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  1. #1
    SitePoint Wizard aaron.martone's Avatar
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    Exclamation Is Brick 'n Mortar thinking anti-I.T.?

    In my father's generation and generations previous, technology wasn't at the forefront where it is today, and many (though not all) careers were based on time-tested systems of degrees provided by educational facilities.

    Associates, Bachelors, Masters.... you know the routine.

    But in today's job place, specifically an IT-oriented position, I've come to find that MANY organizations still cling to the old ways, assuming all job fields must have some AS, BS or MS with it.

    Most schools I find offer degrees in "Computer Science", a low-brow moniker used to usually reference people who are interested in the specific programming aspects of computers (Take a look at the course curriculum for that degree, and much of it is based on C++/C# programming)

    We're all familiar with the IT stigmata "Oh, you do computers? So you're a programmer, eh?", but we know that not all people "in computers" are programmers. IT is a diverse field; many of which imbue areas of creativity such as web design, graphic art, computer modeling, etc.

    To me, this "Brick 'n Mortar" way of thinking that all IT fields MUST have some AS/BS/MS degree associated with it (and therefore require that degree for employment) needs to, in my opinion, be laid to rest. To me, IT is one of those fields where a person's certification (from nationally recognized, IT-driven companies) and portfolio speak more for me than any degree could.

    Why would I care for a MS degree in Computer Science, knowing such caters to a programming career, when I want to hire a person for Server Maintenance and Network Administration?! There's no logic to it. Luckily, I have found a job where the employer followed the new-age methodology rather than the "tried and (un)true". The public doesn't understand that "computers" as they see it, are probably a good 20 different careers, each a $40-60k/year job unto itself. The mythical "jack of all trades" employee would have to be paid a cool 1.5-2 million a year if he/she knew every computer field as intricately as a professional in each field did.

    What are your thoughts on this? It's been something that's bugged me for a long time, but I'd like to get a wider view on the topic.

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    ☆★☆★ silver trophy vgarcia's Avatar
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    I have a Business degree. I've never had trouble getting a job doing web development.

    Most companies that want degrees want it less for the subject matter than for the knowledge that you can stick to something for a few years and reach a goal. Usually if you can prove that you'll get a job whether that proof comes from experience or college.

    Personally I'd be more worried about lists of certifications in job ads rather than a degree requirement. Usually the more certifications are listed the more likely it is that HR wrote the job description instead of the hiring manager.

  3. #3
    SitePoint Wizard aaron.martone's Avatar
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    I feel bad for anyone who's worked hard, spent all their time and money to get a degree if it was to merit someone's dedication and not their knowledge of the career.

    But you raise a good point -- that maybe it's the fact that the policy is that HR is not taking into account the supervisor of the job's department, than it is that they put emphasis on the employee needing that degree.

    Even though, I can't help but count the job ads that make Java and Javascript sound like they are one in the same -- I cannot fathom that being the fault of the IT director, rather than it being an HR individual who didn't know the difference.

    You'd think these companies would put an emphasis on KNOWING what they want, if they're going to pay a person X thousand a year.

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    ☆★☆★ silver trophy vgarcia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aaron.martone View Post
    I feel bad for anyone who's worked hard, spent all their time and money to get a degree if it was to merit someone's dedication and not their knowledge of the career.
    I don't feel bad for my wife's cousin who got a History degree at Princeton and is now working as a financial analyst making six figures. If HR cared about what he learned over his potential to learn and proven dedication towards a goal, he wouldn't be so well off. See, it works both ways

    Quote Originally Posted by aaron.martone
    Even though, I can't help but count the job ads that make Java and Javascript sound like they are one in the same -- I cannot fathom that being the fault of the IT director, rather than it being an HR individual who didn't know the difference.

    You'd think these companies would put an emphasis on KNOWING what they want, if they're going to pay a person X thousand a year.
    Those are the types of companies you shouldn't apply to in the first place was my thinking. In the cases I was alluding to, either HR runs the show despite what the hiring managers say/want, corporate culture is so strict that they stick to outdated job descriptions because it's part of their process, or the hiring manager dosen't care enough to fix the description. None of those three situations are worth working in for me.

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    SitePoint Wizard aaron.martone's Avatar
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    Financial Analyst is probably a career that's ALWAYS had its roots in having AS/BS/MS degrees. Unlike many fields in IT, a fiscal analyst has a multitude of classes and courses that are beneficial and pertinent to that employee's furthering of such a career that fall under a degree.

    I'm not really even miffed about whether the job is paying you what you're worth, moreso did they require you to have some education that was not related to (or in some cases, needed) for the job posted.

    I really hope today's HR consultants and representatives are learning to garner in the concerns of said departments supervisors -- to me, doing anything less is a failure on HR's part.

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    SitePoint Addict philipwhite's Avatar
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    College is what you make of it. Once your in the corporate world you usually have less time to pursue your own creativity.

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    hummm... Google founders were both study PHD at Stanford and come up with an algorithm for better searching. Both Yahoo founders David and Yang have MS degree from Stanford.

    there are a lot of Brick 'n Mortar(traditional education) that created billion dollar businese. if College is not for you then just don't go but saying it's anti IT that just b.s. btw, CS is spawned from Math. Many computer theory are based on Math so where else would you get a better education on that subject(math) than traditional education.

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    Most schools I find offer degrees in "Computer Science", a low-brow moniker used to usually reference people who are interested in the specific programming aspects of computers (Take a look at the course curriculum for that degree, and much of it is based on C++/C# programming)
    A computer science degree isn't a degree in "programming", you only use programming as a means to an end. CS programs are suppose to teach you about the theoretical basis of computing and you usually have the ability to focus on particular domain (networking, databases, AI etc). But in each case they are teaching you the theoretical aspects of the field and not how to be a IT drone or even a code monkey.
    Why would I care for a MS degree in Computer Science, knowing such caters to a programming career, when I want to hire a person for Server Maintenance and Network Administration?!
    If you have a big company with complex networks you are going your top network admins to have MS degree (with a focus on networking). That is, you want people that truly understand networking.

    Anyhow as the person above me said CS is a sort of subset of mathematics. Sorta of like physics relationship to mathematics.

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    SitePoint Author silver trophybronze trophy
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    Personally I'd be more worried about lists of certifications in job ads rather than a degree requirement. Usually the more certifications are listed the more likely it is that HR wrote the job description instead of the hiring manager.
    Quoted for truth.

    I prefer to hire people with liberal arts degrees from top 50 schools and some technical experience and ability. Why liberal arts degrees? Because someone spent 4 years teaching them how to learn, think and communicate effectively. Skills which we cannot teach. But we can teach you how to handle IT tasks in a matter of months. Especially if you can read and understand stuff. Kids coming out of ITT tech just don't have the growth potential, in general.

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    Why liberal arts degrees?
    Because you have a liberal arts degree. People tend to over-generalize from their own experiences far too mcuh.
    Because someone spent 4 years teaching them how to learn, think and communicate effectively. Skills which we cannot teach.
    Good CS programs (math too) do the same thing. A person with a CS degree from a good school is going to be a better hire than someone with a liberal arts degree as they have been taught to think about the appropriate domain. You aren't going to be able to teach someone with a liberal arts degree what the CS guy learned in 4 years in a matter of months. Altough there may be some positive aspects to liberal arts degrees, I would image one should avoid hiring a person with such a degree as they tend to be ill-suited to technical matters (usually have math-phobia etc). I would imagine (no data here) that statistically you'll have much better luck with CS grads.

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    SitePoint Wizard Lil_Red's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snaily View Post
    Altough there may be some positive aspects to liberal arts degrees, I would image one should avoid hiring a person with such a degree as they tend to be ill-suited to technical matters (usually have math-phobia etc). I would imagine (no data here) that statistically you'll have much better luck with CS grads.
    I hate to tell you this but I'm one of those people with a liberal arts degree and I have no tech problems. I was already in tech when I got my degree and wanted to do something that gave me a broader range of knowledge. I also know quite a few people in the tech sector who graduated with liberal arts degrees and do quite well for themselves.

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    Quote Originally Posted by vgarcia View Post
    I have a Business degree. I've never had trouble getting a job doing web development.
    Statements like these make me feel bad about the aspiring web developers who had their hearts set in IT-related degrees in the first place, and have a tougher time attaining the job. Nobody wants to feel gypped out of a college when the jobs they apply for don't really care about the subject matter of their degree. I just hope these "Brick 'n' Mortar approach to success" stories are the exception, and not the rule.

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    I hate to tell you this but I'm one of those people with a liberal arts degree and I have no tech problems.
    I never stated that "All people with liberal arts degrees are tech idiots", rather statistically graduates from CS programs are going to be better than those from liberal arts programs in tech matters.
    I also know quite a few people in the tech sector who graduated with liberal arts degrees and do quite well for themselves.
    Ok, this doesn't contradict what I said though. It was a statistical claim, but hiring practices are based on statistics.

    Also, what it takes to do well in a low-level IT jobs is dramatically different than more complex jobs. Liberal arts degrees simply don't prepare you to work with complex networking etc where novel solutions are required.

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    SitePoint Author silver trophybronze trophy
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snaily View Post
    Because you have a liberal arts degree. People tend to over-generalize from their own experiences far too mcuh.
    And I am guessing you have/are working on a math or CS degree.

    Good CS programs (math too) do the same thing. A person with a CS degree from a good school is going to be a better hire than someone with a liberal arts degree as they have been taught to think about the appropriate domain. You aren't going to be able to teach someone with a liberal arts degree what the CS guy learned in 4 years in a matter of months. Altough there may be some positive aspects to liberal arts degrees, I would image one should avoid hiring a person with such a degree as they tend to be ill-suited to technical matters (usually have math-phobia etc). I would imagine (no data here) that statistically you'll have much better luck with CS grads.
    First, how many people actually need CS-style skills? As a friend of mine put it--"They tought me how to write a compiler and an operating system. Not write anything you actually get paid for. Like accounting software."

    Second, Math and higher-end CS (Computer Science) are much more liberal arts-like than, say, a MIS degree from the local community college. Especially from strong universities.

    Finally, how do we define "luck" here. Our experience (not scientific) is that, given six months to bring someone up to speed, a person with a strong liberal arts degree will be more than equal to someone with a technically oriented degree. And in a year or 18 months, the liberal arts person is just as technically adept while being much more effective at the "softer" parts of the job.

    Also, what it takes to do well in a low-level IT jobs is dramatically different than more complex jobs. Liberal arts degrees simply don't prepare you to work with complex networking etc where novel solutions are required.
    Possibly, though really the only thing that prepares you for something like that is say, a CCNA program. Anyhow, many technically focused degrees never bother preparing the student for stuff like communications, which generally far and away blow out any technical task someone is given, especially straight out of school.

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    ☆★☆★ silver trophy vgarcia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ccRicers View Post
    Statements like these make me feel bad about the aspiring web developers who had their hearts set in IT-related degrees in the first place, and have a tougher time attaining the job. Nobody wants to feel gypped out of a college when the jobs they apply for don't really care about the subject matter of their degree. I just hope these "Brick 'n' Mortar approach to success" stories are the exception, and not the rule.
    I like that you generalized my post without knowing anything about my educational background. My "business" degree is in Management Information Systems, about as IT as you can get. It taught literally nothing about web development though; the most useful classes I took were marketing and finance, not VB6 programming and Access databse design. The tech-related coursework was not all that useful in the real world, so I went and found something techy yet interesting on my own: web development.

    And I don't understand your point about the company you work for not caring about what you know. If they didn't care about what you know (or more importantly, what you can know) they wouldn't have offered you a job.

    You're also forgetting that people can change their direction in life after a degree, and sometimes going back to school for 4+ years just for a slight boost in knowledge may not be worth it. A lot of times it's easier or more efficient to gradually move into a new role as you're working to learn as you go.

    As for "aspiring web developers getting IT degrees": if you just want to learn web development there's little reason to even go to something more than a community college. MIS Bachelor's degrees and the like get more useful when you're higher up on the totem pole than "Junior Web Developer". University is a great place to go if you're looking for a career path; it's a massive waste of time if all you want is a job.

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    SitePoint Author silver trophybronze trophy
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    To echo Vinnie here, the most "useful" classes I took in college were Creative Writing Workshops (nothing teaches you to write like a harsh yet collaborative setting) and Advanced Classical History Seminars (we wrote papers and debated points while sitting around a table, kind of like a meeting).

    The techy bits I learned as I went.

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    SitePoint Addict buildakicker's Avatar
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    I have two degrees from a liberal arts college, a BS in Computer Science and a BS in Ecology. I have been recently hired for a great job that, from the horses mouth, I was their first choice out of 30 apps since I had the two degrees. They felt it was dedicated and diversified enough to really be a benefit to their organization. I'm thankful for spending my time in college. I think it makes getting the job easier, and going to classes for anything from a MSCE to a CCNP will just make me even more marketable.

    I hear the whole hire with degree verses experience, and I don't understand why you wouldn't hire the best person for the job reguardless of education, but in my case education helped a lot. I'd encourage it.
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    And I am guessing you have/are working on a math or CS degree.
    Sure, but I have an undergrade degree in Philosophy too. I have been around both academic environments.
    First, how many people actually need CS-style skills? As a friend of mine put it--"They tought me how to write a compiler and an operating system. Not write anything you actually get paid for. Like accounting software."
    The idea that you can't "actually get paid" for doing work in theoretical computer science is a bit silly.
    I find that people really under-estimate the number of jobs in theoretical computer science. Even on the web, the major players hire hundreds/thousands of people each to work on AI, causal search etc. Also, computer science programs don't pretend to be software engineering programs. The idea is that once you understand computing then learning how to write "accounting software" is easy. Additionally, the courses aren't taught to "teach you how to write compilers etc", they are taught to give you a basic understanding of the theoretical issues behind such topics. Also most programs only make you take one "systems" course, so if you aren't interested in working on compilers and OS level stuff (there are tons of jobs in this!) then those aren't the courses for you.
    Our experience (not scientific) is that, given six months to bring someone up to speed, a person with a strong liberal arts degree will be more than equal to someone with a technically oriented degree.
    I wouldn't believe this for a minute, unless you are leaving out something very important - the person's experience. I suppose the claim you are really making is that "Liberal arts folks that have experience in the field fair better than people with technical degrees without experience". This may be true, I really don't have enough first hand experience to judge. Hiring like this may make sense for a small company that has time to look at the details of every application, but when one doesn't have time to do these sorts of things for all applications then preferring CS degrees over liberal arts degrees makes prefect sense (big companies like microsoft, google etc certainly have this preferrence)

  19. #19
    ☆★☆★ silver trophy vgarcia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snaily View Post
    I wouldn't believe this for a minute, unless you are leaving out something very important - the person's experience. I suppose the claim you are really making is that "Liberal arts folks that have experience in the field fair better than people with technical degrees without experience". This may be true, I really don't have enough first hand experience to judge. Hiring like this may make sense for a small company that has time to look at the details of every application, but when one doesn't have time to do these sorts of things for all applications then preferring CS degrees over liberal arts degrees makes prefect sense (big companies like microsoft, google etc certainly have this preferrence)
    And how many CS graduates actually make it to a company like Google or Microsoft? If that's your goal and what you really want to get into then yeah, a CS degree (probably a doctorate) is what you should go for. But for the vast majority of programmers out there churning out business apps/sites in Java or VB or Ruby or whatever, strong CS theory isn't absolutely vital to the job whereas knowledge of the business/industry is a much more valuable asset.

    Remember that CS has as much to do with computers as astronomy does with telescopes. That works both ways: the CS student will (or should at least) learn a lot more about logic and algorithms than coding, but someone who just wants to write a Windows app that talks to a database and works within the rules of their business doesn't necessarily need the mental overhead of a 4+ year CS education to get their work done.

  20. #20
    Webwellwisher Robert Warren's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aaron.martone View Post
    In my father's generation and generations previous, technology wasn't at the forefront where it is today, and many (though not all) careers were based on time-tested systems of degrees provided by educational facilities.

    Associates, Bachelors, Masters.... you know the routine.

    But in today's job place, specifically an IT-oriented position, I've come to find that MANY organizations still cling to the old ways, assuming all job fields must have some AS, BS or MS with it.
    I'm going to skip over the whole "value of college" thing here for a minute and say that your whole basic underlying thesis here is severely flawed.

    Technology has always been at the forefront. Steve Jobs didn't invent that. Before IT was the child darling, it was electrical engineering; in the years following World War II, until the late seventies, we couldn't crank out engineers fast enough. Most of the major American computer companies today were founded by those guys. If you want to go back even farther, you have the industrial revolution cranking up in the late 19th century - then, it was mass production, transportation and energy technology.

    For at least the last four generations, business in the Western world has been highly technology-focused. You could even make the argument that this has been the case since the Renaissance, about four hundred years ago. The toys just keep changing with the needs of society.

    What you're calling "technology" here is this bizarre, virtualized circus that broke loose in the mid-1990's when the Internet took off. Being a revolution rather than an evolution, computer and networking technology went through a period where it grew and changed faster than people could keep up with institutional training: by the time you'd get out of school, the tech you learned would be years out of date. That situation has happened before, and it'll happen again. Eventually - as it's doing now - things always calm down and reach an equilibrium with the needs of society, and the institutions are able to catch up as technology settles into tradition. That started happening with the dot com implosion.

    Now we're entering a period where the stuff colleges teach might still be useful ten years from now, so the degrees start making sense again. It'll continue developing in that direction until the next explosion shifts the tide again. The cycle will go back and forth at intervals as long as human beings continue to build cool toys and society benefits from them.

    Like I said, I'm not getting into the whole "value of a college degree" thing here. Doesn't matter to me, one way or another. Just don't pretend that somehow your generation lives in a startlingly new and brighter world than past ones. It doesn't - like the past ones, it only thinks it does.

  21. #21
    Level 8 Chinese guy Archbob's Avatar
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    I also have a business degree in logistics management and I've been doing freelancing all throughout college and now have a development job with a private firm.

    The degree doesn't really matter.
    Although for a tech job, I'd rather hire someone with a CS/engineering degree than a liberal arts degree.

    Most Liberal arts people I've known aren't that great at math(not including math and physics majors of course) and generally take longer to train and don't have the technical expertise as engineering majors. It depends on the person and the interest though.
    For instance, I can teach someone server troubleshooting but some issues are really *****y to figure out, and usually a Engineer or tech major persoon will be better at figuring out these *****y issues because since they are in the field, they've had to deal with it alot more.


    For a large company I still think college degree are somewhat necessary. A good college degree with a good GPA shows that you were able to stick through someone and have a certain degree of maturity. Can 15 year old codemonkeys code that PHP or C# app I want? Sure. But I usually rather work with someone with a degree.

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    SitePoint Wizard aaron.martone's Avatar
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    Robert Warren-
    You seem to have gone off on a completely unrelated tangent. Be careful of calling someone's thesis or view flawed, especially when it's based off perception and experience.

    Technology has emerged into a career field that (for many, but not all fields) does not require (nor do places even offer) degrees in those fields. The only class I made mention to was programming, however I'm sure you'll find that there are others, and many educational facilities are trying to cater to an ever wider spectrum.

    The point isn't that "technology" has evolved from being what it was 30 years ago to what it is today. It's that many companys still believe that all careers orbit around a select few degrees that have next to nothing to do with the job at hand. Let's just take web development for example. A web developer and graphic artist worth $60k/year (mediocre) is turned down because he doesn't have a BS in Computer Science, whose curriculum centers around C++ programming.

    I've personally seen this in many fortune 500 company applications, and it's gotten me to question the validity of such policies. If someone said "Your technology fields in question are relatively new, that schools havn't gotten around to developing legitimate degrees for them", then that would suffice. Til then, the only viable way I see that these professionals can showcase their abilities is by word of mouth, certifications from accredited career-related companies (like Adobe), or portfolio.

  23. #23
    SitePoint Wizard aaron.martone's Avatar
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    Vinnie,

    I can see what you're saying, but, for example, let's take a MSDBA. Let's say this guy knows Databases so well, he could do them in his sleep. A company that hires this guy would be ripping him off if he only got $80k/year. He's just that good.

    As it stands, I know of NO PLACE (please tell me if you know otherwise) where you can get a Degree in Database Programming and Design. If this guy was told by a hiring agency "We'll hire you, but you need a BS in CS", to me, it's just such a HORRIBLE line of thinking, to require a guy who may have NO INTEREST WHATSOEVER in coding (especially for 4 years!) just so he can get the job.

    I'm not saying that's how it SHOULD be, but I'm just not happy with what it is as it stands today. I guess a lot of it is resentment for companies that look like they offer a great opportunity, but then I end up unqualified merely because they want a degree I don't have that contains a myriad of classes unrelated to the job. :\

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    Level 8 Chinese guy Archbob's Avatar
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    You can't get a degree in database programming but you can get a degree in CS with a specialization in Databases.

  25. #25
    SitePoint Wizard aaron.martone's Avatar
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    Whereso Archbob?

    I'm not doubting you can't, I just have never seen it. Everytime I looked into a Computer Science Degree, it was all geared around programming apps for the PC via C# or Java.

    I consider myself lucky that the supervisor at the time of my employment with my current job was forward thinking enough to give a live test of ability as consideration of the position (He also looked at my portfolio and certifications) Very refreshing to see someone not fit the "old mold", if you know what I mean.


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