Thursday, October 08, 2015

How NOT To Tell If Someone Is Cut Out For Computer Science

Recently “Code School, a Pluralsight company and online learn-to-code destination” released the results of a study of sorts they did to try and determine who were good candidates for a career in computing. The results are, in my opinion, about as useless as is possible. What they did was to survey people currently in the field to see what traits they have. This sounds somewhat useful except that we know that many people who can be good at computing are kept out of the field by the stereotypes this study concludes are indicators.

The problem as I see it is that if we limit ourselves to these so-called indicators we miss out on a lot of potential. We’re already getting the boys who jump into computing young. Just because someone doesn’t start early doesn’t mean they are not cut out for computer science. Many successful people get involved later. Often these later entries, in my opinion, arrive with a level of maturity that helps them be more effective.

This study also suggests to me that missing out on people is hurting us greatly. For example the study reports that “Women were less likely to procrastinate and more likely to turn in work on time with the best quality, while 41 percent of men admitted to waiting until the last minute to do school assignments.”

Speaking as a classroom teacher I’d rather see my students turn in their work with the best quality. I’m pretty sure most managers of development groups also prefer that to people waiting until the last minute to complete work. I’d rather encourage people who plan, who refrain from procrastination and who care about doing their best work than someone who always waits until the last minute to do things.

The results of this study are interesting to a degree but as a source for who to encourage into computing it’s not at all helpful.

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