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Re: Industry versus academia

> Date: Fri, 21 Feb 2003 19:57:59 -0500
> From: Sundar Narasimhan <sundar@ascent.com>
>    Also, I didn't say that wanting to make money is bad.  I want to make money
>    too.  But my experience is that people who like to write code for its own
>    sake are better programmers.  One of our questions we asked in interviews
>    was whether the candidate did any open source development work.
> Interesting.. my own perspective has changed over the years (on this
> dimension at least). Maybe it's the way I approach my work (it
> requires too much time investment and commitment) or something, but I
> am presently less forgiving of involvement in "other" activities --
> esp. if they have the potential to create IP issues and interfere with
> one's regular work for our business.  Have you found that involvement
> in open source development activities has "interfered" with such
> programmers getting work done in your startup, or did the positives
> outweight the negatives?

We actually only interviewed one person who was involved in OS activities,
and he was one we recruited specifically (he turned us down).  Most of the
people we talked with didn't even understand the concept of open source and
had never heard of it.  So I have no data to offer there.

>    Finally, while I don't think the average industry programmer is dumb, I
>    have not met many of them that have a serious interest in programming
>    languages.  Whether that means that they don't like to learn new things or
>    whether it means that they don't consider new programming languages to be
>    worth learning, I can't say.
> It could be neither. I have met (and work with) super hackers who
> would not like to venture out of their comfort zones in terms of
> programming languages and tools. Maybe they've found their ideal set
> of tools. 

This is a good point.  I have met some hackers who are very talented but
who can't imagine programming in anything but C.  It's just "real
programming" to them, and any language that doesn't offer fine-grained
bit-level control over the machine is simply bogus in their eyes.  If they
have to write three times as much code to get a job done as someone using a
different language would have had to write, well, that's a price they're
willing to pay.

Another point occurred to me: people in industry often have to learn a lot
of stuff, but it's stuff that's directly related to their jobs (particular
development environments, tools, etc.).  Generally, they are required to
learn these things as part of their jobs, since decisions about what
technologies to use are made by the project manager.  Perhaps they're
sufficiently busy learning these technologies that they have no time to
learn less obviously practical skills (like new programming languages).  To
an outside observer, this might appear to be a lack of interest in learning
(say) new languages, when it's really just a lack of time.