What is one year of experience?

This is a discussion on What is one year of experience? within the A Brief History of Cprogramming.com forums, part of the Community Boards category; I'm exploring the job market in Chicago, and I always dread these questions from recruiters: "How many years of XYZ ...

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    What is one year of experience?

    I'm exploring the job market in Chicago, and I always dread these questions from recruiters: "How many years of XYZ do you have?". Because nobody defines what a year of experience is, and they backpedal and stumble if I ask what they mean.

    What is a year of C++ (or SQL or OpenGL)?

    Physically writing code every working day for a year? If I write a line of code every day for a week, is that more experience than writing 300 lines in one day?

    If I work on a 1-year project using C++ and SQL, do you have a year of both or 6 mos of both? And how many days of coding in a year does it take to count as a year of experience?

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    I think "a years experience" means working with it most of the day for a year. Of course, in any job, you would also do other things (meetings, writing documents, trying to get your computer to connect to the network, browsing the web whilst you are compiling, etc).

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    Malum in se abachler's Avatar
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    Generally speaking, you count 1/2 your education time as experience in your major, and 20% of your personal time. If they take issue with your number explain the specifics to them. Basing a candidates knowledge on years of experience is a fuzzy method at best, which assumes that everyone acuires knowledge in every field at the same rate, which simply isnt true. Personally I flat out tell potential employers the truth, that Ive been working with computers for nearly 30 years despite the fact that im only 38. I then go on to give them a broad overview of the changes in technology I have witnessed over the decades, stopping to go into specific detail in some areas I found particularly interesting. This generally suffices to quell any misgivings they have.

    Look at it from the employers perspectve. It will take at least 2 weeks to figure out if you are full of ........ or not, in which time they will spend several thousand dollars. Give them any information you can to show them that this risk is worth taking.
    Until you can build a working general purpose reprogrammable computer out of basic components from radio shack, you are not fit to call yourself a programmer in my presence. This is cwhizard, signing off.

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    When they ask for experience, they're generally talking work experience. One year experience means you've had a year of employment in the field practicing the discipline in question. Some people would say that education time (or some portion of it) would count on experience but that's really just ways people try to justify fudging their resume a bit. Education is education and work is work. While it's certainly true that you can learn a great deal about a discipline through your education or even personal time, it's just not what's being looked for in the question and you're better off having those facts emphasized in your interview.
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    Quote Originally Posted by matsp View Post
    I think "a years experience" means working with it most of the day for a year. Of course, in any job, you would also do other things (meetings, writing documents, trying to get your computer to connect to the network, browsing the web whilst you are compiling, etc).
    You won't be working with C++ during requirements and design. Do those count?

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    Quote Originally Posted by medievalelks View Post
    You won't be working with C++ during requirements and design. Do those count?
    Correct, but it's part of a years experience that you spend time doing other things RELATED to programming when you are working. So, whilst you are working on for example requirements, you would (hopefully) try to write those requirements so that they can be implemented using C++. Just like working as a car-mechanic a year will be doing other things than actual car engine/gearbox/brake/tyre repairs, things like filling in forms to explain what was done, talking to customers, sweeping the floor, fetching cold drinks. But it is still a years worth of work in that area.

    As abachler says, it's a pretty poor way to determine someones actual knowledge or experience. Someone can have 10 years experience in C++, but not understand something that I know from a years worth of experience - because what I do and someone else does may not cover the same area. If you own a Ferrari garage, and looking for a new mechanic, the old guy that has been repairing Fords for 10 years may not be quite as good a candidate as the guy working 1 year at Lamborghini, right?

    If you think you can do the job, apply for it. Be honest with what you can and can't do. If they feel you are a good candidate for the job, they'll hire you. The trickiest part may be getting past the initial HR staff that don't know even the tiniest bit about the subject of software engineering.

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    I agree it's a bad measure, but it's the currency of headhunters. I'll explain for a full minute why I don't think it's valid, and they'll sometimes agree, and then say "So, then, what would you say - five years?".

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    Quote Originally Posted by medievalelks View Post
    I agree it's a bad measure, but it's the currency of headhunters. I'll explain for a full minute why I don't think it's valid, and they'll sometimes agree, and then say "So, then, what would you say - five years?".
    At which point you either have to agree, or come up with a better answer. If that's their criteria, then that's what you have to work with.

    Edit: I should add that I have had discussions on similar "Headhunters don't understand the job" things, e.g I've got 20 years experience in C, so I should know C++, right?

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    Jack of many languages Dino's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by abachler View Post
    Personally I flat out tell potential employers the truth, that Ive been working with computers for nearly 30 years despite the fact that im only 38. I then go on to give them a broad overview of the changes in technology I have witnessed over the decades, stopping to go into specific detail in some areas I found particularly interesting. This generally suffices to quell any misgivings they have.
    Maybe... just maybe... after you've summarized 30 years (however long that takes...), you've quelled them from asking ANY more questions...?

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