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What is the secret to find a software development job without a degree?

Olivier Langlois, IT superstar coach, Dominate LinkedIn Formula author
by Olivier Langlois

I have started to work as a software developer at the beginning of the 90s. At this time, Software development was still a young discipline. Only a few developers had Computer Science diplomas. In fact, many software development programs were just starting to be offered by educational institutions. For example, at my engineering university, there was no software engineering program. The closest you could get was electrical engineering with few software programming courses. On the job market, an interesting consequence is that many developers have many different backgrounds except Computer Science. The most surprising has been to have a colleague that was geologist by profession and another was a psychologist before becoming a developer.

What did we have in common?

We all learned by ourselves the basics of our first profession as a hobby and practicing our skills to the point where we were able to make it a profession.

So at that time, it was not necessary to have a computer science degree to get a job in IT and I think this is even more true today. I had the chance to work with people who did not even have a high school diploma but occupied very important strategic highly paid technical positions (for example, System Architect and even CTO) and commands respect because of their great technical skills. I might have one of them in interview for my YT channel eventually.

Another well known example, is Con Kolivas who became famous with his BFS process scheduler (BFS stands for Brain Fuck Scheduler! This is one of the most hilarious software acronyms that I know...) and his bitcoin mining client cgminer. He is an anesthetist. He must be having crazy work weeks at the hospital and he just happen to practice software development as a hobby. Personally, I find that totally phenomenal and exceptional. When someone gets a Wiki page, that means that the person has reach a notoriety in a domain with his accomplishments. He did that with his hobby! The point is that without a Software related degree, there is no doubt in my mind that if Con wanted to become a IT professional, he would have no difficulty finding an employer interested in his services.

Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google, made the following comments in an interview published by the New York Times in June 2013:

“One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s (grade point averages) are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless. Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and G.P.A.’s and test scores, but we don’t anymore.... We found that they don’t predict anything.

What’s interesting is the proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time as well. So we have teams where you have 14 percent of the team made up of people who’ve never gone to college.”

Here is the secret to work in IT without a degree:

red girl handing out an IT diploma out of a computer

Acquire skills and expertise in some fields, demonstrate your expertise by showcasing and marketing it on the Internet with social networks such as github and LinkedIn and recruiters and companies will contact you despite not having diplomas.

This is something quite unbelievable. The computer is an incredibly powerful, complex and accessible to every wallet. It offers possibilities of application where only imagination is the limit and a huge quantity of information on how to use it is available completely free on the Internet. If this is a domain that passionate you, it is absolutely possible to do your own education and to develop your expertise yourself.

One of my mentor says:

You want to make money? Offer solutions. People with problems that your solutions fix will give you money for your solutions.

So, it is definitely possible to get a high paying job in software development or in IT but remember, there is no magic pill. If this is the chosen path, here are some challenges that might be encountered:

1. Build your professional reputation with your accomplishments.

Achieving this without a degree, is quite difficult. Especially before the first professional experience. There is nothing easy in life but with perseverance and a lot of energy, everything is possible. Furthermore, the secret is applicable by students too. There are a lot of students having a hard time finding a job once graduated. When you are a student, you have a lot of time. Share it judiciously between study and practice your craft in software personal projects.

Concrete and tangible experience with average notes is more sexy than no concrete experience and perfect notes.

2. Some doors will stay closed.

Some companies or departments have a policy of only hiring people with degree. In my opinion, they are a minority and exceptional. It is so hard to find competent staff in IT, disqualifying one is simply silly. Simply just ignore these companies and focus on all the others susceptible to appreciate your contribution to their success.

3. There is a risk of discrimination.

At the start of my career, I have been victim of such discrimination. It usually manifest itself by organizations that will offer a smaller remuneration justified by a wage scale based on scholarity instead of being based on performance and productivity. The simple way to defend yourself against this discrimination is to be in demand for your services and LinkedIn is something that can help you to create this demand.

The more you receive offers, the more likely you are to be paid to the height of your talent since it is the best position to negotiate your salary. One way to become in demand is to use LinkedIn like a pro and be successful with LinkedIn. If you are interested in learning about that topic, I am offering advices to improve your LinkedIn profile that will teach you how to write a LinkedIn profile the right way.

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