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Finding the right school - How do employers view the school?

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The purpose of this post is to determine how much which school you go to influences an employer's decision to hire you. I am currently going to school with DeVry 100% online because I cannot move away to campus of a known school right now (ISU, IIT etc) After I made a few phone calls to start planning a strategy to obtain my Masters I found out that a lot of schools dont exactly think highly of DeVry. Some schools I called included ISU, IIT among others. They all said that DeVry grads typically have to take several more courses (lower level) to make up areas that DeVry neglects (because DeVry is more of a technical school). So how do employers view DeVry grads? ... What's the best strategy to start building an impressive resume and portfolio to help land that dream job after graduation? Any comments/feedback is appreciated. Thanks.

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When I was attending school, DeVry was where people went if they wanted to be a mechanic (usually because they couldn't handle even community college).

Which is great and all; the world needs mechanics. But the breadth of skills required in software engineering is (imo) well beyond technical schooling. And the breadth of skills required for game programming is beyond your standard business software at that.

I would honestly dump a new DeVry graduate's resume without even a phone call. Companies get tons of resumes and game companies even moreso. But ignoring all that (or assuming they have a snazzy demo or some experience to offset things) there are two vital things I would need to see:

1. The ability to learn. Did the grad learn things by rote process? Do they have some learning/study problem that led to that style school? Someone who cannot learn internal libraries or how to apply a solution to a novel problem is next to useless.

2. Breadth of knowledge. Do they have the math background to handle problems in that domain? Do they have good communication/writing skills? Do they have a good critical eye for art? Or do they just know how to do X with Y on a computer?

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I think you will find that a lot of grad schools are not very keen on 'commercial education', and that includes any of the '100% online' or '90+ locations' setups. That is not to say that you can't get a decent education that way, but it doesn't tend to be viewed as highly as the more traditional, liberal arts, 4-years on campus deal.

Online courses immediately make people jittery: they provide less meaningful grades, and generally a lower calibre of education - there is really no way for the professor to tell if you are pulling all your answers from google, at least for a low-level course, and no way for them to push you either. And low-level courses are what hurts the most - specialised knowledge can largely be picked up on the job, but if your basic math, logic, problem solving or programming skills are not up to par, you wont be able to pick up the later skills quickly or easily.

On the other hand, if you have the discipline and will to drive yourself hard, and can work up a spectacular portfolio and demonstrate a similarly spectacular skillset, a lot of people wont give a damn where (or even if) you went to college.

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I really don't know why Telastyn hates a school he/she has never been to and knows absolutly nothing about but I will tell you being enrolled in DeVry was the main reason I got the job I have today. I work in IT and travel all over the middle east and europe and make a pretty hefty salary. Mind you, I don't even HAVE a degree yet, just college experience and my employer was happy to see that I was continuing my education.


That being said, if your employer judges you based on the school you chose alone, they are pretty much an idiot. How can an employer possibly know everything about every school out there? I wouldn't want to work for an employer you judges someone based on the school they went to. Just because Joe went to Harvard doesn't mean Joe is smart, can handle the job, can learn new skills on the fly, etc.

Now, if your employer hires you based on things like portfolio, competancy tests, and interviews, that is usually the company you want to work for.

@Telastyn - I mean no offense, I just don't understand why you hate DeVry so bad. It's a really good school, my favorite out of the three colleges I have been to and I have learned a lot from it. Just one of my math classes at DeVry covered what two of my math classes at Penn State covered. It's a fast paced school and a great option for people who want a more hands on education.

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Quote:
Original post by Chrono1081
That being said, if your employer judges you based on the school you chose alone, they are pretty much an idiot.

Most employers will not evaluate a candidate only based on the origins of your education. It does play its part though. You may not like it, you may think it's idiotic, but it's a reality. So it's not something you can just disregard.

Quote:
How can an employer possibly know everything about every school out there?

How can an employer possibly know everything about every applicant out there?

Unless you invite each and everyone of them, you can only judge a candidate by the resume he or she sent in. The subsequent filtering process may not be perfect, but choices have to be made. Having said that, a good portfolio or decent experience will make the actual school you went to less of an issue.

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Quote:
Original post by WanMaster
Quote:
Original post by Chrono1081
That being said, if your employer judges you based on the school you chose alone, they are pretty much an idiot.

Most employers will not evaluate a candidate only based on the origins of your education. It does play its part though. You may not like it, you may think it's idiotic, but it's a reality. So it's not something you can just disregard.

Quote:
How can an employer possibly know everything about every school out there?

How can an employer possibly know everything about every applicant out there?

Unless you invite each and everyone of them, you can only judge a candidate by the resume he or she sent in. The subsequent filtering process may not be perfect, but choices have to be made. Having said that, a good portfolio or decent experience will make the actual school you went to less of an issue.


You are correct. That is what I was aiming for but after re-reading my post I see it didn't come out that way. I wanted to get the point across that experience and portfolio weigh more heavily then school choice.

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Quote:
Original post by Chrono1081
I really don't know why Telastyn hates a school he/she has never been to and knows absolutly nothing about


Because clearly I am unable to read. I am unable to extrapolate information from various things I've seen, heard, read about the school. I haven't gone to Stanford or San Jose State, but having interviewed about a half dozen candidates from each I know at least a little about each school.

Quote:

but I will tell you being enrolled in DeVry was the main reason I got the job I have today.


Good for you. A job though is not a career.

Quote:

That being said, if your employer judges you based on the school you chose alone, they are pretty much an idiot.


When you're fresh out of college, they don't have much more to go on. And as Wanmaster says, it won't only be that. But if I get 2 resumes, one from DeVry and one from CMU the only way I'm looking at the DeVry resume first is if I need a code monkey or my budget requires me to hire someone on the cheap.

And gamedev employers won't get just 2 resumes. Hell, even business dev employers won't get just 2 resumes these days.

Quote:

How can an employer possibly know everything about every school out there?


They don't. They know the outliers though and the local schools. Most schools are neutral. A few are bonus points, a few are minus points.

Quote:

I wouldn't want to work for an employer you judges someone based on the school they went to.


Why in the world would you put your school on the resume if it didn't matter?

Quote:

Just because Joe went to Harvard doesn't mean Joe is smart, can handle the job, can learn new skills on the fly, etc.


And vice versa. A grad from a poorly regarded school might be smart, crafty, and skilled. Employers play the odds.

Quote:

Now, if your employer hires you based on things like portfolio, competancy tests, and interviews, that is usually the company you want to work for.


Hiring processes are only a small part of a company, and after you're hired only have small, indirect impact on you the employee. Is hiring processes indicative of company goodness elsewhere? Sometimes. Less often and less directly than a candidates education is...

Quote:

@Telastyn - I mean no offense, I just don't understand why you hate DeVry so bad.

*snip*

A great option for people who want a more hands on education.


Let's see if I can get the basic ideas communicated then...

I hate the concept of a for profit educational institution. I hate hands on education for computer science. I hate remote education. I hate trade schools.

So let's go down them one by one. I'll try to remember to bookmark this since it'll come up again...


Education as a Business

A number of problems derive quickly from the basic structure of the college.

When colleges are run for profit, the bottom line quickly impacts you the student. Cheaper (indirectly worse) professors, facilities, materials; more expensive tuition; exclusive deals on software/books; and generally having employees focused on profit over education.

It also means that the most profit comes from the most students. They'll take anyone who's got the money and isn't a public relations disaster waiting to happen. Not only are the classrooms stuffed, but you're then lumped in with those who did go there because they'll take anyone. And anyone will pass the courses... flunkies don't pay tuition.

Further, money is wasted on advertising rather than education. The bottom line only cares if you attend. The courses are tailored to what students think they want (hands on courses in fun things like game development!). Teenagers are idiots. Not that they're drooling retards, but they've really got no idea what is useful in business and rarely have the foresight to consider what they'll need in 50 years.


Hands on Computer Science

Which is funny in and of itself. What, you're going to hold algorithms in your hands?

I hate this one in particular due to my experiences as a sysadmin at the tail of the dotcom boom. By that time the IT area was flooded with fresh out of school certified admins. They could install and configure solid windows server setups in their sleep; by the book. And that was it. Any time the solution needed adaptation, it took three times as long and was buggy. They couldn't deal with non-windows stuff. They couldn't deal with non-standard software. They couldn't solve novel problems.

Computer programming is solving novel problems or you're a code monkey and your job is getting shipped overseas.


Remote Education

You know, I learned a lot more at college when I wasn't in the classroom. Those semi-protected years are invaluable for a person to learn about how the world works, how to live on your own, how to motivate and manage yourself. You meet lifetime friends (mates for some) and develop contacts. You lose all that commuting or learning online.

Online learning is still relatively new. The infrastructure is (generally) kinda shoddy, and not sufficiently interactive to provide a good learning environment (imo). You can't ask the teacher things as they're fresh in your mind. The teacher can't read the class and tailor his teaching to that feedback. It's a less effective form of education. It does have its conveniences, but if you've the option not to...

The other benefit of living on campus that often goes overlooked is cross-major learning. In most schools, especially early there's no attendance. If you've got some interest in psychology or something but are not sure you want to actually take the course (or will do well at it) you can just attend the class.

Even if you don't attend the classes, you're invariably (unless you attend a specialized school like these trade schools) going to have friends with different majors. And they're invariably going to talk about their classes, what they're learning, and at least the executive summary of their knowledge. Useful to know where to look, useful to get new ideas, useful so you see common threads and interactions within human knowledge.


Trade School

I hate specialized education. It's just not useful to software engineers. Our work is not just twiddling bits. It's taking a business requirement, knowing enough to ask questions about stuff business people invariably forget to include, knowing enough of the problem domain to translate business into technical... and even then there's about 4 steps before text goes to IDE. Having experience learning a variety of things will help you there.

A broad education helps implementing solutions as well. Most modeling or simulations will be helped by a good math background. Any GUI is helped by art study, psychology, and your written language of choice. All those boring or 'irrelevant' classes come to play in creating the solutions you then implement. Being able to draw ideas from a broad scope of human knowledge only helps you.


And now to the standard argument... Your career will be about 40 years long. Do you think we're going to be throwing up shoddy webapps in java in 40 years? Hell, do you think you're going to not change careers ever? Algorithms don't change. Data structures don't change. Concepts like coupling or data normalization don't change. Learning languages is easy. Learning APIs is easy. Learning the theory and how to apply that theory is key. Learning that via "here's how to do X with Y" is woefully insufficient to get that done.



To sum up, I hate DeVry (and its for-profit trade school kin) because it's the worst option available to make you a better person and a better programmer.

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I agree 100% with what Telastyn posted. We're located right next to it - and a DeVry education on the resume is usually the butt of a joke :)

Seriously though, if you're good at game programming it won't hurt you at all, but it won't help you. We interview all candidates fairly, and while we have minimum requirements we're looking for talent NOT where you went to school. Still, I'd recommend a better place if you can do it. I went to UIC for my undergraduate degree - best choice I ever made.


More than anything, if you want to get a job you'll need to do two things. The first is to bone up on your C++ skills, and be able to handle any reasonable question that gets thrown your way (Difference between a pointer and a reference, stl, etc) and to demonstrate that you have worked on complicated projects in the past. Take an old arcade classic, and remake it in 3d. Thats what I did :)

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Sadly for me too no University in Texas has a decree for Game making. So im going to get a masters in Computer Science at UTSA, and take there only class so far for making games. Maybe Ill hit a few online class on game making too. The point being not everyone can leave to a place that has the programs needed to get into game design.

But what you have done with what you have learned is better than where you got it. If you on your own made a lot of small to medium size games, then you could put that down on a resume too.

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