcy, so have fun paying back that 6 figure loan over the next twenty years. That seems like a poor decision to me.
Surely being an entrepreneur certainly doesn’t cost any money though? Certainly not the 6 figure sum of an Ivy League. Maybe only a few thousand to get yourself up and running, right?
Great, and then consider that most startups fail. We never hear about those because they don’t make the news and the cool headlines, but most startups fail. That’s an investment of time and money that you can make if you happen to just have it lying around and just want to try for fun. If you’re worried about how you’re paying for next semester’s tuition you simply can’t take that risk.
Same basic principle applies to finding a job. If you have money lying around it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a job your first year or two at college. Just focus on being a rock star until someone finds you and scoops you up. If you need the money you’re out there looking for a job, regardless of talent.
As you can probably guess, I don’t go to an Ivy League school, and I can’t afford to not have a job. Even with my scholarships and my parents supporting me, I could never afford to go to an Ivy League school, despite being academically qualified for one. I don’t have the luxury of starting my own business. I’d love to, don’t get me wrong, this website is dotted with ideas of cool things I’d love to sell to people. I think of new ones every day driving to work. As you can see by the broken links, at the time of writing all of those projects have been put on hold. I’m going to complete them, but right now the paycheck I get every two weeks is more important than pursuing my own lofty goals.
I think I can compete with the best of them, and I want to prove it. I think that technology companies need to expand their searches beyond just the best of the best schools. Specifically, I think you need to come to the University of Georgia, and talk to me. Keep in mind that not all rockstars went to Juilliard.