Ravi Mohan's Blog
Friday, April 27, 2007
IIT Grads ! (necessarily) == Good Programmers Redux
When I wondered some time ago why the best programmers didn't come from the population of IIT grads, many people claimed I had all sorts of motives (ranging from jealousy to fear) for having such "heretical" thoughts. Now some other folks seem to offer a degree of vindication. From the latest Outlook magazine (You can read the first page of the article here - I am not sure how long the url will be valid). For those too lazy to click on the link, an excerpt What has triggered the discussion within the fraternity is the concern expressed by two distinguished IIT alumni about the general decline in standards of excellence at the institutes in recent years. Their remarks have questioned the calibre of students who make it into the IITs by subjecting themselves to the killing rigours of coaching factories in places like Kota and Hyderabad. The alumni seemed to conclude that these products of coaching factories—who now form, according to Wikipedia, 95 per cent of students at IITs—had a blinkered approach to education, did not recognise new ideas and had lost the spirit of inquiry and innovation. In short, elements that had built Brand IIT over the decades had now gone missing The first salvo was fired by Tata Steel MD and IIT Madras alumnus B. Muthuraman. Speaking at a Ruby Union meeting of the pioneer batch organized at his alma mater in January 2007, he said that tisco was "not likely to recruit" IIT graduates any longer. He based his opinion on a recent interaction he had had with a set of final year students, who he said did not even know the authors of books they were supposed to have studied. He made many other related statements suggesting that IITs thrive only on their "past reputation" and that he actually preferred other college students who were amenable to company training. Now before the frothing-at-the-mouth defenders descend on this blog, I am not saying that IIT grads are poor programmers. What I AM saying is that in India there is no correlation between programming ability and the school of the programmer. Any company that hires only IITians AND (boolean AND - do read this sentence carefully before sending off that hate mail) hopes to recruit impressive programming talent by doing so is asking for disaster. An IIT is *not* Stanford or MIT or CMU. Not even close. If you doubt this, first take a look at a typical PhD paper (in say Robotics) from any IIT you choose vs say Stanford. Then tell me I'm wrong. Thanks in advance.