Secret training of Russian programmers

In IT world Russian programmers have good reputation. Some say that all the Russians aboard either IT-guru’s or mafia. Of course it’s a joke, but it is true that during the IT-bubble, conveniently timed together with national financial default in Russia in 1998 a lot of bright engineers from the best universities of Russia have gone to Europe, USA or other developed countries.

Some might recall Dmitry Sclarov or even Sergei Brin (the last one is more representing American programmers, not Russians, from my point of view). Actually there are thousands of people, working on much less loud positions. Almost all of them owe their knowledge and skills to Russian high technical education system.  

I’ve spend the last 3 days trying to translate the description of my old education program from Russian to English in order to get my diploma officially confirmed. I was graduated in 1998 in Moscow Institute of Electronic Engineering. At the moment of graduation it still had old soviet education system. After 5 years you get an "Engineering" degree, there were no "Master" or "Bachelor" levels. My speciality was 2204 "Computer and automated systems software" (my own translation, sorry, I don’t have any idea how is it translated officially. I always say "Software design"). This is as close as it can get to the picture of software geek, spending time writing long and complex programs.

I would like to present my work for all readers, so you can see for yourself, how exactly Russian programmers were educated. Link to official program of  "220400 – Computer and automated systems software"  in Russian and my translation "220400 – Computer and automated systems software" in English (pdf). Sorry for my English, I’ve found a lot of words I’ve never met before, I hope it’s still understandable. 

There is many critique against software development education in Russia. Hardware and software is outdated. Students often know more about current technologies, than their professors. Professor salaries are small and all good ones are working either in USA or in commercial companies. Then what are  the reasons why Russian programmers are so good? Read the program and deside yourself, but let me give you some ideas:

  • Level of fundamental education was very strong. This was true about mathematics and the software design as well. Many times during my career I suddenly realized, that some part of technology I have to learn, we have actuallyalready studied in university, for example OSI model or semaphores. And please note, this was 1993-1995 years, 15 years ago!
  • You had to have discipline. You have a lot of mandatory courses. In fact, it appeared for us all of them were mandatory. We had to succeed in every last one of them, if you don’t score at least 3 out of 5 in all of them, you’re out.
  • Some very important qualities for a good modern  technical engineer were actually stated as a part of the program.  "Engineer must:   Be aware of the modern studies in humanitarian and socio-economical sciences; be able to scientifically analyze social problems and processes; be able to use methods of this sciences in different types of professional and social activities; –  In case of new discoveries in science or industry to be able to review his own experience, analyze his own possibilities and adopt the new knowledge using modern information technologies;  Be ready methodically and psychologically to change his professional field or work with people with other professions." How I wish that more people have got those qualities!
  • Last, but not least, and this is also a quotation from the official requirements, "Engineer must be able to continue education and work in a foreign country". So immigration was actually embedded in our educational system

A lot of changing in the modern IT, education system and general approach to knowledge. It may well be that this programm is too old for 21 century. Those were the secret training techniques of Russian programmers and they definitely left some mark in IT-history

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