|Perl: the Markov chain saw|
I happened to be reading an old interview with Larry Wall today (http://old.lwn.net/2001/features/LarryWall/), and was encouraged by one of the things he said, in response to a question about Perl certification:
LW: snip My approach to language design has always been that people should learn just enough of the languages to get their jobs done. They shouldn't have to learn the whole language to begin with. But with certification, you have to be learning the whole language. Some people feel more comfortable that way. I guess if you want to hire experts, you want to make sure they're experts. Certification is useful for that. But most of the programming out there is not done by Perl experts. It's mostly done by Perl novices, and they sometimes make sloppy programs, that's ok. They learn by experience to do better over time and eventually they become experts and then, if they want to get certified and somebody wants to certify them, that's fine. I just don't want to do that myself.
Your choice of analogy is interesting, because as is recorded in Judges 12, the failure to correctly pronounce the word 'shibboleth' was a capital offense for those trying to cross the river and escape. Some folks are occasionally a little heavy-handed and hasty in reaching a negative judgment of those who are not privy to the inner mysteries, as we define them. I've often found that my idea of what is important has a high and rather suspicious correlation with my self-perceived proficiencies.
In view of this thread, I'm mildly embarrassed to admit that I never really gave any thought to the differences between "perl", "Perl" or "PERL". I guess I have simply picked up enough to get the job done without worrying too much about mastery. Happily, I don't like acronyms (a holdover from my Army days) so I think I've never strayed into this particular faux pas. Yet I have been at least a dabbler in Perl for the past eight years or so, and I'd hope that I would at least be considered in a hiring decision, based perhaps on my ability to produce working code, rather than my knowledge of Perl lore.
I recently worked for a major online retailer, where hiring is considered a top priority and where candidates are often dismissed for (what seemed to me to be) minor deficiencies. I felt that my experience as a developer was under-valued there and that other considerations were given too much weight in hiring and promotion decisions. I made a move to greener pastures when the chance came along, and am happily earning what I consider to be a good wage. Perhaps employers can and should be very choosy, hiring only those experts with true depth and breadth in their field -- but that kind of thinking seems to leave a lot of us working stiffs out in the cold.
Of course, if the job market tightens again, like those happy golden months of 1999 and 2000, then employers will perhaps be glad enough to take anyone who can even spell "Shibboleth." :)
No good deed goes unpunished. -- (attributed to) Oscar Wilde