Mailvox: alternative credentials

ML’s experiences in computer programming have been similar to mine.

 Your posts regarding the college gender gap have been
fascinating.  I graduated in 2001 with a degree in computer science.  At
the time, our program had about ten women.  As it happens, two of them
happened to end up in a few of my upper division classes.  They were
both mediocre programmers at best.  From what I gathered they graduated
by hanging out in the lab and “collaborating” with the beta, gamma, and
omega males working on their own projects.

I went on to work at IBM for twelve years as a
software engineer.  By that time IBM had long been infected with the
diversity cancer and women in technology were vital to IBM’s success in
the global economy.  There were hundreds of women in my division and
while most of them were on the technical career track they worked mostly
as project managers or testers.  The women that started out in actual
software development positions did not last long.  They were frequently
promoted to management or moved to project management or test positions.

There were two notable exceptions.  In the mid to
late 80’s IBM experienced a shortage of software developers.  The
universities, typically lagging, had not yet created the programs to
educate programmers in sufficient numbers.  IBM decided it would offer
it’s semi-skilled workforce the opportunity to attend an in house
programming school.  Those that graduated were guaranteed promotions
from manufacturing and secretarial jobs to professional careers.  Since
IBM had a very large pool of candidates, it didn’t care about the
graduation rate.  The goal was to create functional programmers.  In
talking to the old timers I gather the program was very challenging.
 The only two competent female coders I came into contact with during my
time at IBM graduated from that program.  Both of these women were
exceptionally good, better than 90% of their male peers.  Even though
the program allowed women, graduating them was not mandatory.  In fact
women were not expected to graduate so those that did actually achieved
something meaningful.

You discuss alternative credentialing systems much
like IBMs old boot camp coming into existence.  How do you foresee these
systems withstanding the “need for diversity”.  Certainly no such
system would be successful at today’s diverse multicultural IBM.

There was one good female programmer at the small tech company of about 100 people where I worked for two years before starting my first game company. She was quite attractive too. But the other one spent years, literally years, finding creative ways to avoid doing anything at all. It was rather impressive in retrospect; I’m not even sure she knew how to program.

Diversity is a luxury item. The new credential systems spring up because there is a need for them, the old ones having been ruined by diversity, equality, and so forth. Whenever and wherever there is more need for actual performance than the pretense of it, people will find away to utilize them.