10 years experience or 1 year experience 9 years old?

Experience is the teacher of all things.
– Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar was not in doubt when asked how knowledge is gained. Back in the good old days it was fair to say that 10 years of work as a stone mason would credit you 10 years of experience. But is it fair to say the same today about a programmer?

As I’m about to finish my education in Computer Science I see many companies hiring programmers. The jobs are varying in required skills but they have one thing in common. The applicant is requested to show at least 5 years experience in the given type of work. This is of course extremely difficult as a recent graduate but nevertheless a fair request. But how should experience be measured?

Technology is changing rapidly and the tools we used 10 years ago are in general so outdated that it can’t be used anymore. This doesn’t mean that the techniques we used doesn’t apply today but rather that we change our way of applying these. So to employ a programmer that have been working with the same techniques the last 10 years might be a good idea for solving a know problem using his/her existing experience but the outcome will most likely be a solution representing 10 years experience of using the same methods. Now if you in stead hired a recent graduate and asked the person to solve the same problem, you would end up with a much different solution and likely not that elegant.

But what if you could hire a person with just 5 years experience that have worked in many fields? The person would make use of of his/her experience and still be unspoiled regarding habits, resulting in a solution more distinct from previous solutions using current best practices.

To answer my question, there is no way of calculating the value of experience. But estimating the value of applicable experience the applicant has is emminent in a modern hiring proces. Your project might fit a recent graduate better than an old codeshark and vice versa.

Which types of experience do you look for when hiring? Share below in the comment section

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