As a self-taught programmer and educated financial mathematician (currently working in a hedge fund), I am increasingly annoyed by our IT manager hiring software developers to work on our tech.

Having taught myself C++, I can do anything they do, but since I also know the underlying math, I write better code, and since I also know the finance, I communicate better with the traders, the management, all the other staff, etc.

And I am sure that there are many people out there like me. How do I convince my manager to hire more people like me as opposed to hiring ... well, to be frank, a bunch of code monkeys whose primary skill in life is to memorize syntax.

Do not get me wrong: sometimes, you'll get a developer who is clearly comfortable in their craft: we had a guy who wrote code (good code) twice as fast as anybody else. That's great, and people like him are worth hiring.

But in my experience, such developers are too hard to find and not worth looking for. 99 % of the time, you'll just end up recruiting somebody who impresses at job interviews because he spends his life reading "999 job interview questions that YOU might get ASKED"-type books, but when actually put to the test on a day-to-day basis, can only produce low-quality code (and even that after googling and stackoverflowing all the time).

closed as off-topic by Jim G., gnat, Moo, IDrinkandIKnowThings, user1666620 Dec 26 '18 at 17:20

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    Having made a living from being a code monkey for decades I've seen my part of code written by self taught "programmers". Most had to undergo quite severe surgery to be one or more of robust/scalable/reusable/threadsafe/maintainable. I challenge you to put your code up for peer review. You might learn a thing or two. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Dec 26 '18 at 4:41
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    Your question presumes that such code monkeys are not worth teaching and training. Many companies are willing to invest that time and hire someone who has less experience, yes, but is also more malleable and has room to grow in their career, and become a more specialized asset to the company. No one begins their career as an expert, and teachability is in practice what separates the bad from the ugly. – Tim Dec 26 '18 at 5:23
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    If you think developers who can write good code is not worth looking for, then you're clearly better off not trying to convince your IT manager of anything with regards to hiring. Yes, they're hard to find, but that's what the manager is there for... – Noir Antares Dec 26 '18 at 5:31
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    Why should your company hire educated financial mathematicians, when they could hire self-taught financial mathematicians and apparently get rid of you, if being self taught and cheaper is better than properly trained and experienced? Its people with your way of thinking that led corporations to try out the whole "every employee can be their own software developer with Visual Basic for Office, they already know the problem space and software development is sooooo easy..." and the complete, utter horrific mess that came with that. – Moo Dec 26 '18 at 6:46
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    Pretty sure I saw this exact question asked several months ago. – user1666620 Dec 26 '18 at 10:30

This is precisely why companies hire developers with experience, preferably relevant to their needs.

I have intimate knowledge of a couple of industries and can and do code a bit. But a professional dev with that same knowledge would leave me in the dust.

So the problem is not developers as such, but ones with experience that fits the companies needs.

As far as finding people like you, they don't grow on trees and their knowledge and experience in terms of development isn't a lot of use elsewhere as it's company/industry/language specific. Not as useful as an experienced dev who can quickly grasp requirements and learn the industry on the job.


Easy. Become the manager. But if you’re not, you can't.

Since you are self taught in C++, I'm sure there are a lot of programming concepts and techniques the "code monkeys" could teach you. And since all of the new developers won’t know the underlying math, you could teach them.

Not everyone is perfect. Not developers and not mathematicians. You should try to humble yourself. Everyone can teach but also be taught.


As an educated financial mathematician, I'm sure you've appreciated that those who are educated as Computer Scientists are actually educated discrete mathematicians. No? Well, maybe you're shopping for your developers wrong.

I will agree that nearly anyone can learn how to write in a programming language; but, there is a difference between scrawling out a solution and building a solution that is extensible, maintainable, and elegant. Granted, most of the people straight out of college can't do that, but neither can most of the self-taught.

After about five years, you do see a trend emerge, both groups of programmers finally develop enough skill that the lack of education starts to show. Yes, there are exceptions, but those exceptions come from those who manage to self-educate all the topics of a college education, which is much more that most achieve when self-teaching a programming language.

In five years, a person can write a lot of hard-to-maintain code. Beware what we do not know, as often it is our downfall more so than what we know.


How do you identify people like yourself during the hiring process? People who are competent programmers, understand the underlying processes that go into the everyday work, understand the business side of the work, and communicate well with clients, team-members, management?

If you explain to your manager how to find those people you better ask for a Huge raise. The entire, extraordinarily complicated hiring process is designed to give hiring managers a better chance of weeding out the drones and finding those rare gems. Even with elaborate processes it is hard and some people are better at it than others.


Your point seems to be:

"Most programmers are pretty mediocre."

Ok, that is like pointing out the sun will rise tomorrow or that politicians lie.

So far, nothing to address.

We're living through the greatest shortage of (actual, skilled) programmers that has ever happened, so this is not an exciting insight.

You then seem to be asking "How can I explain to management that most programmers are very mediocre so it is really not worth hiring any?"

You would do so with the following language:

"Jane, it seems that most programmers are very mediocre, so is it really worth hiring any?"

Or something like,

"Jane, we seem to be living through the greatest shortage of (actual, skilled) programmers that has ever happened. So is it really worth hiring any?"

A danger to be aware of, it's a cliché that when "mathematicians" write code, the result is "cowboy code", a fiasco. In the company under discussion, the "codebase" is very likely a joke; it's probably some scripting that works on the face of it but will fall apart. Unfortunately you're probably a mile from "corporate code". You know?

Unfortunately, to make an analogy, if you're good at being a "home handyperson" who can change doorknobs, wire the occasional light .... that is not the same as being a civil engineer who can build suspension bridges.

(But again, as you say - and this is today's most obvious business reality - it's basically "impossible" to hire actual, skilled programmers at the moment. So you really have no alternative.)

By the way, it's probably the case that the simple solution to your problem is basically that you have to pay more money. The amount of money "skilled, actual" programmers make at the moment is - unbelievable.

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