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Discussion on: What computer science concepts should devs without a CS background prioritize learning?

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John Daniel

Most of the responses here are technical issues, like Big O notation or lambda calculus. Anyone can figure that stuff out on their own. I am talking about engineering issues that are important when building something. The differences between being a coder and a software engineer are not new. These engineering issues can be learned too, but someone learning on their own might never be aware of their existence to begin with.

I saw this in action at my (now former) employer. They knew about Big O notation, math of all kinds, and git. But they couldn't make a program run the same way twice, or on a different machine. There was no knowledge of UNIX, environments, dynamic loading, databases, information theory, text encoding, testing, validation, chain of reference, etc. Yet, by the only metric that mattered, securing more funding from wealthy donors, they were wildly successful.

I also see this in the Apple Developer forums. To get an app in the App Store, all you have to do is get it to launch once, for about 30 seconds, and maybe change a screen, on an Apple reviewers device. That is a challenge. Those indie developers, whether working alone or with a roomful of people just like them, don't understand the issues necessary to make an app run on someone else's device. They can figure it out eventually of course. But it is much more frustrating than having worked through those issues in a 2nd year data structures course in University.

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Atanas Kostovski

I understand your point, but the question was specific to CS, not Software Engineering as a topic. But I'm sharing your opinion here - CS is not that hard to learn on your own, while I notice that self taught devs lack the Software Engineering skills and practices, and don't even know about the existence of them.

I'd guess it's like that because CS topics are very hot and trending buzz-words that you can easily hear about and google random course/book. But Software engineering topics are a bit more specific, and you have to know about them before searching for materials.