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Proving I have mad perl skillzzzlz

by BUU (Prior)
on Dec 22, 2003 at 07:59 UTC ( [id://316331]=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

First off let me give you some background on me. I'm currently 17, turning 18 in a month or so. I just graduated from high school and am currently looking for a university. I have very little in the way of computer related work experience, which is pretty much the point of this meditation. Anyways. To the point.

Recently I browsed through the various jobs listed at jobs.perl.com and as I read through them, I constantly thought to my self "Gee, I could do this". Most of the jobs called for perl + some sort of database / linux experience and a large percentage of those were internet application type jobs. I personally would consider my perl ability to be "fluent", as in, I know the majority of the language, understand the concepts and idioms, but I wouldn't consider my self qualified to write patches for it. I also have a moderate amount of experience with linux systems in general and using a database, specifically mysql. So in other words, I'm pretty sure I have the skill sets required for these jobs.

The real question of course, is how do I prove it to my potential employers? My first thought was some sort of open source project that would demonstrate my ability, but I was unsure if this was actually effective, and if so, what project?

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Proving I have mad perl skillzzzlz
by vagnerr (Prior) on Dec 22, 2003 at 09:55 UTC
    You will always have trouble proving yourself to a potential employer due to your lack of "commercial experience." My advice would be to think of a personal project or two and write some code. Not only will it give you something to demonstraite your abilities but it also allows you to practice your skills and even build on your confidence (if that is needed). If you can, make your project available online. Working demonstrations would be the best of course you would need somewhere that you can host CGI if you are writing a web based application. Otherwise somewhere like Sourceforge is quite usefull. The interviewer might not be technical but if he/she has any sense they will ask one of their technical staff to look over your code and give their opinion. If you can collaborate on a project on sourceforge with some friends it would also demonstraite your ability to "work well with others."


    _______________________________________________________
    Remember that amateurs built Noah's Ark. Professionals built the Titanic.
      This is exactly what I ended up doing. One of my friend's mom runs a web design company and she saw the application I had written. Impressed by it, she now uses me when her company needs Perl work done. Everyone is happy. : )
Re: Proving I have mad perl skillzzzlz
by woolfy (Chaplain) on Dec 22, 2003 at 10:04 UTC
    Congrats on your graduation, and my compliments for building the skills you have, in those few years of your youth. Commendable!

    As a former PR Manager and General Manager of a 45-people company I have hired some 60+ people in 7 years. I am a programmer too, albeit not a very good one, but I had to learn to recognize quality. Sometimes I misread presentation skills for quality, but most of the time I made the right choice.

    Some of the programmers and system administrators I hired were easy to recognize as skilled, seeing their list of jobs and projects. But I hired school kids too. How did they convince me of their quality? By demonstrating their skills , showing me the programs they made, the websites they built/maintained. Three times (two school kids and one Cobol-programmer who was switching to Perl) I gave them some homework and asked them to contact me when they were finished with it. Those 3 became highly valued, very loyal and productive employees.

    So yes, please prove your skills.

Re: Proving I have mad perl skillzzzlz
by Anonymous Monk on Dec 22, 2003 at 09:25 UTC
    The truth is, that most web programming could be accomplished by a high school kid with the interest, some practice, and the discipline to see the job through to completion. You probably aren't ready to be the project leader just yet, but you sound like you could be a contributor. As to proving yourself, it won't be easy. Neither professional programmers nor managers, nor HR people will be ready to believe a kid can do the job. You might offer to do some work for free to get your foot in the door. Also look for an "internship", which amounts to the same thing. Remember to keep an eye on your hat size as you display and develop your mad skilzz. Expect skepticism, and don't become discouraged.
Re: Proving I have mad perl skillzzzlz
by exussum0 (Vicar) on Dec 22, 2003 at 12:26 UTC
    I'm going to assume you aren't in the US by your GMT time in your profile :)

    First off, congrats! I know the huge weight that was lifted every time i accomplished something school related.

    Now, when you job search for your first job, you can do many things. Search for the word "junior" or "entry level". Those type of jobs easily hire due to things like on-the-job training or no prior experience involved. Another way is to talk to people you know. Network. Someone you know knows you are smart. By 2 degrees of seperation, other people won't have a hard time believing in it too.

    Once you have your foot in the door, show what programming experience you do have. Simply saying you are working on opensource programming will show that you code as a hobby. It's not a job secure-er but it's a plus. Also, having shown what courses you took in your high school era (ah.. such wonderful times) is a second plus. Thirdly, mention you are an active member of the perl community. It dosn't have to be detailed as "i post on perlmonks.org!" People will think, "perl monks? never heard of them." Word it as a larger perl online community servicing the public in solving problems in perl and helping neophytes (SAT word!). Something like that.

    What opensource project? Depends. There's something called a vertical market. Software that specifically services a single industry, like medical/hospitals or financial packages (great plains, not quicken). Even a market as specific as veternarians. If you wanted to work in a hospital, or the bond market and worked on OSS software that gets you familiar with the terms of the industry, you are that much closer to getting a job.

    A support group (operations/noc) job might not be a bad start. For instance, I'm a Production Support Engineer Programmer. It's industry-wise entry level. I write code to help second level support groups and developers in the bond company i work for know what the hell is going on with the systems. Think of it like a higly tuned netsaint system. I took the job for the financial experience alone, 'cause at my last job, I was a regular Software Engineer and before that a Senior one. Monitoring how many people provide spot prices on our system, or showing how many trades are at a particular status, or showing various volumes is important. A tad easy for my experience, but I'm learning the industry w/o working on the larger systems and possibly designing something that may be confused since I didn't know what a benchmar was or a junk bond was. :)

    You are smart to go to University. It may be a formality to you or may totally blow your mind away. none-the-less, big-wigs or those who don't know you like to see you've finished school to a certain level. Work experience can sub for it, but it's a lot of work getting a job w/o the school experience. :) But when a job description says, PhD or 10 years work experience, you have a clue how much more wise you should be in the future.

    So remember, look for entry-level, junior level or even noc jobs. They prolly will train you. And stay in the industry you are most interested in. If it's programming in any area, great. If you wanna work on nuclear systems, look towards that. And get familiarized with it. It's a huge difference from being clueless on what people are talking about. Good luck!


    Play that funky music white boy..

      Simply saying you are working on opensource programming will show that you code as a hobby.

      I can't agree with this statement. There are simply too many people out there who say "I'm working on building my own OS kernel written in Perl" or something like that. Just look on SourceForge for projects that were started years ago but have yet to release any files and likely never will (I'm guilty of creating a few of them) (yes, I know they're starting to clean out stale projects).

      If you want to put an Open Source project on your resume, be sure that you have released some actual code for it. It doesn't have to be big. It could be full of bugs and only have minimal functionality. As long as it runs through the compiler/interpreter without errors and has some basic functions, you'll be ahead of 90% of the "Open Source Programmers" out there that have nothing to show.

      When I got my current job, I was working on a server implementation (in Perl) of the Hypertext Coffee Pot Control Protocol (RFC 2324) (there are a few clients for it out there, but I couldn't find any servers). When I was asked for code examples, I had already gotten the server up to the point of a basic HTTP/1.1 server, but the HTCPCP methods weren't implemented yet. That didn't matter, since I knew what I had worked, so I submitted it. I have now been working for that company for a year and a half, though the HTCPCP server still sits at the point it did back then . . .

      ----
      I wanted to explore how Perl's closures can be manipulated, and ended up creating an object system by accident.
      -- Schemer

      : () { :|:& };:

      Note: All code is untested, unless otherwise stated

        You are 100% right. If you say you are doing the deed, make sure to have some proof. Lying on your resume or about your experience is a sure fire way to lose a job opportunity, but still at least tell people what you do is a good idea, including OSS.

        Play that funky music white boy..
        Simply saying you are working on opensource programming will show that you code as a hobby. I can't agree with this statement. There are simply too many people out there who say "I'm working on building my own OS kernel written in Perl" or something like that. Just look on SourceForge for projects that were started years ago but have yet to release any files and likely never will (I'm guilty of creating a few of them) (yes, I know they're starting to clean out stale projects).
        Not wishing to put words in his mouth, but when I read that line I thought the whole "working on an opensource program .. as a hobby" meant more along the lines of you honestly enjoy coding, enough to do so in your outside time as well. It seems to me that an employer would prefer to employ someone who likes what he does, not so?

        But of course you are absolutely right about the whole starting and not finishing thing, and there do seem to be large numbers of programs like that.
      So remember, look for entry-level, junior level or even noc jobs.

      Although I fully agree on most part of your post, I disagree with this line. If the OP stumbles upon a great job that's not "entry-level" he shouldn't aim for it and give it a shot?

      The jobmarket is quite tough nowadays (yeah BUU, if only you finished highschool some 5 years ago, when a mere proclamation of "Ehh, I know how to spell Perl" was enough to get you a job). Jobs aren't offered in the mass quantities as they were some years ago. So I would suggest to aim for any job you like. The worst case scenario is they tell you "no, sorry, we found someone else". Of course, most applications for "senior" jobs specifically state the minimum year of job experience, but once in a blue moon, you may find a job that does not do that. And even if it does? Go for it :-) An e-mail is easilly written; attach resume and see where it'll lead.

      I fully support the idea posted by vagnerr of having some Open Source project(s) as "proof". Get something on Sourceforge and Freshmeat to even gain some people using the scripts. This will -IMHO- definately make a good impression on the potential employer.

      Another thing I tend to see lately is that the actual college degree isn't worth as much as it used to be. A lot of (Dutch) applications require (roughly translated) a "university level of thinking", rather than a "university degree". Of course, if you have the brain (probably yes) and money to go do collge, definately go for it (if only it was for the insane parties /me thinks back and puts on an awkward smile ;-). It will always be a plus, but certification seems to win some grounds. Stuff like ITIL, LPI, RHCE, CCNA (not necesarilly in that order ;). I took the ITIL certification at my first job, since they made that as a requirement (and payed for it). I found it really easy to get, but it's like magic on your resume. (At least in The Netherlands). Certifications are a cheap and fast way to boost your resume.

      --
      b10m
        Applying to anything and everything isn't a bad idea but...

        My first thing to notice is that he's young. Not young and reckless, just young and inexperienced. If he's 18, chances are, he won't find something that requires 2-3 years of experience. The problem with looking for perl developer is, you get a high-noise-to-data ratio. You'll be looking for jobs that want people wet behind the ears, but it's the general rule that non-entry level jobs look for non-entry people. There are MANY MANY exceptions to the rules, but those usually go by word of mouth.

        In NY, it is more about who you know. Not like everyone knows me and will get hired because they know me... but if I know of a job position that is perfect for a friend, they'll get a job via me better than finding it on their own.

        Certifications are touch and go. I know a lot of companies who wind up testing applicants, which is great. Certificiation is similar to prior experience. It increases the size of the foot you get in the door.


        Play that funky music white boy..
Re: Proving I have mad perl skillzzzlz
by jdtoronto (Prior) on Dec 22, 2003 at 15:32 UTC
    Congratulations BUU, not just on finishing high school, but on taking the first big step towards starting a career.

    Most of the responses here have been from people who appear to have a solid computer background. So here is one from somebody who has NO training in computers at all.

    Academic qualifications and training of any sort only tells us, as employers, one thing. You can sit in a class room and write the necessary exams to pass. FACT - over 85% of college or university graduates never make a full-time living out of what they are "qualified" for. FACT - ask an HR person and they will tell you that qualifications older than 7 years are no longer relevant on your CV. At least that is what they tell me.

    The solutions are simple. You need academic qualificantions - to show that you are prepared to go beyond high school level study. You need to remember that approximately 20% of American high school graduates are illiterate - so being able to succeed at beyond high school level is an indication that you are at least literate! College or Univsersity does not actually teach you anything - it teaches you how to learn. If you can learn and continually prove that then you will succeed.

    To get an early job be prepared to do anything for nothing (at least in the US or such places where that is legal!). Find a local non-profit or volunteer organisation that needs some help with a web-site or programme of some sort and volunteer to do it. But make sure you complete it and document it! Don't just pursue computing knowledge, find other areas of interest to you and study them as well. Look for example, at Lincoln Stein of CGI.pm fame, is he a computer person? Nope! He is a medical researcher and genetic scientist.

    Good luck, don't worry, with an attitude like yours I feel sure you will make it!

    jdtoronto

      Good points. When you go to University, get a degree in something that you want to learn about. You might pursue a bachelor's in history, or become a master of the culinary arts. Or get a math degree... or literature.

      Or, get a Philosophy major. Philosophy has many of the same roots as computer science, mainly logic, and it's applied on a deeper level. That's what I'm doing.
Re: Proving I have mad perl skillzzzlz
by djantzen (Priest) on Dec 22, 2003 at 09:46 UTC

    BUU: Go to college.


    "The dead do not recognize context" -- Kai, Lexx
      Wash your mouth!
Re: Proving I have mad perl skillzzzlz
by dws (Chancellor) on Dec 22, 2003 at 20:46 UTC
    Recently I browsed through the various jobs listed at jobs.perl.com and as I read through them, I constantly thought to my self "Gee, I could do this".

    You might be able to handle the technical work, but one of the semi-open secrets in technology is that 90% of problems, once you peel them back far enough, are people problems disguised as technical problems. To prepare yourself for those, assuming you're a "learn by reading" type, I recommend reading just about anything by Jerry Weinberg. The Psychology of Computer Programming is a classic. I was fortunate to discover this early in my career. Becoming a Technical Leader is another good "big picture" book, with solid tactical advice for advancing in a technical career. Read either or both of these, and you'll steer clear of a number of common early-career mistakes.

Re: Proving I have mad perl skillzzzlz
by inman (Curate) on Dec 22, 2003 at 16:50 UTC
    Your only 18 for heavens sake! Take a year out and explore the world! Then go to college or university and enjoy yourself. Graduate in a few years time with a degree in something that you like doing and will be applicable to your future. I suggest something IT based with a business studies minor for maximum end-employability. You will then be able to walk into a job in IT or possibly start a company of your own with some of your University friends.

    If I had my time again, it's what I'd do!

      Here here ..
      as is commented below, people skillzzzlz are at least as important as technical ones when it comes to getting the job done, working in a team, and getting the datas you need to be a successful programmer.

      You could be the greatest programmer on the net, but without those social lessons you'll learn through travelling & 'being out there' you'll never get past the interview stage!

      Please note, am speaking as a talentless hack who relies on charm & confidence to get in the door ..

      the 'qif;
Re: Proving I have mad perl skillzzzlz
by petdance (Parson) on Dec 22, 2003 at 21:00 UTC
    I can't recommend Nick Corcodilos' book Ask The Headhunter highly enough. (He also has a website http://asktheheadhunter.com) It will help shape your thinking about the interview process. That you phrase it as "prove to my employer" rather than "get my employer to see" is a huge step. Nick says that you prove it by doing the work for the employer in a sample situation. Get a real problem that the employer actually has, and solve it in front of the boss.

    As an employer myself, I put a lot of weight on the code samples that I'm shown. I can tell a lot about someone's work habits from their code. I don't care if you're a vi or emacs user, or if you prefer 4 or 8 tabs, but I do want it clear that you care about your code.

    xoxo,
    Andy

      That book you reccomend looks interesting, I'll have to read it. As for the code samples, those sound somewhat like what I was thinking about, could you perhaps elaborate on what type of code samples you are talking about or looking for? Like, 4 line subroutines, or large programs or..?
        Ask the hiring manager when you set up the interview. "I'd like to bring in some sample code to give you an idea of the sorts of projects I've worked on in the past, and to show the care I put into my work. What sorts of projects would are you interested in? For example, I've done X, Y and Z."

        If you can't talk to the hiring manager, or he/she says "Oh, whatever," then bring in some of everything. Bring in modules. Bring in command-line utilities. Bring in three-tier web apps.

        Most of all, bring in what reflects best on you, and what you're most proud of. It will come through when you talk to the manager.

        xoxo,
        Andy

Re: Proving I have mad perl skillzzzlz
by zengargoyle (Deacon) on Dec 23, 2003 at 01:22 UTC

    you don't say whether you're trying to decide if you're going to skip the schooling and jump into the real world. but it doesn't matter. here is what you do.

    go to school. get a student job as a consultant/help desk. see stuff that could be fixed and fix it. find the most boring repetitive tasks and automate them.

    if you are good, you will be noticed, you'll be appreciated, and you'll be promoted as far as you can stand.

    this sounds like a grandiose promise, it may be, but 4 or 5 years ago i was hired to punch ethernet connections and help lusers with their winblows machines. now i'm network diety for some 40,000 people. i would think it's a fluke, but i've seen 3 others go from consultant/student slave to well respected for their abilities and piled with responsibilities and hired full time. now they run giant High Performance Computing Clusters (and they get to program in whatever suits them...)

    not all universities may be the same, but from what i can tell from my peers at other universities is that it's about the same there as here.

    you won't get paid as much, but pick the right university and you'll have neat expensive things to play with that i doubt you'll ever see in the real world as a newbie, at least not for another 6 years or so. you won't likely have to dress up and wear a tie either.

    so go to school. work for the geeks. you'll find many a project to work on. higher education is a nice field to work in, i would say it's right up there with getting paid to work on open source (and in some cases the same).

Re: Proving I have mad perl skillzzzlz
by Abigail-II (Bishop) on Dec 25, 2003 at 02:17 UTC
    I've never hired people just coming from school, but I have interviewed them and not invited them back. The problem they all had: overvaluating their (limited) experience. This wasn't for Perl positions, but running your Linux box at home and running sendmail on it doesn't mean you qualify to admin a forest of computers with different (Unix) operating systems.

    Now, I'm not saying you don't have the necessary experience, but be very sure that the experience you have is worthwhile to your potential employer. Don't overestimate what you do in your spare time, or your contributions to open source projects, especially not if that's all you did. After all, that's all voluntairy - you do work on projects you like or have an interest in, and where you can leave at anytime. It doesn't show how you perform on a project you aren't interested in, or what you do if you're pulled from a project you like, and have to do something else.

    Abigail

Re: Proving I have mad perl skillzzzlz
by adrianh (Chancellor) on Dec 23, 2003 at 00:18 UTC
    First off let me give you some background on me. I'm currently 17, turning 18 in a month or so. I just graduated from high school and am currently looking for a university.

    Congratulations and good luck :-)

    <mutter>darn whipper-snapper jack-a-napes springing up everywhere</mutter>

    The real question of course, is how do I prove it to my potential employers? My first thought was some sort of open source project that would demonstrate my ability, but I was unsure if this was actually effective, and if so, what project?

    Show them your code (speaking as somebody whose been on the employer side of the table a few times :-)

    If it's Perl work a good CPAN module or two always impresses. Failing that stick something that you're proud of up on a public web site and add the URL to your resume/CV/whatever.

    Also, bear in mind that it's a bugger of a job market at the moment. There are lots of good people with experience out there, so don't get too disheartened if you don't get many responses (although, and this might be my imagination, things seem to have been picking up a bit again recently).

    While you're job hunting I'd recommend finding a local firm doing web work and seeing if there is a small project you can do for a month gratis. Or find a charity with a web site that can be improved with a some decent interactive features and volunteer some of your time. Demonstrate that you're doing something in the area you're trying to work in, even if it's not paid employment.

    Best of luck.

Re: Proving I have mad perl skillzzzlz
by Juerd (Abbot) on Dec 22, 2003 at 16:09 UTC

      As before, I renew my objections to calling How's your Perl? a measure of one's Perl skill. How l33t is your Perl, perhaps. It's clever stuff, but not much of it is going to get you a job coding meat and potatoes Perl, something that the OP was asking.

      --t. alex
      Life is short: get busy!

      Update: OK, OK, pardon me for taking this all too seriously. BUU asked for some advice on starting out in a career, and I commented on a node I wasn't happy with. So I spend another day on the Worst Nodes page .. ah well, C'est la vie.

      Happy Holidays, Juerd.

        YHBT, now STFU. Read my answer to your post in that thread again.

        If after that you still don't get it, read it AGAIN.

        If after that you still don't get it, read it AGAIN.

        If after that you still don't get it, read it AGAIN.

        If after that you still don't get it, read it AGAIN.

        If after that you still don't get it, read it AGAIN.

        If after that you still don't get it, read it AGAIN.

        If after that you still don't get it, read this nth subtle suggestion:

        Oh and the "evil grin" that I expressed in the node you replied to wasn't real either.

        Juerd # { site => 'juerd.nl', plp_site => 'plp.juerd.nl', do_not_use => 'spamtrap' }

      How's your Perl? - *evil grin*
      I refuse to answer that on the grounds of saving my sanity..
Re: Proving I have mad perl skillzzzlz
by chanio (Priest) on Dec 23, 2003 at 06:42 UTC
    If programming is your future, you might try using it for everything...

    Try to do a list of priorities in your present life in different sections: life, money, family, love, etc.

    Then try to imagine all these interests flowing in a sort of multitasking system and live every day attending all those flows in a normal way.

    Try to show clearly that what you program is valuable. Perhaps only another programmer might understand you. But if you are able to document your code very clearly (especially the one that you print for your professional folder). And fill pages with clear and graphical schemas, you might have something nice to show when you apply for a job. Remember WYSIWIG?

    You might be an interesting programmer if your code is so clear that any other programmer might be able to continue your work at any time.

    You might have to offer a lot of free jobs to get people trust you. So try to have some older programmer's advice to guide you in the offerings.

    Open Source might become also a way of helping each other in finding interesting jobs that you might offer to others that have been working hard on the code with you.

    OS is a shift in the concept of normal jobs where people try to distinguish from their companions. In OS people might try to help each others in finding some jobs.

Re: Proving I have mad perl skillzzzlz
by Wassercrats (Initiate) on Dec 22, 2003 at 20:49 UTC
    Learn other computer languages in addition to Perl, and write a program that demonstrates your skill. I don't know nearly as much as you, but I could write a Perl program that does just about anything that any commercial software does. A few programs that demonstrate proficiency in Perl are enough to get an employer to take notice, but then there will be question like "Could I see your code?" and "Do you know (enter language here)?", which would be a problem. I've seen some of those adds too, and the skills those jobs require usually involve more than the ability to produce a certain program or fluency in Perl.
Re: Proving I have mad perl skillzzzlz
by duff (Parson) on Dec 22, 2003 at 16:57 UTC

    One thing that might help (other than having code examples and/or CPAN modules that you wrote) would be to take Brainbench's perl certification.It does cost a bit to subscribe to their service, but you can also get "certified" in other areas and have an independent assessment of your skills.

      One thing that might help (other than having code examples and/or CPAN modules that you wrote) would be to take Brainbench's perl certification.

      That "certification" only proves you know very basic Perl. Everyone who has read any good Perl introduction can answer those questions.

      I did that Brainbench "certification" a few years ago, and got Master level at it. Back then, I used Perl for only one year, and now I would certainly hire anyone as clueless as I was when I got my Brainbench "certificate".

      Brainbench's a scam. I even got Master level at some Windows NT 4 administration thing and many other topics. All it takes is basic knowledge. I hadn't even used Windows NT 4 ever in my life.

      Juerd # { site => 'juerd.nl', plp_site => 'plp.juerd.nl', do_not_use => 'spamtrap' }

      One thing that might help (other than having code examples and/or CPAN modules that you wrote) would be to take Brainbench's perl certification.It does cost a bit to subscribe to their service, but you can also get "certified" in other areas and have an independent assessment of your skills.

      Personally, I would save your money. Most people I know dismiss Brainbench completely as a useful assessment of Perl knowledge. I certainly would never take any note of it, especially if that was the only indicator of Perl knowledge.

        Personally, I would save your money.

        It depends. For a while they had a deal where you could pay something like $15 and take as many certification tests as you wanted within a 2 week period. They may still do that. That seems like an economically viable thing to do.

        I agree though that their prices are high for what they offer regularly. I took one of their free tests to see what they were like and noticed that many of the questions concerned with what I considered "old" technology. Perhaps whatever feed-back loop they have is slow (assuming they have one).

        Most people I know dismiss Brainbench completely as a useful assessment of Perl knowledge

        Obviously somebody puts stock in Brainbench certifications. Look how many people use it. Perhaps it's most useful when dealing with companies at the level of Human Resources rather than technical people.

        I certainly would never take any note of it, especially if that was the only indicator of Perl knowledge.

        Certainly it wouldn't mean much if it were the only indicator, but presumably you have your own methods for gauging their perl skill.

        I'm not sure how would rank Brainbench though. It would mean more to me if their testing methods were open to independent verification. But I thought I would mention it anyway because it's one of those alternate-reality viewpoints that we so rarely see in the world of open source. :-)

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