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The third skill


Recently, Washinton Post published an article on the hiring research at Google. The zest of it goes as following:

"Project Oxygen shocked everyone by concluding that, among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas."


"Those traits sound more like what one gains as an English or theater major than as a programmer. ... After bringing in anthropologists and ethnographers to dive even deeper into the data, the company enlarged its previous hiring practices to include humanities majors, artists, and even the MBAs that, initially, Brin and Page viewed with disdain."


Juxtaposing the roles of science/maths/technology and "soft skills" in the software engineering is nothing new. The holders of degrees in sociology, arts, or business organisation bring sense of social structure, experience in communicative practices, or ability to assess a solution from aesthetic point of view.

What still is sorely missing is the acknowledgment of the third type of skills: formal understanding of the language from the software point of view, i.e. wielding the theory and practice imposed by expressive/performative structure of language, which qualitatively different from science or maths skills and which is not taught in any hands-on way as a part of humanities curriculum.


January 2018