the "no good Perl jobs"/"no good Perl programmers" myth

Adrian Howard adrianh at
Mon Aug 7 10:40:51 BST 2006

On 5 Aug 2006, at 16:50, Nicholas Clark wrote:
> But apart from that we all see roughly the same jobs cycling
> round it seems that many who advertise for  
> "senior
> perl person" actually want "experienced website maker". Yes, you  
> want a good
> person who can work without close supervision. But no, you don't  
> actually
> want a senior person in the traditional sense of the rôle - a  
> person who
> leads and mentors a team of juniors.

The problem I've come across (and I admit this was a few years back  
now at the tail end of the boom) was that any Perl job advert that  
wasn't sprinkled with words like "senior" got deluged by CVs from  
people of the "I downloaded something from Matt's script archive  
once" quality. Not a problem I've had with, say, C/Java folk.

I put it down to Perl being more approachable to many people so you  
get more unskilled people overestimating their competency.

> Many of these jobs would be in small to
> zero team, with no career progression upwards, and they are small  
> companies
> so there no career progression sideways*. In addition, many of  
> these jobs
> these are not in companies that rely on a technical edge for their  
> profits,
> so the job is about getting non techies' things done, rather than out
> innovating the competition.

I don't disagree with the reasons why this is unattractive to many  
people, but I think this is exactly the sort of job that is harder to  
fill with a Perl programmer than with, say, a Java programmer

There are a goodly number of really good Perl developers. There are / 
lots/ of really bad Perl developers (more than in other languages  
with a higher entry barrier.) The middle ground seems rather sparse  
to me.

The sort of person who is new but basically competent. First/second  
job. Happy to join a smallish company on a reasonable wage for a year  
or two to get some skills. Will either grow with the company, or  
leave after a couple of years.

Put Java at the front of that and you'll get a ton of decent  
responses. Put Perl at the front and you won't. Teaching the non-Perl  
folk Perl doesn't seem to work because the non-Perl folk don't want  
to learn it - because (guess what) there are no Perl jobs ;-)

> And maybe I'm being a bit arrogant here in some of my assumptions,  
> but even
> when I was looking for a job a few months ago I was surprised and
> disappointed that no-one in London seemed to be interested in  
> hiring the
> current pumpking.

There is a really unfortunate tendency most organisations seem to  
have of not wanting to recruit anybody who is more skilled than the  
people currently on their team.

To me this seems just about the most stupid attitude on the planet,  
but I see it again and again...



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