After an ambitious programmer has landed his first job, Sam advises, he should set out to learn new languages at work, and put in evenings and weekends trying to become better. That was the way he broke in.
The first two years are the crucial years, he says. If you can land that first job and hold on for between one and two years , youve got it made assuming that you have the basic communication and personality skills. Once youve acquired two years of practical experience you should be able to switch companies and get a higher salary.
Sams advice: These days, a programmer coming out of school has got to know either Java or Visual Basic. Then he can gravitate to whatever specific programming language his employers IT department uses. Programmers will have more value if they are really good at one programming language than if they have a smattering of knowledge of several languages.
You may not have to go to school at all. These days there are so many alternatives to sitting in a classroom to learn programming. You can pick up books like Teach Yourself Java or Teach Yourself C++ in the Sams series; it takes you step by step through the learning process on your computer.
Sam doesnt believe that off-shore programmers are intrinsically better than American programmers: The off-shore and American programmers hes hired and worked with have the same range of ability and devotion to the work ethic , he says. But when Sam was a recruiter, legacy-language programmers were so desperately needed that his company also looked for programmers in other countries . And, he acknowledges, Foreign programmers are less expensive, even when you count in the cost of sponsorship, because theyll take lower salaries.
Id get a list from our recruiting department of about fifteen people they wanted me to do technical interviews for, he notes. Two might be in Ireland, four in Malaysia, three in Australia. Every now and then we contacted the people directly in those countries, on the basis of their rsum, a technical phone interview, and also trying to get a handle on how well theyd fit within the company.
In those cases where the hiring was strictly by phone, I focused on the technical skills. In those phone interviews I was much more selective at the technical level. If I was sitting with someone across the table and I felt his technical skills were somewhat iffy but he had other qualities, I may have taken a chance on him. But when I did a phone interview and all the technical skills werent there, I probably wouldnt have taken a chance.
For a remote interview Id prepare a list of questions, and I picked different ones to ask, depending on the interview. Also, if the candidate was unsure about the first question Id ask in a specific area, I might ask more questions in that area. If not, I might skip to a different place.