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2006.05.23

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Maybe there is some truth that software organisation and such professions can harm the national growth and people are trying to protect their babies from it but there are people for everything and the children should have the right to chose to work what they want.

The statement that CxOs are looking for the cheapest labor possible without concern for second order effects is as absurd as the notion that CXO will rape and pillage commercial open source companies which are based on support models; taking the software and skipping out on support. We have a saying around my parts: ‘The ‘C’ in CXO stands for “Chicken” – Curt Edge (CIO Christian Science Monitor). Curt is no chicken, but he’s no fool either. Support and Sustainability are paramount concerns under his technical direction. Have we looked at, and engaged in outsourcing? Yes. Are we outsourcing the mission critical work – unquestionably: No. We are participating with our community on mission critical IT.

I agree with John, there is a new future in IT. It won’t be defined by geography. The network is taking over – geography is fast becoming something we can factor out on our list of interacting forces. What is open source to me? Nothing more than “clue train” exemplified in the software industry – a communication and participation movement driven by the network catalyst. Software is leading the charge but all of IT is following.

Is there a vacuum of talent in IT today? If we look locally yes. Talent is distributed – and it is a blessing that it is. Diversity is a propellant of innovation and a devastating weapon against the tyranny of consolidated control. There is no shortage of IT talent on the network. Companies looking to be successful in IT are moving to the network. They are hiring talent through participation, and hiring talent that can participate.

Look, I get up everyday and love going to work. I get paid to play. It is a long established fact that money is not a motivator, although lack of it is a de-motivating factor. Would I encourage my child to enter in to IT? Yes -- if they had a passion for problem solving, communication, innovation.

The requirements of tomorrows IT professional are different from yester-years. Successful IT professionals must be talented engineers -- a given. Of course I am looking for a problem solver. Someone with a strong education (however acquired) in technology, mathematics and systems (I tend to think that a Systems curriculum is something generally lacking in undergraduate studies). But what sets tomorrow apart form yesterday is the fact that IT is moving in to the participation age. IT practitioners need to be able to communicate, collaborate in ways that are foreign to many practitioners today. Communication, collaboration, business-acumen, skill sets will be the mark the successful. Even the most hard-core nerd will have to learn to be social or be managed to work in a social future.

Maybe finding a job that is “learn once and be set” is the best approach from an efficiency perspective. Change my friends is accelerating and the acceleration of change is invalidating this thought. Those who do not embrace and mange change will go the way of the doe-doe. That has nothing to do with IT. Change is accelerating everywhere. It took man thousands of years to develop bronze; when I worked as an engineer at a for a specialty alloys manufacture we were creating new alloys at unfathomable rates by comparison.

For the community savvy - “Clued-in”, talented, change-embracing, and passionate, there is no better time to get in to IT -- regardless of geography. That may put me out of the running of the successful :) but that’s a change I’ll just have to embrace and manage.

I totally agree with the comments posted by Ian on May 27.
I would also add ... I can't think of a field where age discrimination is more rampant! Would a person in his/her fifties with an MD find it hard to obtain a job?
No! But how about a person in his fifties (like myself) with a BS in Computer Science and Java certification from Sun? Doesn't matter ... I'm not under 30 and I'm not from some non-USA country ... just see who is being hired!
Better to study something else, where your qualifications aren't being made obsolescent every six months, and where being over 50 isn't such a liability!

Are you kidding ? I practically begged my son not to do an IT degree and follow my footsteps. Why ? It's a tough and mostly thankless way to make a living, and there are way too many fools and nerds in the game, which makes it even harder. Only about 40-50% of a software project is about sitting in a corner cutting code. There's NO-ONE to do the other stuff any more. No wonder so many projects fail dismally. Add to that the absurd and accelarating rate of change in both technology and standards (huh !), it's no wonder people are tuning out. Life in IT was exciting and fun in the 70's and 80s, now it pretty much sucks.

I'm shocked that you are shocked to find out that
people who have worked for
fifteen or twenty years in
IT have lost faith in its
future. Most of my friends
are just looking for a way
to get out of the field or
to become a manager.

Economists explain it
simply by telling you

1) You want as many products as possible
to be "tradable" so that
you get the best price.

2) You never ever ever ever
want to choose a profession
that is subject to wage
pressure from low cost
countries.

I would estimate that
40% of the jobs in IT are
or soon will be subject to
wage pressure from low
cost countries. NO BS
about shortages will change
this. No one wants to
train all my over 40 friends for jobs-- they
want 23 year olds from the
third world. Not because
they are smart, but because
they are cheap.

My parents generation went off to war, saved the
world, and then into the
factories that provided a
middle-class lifestyle. Having diven through the
broken hartland recently
I know these jobs are gone
for good. My parents like
many others saw this and
encouraged my sister to
avoid those kinds of jobs.
Why? Because people with
those skills would be
competing with low cost
labor. Were the products
produced in those factories
better -- Hell Yes, but
you can't pay middle-class wages AND sell at Wall-Mart
prices. Same with IT. Everyone knows that this
field is now ONLY ABOUT
getting the cheapest body
that can do an acceptable
job. Nothing else. It doesn't matter if it's the
help desk or R&D lab --
cheapest body wins.

There is NOTHING MORE STUPID than the CEO or
Economist that says --
"Well you must just compete". NO we don't have
to "compete" with low cost labor. The smart just pick a seperate field
that cannot be subject to
low cost labor from the
developing world.
Schools like MIT, Harvard,
Princeton and Penn now sell CS as a path to dental school, Med school,Law school, or
MBA. If you think about it, CS isn't a bad degree for someone who wants to
go to Dental School. If
Jr isn't going to a
top school and then on to
medical/dental/law school
I would advise a different
major.


No wonder parents are turning their children away from computer science and software careers. The rapid rate of technological change and the rapid obsolescence of acquired knowledge, together with the continuing need and pressure to learn new skills, is putting people off. Lifelong learning is inconsistent with peoples psychological, economic and biological needs. Learn once and be set for life is the required paradigm.
Pay cuts and lack of opportunities for new graduates is another problem that puts peple off the IT sector. How many jobs in Dice.com match the actual skills and experience of new starters? "Not many" is the answer.

I have participated in the ACM programming contest myself and I personally don't find it as a good measure of Computer Science ability.

You just have to solve problems as fast as you can with disregard to efficiency or any object oriented principle whatsoever.

I think that doubt expressed in comments by computer professionals about the potential for future happiness - or the lack of it, to be enjoyed by people just going in to the field are just honest reactions by we old timers to a trend I would describe as a disturbingly rapid increase in the level of greed and rigidity in the workplace world, and more generally, in our nations of late, in particularly the US. Talent is just not being rewarded appropriately. Except for a lucky few.

I also see symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder in our corporate reaction to the blessings that computing technology has brought us. What? Let me explain. Among other things, Narcissists feel tremendously threatened by love, emotion and especialy, needing another in any way.

Dysfunctional modern corporations (not progressive ones, but they are probably in the minority) feel tremendously threatened by their reliance on technical talent that has not bought into their way of seeing things. They feel that the technically skilled weild too much control over their corporation's fate, hence the push to 'deskill' the most highy skilled, highly paid jobs by decomposing them into their composite parts and automating or outsourcing/offshoring whatever can be without (or even with) losing key skills as an in-house resource only.

This being viewed as a line-item financial liability and not as a key part of a company is beginning to disgust and disenchant many workers, computer and otherwise. One can't help but think that society is heading for a crisis of greed and dysfunctionality. Similar things were happening in the world in the 1920s and 1930s and the forces unleashed led to WWII, but we failed to learn from the lessons of that war and we may fall into the same trap again. I feel very afraid that the kind of greed and social rigidity we are clinging to leads straight to a resurgence of fascism. Democracy is the only light that can lead us through this darkness, but it threatens some established interests so much that they wan't to (and are succeeding very well at) emasculating it through corruption and millieu control on a massive scale.

Lets pray I'm wrong about the 'looming fascism'.

But fascism is the path of least resistance. It does not require any challenging, disturbing thought about societal priorities or indeed, anything, as it feeds on hate and ignorance of others and the compatibility of our common dreams. (Its NOT a zero-su game is what I am getting at, everyone CAN win, which is a subversive idea to some. Time for a war? better nip that one in the bud!)

Fascism always fears science, and learning, (the meritocratic great leveller) and the signs are not good.

I thought the question is what do we recommend our children do with their lives. We should want our children to follow their talents to do what they enjoy doing no matter what the pay. Is it better to make money or be happy. I believe that 50% of people in computer science are in the wrong career and not doing a good job. They should be doing something else where they can excel with their talents.

Using the ACM contest is a poor indicator of judging programs from different countries. The ACM contest carries almost no weight in the US. The ACM chapter at my school was not even active during my time there 3 years ago. Students have better things to do, such as homework or contributing to open source projects.

However, this contest does carry enormous weight with 3rd world universities with "something to prove". It is a major mark of accomplishment from 3rd world schools who are otherwise known to be sub-standard to those in the 1st world.

There is no shortage of qualified, American IT workers. Neither is there a shortage of Americans entering IT. These executives know this, even though they tell everyone else that shortages abound. The industry is trying to decrease IT wages and their efforts are actually being successful. THAT is why these executives are telling their children to run from IT.

http://www.redherring.com/Article.aspx?a=14849&hed=U.S.+Engineers+Undercounted
http://www.careerjournal.com/salaryhiring/industries/engineers/20051117-begley.html

Well, I can tell you that I have become very disillusioned with IT. I am not actively encouraging my daughter to persue IT or CS. Personally I feel that one of the reasons that the IT industry is perceived as being mostly programming is because many, many school that is what the program dictates.

Having gone back to finish my degree I am more than frustrated with the amount of programming I have to do to complete a degree in IT, only to complete it and not really have the skills I need for the area that I enjoy, networking, hardware, infrastructure.

Fortunately Regents Univ (now Excelsior, I hate the name) is one that is changing that and they have an IT program that you can choose and hardware or software tracks. Finally.

I lament the decline, but I find that since the fall out of the dot com era job requirements have gone up, many requiring (multiple) expensive certifications while salaries (on the west coast) have dropped 20-25K. Where is my return on investment if I have to pay 10K for an MS certification plus 5k-7k for cisco to make 25K less??

There may be at least two reasons for poor US ICPC results.

First, 2006 ICPC questions were more focused on mathematical modeling than about computer programming. It is my impression that math courses are electives in the most CS undergraduate curriculum offered in US. In contrast, math (and applied math) is a central part of core curriculum in Russian universities.

Second, Russia has a long standing math and science (including informatics) tradition. Not only is the winning of the so-called Olympiads but the very participation in any level of Olympiad competition a matter of sustained prestige for the contestants.

There are summer camps and after-school clubs dedicated to specializing in advanced math, science and informatics. There are numerous schools with emphasis on math and science where being “the best” is a sought-after social status for teens, not a social stigma. Russian educational institutions do not grade on a curve or rely on multiple choice examination methodologies. This system, maintained by the Ministry of Education and backed by the Ministry of Defense under Soviet Union, is still in force today.

The ACM should make a resolute commitment to reform US science and math education with the objective of making math as, if not more prestigious than sports. The reform would do well to adapt salient elements of the Russian model. For example, the reform could focus on establishing frequent and academically rigorous math and science competitions for students at the school district, city, region, state and national levels wherein winners would receive recognition in the form of diplomas and prizes and national finalists full tuition at the college of their choice. Competitions should be publicized in the national media and award ceremonies televised to build broad public awareness. The reform could also sponsor free summer camps to coach K-12 students in quantitative problems solving, with admittance based on merit and subject to written examination. Books and teaching material should be commissioned by the ACM and made publicly accessible to all wishing to read them.

I do believe that only systematic and unremitting reform could reverse the sorry trend we have today.

With a Masters in Computer Science and Enginnering, and having been unemployed 2.5 out of the last three years, let me say "H1-B anyone?" And you wonder why the fresh-out salaries are dropping? The "jet-setting" computer workers will not be in the US - they will jet into and out of the US.

You are right, there is a single Western European entry in the top ten. Further down I missed a Swedish university as well.

However, that doesn't address the fact that the vast majority of winners were from the developing world. Motivation to succeed is high there and seems to be dissipating in the developed world.

The University of Twente is a Western European university, based in Enschede, The Netherlands.

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