Appfrica is currently hiring, looking for three developers and an intern. I hope they find what they’re looking for because they are limiting their search to Kampala residents. While none of the positions were the sort of thing I would/could apply for, it was very discouraging to see rigid and inflexible corporate practices in what is still a young sector in East Africa.
The developer jobs demand a “University Degree in Computer Science or at least 2 years of Work Experience.” It’s not the experience I have a quibble with, but the degree.
I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: some of the best programmers and developers I know are self-taught. They don’t have the degrees, but they do have the knowledge that comes from over a decade of experience at the sharp end of development. Who would you rather have working on your project? A (cheap) fresh-faced graduate who only covered PHP in one module at university, or someone who was coding it when it was still considered a minority language that would never take off?
Another factor the Appfrica recruiters don’t seem to have taken into account is that “Computer Science” is a very broad church. Degrees will vary from university to university, and will also be dependent on which options a student has taken to get their degree. My alma mater, for instance, was very heavy on Java programming, but not too hot on operating systems. To this day, the easiest way to bring one of my friends out in a cold sweat is to sit him in front of OpenSuse and tell him you think you have a virus (I know, I know). And he got a first!
And why must it be a degree? Why not a bunch of W3C certifications? They run the internet, after all. If taking their online exams isn’t good enough for an employer, who’s to say that somebody with a slip of paper that doesn’t even detail what they studied is going to be any better?
It is very easy for employers to rely on degrees because once upon a time, having a degree meant something. Today, with degrees available in surfing studies and golf management, it is increasingly difficult to ascertain the value of one qualification over another. This is especially so for a rapidly-changing field such as Computer Science: technology that was the industry standard when a student begins university could be obsolete within five years of their graduation. And if they have rested on their laurels in the interim, they will be playing catch-up just like the rest of their peers when the operating environment changes.
So I hope Appfrica find a good selection of candidates. They have already restricted their recruitment pool by limiting their search to Kampala residents; I only hope that they do not limit themselves further by ignoring all those who don’t have the requisite piece of paper, too.
[Image by JBelluch]