I have been a computer programmer (I prefer the term software developer for some reason) since I saw my first computer 22 odd years ago. I started off hacking away in BASIC on my brothers Amstrad CPC 464. In those days computer magazines were filled with BASIC programs you could type in to your computer. The programs - usually games - were often rubbish but the fun was learning programming and trying to figure out what was going on with the code.
I have been hooked ever since. I lived in a small town about as far away from Silicon Valley as you could get, however I always felt connected with the early computer era somehow. There was no Internet (well public Internet anyway) so most information was passed on word of mouth through friends, or through magazines, or more often than not through trial and error.
I moved on from BASIC on the Amstrad to Turbo Pascal on a 386 PC. Again mostly hacking away, learning by trial and error. The great improvement of course was the fact that the TP program would compile to an executable and could be used on any IBM Compatible in the world. This seemed like grandious stuff to a 14 year old from small town New Zealand.
Along the way I picked up Delphi and a whole host of other languages through to C# which I predominately use today. I did a 2 year tertiary course in Business Computing at a local Polytech to get a certificate, but I am extensibly self taught.
I have about 10 years commercial experience, but no formal - read university - training in computer programming.
Has it effected me in my career? No, definately not.
Would a University graduate know more about crafting a computer application from start to finish than me? No, definately not.
So why is this? Why am I so arrogant to assume that I, a self taught developer, could be as good or better at developing than someone with formal training?
That's fairly easy to answer really. Evolution of skills. Software Development is an ever evolving discipline. To be a succesful developer you must stay up to date with modern technologies and take the time to learn new things almost on a weekly basis.
The other thing a University education can't teach you is experience. By the time the graduate left University, I had 3 or 4 years actual work experience under my belt. The sort of real world experience that is, IMHO, worth any University degree.