Don’t let 'em write programs and hack them too much,
Make ‘em be doctors and lawyers and such…
Apologies to Willy Nelson and Waylon Jennings…
I was somewhat dismayed when I found out that a lot of the people whom I have known throughout my career have been discouraging their children from going into computer science and the software industry. The son of one of the best software architects there has ever been is studying to become an economist. One software executive has encouraged his son and daughter to go into biotech or any other industry other than software. Where many may not actively discourage, I am hard pressed to think of any who have encouraged their children into the direction that they went as those children are starting to enter university age.
David Patterson, President of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) and a professor at my alma mater UC Berkeley, has been pushing for changes to how computer science is taught as the trend away from computer sciences is becoming a threat to national growth. A recent contest publicized by the ACM had only one American university show up in the top ten (MIT) and there were no Western European universities to be seen anywhere. Patterson makes the argument that unless the curriculum of computer science is changed and made more enticing, there will be a critical shortage in the West and slowing of the economy as a whole. In content available only through the ACM, Patterson believes that the problem lies in the perception that computer science is merely about programming and who wants to be a nerdy programmer? (Er, hmm) It doesn’t help that salaries for computer science majors in the west has declined for new graduates.
To a certain extent, I am sure that this trend is in part a reaction to the excesses of the last decade. Salaries climbed faster and attracted more money than about any other sector. What was considered glamorous with the rise of the dot com, now seems very unglamorous with the appearance of social introversion and overly intensive intellectual activities. The ACM contest itself indicates part of the problem. In 25 years of working on enterprise systems, only the last couple of problems look familiar to the types of problems we have had to solve in even the DBMS realm.
As shortages of software specialists and architects makes itself felt more acutely, we will probably see a return of highly paid computer scientists living a jet-setting life style again. The big question though, is in which countries?