poll indicated about ten companies represented at the meeting were looking to hire functional programmers. One representative stated that their company is not looking for just Haskell programmers, although most of its work is done in Haskell; rather, they are looking for the functional way of thinking—for abstraction, and the algorithmic view—and functional programmers are self-selecting for that approach. Another used to ask how recruits liked the functional programming course at UNSW as an indicator; he hires Java programmers, but looks for Haskell on their CV. Someone said that he doesn’t look for functional programmers — he thinks there are simply good programmers and bad programmers. Someone else agreed: they are just looking for smart people. Regarding training programmers in functional languages, someone reckoned that it was easier to teach those straight out of college. Others agreed: older programmers sometimes have difficulty switching. Someone reported that they have educated a lot of average programmers in functional programming, enabling them to become reasonably productive; putting them in C++ development would have been a disaster, requiring experts continually to clean up their messes, but they can’t do as much damage in a functional language. How can we spread the word about functional programming? It is promising that it seems no longer to be purely a geeky academic subject: the Association of C and C++ Users conference in 2008 has a functional programming stream, and Joe Armstrong has been doing keynote presentations and Simon Peyton Jones doing tutorials at practitioners’ conferences. Some students just don’t get Haskell early on—but they don’t get Java either, and they just shouldn’t be learning CS; others are really good, but they’re motivated more by cool stuff than by jobs; for those in the middle, it’s useful to see evidence of the importance of functional programming. It’s much more convincing to see that evidence from people in industry than from academics.
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