Strong opinions, weakly held

Paul Graham is wrong about it being “too late”

Katie Siegel: It’s Not “Too Late” for Female Hackers

Paul Graham’s comments in an interview behind the paywall at The Information (and unflatteringly excerpted by ValleyWag) have been the subject of much discussion this week. Siegel’s post gets at what was really problematic about them. I’m one of those people who started programming at age 13, and it has always been easy for me to advocate hiring people like myself, for exactly the reasons Paul Graham gives. Siegel ably makes the point that this line of thinking is unfair to everybody who doesn’t fall into his select group, but I’d argue further that it’s also just bad business. More on that later.

Update: Paul Graham says he was misquoted. I’m glad Graham cleared things up. In his update, Graham says:

If you want to be really good at programming, you have to love it for itself.

That’s a sentiment I agree with completely. One reliable indicator that a person loves programming for itself is that they started as a kid. The problem arises when we treat that as the only reliable indicator, which Graham does, at least based on this passage from the transcript:

The problem with that is I think, at least with technology companies, the people who are really good technology founders have a genuine deep interest in technology. In fact, I’ve heard startups say that they did not like to hire people who had only started programming when they became CS majors in college. If someone was going to be really good at programming they would have found it own their own. Then if you go look at the bios of successful founders this is invariably the case, they were all hacking on computers at age 13.

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