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No Shortage Of Programmers?

Hemos posted more than 12 years ago | from the no-surprise-here dept.

News 385

Robber Baron writes "While searching with Copernic for the old Indian-head test pattern, I chanced upon this article (funny how search engines work, isn't it?). It seems (surprise, suprise) that this whole IT labour shortage crisis was a myth generated by large IT companies to justify importing boatloads of foreign IT workers willing to work for low wages in substandard conditions. Anyone have any experience with this?"

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385 comments

MAKE KARMA FAST !!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2185370)

Point your browser to Is There REALLY an IT Worker Shortage in the US? [slashdot.org] , take the best comments/links, and post theme here

I already took the one from the article, sorry.Debunking the Myth of a Desperate Software Labor Shortage [ucdavis.edu]

Note that by searching with it shortage+workers [slashdot.org] , you'll get:

3 Is There REALLY an IT Worker Shortage in the US? by Cliff on Saturday October 14, @06:20AM EST 535

3 H1B Tech Visa Workers Being Deported From U.S. by Hemos on Monday September 18, @09:52PM EST 1246

2 Management To Blame For IT Worker Shortage? by CmdrTaco on Thursday September 28, @02:15PM EST 396

2 The IT Labor Shortage by Hemos on Wednesday March 22, @03:22PM EST 531

2 H-1B Tech Workers May Be Severely Underpaid by Roblimo on Tuesday August 03, @06:23AM EST 310

2 Worker shortages: short-term and long-term by sengan on Sunday October 25, @09:19AM EST 191

2 Is There a Tech Labor Shortage? by CmdrTaco on Monday March 23, @08:04AM EST 48

2 Tech Labor Shortage Myth? by CmdrTaco on Thursday February 26, @05:13AM EST 31

(ad nauseum)

Cheers,

--fred

IT bubble's about to burst (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2185371)

The whole technology sector is crashing down. At least here in the Northern Europe.

Nokia's profits are down for the first time in several years: they're sacking people which was unheard of a couple of years back.

Ericsson's making huge losses: thousands of people lost their jobs.

Compaq's profits fell 81% in the last quarter: thousands of jobs will be lost by the end of the year.

And so on. In fact the future is starting to look so gloomy that my IT worker friends have one by one started preparing for unemployment by insuring their mortgage and joining unemployment funds at which they scoffed just a few years ago.

Re:Still need good programmers (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2185372)

Way to prove his point.

Without understanding the implementation (the OS) of the API, you'll never be able to optimize a program. There's no minimal cost for a task when you can't describe the cost of the OS functions. It's a challenge to choose between even two ways of doing the same thing. Yes, there's a lot more than two ways to open a file.

Debugging is a challenge when you're assuming the API is a black box that always works. Operating systems tend to have more bugs than other programs- they're more massive than other programs, for one.

And have you ever tried programming for an API that was incompletely specified? Totally missing many functions and lacking or having wrong documentation for many others? I'm not saying that MS would do this and drag it out for several years until a lot of people wrote large books about what was missing from the API specification, of course.

Re:I've just graduated. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2185373)

Getting bachelors does not neccessarily equal a job even if you were. You are talking about "skills shortage", not "people-who-has-degree shortage".

I was employed by my school and was working there in summers full time where I had the chance to meet people who are now good friends of mine. People that were finishing their thesis and even getting their masters degree. How I got to know them was through helping them out with things when they were lost, and they asked me for alot of advice.

What scared me was that, well I don't consider myself a very skilled person but I do know quite some things since I usually want to learn other things in addition to what taught in school, but some of these people hardly even knew things as the difference between a file and a folder!

They are now out there with a masters degree (how they managed I really don't know) looking for jobs, while I have two jobs and companies ask ME to come work for them...

Where I work, there IS shortage of people in the IT-field (but not those who are called project managers and whatever and doesn't really have anything to do with IT technically).

depends on the position (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2185374)

There are tons of designers & the like, it's the dirty unglamorous complciated stuff that is in short supply.

Worldwide Trend (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2185375)

Well things are starting to get very messy over here in the Irish Tech sector too. I just lost my job as a developer and it really looks like I have little to no prospect of getting a new one (at least not in Ireland). There are now hordes of people out there with the same skills as mine who have also lost their job due to the downturn.

Of course its not as if theres no jobs out there its just that my 1 year of commercial programming experience is not exactly useful to a company looking for someone with 5 years C++ experience and an in-depth knowledge of just about every telecoms protocol there is. There will always be a demand for very highly skilled programmers which usually means higly experienced too.

The simple fact of the matter about bringing people from abroad to work cheaper is that if people are going to better off coming from abroad to work they will do it.

I have seen quite a few more Russian, East European and Indian/Pakistani programmers in Ireland over the last year. Most of these people are now earning way more than they could at home and are in most cases far better educated than your average programmer (lots of Masters and Doctorates people). An interesting point was made to me about East-European programmers that they know far more about the theory of computing and operating systems as they didn't have access to the latest and greatest technologies during the cold war or even computers in most cases. So they studied the theory more and have a highly developed knowledge far beyond the average programmer. I believe something similar probably applies to many of the Indian/Asian programmers.

To put it in perspective I did see a newspaper story about how many of the Irish Technology companies setting up offices in Silicon Valley and the US in general, were shocked by the fact that many of the programmers and people they needed were asking for an average salary higher than the CEO'! Its just the wealth affect really.

American Multinationals piled into Ireland in the 90's because of nice tax regime (for them anyway) and educated, cheap workforce relative to the US. Now they're starting to look more closely at Eastern Europe I suspect as Ireland while still cheaper to hire people than the US is much more expensive than it was.

To sum up one thing I heard years ago in regard to "foreigners" taking "our" jobs was that at the end of the of the day its all down to who will work and who won't. If you're not making the kind of money you want to then do something about it because you'll be damned sure no company will pay you more just because you think they should.

Anyway back to the job-hunt...

Let me repeat this for all of you (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2185376)

No growth can continue forever! It's an impossibility! If you think a company can grow 200 % per year the next 150 years you need to snap out of it.

Stock markets are based on the notion of continuous growth all the time, and that isn't feasible. So, is it a wonder the companies are having trouble from time to time..?

Re:Cause and Effect (3)

Brian Knotts (855) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185383)

From my experience, esp. old people can't or refuse to learn.

What about blacks, women, or Mexicans? Any enlightening thoughts on any of those groups?

Coding is design (1)

richieb (3277) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185391)

You cannot be a good coder without being a good designer. Coding is just design.

...richie

Re:MAKE KARMA FAST !!! (1)

khuber (5664) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185394)

Yes, this is old news. However, it looks like
the referenced article by Matloff has been updated recently.

I don't think there's a shortage now considering
the dot bombs and the state of the economy. I
guess there's always a shortage of _cheap_
corporate slaves though...

-Kevin

Re:Yes, and it is real. (2)

unitron (5733) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185395)

That's "toeing" the line, not towing.

math? (2)

Barbarian (9467) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185403)

I guess I can stop incrementing my for loops now, since "programming does not use math". Ones, zeroes, what's the difference? It's just math, and I don't need it to program.

You should have learned addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in grade school.

When people speak of math skills for engineering careers, they are usually referring to calculus at least.

Layoffs and shortage (3)

rkt (9943) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185406)

There are two seperate concerns here

1 The Myth of Shortage : Considering the current layoff situations all over the tech industry, it can be argued that the shortage was a myth just like the myth of making money in Dot-Com. Unfortunately the first myth was fueled by the second myth.

2 Are H1 workers being paid equally It is also true to some extent that Organizations do indeed try to negotiate a lower wages for an H1 employee. But let me be very very clear that this problem is more due to legal problems of an H1 worker imposed by the Goverment which gives little or no room for a H1 employee to bargain for anything more.
a) To change a simple job from one organization to another is a process which used to take 4 months before. Thanks to a new regulation earlier this year, an employee can start working on the new job as soon as he/she gets a confirmation number of receipt of the application by the INS (instead of waiting for the complete process which takes 4 months now). However this process has to be completed before an employee leave the first company. If an employee is fired/layed off, he goes out of status and has to leave the country immediately (legally speaking)... If he does leave he can return only after the complete 4 month process, or he has to take the risk of being found as an un-authorized alien and continue living here waiting for the reciept to return from INS. (INS has been a little leniant here lately for which many people are greatfull )
b) However, if the employee starts working, and the application is rejected after 4 months, the employee is out of status and has to leave the country immediately...
c) When companies apply for H1 and GreenCard they regularly ask the employee to sign contracts to force the employee to work for the organization for a period of time untill they can recover their lawyer fees. Unfortunately none of those contract mention that if that employee is kicked out of the company against his will, he would have a huge financial losses if he had to leave the country to avoid being out of status.


And these are only few of the problems a H1 employee face. How do you think you would react to the same situation ?

Personally I believe that just like any other open market, the job market should be wide open so that the myth can die for once and for all. Once there are lesser restrictions on H1 empolyees, the cost of these employees will go up and it would bring in only those people who are really required in the industry.



Most of the Myth is introduced in this industry my "body shoppers" who are middleman between companies and employees. Take away the reason why they exist... and let the market decide the course of action.



Management is -not- unskilled work. (2)

Parity (12797) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185413)

I'm sorry, but, I've worked under good managers and under bad managers, and under the first you feel informed, motivated, like you're contributing to the project. Under a bad manager, you never feel anything but another deadline. Managers need a lot of skills - to be able to talk to the suits (if you have a good manager, you won't feel he -is- one of the suits... he's one of the team), to translate techie-speak to suit-speak to customer-speak and back again without losing anything in the translation; to prioritize sanely (maybe the customer only cares about adding feature X, but programmer is worried about bug Y and wants to spend time on it... factor in importance of the feature, whether the bug has effects that make work on the product hard - low-level bugs affect code above them, messing up things for the programmer trying to add functionality; high-level bugs may not have any effect other than the obvious one.) A manager doesn't have to have a tech background to do these things, but he does have to have an open mind and an ability to ask the right questions, to make decisions quickly, and to not be afraid to change his mind if a decision starts to look wrong.

I'm not sure if you've only had good managers or only had bad managers, but if you'd had some of each, you'd notice that there is definitely skill involved!

Parity Odd
--Parity

Very, very true. (4)

Parity (12797) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185414)

There are lots of people contradicting this article, but I have to say, that I'm not a manager, but I still get involved in the interview process, to assess people's technical skills. I give them a little quiz, usually, a coding test of some kind. There are several ways to fail this test:

Say you're rusty in language X; then, not know what pseudo-code is; then not be able to write the algorithm in pseudo code; then not be able to write an even something as simple as "a loop to print the numbers from one to ten."

Say you're not prepared, and ask to do the test as a take home or to come back later. This is not a graduate exam, this is something any 1st year compsci undergraduate should be able to do, and if you can't do it in C (or whatever) I'll let you do it in pseudo-code... you shouldn't need to take it home where I can't see that -you- wrote it!

Write down something really scrambled that does utterly the wrong thing, and blame errors on being more familiar with language Y than with language X. No, sorry, doesn't wash. Syntax errors, yes, fine, whatever, I don't care. Logic errors, no. An algorithm is an algorithm, and none of C/C++/Java/Pascal/or even BASIC are far enough apart to make this a viable excuse. 'If' is 'If' and 'For' is 'For' and either you can think a problem through into code or you can't.

And that is why we hired the fourth person, who when asked to write an addelement() and removeelement() for a FIFO Queue (implementation details not specified... you could use an array of ten ints and error on overflow and that'd be fine) ... she wrote down a linked-list queue straight from a data-structures course, with a couple of small errors but the logic was mostly right. So, hey, if we have to wait for an H1B Visa, we're going to wait for it, because while the point of on-the-job training is well taken (we expect to do that; we wanted ability to program and understanding of networking, things -any- B.S. in compsci -ought- to know, plus a little RL coding experience). Sorry, but no, we are -not- going to teach people on the job the basics of basic coding, and given some of the people I've seen come through (and be handed to me by managers with glowing words only for me to find out they don't even know what code should look like, much less how to do it.) And -that- is my little story and why I believe the above person is not distorting facts. (Also, on that retraining... the above poster hired a -contractor-. You don't train contractors, you train full-timers.)

Parity None

--Parity

Re:Must be a slow day on slashdot... (1)

Monkey (16966) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185432)

I know a homeless guy who wears one of these! It keeps the aliens from reading your thoughts apparently.

Re:Still need good programmers (1)

Monkey (16966) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185433)

It's true. I write code to designed specifications flawlessly. If you expect me to engineer your software and do you your analysis for you, a monkey is probably not what you need.

Re:I've just graduated. (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185434)

Part of the problem is that companies will always be fussy, shortage or no shortage. Their HR departments are usually slow, so the companies that do employ you will usually be those with the better recruitment process in place.

Graduates usually have a tough time because companies are looking for people withe experience, so this leads to that paradox that you need work experience to get work, but where the heck do you get the experience if no one wants to employ graduates.

In the end you wil find something, but you will have to work at it. Usually a good thing is to get registered with some agencies or even check with your university for companies interested in hiring graduates. One thing that you will find has its weight in gold are contacts, as in the end the people you know will help you get the job you want.

Currently in North America finding a computer job is tough for everyone, since companies having been firing people left, right and center and those that haven't re in near hiring freezes.

Bogus interview questions (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185435)

I have often been in interviews with companies that required me to answer a number of skill related questions. Things that I find in the questions asked are as follow:
  • The questions are so obscure as even to elimnate the best 'practical' programmer. They will be best answered by the theoretical programmer, ie the one who has only ever read a book on the subject.
  • The questions are usually unanswerable even by the guys already working at the company and these guys are doing a good job.
  • Some of the tests aren't actually proof read and thus the answer sheet that the HR guy has no relavence.
  • It is the HR guy who checks the answers not another programmer - so there in no real way to make a proper judgement.
  • The questions tend to test known facts, as opposed to the ability to learn new skills fast opposed to being a compatible personality for the company's development team.
If you feel that the applicant thinks and tackles problems in the right way, then it is often more important that whether they know skill x. After all what is a perfect match if they can't get beyond the examples in the book?

Just forget the biology ... (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185436)

If you did both degrees at the same time then you could always forget that you did Biology on your CV, unless that's what you are looking for. The problem you will probably find is that employers will make rash judgements on you suitability for a job based on the degrees you have, so by not putting biology down the employer doesn't get the notion that you are looking for a biology related computer job. While there are a ethics on pretending to do something, I don't think there are any on pretending not do something in a CV. The way I see it is that you have to be able to twist the truth sometimes without lying about it - after all the company you are going to be working for is probably doin that themselves.

Re:There really was a shortage of *good* people (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185448)

Finally I fired him and went back to my original search. I find this sort of story absolutely mind-numbing. Why is it that organizations just don't see the possibility of training or otherwise developing people in the skills they need?

Re:There really was a shortage of *good* people (2)

johnburton (21870) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185450)

Yes, I've been involved in recuriting programmers for the company I work for and found that there is no shortage of programmers. What there is a shortage of is competent programmers. Only about 5% of the applications we got were actually any good.

About 75% did not have the skills ever to make it to a first interview. It often became apparent during a first interview that they did not have the skills that they claimed.

Og the 10% or so that made it to the 2nd interview we give them a short technical test to test that the actually know c++, object oriented design and SQL which were the three things we needed.

We often had people claiming to be experts in C++ who didn't know what the virtual keyword did, or could not write a simple function to (for example) reverse thr direction of the elements in an array.

We had a simple question for OO analysis and design where we stated very simple problem and asked them to derive a possible object model to represent the system. Before we even looked at the quality of their solution, about half the candidates had no idea how to do this.

Finally we had on more than one occasion people claiming years of sql experience who didn;'t seem aware that database queries could join more than one table.

Frankly, there is a big skills shortage, not a shortage of people.

Re:So goes the economy (2)

gstovall (22014) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185451)

I've been a hiring manager at a large high-tech firm, and I can affirm that there WAS a severe shortage of US citizens that were skilled enough to do the kind of work that my company does. We recruited at all the colleges and held job fairs all the time. We saw all kinds of people, US citizens and noncitizens, young and not-so-young, and we found VERY slim pickings among the US citizens. Nearly all those qualified were already fully employed. We prefer to hire US citizens, because there is SO much less paperwork. But we couldn't, because we just couldn't find them. When I started with my company 15 years ago, it was predominantly inhabited by Anglo Saxons, with a few Indians (not native Americans) thrown in. Now, among the programming staff, it's 60-80% Indian/Arab/Chinese. I would say 90%, but some might acuse me of exaggurating.

Like many companies, we've had layoffs, and we did not target the visa holders any more than the citizens. And we certainly have not targeted older workers. I'm very glad about that; I'm rapidly becoming an "older worker". I'm 38, and I'm already one of the most senior (in age) design folks around.

I have seen an issue where some of the "senior" designers, who had spent most of their career working on our proprietary technology, did not make the effort to learn new tricks (learning Java, object oriented design, etc.) and in fact actively resisted any assignment that might have exposed them to new ways of doing business. These behaviors have exposed them to greater likelihood of job loss than those who embrace new technology.

Shortage of quality people is real (2)

Kevin S. Van Horn (29825) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185456)

The author states,

"Software employers, large or small, across the nation, concede that they receive huge numbers of resumes but reject most of them without even an interview. One does not have to be a
``techie'' to see the contradiction here. A 2% hiring rate might be unremarkable in other fields, but not in one in which there is supposed to be a ``desperate'' labor shortage. If employers were that desperate, they would certainly not be hiring just a minuscule fraction of their job applicants."

Let me shed some light on this with my own experiences. A few years ago I was working in Silicon Valley for Excite (now Excite@Home). We spent months trying to find a *qualified* person to work with me on the NewsTracker project. And, yes, we probably rejected 100 applicants without ever interviewing them. The reasons fell into these categories:

a. Lack of experience. (Eventually we had to compromise on this one).

b. Lack of qualifications for serious programming work. There are hordes of people out there who think that just because they know a little bit of HTML or have written a few Perl programs, they qualify as software engineers.

c. Lack of desired background and skills specific to the position. (Eventually we had to compromise on this, too.)

Category (b) was the most common reason for tossing applications. Most of the applicants simply weren't qualified by a long shot for the position.

Re:I've just graduated. (1)

PimpBot (32046) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185463)

Same here...I'm a bit different in the sense that I've got Bachelors in both Computer Science and Biology a couple months ago, but it seems as if no one is hiring.

I've tried several IS/IT firms, and I always get no reply from them. Bioinformatics firms are looking for MS/PhD people, not entry level programmers. I've still got more connections I can try using, but damnit, this is getting depressing.

Anyone have a job or words of advice for a green college kid? :-)


--------------------------

Re:Just forget the biology ... (1)

PimpBot (32046) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185464)

I kind of do that now - I have two version of my resume. One version is for the biotech companies, listing my experiences in both. The other version mentions that I got both degrees, but places a lot more emphasis on my computer science side. I give each company a resume which ever is more appropriate for it.

I'll keep your comments in mind, though. Thanks much for the reply.
--------------------------

There is a shortage (1)

mseeger (40923) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185475)

I've been CEO of an IT company for seven years
and i was most of the time responsible for the hiring.


Programming like most *real* IT jobs requires a
solid education. There may be exceptions, but they are execptions. Highly educated and trained people
in any "new" area have allways been scarce.


But IT companies get swamped by applications from people who read two or three books an wrote a VBA script. Companies, under the pressure to grow and to satisfy the demand, which hire those goons will go under.


So they, especially big companies, try to get those scarce ressources form all over the world.


But this is a short term strategy:

  • First, it's allways a difficult taks to integrate someone who grew up under totally different circumstances. In the US this kind of integration seems to work better than in other countries, but there a still a lot of problems.
  • Second, it lowers the pressure to educate and train people. Today we have a high output of people who can use a computer. But the percentage
    of "freaks" who truly understand what they are doing seems to be as low as during my highschool days (mid 1980's).


So i think green cards or H1B visas will not solve these problems.


CU, Martin

Re:I've just graduated. (3)

THEbwana (42694) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185477)

Opensource development is a great way to break out of the paradox. Your contributions can always be evaluated by a potential employer, reducing their risk (in the same way that requiring professional experience reduces risk).

What you dont want, as an employer, is a person graduated with a CS major who still doesn't know how to code/design software/solve problems.

- Some universities are pushing their students throug CS in a NT-only environment. I would never hire a developer fresh out of such an education.

Re:There really was a shortage of *good* people (1)

greenrd (47933) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185484)

At any given point in time, if you think you have a chance of finding a person with the required skills in a reasonably short space of time, it's cheaper to fire and search than it is to train. The only problem with that argument is that your belief that you have a chance of finding someone might be wrong. It's risk-taking activity, not necessarily irrational.

Re:I've just graduated. (1)

t_allardyce (48447) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185486)

I'm just about to start my course (UK)... they told me there was a big shortage of engineers. There better be some good jobs for me when i get out 'cause i'm sure-as-hell not going to work at bu*ger king. lol

Anyone else see a pattern? (1)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185492)


Ok, so it's pretty obvious, there are not enough high skilled tech workers to do the specific job many companies want. But no one has ever mentioned, "Well, this job was critical, so was have a junior position where we put some guy who has good logic skills and works well with others. We expect for him to learn the skills, and he can assist the skilled worker."

No, you don't see that. So, now after years of not training people, the lack of skilled tech workers is coming back to bite them on the ass. And STILL they don't have any trainee positions.

As to the quizmiesters. Stop looking for the applicant with all the answers. When I stop working on a language I start to forget how to do things. Do I work well with you? Do you like my examples of previously written code? Am I a slacker? What else do you need?

Just graduated, horrific sense of timing.

Re:So goes the economy (1)

fusiongyro (55524) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185493)

eh? how many 35+ year old professionals do you know? How many of them have skills that apply today? It takes more than a good suit, a snappy smile, and a mathematics degree to make it in this world today. Gasp--you actually need to know something and be willing to work. Students leaving my university are snapped up quick: not every CS degree involves writing a C compiler, Linux device drivers, cleanroom style coding, and database building. it's a hard curriculum, and people leave it destined for greatness it seems. an informal comparison I did one night showed many of the classes required for the degree at my college were master's level courses at other universities. master's students from other schools are often tutored at my school. By the undergraduates. of course, not having a single professor who's native language is English encourages an atmosphere of "do-it-yourself", that combined with the focus on Linux development pretty much guarantees that only the hardcore shall survive. :-D I've never been so proud of being average.

A good friend of mine, near and dear to my heart, has been in the industry for more than twenty years. But he was trained in Lisp programming; AI and computer linguistics. The demand in that particular field is non-existant. Instead of marketing himself as that, he markets himself as a UNIX/Linux sysadmin with 20+ years of experience. Which, while not unheard of, is certainly more useful in this day and age than LISP programmer or 4 year experienced Linux programmer. He has not been without a job for any significant amount of time, and always manages to bargain to get extra time off due to an illness.

There's no such thing as age discrimination. There's discrimination against stale skills. There's discrimination against outdated, outmoded technology. I'm not hiring a former VMS expert unless he can use my system (which isn't VMS). I'm not hiring a LISP programmer if my code is Python/Perl/C++.

The one thing the world is not tolerant of, in the information age, is experience for the sake of loyalty and not learning. we aren't building systems on an assembly line. Cisco certified network administrators who don't know bash are useless as sysadmins. I know one, and he knows that basic Linux skills are the mana from heaven as far as employers are concerned. then again I have another friend who insists that an EE degree in addition to your CS degree is yoru golden passport to any job you want at whatever salary you demand. Probably true, in some circles. but this is not an industry where loyalty is rewarded.

Daniel

IT shortage here (1)

Old Wolf (56093) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185494)

As far as I can see, IT companies are screaming out (with cheque books foremost) for skilled IT workers. Getting a programming job or a Unix/Linux sysadmin is easier than falling off a log.

The IT industry is still growing very fast, and companies that have nothing to do with IT are hiring a sysadmin or programmer just to write them a website, or do a computer program of their products, or whatever.

Product Managers keeps work in U.S. (1)

totierne (56891) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185496)

Lack of close to the customer middle management outside the U.S. keeps software work in the U.S. which could otherwise be pushed off to divisions in cheap labour countrys, Ireland, India etc.

The first stage has been to put back end processing and programming to cheaper labour countries, the next stage is to include more customer focused people in the cheaper labour countries so more decision making can be done there. Hopefully returning H1-B people have more than 'just' programming experience but more Product Management, Buisness Awareness and Customer Facing skills.

Re:There really was a shortage of *good* people (2)

mbyte (65875) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185499)

I can only second this. We were also looking for some good php/sql coders, but its incredible hard to find !

I got also numerous offers from folks that did know how to write "select * from foobar" and think they are sql experts.. (the funny thing is that those ppl did demand the highest salarys ;)

But in the end .. it comes to check the folks with the highest potential, and train them. When you see the quality of the so called "business schools" where they teach programming here, you would fall from your chair .. :)

Most of those business schools teach about 1 topic per week here, thats 1 week db admin, 1 week java, 1 week php, and so on. total bullshit.

There Really WAS a Shortage (2)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185505)

There was a shortage of rationality in the investment community -- and all that irrational money sloshing around created an irrational demand for "talent" -- basically warm bodies that would look enough like a real "Silicon Valley Startup" to pass muster with the SEC, should there come a time when the poor suckers who got taken filed suit for fraud against the VC's and management of the "startups".

This was basically all about harvesting the real estate value generated by the demand from the baby boomers [geocities.com] before the females of that generation finally gave up on having kids. There were quite substantial interests who wanted to mobilize the barbarian hoards against the Microsoft Empire while, unnoticed back on the East Coast, AOL/Time/Warner/CNN/Netscape/Amazon/etc. absorbed more and more key assets -- however that attack failed and the war was funded (as usual) by lemmings anyway, so who cared?

The main thing is the wealth transfer to Wall Street and its favored investors needed to occur before the GI generation died leaving all that real estate value to mid to late boomer males who, unlike those born before 1950 such as Clinton, Gore, etc. did not get to be "Shockwave Riders [sbfonline.com] " in the sense their parents and elder siblings did and who, unlike females in their cohort, weren't in a position to get a boost from the unprecedented youthful sexual power accorded to females during those critical years as a result of sexual liberation, women's liberation, birth control and abortion. As a consequence, many GI's really will Die Broke [amazon.com] even if they didn't intend it. At least they can take solace in all those WW II blockbusters being put out by Hollywood lately -- not quite as analgesic as heroin, though.

A side benefit of having this sort of pathological tsunami pass through an industry and wreak havoc, is that in its wake there are lots of bargains -- and that is good news for the guys who rode the ponzi schemes to wealth. They are now in a position to broker control the genuine threat to the status quo represented by the Internet. Here again, however, was ancillary to the primary target:

The largest intergenerational wealth transfer in human history.

No shortage at $$ (3)

inicom (81356) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185507)

In my own hiring, CS students from local community colleges with no experience and little understanding of real world programming scoff at positions offering less than $25/hr.

Meanwhile, I can hire foreign graduate students who've finished their masters degree under the Practical Training provision of their student visa for less than $15/hr. And these are people who typically worked for years in the field in their home countries before coming to the US for their masters.

Must be a slow day on slashdot... (1)

willis (84779) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185511)

Must be gearing up for the Sunday slowdown, trying to get some passionate hits/add impressions.

As an AC pointed out, this has been discussed several times before. It might be an interesting point for discussion, but I can't imagine it getting to far before people starting flaming each other.
cheers!

The article is a myth (5)

Pedrito (94783) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185524)

As a manager of developers, I can tell you that there absolutely IS an shortage of IT people. At least a shortage of good ones. I mean, I get tons of resumes from people who don't know anything about software development, but they're not useful to me. I have had 4 developers in my group. 3 of them are here on H1B work visas. I didn't hire them because they were foreigners. I hired them because they were the best I could find.

I have one other person that I'm probably going to hire in the next few weeks. He's was born and raised American.

I've interviewed at least a 50 developers over the past year. I'd say that 80-90% of them have been foreigners looking to get work visas. So, if you ask me, it looks like there's a serious shortage of IT workers in this country, or at least in my area, which is a high-tech center (the Dulles Corridor of Northern Virginia).

Re:IT bubble's about to burst (1)

drnomad (99183) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185528)

I'm in the industry, and investments in projects are -yes- slowing down. There are two reasons for this:

1. Economical growth is slowing, not only caused by the dotcom shakeout, also by irrational dumping of shares. They're just very cautious with new investments now.

2. The upcoming Euro. 1-1-2002, the Euro is introduced in 14 European countries, this is a bit like the Y2K bug, cause every corporate now needs to use a new currency, and convert old statistical data into Euro's. The currency conversion has top priority.


--

That's kind of interesting (5)

acacia (101223) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185537)

We (the company I work for) write parallel processing applications. We had a skills shortage, but managed to get around it by training people with good experience in technologies similar in nature.

I wasn't born with parallel processing app dev skills. Neither were any of my foreign co-workers. They were trained on the subject, and the criteria for hire is/was an ability to absorb new concepts with minimum effort. So a hi IQ gets you the job.

I suspect in your case that you didn't pay the prevailing rate for the position (perhaps bad information?) and/or you were not geared to recruit people with the real prerequisite: The ability to comprehend what was necessary to make the software work.

Unfortunately, the people making hiring decisions do not do so optimally. That is just a matter of human nature. I think that that your specific requirements drew you into a sort of no-win situation, in that you could not keep/advance your career without a guaranteed success, and in response to that you targeted your audience too restictively, which effectively precluded success.

The next time you look at finding a person to fill a position, look at what is really required outside of the core technologies. Those who fulfill these requirments are the people you need to interview for. Which is the unspoken point of this article: We have created an atificial limit on applicants and suffered, but now that the price has dipped somewhat, with lowered expectations we have a surplus.

Just to confirm your thoughts (2)

vanguard (102038) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185538)

I also work for a large company in RTP that recently had layoffs (Cisco). You're right, projects and departments are usually cut and the people in them are let go regardless of their skill level.

In my experience, larger companies normally work like that. Smaller companies (300 employees or less) tend to look at people and decide if the can live without them. Larger companies look at a department and it's contribution to the bottom line. If you're in the wrong group everybody is toast regardless of their skill set.

Programming does not use math! (1)

PaxTech (103481) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185539)

From the article:
Question: The industry lobbyists say the alleged high-tech labor shortage is due to the failure of our K-12 educational system to develop math skills for engineering careers. Is that true?

The main answer to this question is that the vast majority of high-tech H-1Bs are programmers, not engineers, and programming does not use math.

I guess I can stop incrementing my for loops now, since "programming does not use math". Ones, zeroes, what's the difference? It's just math, and I don't need it to program.

You might as well say "Journalism does not use words."
--
PaxTech

Re:Job Posting (2)

B'Trey (111263) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185543)

Uh, what are you talking about? Nobody is complaining about the deal that foreign programers get. At least, not the foreign programmers. People are lining up, fighting, begging, clamoring to get H1-B visas. The point isn't that foreign programers are getting the shaft; the point is that foreign programmers are getting paid to move here and work while American programmers, particularly experienced American programmers, can't find a job, and the software industry is lobbying to bring MORE foreign programmers in.

Perhaps this is a sign that the "industry standard" rate is too high. Maybe American programmers should be willing to work for a bit less.

Matloff at it again (1)

govardha (112800) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185544)

Do you have to keep posting the same person's
rant against H1-B programmers over and over again? I haven't seen anything different in what Matloff has written from 2 years ago in this write up. Just because the economy is turning south, Matloff words seem to ring a resonant chord with quite a few people here.

Re:Cause and Effect (4)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185552)

Now what Scifi series is this reminding me of? Ah yes, BattleTech.
Our programmers are the pinnacle of five hundred years of selective breeding and intensive training. Five hundred programmers are grown from a genetic sample, then raised together, being constantly tested. Most will die in that testing, or prove unworthy and be demoted to a lower caste.
Programmers who don't work to death by the time they're thirty five are considered solahma, fit only for changing the diapers of young sibkos, and for going on suicide runs, such as fixing Y2K problems.

Re:There really was a shortage of *good* people (4)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185553)

There are two (three actually) main schools of interview these days. School one is what I like to call 'I am the Alpha, I am the Omega.' They're not looking for the correct answer, they're looking for their answer. And if you give a correct answer that isn't their answer, you didn't give them the correct answer. School two is the 'I wanted to be a psychiatrist' school, where some managerial idiot starts doing behavioural modeling and response interviewing, which he learned at a two day course, and draws conclusions from it. "Tell me about a time you had to work in a team. Tell me about a time that you had to work under pressure..." School three is the interviewers who don't suck. They're often not looking at what answer you give, so much as how you arrived at that answer. Let me give an example. I learned this trick from my first full time boss, and use it to great effect. The Kobyashi Maru Database
You are the DBA of a database running a client server application. Several people in the office use your application, and all is well. One day, a DBA from a different group is told to install an app for his users onto the DB box. Shortly thereafter, people who use your app start complaining about performance being slow, and data being lost sometimes. What do you do?
And the beauty is that there is no correct answer. No matter what they say, you explain why that doesn't help or won't work. This gives you two benefits: you get to see where their strengths and weaknesses lie, and you get to see how they work things through, under pressure. A little bit of questioning by the applicant eventually reveals that it's the other DBA's new app causing the problem. Now, of course, the eventual answer needs to be 'I punt it off to our supervisors and let them deal with it.' But anybody who says that is obviously, as Scott Adams calls it, "Juan Delegator." Talk to the DBA? He says it's your app's fault. Show him proof? He doesn't believe it. Try to fix the server? You can't touch his stuff. Buy a new box? No money. And so on.

not programmers, just the other IT workers (3)

10e 999 (128948) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185554)

There are boatloads of people working in the IT field with job titles such as "Product Manager", "Product Planner" or anything that has to do with marketing. These jobs are especially numerous in the dot com sector. These people rake in lots of dough and perform jobs that require less than high school diploma. These are people that are reported being getting laid off everyday on fuckedcompany.com, not programmers. We still need real programmers.

Why is this news? (1)

Aryeh Goretsky (129230) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185555)

Hello

This subject has been debated endlessly on USENET, in the letters column of business and computer magazines, and so many other places that I'm surprised to see it mentioned on Slashdot.

In the early '90's, I was working at a software company that was growing and had openings for programmers, and inbetween interviews, the founder turned to me and said "American programmers are too expensive, so I'm only going to hire foreigners from now on" (or words to that effect, this was almost a decade ago). After that, I personally started calling the corner or the building where all the development staff were located "Little Europe" because I heard more Russian and Bulgarian than English spoken around me. And I don't think any one of them worked less than 80-90 hours a week.

What companies are bemoaning is a lack of cheap-yet-highly-skilled labor. They wish to produce complex products, but do not wish to pay for the skill and experience required to create them.

Want to see the shortage of programmers disappear overnight? Increase H-1B fees so it costs more for a temporary foreign worker than a domestic one, and make sponsorship non-exclusive, so that the person brought in can take a job elsewhere in 90 days. If there really was a shortage of domestic programmers, then companies would be willing to pay that premium, and they'd have to pay those workers a decent salary to keep them from going to an employer that doesn't view their H-1B's as indentured servants.

Aryeh Goretsky
- - -

UK - No skills shortage either. (1)

MrDalliard (130400) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185556)

In the UK, the IT job market seems to be pretty dire, but it's been recently publicised that a lot of companies are making their contract IT staff unemployed in favour of programmers from India, who are obviously going to be a lot cheaper.

All I can seem to get at the moment are odd jobs for a few weeks at a time, and as far as my home area is concerned, there's just no IT work whatsoever.

There isn't a skill shortage at all. It's just that UK employees are considered as too expensive for UK businesses. (I know it's not the US, but let's be honest, most UK offices are just regional satellites of US companies)

M.

Re:not programmers, just the other IT workers (1)

nickjennings (132759) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185558)

That's complete bull.

Several of my friends, good programmer, have been laid off. I can think of 20+ people that I know first hand, that have been laid off.

If 1 person can name 20+ good programmers who have lost thier jobs during the past 5-6 months, Then I think thats a pretty good example of whats going on around the board.

Your ignorance of the situation is impressive.

Re:Just don't get it do you? (2)

BadDoggie (145310) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185566)

I read somewhere that Germany is considering some kind of H1-B provision (I think it was Germany, anyway -- I haven't seen the article in a while).

Yeah, you read right, although it isn't quite as bad as an H1-B. The main reason we have the "Greencard"[sic] is because all the German programmers split to the US and UK to make better money for generally the same work. Of course, they usually come back home after a couple years because they miss a number of benefits and protections (like workers' protections, health insurance, 30 days' holiday instead of 10 [and usually none the first year in the US], good beer and a sensible government system not yet owned by corporations, to name a few).

Germany also put other restrictions on the Greencard, including proof of abilities and a minimum salary of DM 100,000 (around US$ 45,000 right now). They also don't give employers the rights of some god; the visa-holder here is not some sort of indentured servant. That's sociual democracy for ya.

Another more important difference here in the Reich is that the population is not sustainable. People are having a lot fewer babies and having them later. There simply ain't enough people, and this is a growing problem in most European countries.

I'm a Yank, but live here for a lot of reasons I won't go into. Paid my dues, did my time (USN, DOL, FERC), paid my taxes and Social Insecurity.

By the way: unlike private industry, the government believes in a training budget!

The US gov't provides little training outside the military, unless you lie on your application for a job and get it anyway. It used to be that you had to take a civil service exam and actually prove you knew basic things. Trying to get a simple GS-3 secretarial job? You needed to take a typing test. Not anymore, and not for some time. It's "discrimination". Really. If someone can bullshit his way through an interview and get the job being totally incompetent, the US generally can't fire him/her (also "discrimination": that's where the training comes in. I wish I was joking. Dad was a federal judge and dealt with this.

Oh yeah, I'm working for a YooEss company (but no visa through them, I'm permanent here on my own). The pay could be better, but we're "entitled" to training. We can only fly steerage (a.k.a. "ecomony") though; even managers don't get business class. Ppfththt.

woof.

Last year I had 41 paid days off, not including sick days.

Re:not programmers, just the other IT workers (1)

spanky555 (148893) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185568)

Sorry, that's just wrong. I work in Denver, Colorado. There are people I know personally, who are *programmers*, that are being laid off left and right, and they are not being snapped up immediately. And these are good people, with current skills. And I feel very much so that I might be next. A year ago this was very different. Finding a job was nearly a no-brainer.

I say that absolutely NO MORE H1-B's should be issued, period. At least until the economy picks up again. Programmer shortage...bah! If this kind of nonsense continues, we will end up with labor unions, and that is a cure that is worse than the disease.

Re:The article is a myth (1)

spanky555 (148893) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185569)

Sorry, that's just BS. It might have been sort of true (you would have to pay high $$$ for talent, oh goodness me!) a year ago, but now, that's just rubbish. I suggest you wait until the next round of hirings before you dispute my claim. There's a lot of talent hitting the streets right now.

I submit that part of the "shortage" was also a money/ego issue: managers didn't like seeing programmers getting paid nearly as much or more than the management. Egos get in the way, and people assume that managers should be paid more, even though it's largely unskilled work. That's why, as a contractor at some larger shops, I'd hear much grumbling from mid-level managers about "contractors being expensive, blah, blah".
I think it was because they see the invoice, and assume that contractors get nearly all of that money. They should know better, but again that management ego kicks in, and I know that has to play a part.

Re:Job Posting (1)

spanky555 (148893) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185570)

And these don't exist in the U.S.? Where have you been? It's called the HOV lane, and yes, there are cities that have roads for buses only. The greenie-weenies are already getting a foothold here, don't you fret.

Re:Our industry probably just does it all wrong... (1)

Kryptonomic (161792) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185587)

we worked more like a surgical team

That's an interesting concept.

Could elaborate a bit?

Job Posting (2)

loraksus (171574) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185593)

Canadian living in USA after failed bid at a .com looking for work. I had it good i.e.had them pay for my move down plus about 50k bonus (one time) for the move, rent for the first year, and cashed in my stock options at a profit.) Also got green cards out of the deal. Dunno wtf people are complaining about.
By no means was my experience "substandard" in any way.
Compared to where I and many other's came from, the USA paid really well - compared to where I came from and where others came from, the $ they earn in the states will be a definite improvement on their lifestyle in the old country.
Fine, perhaps they aren't being paid the average salary, but when you calculate moving, the green cards (i.e. pay lawyers, lots of lawyers), the rent, the bonuses, etc...) and they get substancially more $ than they would have back home.
The States isn't awesome in every way, it just has lower taxes and a higher standard of living than the majority of countries in the world.
Too bad the media doesn't cover any foreign news with the exception of when the us is bombing iraq..

Cause and Effect (5)

jeko (179919) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185598)

1. Coders get dumped when they turn 35.
2. We can't find any skilled coders.

Hello? Does anyone else see the correlation here? Skill is the product of talent and experience. Talent comes from God Almighty in precious little doses, but experience comes with age.

The skilled coder you can't find is probably one of the ones you dumped because his salary was just a little too high. Now you'll pay double his salary in recruitment costs and receive nothing productive in return.

You would think even an MBA could understand this.

Don't forget the FrontPage / VB script kiddies. (3)

SlushDot (182874) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185600)

Sorry, but the web jockeys using FrontPage, etc., are not programmers. I can respect the ones who actually know and edit HTML by hand and bang out cgi scripts in perl. But as for rest using cookie cutter templates? No. Not programmers for a second.

They never show the real "IT" people on the TV commercials. Yeah, I'd like to see them show a Real Programmer's cubicle. With loads of old drives, disks, PCI/ISA/EISA/VLB cards, prototype boards, cables piled all over his desk amidst the empty soda and slurpee cups; stacks of now useless code printouts filling most of his desk; with several sheets of scribbled notes shoved under his keyboard; the Belldandy wallpaper on his desktop; the safari shorts, 3-5 year old tennis shoes and black T-shirt that's frazzled around the neck and sleeves and should've been thrown away 2 years ago; the sci-fi and anime related posters all over the wall, while he wears headphones listening to a real audio stream of Rush Limbaugh; yes, the typical programmer is far to the political Right despite the popular "counterculture" image of tech people on TV. Note, though that this is not "wrong" nor counts against the programmer; a few programming charts (esp. the 'C' order of operations precedence list); the various goodies (pens, Linux bumper stickers, yo-yos) from many Comdex's past. The bad-burn CDs and line printer stuff pinned up as some kind of obscure nouveau art. The "ACHTUNG! Alles Lookenpepers" sign lifted from the jargon file near the cubicle's entrance; And a 'combat' cartridge from the Atari 2600 mounted on the cubicle wall to honor the profession's past; and of course several running computers with at least two monitors switched by switchboxes with flakey contacts so the video jitters on the red gun unti you wiggle the knob; At least one monitor with Slashdot displayed in any browser except IE. THESE are the Real Programmers who have been around long enough to remember entire teamd of long since fired "IT staff". He may be kinda wierd, but he can do the magic over and over and over and will be with the company forever until he can retire at 40.

Same as music recording industry ? (1)

willamowius (193393) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185605)

I don't really buy the argument that having many, many applications means that there is no shortage.

Think of the music recording industry: There are thousands of local bands with a lot of experience and most of them are turned down by the record companies. They still put out CDs by somebody who is already a star.

There might be a few who deserve a chance, but I'm glad they spare me all those who could be "trained".

Age isn't the only factor... (5)

ChaoticCoyote (195677) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185607)

Older workers (I'm hitting the big 4-oh this year) have negatives beyond age. We often have wives and families, which mean we're unwilling to work 6-80 hour weeks and on weekends. Wives also come with children in many cases -- leading "mature" workers to want benefits like insurance and pension plans.

A couple of decades ago, having a family was a *plus* when applying for a job; it proved stability and responsibility. Today, when the average tech job lasts for a year or two (if that!), employers are more interested in cost-cutting and reducing benefit loads. Which may explain why so much software today just simply sucks...

The same force that drove manufacturing jobs -- cheap labor -- overseas will now begin to eat away at the U.S. tech industry. Someone working in Mexico or India requires a lower salaray and fewer benefits than the equivalent U.S. worker. In a world driven entirly by the collection of wealth, does it surprise anyone that tech company have foreign development shops or employ H1B indentured servants?


--
Scott Robert Ladd
Master of Complexity
Destroyer of Order and Chaos

Our industry probably just does it all wrong... (1)

fleeb_fantastique (208912) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185613)

I'm kind of surprised the article did not recommend that software companies restructure the way they go about handling software projects.

I would imagine some of these hiring problems that I read about here in Slashdot and have seen first-hand would be diminished if, as an industry, we worked more like a surgical team and less like an assembly factory (yes, a The Mythical Man-Month reference).

With such an approach, job qualifications change, making it easier for people to learn appropriate skills on the job while reducing the risk of screwing up a project.

You're all living in the past... (1)

percey (217659) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185616)

There's certainly no shortage of programmer now. Yes a lot of H1-B visa people are being hired. No one has the motivation that they do. Take the Indian H1-B workers (please). In their high school they're taught every "money making" in demand program out there. American companies open up corporations in India which the only responsibility is to recruit. They come over here, making 40k a year. The average salary over there is a fraction of that. Additionally they're the hope of their town or village. Since they're the creme of the crop, they have a chip on their shoulders. In my experience their impression of American programmers aren't very high. They're a tight nit group and always network. Meanwhile, the company owns their visa, so they don't run to another job for a few dollars more, which is a rampant attribute of american programmers. So by default they're much more difficult to recruit and retain.

But then again this is how it used to be.

Right now there's so many out of work american programmers that any stable company should have their pick of all-stars. Unfortunately the layoffs and the hiring freeze has had a huge impact on H1B Visas... Most of them are being forced to go home and of course its a great shame to them. Most of the computer jobs that exist there were either at american companies, or companies that got their money from american companies that hired them for jobs. Its tougher for them than it is for us. Additionally those all-star all-americans are having enough trouble finding work, but they'll be picked before the H1-B visas. I don't think we can blame the countries that send them, and mostly its the individual that's trying for a better life, and only a small amount of blame exists on the opportunist companies, the real blame is that the stigma surrounding being a "nerd" has, for so many years preceding the boom, made the numbers of technical people drop by so much that they couldn't ramp up to produce the workers. But boom times are over and equillibrium is beginning to take place.

Re:Cause and Effect (1)

am 2k (217885) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185617)

Good programmers have to learn new things all the time. From my experience, esp. old people can't or refuse to learn.
Programmers that use the same tools (e.g. COBOL, DOS) for 10 years are bad programmers.

Example from the real world: Mac OS X is out. But there are still some companies that produce Mac OS 9 software (which doesn't work on Mac OS X).
Result: They won't sell anything.

Re:IT bubble's about to burst (1)

Weh (219305) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185619)

I'm not denying that the IT boom might be over it's crest, however the companies that you mention are all hardware manufacturers. Afaik their problems are more related to saturation of the market and a very competitive market driving prices down to a point where hardly anyone is making a profit.

The slowdown in the IT sector might also be caused by the burst of the .com bubble, at least it must have contributed to it. Oh yeah, and don't forget the Y2K bubble...

I'd say on a whole there are enough things left to be automated/computerized to keep demand for IT workers reasonably high. I'm working in the IT sector as a part-time job myself, but's it's a very specialized, a mix of programming, numerical mathematics and various mechanics. I got another job offer a few months ago for working some IT job, the pay they offered was very, very high.

Aren't most software companies still making profits ?

Yes, and it is real. (2)

KarmaBlackballed (222917) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185621)

As a manager at a large firm several years ago I had trouble hiring the right talent because the company was not willing to pay the premium that it cost.

Recently I was replaced by a cheaper contractor imported from India.

Does this hurt workers already in the USA? Of course it does.

This is real life. Let's stop towing the "company" line that there is a programmer shortage. There never has been. There has only been a shortage of cheap programmers.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~ the real world is much simpler ~~

Back to Uni before Nike spots us (1)

sideshow-voxx (242126) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185630)

A few years back, there must have been a shortage of people with the qualifications to sew a big red tick on the side of running shoes. I think we should all re-train... :((

Re:not programmers, just the other IT workers (3)

ConsumedByTV (243497) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185633)

What your talking about is people that use computers as an abstract tool. Is that such a bad thing? Would you rather that your skill be something so common that you could be treated like an assembly line worker (no pun) just like most programmers were in "Snow Crash"? I know for a fact that its good to have people that use things as an abstract tool, thats what allows us to have simplifications of everything. Because being a jack of all trades creates a master of none. That being said, I think its good to have end users that are in the tech field, it only helps you look better in the long run anyway.


The Lottery:

You are all missing the point! (1)

cryofan2 (243723) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185634)

The point is not whether there is or is not a shortage of progammers. The point is that this country (The USA) is owned and operated for the benefit of its citizens, solely.

We the citizens of this country should very much desire that there be a shortage of workers in ALL occupations (with the execption of health care workers, whom we should import at a very high rate). We WANT high wages--that's a good thing for us citizens. Yes, it is "bad for business", but this country is not run for the benefit of business--it is run for the benefit of its citizens, the owners of this country...
BSCS in May 01

Doesn't seem likely to me... (2)

Pete (big-pete) (253496) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185642)


I was hired from the UK in 1999 by a large company in Belgium because they were suffering from a skills shortage.

There is no way anyone could claim that this is the cheap way of hiring someone, by the time the company had paid the recruitment fee, the relocation costs (including a specalist company to help me move over, find somewhere to live and settle in), the consultant costs for determining how to best pay us when dealing with the (fairly) complex Belgium tax laws for forigen specalists, etc etc...

What's being missed here is that some countries (such as the USA which the article is directed around) have a high technology base, and not enough people with the required knowledge, and other countries (such as India) have a lot of trained, skilled workers in IT, but do not yet rely as much on the technology so that they are surplus to requirements. The whole process is basically supply-and-demand. IT Staff are a resource like any other to be "traded" by countries. the USA just has a trade deficit in this particular area of business, and India has a trade surplus.

-- Pete.

Re:There really was a shortage of *good* people (2)

Safety Cap (253500) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185644)

I was a manager during the period in question, and I can tell you, I had a devil of a time filling a couple of positions

I am also a manager, and when I received the directive from management to bring in another PL/SQL contract programmer to help out on our project, I wanted to scream. This caused two problems:

  1. According to Rapid Development [microsoft.com] (which every DEV manager, director and executive needs to read), one of the classic mistakes of development is to add a new developer in the middle of the project in the hopes that it will speed development time, and

  2. We would have to find a single qualified person that could learn our design and approach quickly...and who was not currently working or who was ready to leave his/her current position.

We were also hampered by the fact that our $#@! company has an exclusive contract with one of the body shops. What this means is that they would push their own people first no matter how incompetent, before they brought in anyone else from other body shops.

Now, there are a lot of database people out there. A lot. I looked at more resumes than I can count. My ear was sore from phone interviews.
Exactly my experience. There are many PL/SQL folks out there -- both H1B and American citizens. 99% of them were weak in either coding skills or couldn't speak/understand English (another requirement). We had one guy who could correctly pass the hardest phone interview question (What is the maximum size of a VARCAR2 variable in PL/SQL?), but when we brought him in and asked him to write a simple select statement, he got as far as "select * from" and then he stopped, because he'd reached the end of his skills.

From the article, the author gives this advice to developers:

The answer is, sad to say, that you should engage in frequent job-hopping. Note that the timing is very delicate, with the windows of opportunity usually being very narrow, as seen below.

I couldn't agree more. Since most companies are no longer willing to train lesser-competent folks and age them into the positions needed (thus indirectly lowering turnover, duh), then it is up to us to train ourselves, then leave when we can get a better/different job. Someone I used to work for told me that I needed to switch jobs every 3 years, because I'd fall behind in the pay raise schedule. He figured about a 20% pay rate increase was acceptable. With HR mandating 3-6% merit increases (maybe <g>), one will fall behind after three years. I also read in one of the trade rags [cio.com] that the average lifespan of an IT worker ranged from 2.5 to 5 years, which matches my experience. That is a LOT of turnover, which companies pay for by the knowledge/skill loss and the cost to replace.

Never mind that the knowledge and experience is lost forever. We keep making the same mistakes over and over again because we keep forgetting things we did in the past. "If we implement this function at the end of the accounting batch run without notifying Ms. Somebody in accounting exactly 4 days prior and Mr. Whomever on the web team exactly 2 weeks prior, but not via email--only in person, then the process will need to be reset manually," et cetera. Well, Coder Bob figured that out by being burned once, and now he left to another company to do KDE extensions; no one knows what he did in that area, just that he coded report statements.

If companies would treat their workers better (by actually acting like "Employees are [their] most valuable asset") then we will see a decrease of H1Bs, of any skilled talent shortage and of this constant ri-goddamn-diculous job hopping.

Until then, let them whine while we job-hop, learning what we can and taking our knowledge and experience with us to the next gig.

Re:not programmers, just the other IT workers (5)

baptiste (256004) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185646)

You're off your rocker! As much as you'd like to believe its all the pseudo technical types being laid off - far from it.

Sure, a few years ago when companies laid folks off, it was usually the slackers and technical marketing types. But no longer!

As an ex-NORTEL employee (by choice long before they cratered) I can tell you I am absolutely blown away by the names I'm seeing come across the local mailing list for laid off NORTEL folks. These people were best in class programmers with excellent skills. The kind of people who got the top level review rating each year that only %5 of employees got. Thats because companies are now shedding entire projects and divisions. Before that used to happen on a small scale and most of the top coders got jobs elsewhere in the company. But in today's environment, theres nowhere else to go in a company laying off 30% of its work force - all open positions are GONE. So what happens? When a divison gets cut or a major project cancelled, EVERYBODY gets the ax.

Now you'd think they'd have jobs just lined up - well, as someone whose been looking for a halfway decent job for 7 months I can assure you its not always that easy, at least not here in RTP Many companies are laying folks off, not hiring. The # of job postings have gone down by at LEAST an order of magnitude. Even worse is the companies KNOW this and can hand pick the person that fits every single one of their requirements where before if a person fit 80% - it was a catch.

I've even noticed it in the job postings - an almost arrogant tone that basically says if you can't meet every single requirement (and they list tons) then don't even bother cause they won't even acknowledge they received your info.

During 1999 - there WAS a shortage in certain areas, no question. Totally unqualified people were getting hired because whatever work they could do was better than the job sitting unfilled for months. Now, its brutal and companies that can manage to get an opening approved are taking their time finding the gems - and then are paying them much less than they used to. I know excellent programmers who earned $80K getting offers of $65K

As for the middle maangers - yes they seem like incompetent dorks who serve no purpose, well, I can tell you that while sometimes they are, often they server a very important purpose, at least they did @ NORTEL. If they didn't exist, you'd probably spend more time dealing with customers and requirements, and release schedules which would drive you nuts - I've worn both hats and project managemednt can be a very difficult job, especially when you have to manage a project with hundreds of design teams who all say their feature is the most important (of course) So don't get too high on that pedistal because without project managers, your release would never make it out the door on time and without good technical marketing types, you'd have no customers for your product and no job.

Re:Objectivity and older programmers (2)

localroger (258128) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185648)

It's not that older programmers don't understand OO principles. It's precisely because we do understand them that we have contempt for them.

OO development accomplishes three things:

  • It makes the program bigger
  • It makes the program run slower
  • It makes the program modules more portable, so less programming labor is needed overall
Often OO is simply the wrong way to do things, just as spaghetti code is sometimes far and away the most efficient way to implement an algorithm. When OO doesn't get in the way it's beautiful, but it's easy to lose track of the performance drag all that double-dereferencing causes.

Your older programmer probably started out with a language with weak or no typing (can you say FORTRAN?) on machines where every cycle and every word was a precious resource. He knows that an application of skill to the problem can reduce waste and improve performance, and he's used to doing that. Asking him to willfully waste resources so that the next guy can waste some more by reusing his not-so-optimal code is like asking someone who has known starvation to throw away food.

No, for the most part it doesn't (2)

localroger (258128) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185649)

Obviously the author isn't talking about "math" in the sense of FOR loops and basic arithmetic. He's talking about calclulus, differential equations, matrices, imaginary numbers, tensors, and other stuff most programmers never see.

I've studied engineering and I've been a programmer for 15 years. Today I couldn't solve a second-order differential equation to save my life. And I'd need a couple of hours with my old textbooks before I even tried to do an integral.

OTOH programming does use some math skills which aren't generally taught to either engineers OR programmers. If I hadn't been given a copy of Knuth's Art of Computer Programming I'd still be in the dark as to some of the mysteries of floating point math. Finite math is very different from the variety usually used by engineers and physicists, and few people understand why it sometimes betrays them.

How Management Sees Us (5)

localroger (258128) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185651)

I am the one and only programmer for a distributor, as opposed to manufacturer, in an industry where very few distributors bother to have in-house software development. As such I have, without really trying, become as close to unfireable as you ever get, which is one reason I hang around the place even though they don't pay as well as larger shops.

One day one of my coworkers was doing a service job and discussing the computer system I'd designed with an employee of the customer. The employee had just finished taking a management course and asked my coworker if there was any backup for me. To which he replied, no, our guy's pretty unique.

The customer employee then demonstrated his grasp of management principles by saying that he'd just been taught that if you have anyone like me on the payroll, you should fire them at once! Sure it will hurt for awhile, but eventually you'll recover and you won't be at their mercy.

So that's what it's about, boys and girls: POWER. We do stuff they don't understand and it scares the shit out of them. The only way they can feel secure is to be sure we can be instantly replaced. Fifteen years of loyalty? Meaningless. Skill and experience? Meaningless. Modern management teaches that the most important thing is staying in control.

Fortunately, my current employer is as out-of-date as I am, and doesn't feel that way. Which is another reason I hang around even though the pay isn't so great.

Re:Job Posting (1)

eXtro (258933) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185654)

Most of Canada is the same way though. Toronto is easy to get around without a car. The subway and bus system are great. Other cities, such as say London or Windsor, are much harder to get around without a car in. The U.S. is no different. Most cities have public transportation designed based on the assumption that most people have a car. A very few have decent public transportation.

Re:So goes the economy (1)

Fat Casper (260409) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185656)

Some things never age. My father is turning 59 soon, and he's never wanted for work. Every couple of years he's on a different project, usually with a different company, and he's always got a project lined up well before the one he's on ends. He had a gap, once. The project he wanted to work on didn't start until a couple of months after the last one ended. That was 10 years ago, and it was his choice.

I know that companies want young programmers who see nothing wrong with devoting their lives to the company, but there are a lot out there who value experience- knowing that people with a few decades under their belts don't need to stay until 3 in the morning every night. This is just what I've observed about one programmer, but there are a lot of others like him out there.


"You know, the golf course is the only place he isn't handicapped."

Re:So goes the economy (1)

Dancin_Santa (265275) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185658)

Then are you saying that IT shops are pushing Congress to expand the workforce with foreign workers not because of some dastardly plot to lower wages of American workers but because they have artificially limited the employment pool to younger, "more easily trained" workers? Or do you think it's a combination of both?

I put "more easily trained" in quotes because I don't want to blithely make the assumption that older workers are harder to train.

Dancin Santa

So goes the economy (3)

Dancin_Santa (265275) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185659)

As much as the conspiracy theorists have been harping on the issue, they haven't been correct until just recently. IT professionals have for quite a while been able to quit their job and pick up a new one in the blink of an eye. There just weren't enough people to fill all the positions that were available.

Now, however, the economy has gone into a recession and thousands of IT professionals have been "freed" into the job market. The high demand for workers that we heard a couple years back is clearly not there anymore.

Could it be that it wasn't a nefarious plot to screw American workers?

Dancin Santa

Re:I'm scared, it's too big (1)

BLAG-blast (302533) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185664)

I think I have to be thankful for this bogus shortage because if not for it I might not have been here now...

It's not so bogus. Companys are wanting to save a few $K and wait 3 months for the work visa so the new hire could start (while VC money is fly in all directions)?

Sure, they are a tonne of software sweat shops in the US, and they all took advantage of overseas engineers at low prices. But this doesn't account for the bulk of the overseas engineers. Sure, people on work visas generally earn $10K less, but this is normally to offset the costs/hassles of getting a visa (and applying for a greencard).

Some jobs just require more than two weekends of ColdFusion twiddling....
--

Re:There really was a shortage of *good* people (3)

BPhilman (303956) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185666)

I remember an interview I went on, for a Perl job. I passed the first interview with flying colors; talked about my programming philosophy with a programmer, got along great, got a second interview. Passed the second interview with a hiring manager. Then, was asked into a back room by the alpha geek of the organization, who hit me blindside with three bizarre perl questions (debugging problems? I don't know what else to call them). Each was totally bizarre, not even remotely connected to normal practice, and was the sort of thing you'd write a little driver program to check out anyway if you came up against it. For example, one had something to do with an arcane scoping issue, with a variable of the same name changing scope like, three times. Flabbergasted and freaked out, I failed his three "tests", and he smugly smiled at me and showed me out.

The only thing this proved was that the guy was a complete jackass. I mean, for example, who uses the same variable name in three different scopes that way? You'd have to be retarded. The questions were nonsensical. If he'd given me something normal to work on, I'd have been fine, and I'd have hired. For the record, I ended up working somewhere else, and built an application used throughout the organization among many other things, improving many of their internal systems and in general making myself very useful (not meaning to bang my own drum).

I guess my point is, if you subconsciously want to prove someone incompetent, you won't find it too hard to completely frustrate and annoy them, and "disqualify" them from consideration. A better approach is to try and see what they come up with in response to a real problem, without trying to catch them with brain teasers and such. I'm not saying that's what you did, mind you, but I've got experience with it and believe me, it isn't much fun to be on the receiving end. Especially when, if you're like most tech types, interviews freak you out anyway.
crazyphilman@programmer.net

Yes, but will such conditions last? (1)

dmouritsendk (321667) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185679)

Here in Denmark, for ages now, production companies has placed their "assembly crews" in countries like Poland and the baltic contries. Because of the lowered cost in doing so, this has been the default for alot of european companies. Outsource the simple bulk assembly to contries with lower average pay.

But lately the trend is breaking (keep in mind this is a completly natural thing, and european companies has used the cheap eastern market of workers since the sixties), why? Quality..
Tests by some firms, has proven that in their cases. It actually is better buisniss to hire a educated guy from Denmark, because the they calculated that they would get 18% less RMA (defect goods returned from customers). That with the uneducated polak, which actually meaned that the firm moved production to denmark. And are sreaming out to the industry that this was a profitable move, i guess that this story could be applied to the story above to. Because whos producing more bugs? The professional BS. CS from NYU or the little indian dude who just tought him self to code?

if the people can't come here, the jobs go there (4)

janpod66 (323734) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185683)

The basic flaw with Matloff's argument is that he assumes that if foreigners don't come to the US on H1B visas, the jobs will go to US residents. That's wrong. What happens in real life is that if the foreign programmers and professionals can't come here, the jobs simply go to where the people are. Most large companies already have development labs set up all around the world and can shift resources overseas at a moment's notice and without any increase in cost. In fact, that's already what happens when potential foreign hires can't come to the US: they simply work overseas until their visas come through.

Welcome to the new globalized economy and information infrastructure. Knowledge workers produce a product whose movement can't be controlled and that can be instantly shipped anywhere. And the basic tools, PCs, are available anywhere in the world.

Beyond that, Matloff's claims about shortages, wages, "indentured servitude", and working conditions simply don't agree with what I have seen in real life. But it isn't even worth disproving his factual claims point-by-point when his basic reasoning is so faulty.

Having foreign programmers and professionals come to the US has been a spectacularly good deal for the US, and it has been devastating to the high tech industries in foreign countries. Developing countries have been particularly hard hit by this.

There really was a shortage of *good* people (5)

koreth (409849) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185687)

I was a manager during the period in question, and I can tell you, I had a devil of a time filling a couple of positions. Let me take issue with this statement from the article:
If employers were that desperate, they would certainly not be hiring just a minuscule fraction of their job applicants.

I'll take one example. We had a data warehouse (mostly a big Oracle PL/SQL application). The engineer who designed and implemented the original code left the company, and I was tasked with hiring his replacement since there were some pretty substantial architectural changes we needed to make.

Now, there are a lot of database people out there. A lot. I looked at more resumes than I can count. My ear was sore from phone interviews. Thing was, just about everyone I talked to fell into one of two categories:

  • Listed all sorts of Oracle skills on their resume, but couldn't correctly answer my SQL skill-testing questions. (Which were nothing especially complex.) This was the vast majority, which surprised me.
  • Knew their SQL, but clearly had no design skills to speak of. I'd ask them to design a trivial application and they'd either botch it or claim that they just wrote code, someone else always designed it and gave them a spec.

I looked and looked. The executive staff got really antsy and started leaning on me to do what the article suggests, just hire someone to get the work going, even if they weren't perfect for the job. I resisted for a while but finally caved in.

The contractor we brought in -- one of the better ones I'd interviewed, though I hadn't liked him well enough to want to hire him -- did a decent job of talking to the right people, gathering requirements, and getting himself acquainted with the layout of the code. But then he started to submit his own code, and man, what a disaster. I wasted weeks correcting his mistakes. Finally I fired him and went back to my original search.

The specifics of the story here aren't important. The point is that it doesn't take many times being burned by the "hire any bum off the street, just fill this technical position" attitude before you develop a very healthy caution about hiring the wrong person. I've seen it happen at other companies and I think it's a universal truth: hiring the wrong person for a job can leave you in a much worse position than hiring nobody at all. Not least because you think you have the position filled, so you stop looking for a while.

Experienced managers know this, so they put themselves through the "there's nobody out there!" routine when the job market is tight. It sucks massively, but it sucks less than the alternative.

(How did the story end? We found an H1-B person who fit the bill perfectly. Then the government took so long to process his paperwork -- months -- that by the time it came through, he'd gotten cold feet. Ugh! Happily by that time I'd moved to a different group.)

The Article misses one important point (1)

droyad (412569) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185701)

Whoever wrote the article didn't take into account the skills of the people that were seeking jobs. Perhaps 98% of the people were high school graduates or just people who decided they had some knowledge and would seek a job in the IT industry.

On the other hand, the 2% that did get hired, were most likely the ones with REAL qualifications. I have heard many stories of dot.coms going bust cause the people they employed were substandard.

I cite Netscape as one example. The code they wrote was unusable, absolutly no order to the code. When it was released it had to be completly re-written for the mozilla project (plug).

My point is that people might be able to change the oil in the car, but that doesn't get them a job as a mechanic

Re:not programmers, just the other IT workers (2)

Secret Coward (427931) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185702)

We still need real programmers.

As another poster noted, there will be a record number or people posting without reading the article. Please read section 4: There Is No Desperate Shortage of Computer Programmers [ucdavis.edu] .

Human resources people are very picky about which resumes they forward to managers. If some script kiddie claims to be an expert in all the buzzwords, HR forwards their resume. If another applicant knows all the concepts upon which those buzzwords are based, their resume goes in the trash (HR doesn't know the difference).

Makes a convincing argument.. (2)

sakusha (441986) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185703)

I read this before. He makes a convincing argument that the computer industry doesn't have a shortage of workers, it just has a shortage of workers who will work for almost nothing.

it really depends on what you deem as a programmer (2)

beanerspace (443710) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185705)

I've been coding for about 15 years. I've dealt with all sorts of companies, programmers, bosses, and projects. During that course, I've seen a parade of people who title themselves as a programmer.

At some level they are, but more often than not, I've run into many are weak in one of two ways. First, some can't handle new languages, or languages that are different from what they were originally trained on. Similar to that line, they are unable to grasp newer or changing technologies.

For example, I've seen alot of people who claim to be Windows programers, who don't have a clue about COM &/or DCOM. I've seen alot of web developers who can't make heads of tail with of Perl ... let alone the DBI.

Second, I've seen many programmers who are either ignorant of the "life-cycle" concept ... or just aren't willing to edure some of the hardships of maintenance phases (though I should temper that with I've seen alot of older programmers making a good living doing maintenance coding).

Likewise similar to this concept, I see alot of programmers who aren't familiar or have forgotten good design methologies. Not that they should be walking textbooks for Martin, DeMarco or Constantine ... but how often have all of us had to clean-up some spagetti because thing weren't really thought through.

Like I said, these are just some observations. Your mileage may vary.

Re:So goes the economy (1)

slashdot_commentator (444053) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185709)


The employer is "best" off hiring people willing to work 80 hr weeks at as low a wage as possible. There are two groups of people which fall into that category, entry-level programmers and H1-Bs.

Do I think the software conglomerates consciously devised this strategy in the past decade? No. I can buy the idea that a tendency for age discrimination (salary, trainability, exploitability) would narrow the available programmer hiring pool and cause IT shops to BELEIVE there was a worker shortage.

Do I think that IT shops want to increase the H1-B pool as much as they can get away with so they can hire more lower paid programmers? OF COURSE THEY DO!

I do not see a national economic advantage to importing a boatload of foreign nationals and prematurely putting U.S. programmers to pasture. I'm not in favor of increasing or even maintaining the current number of H1-B's. At least not without more credible enforcement of labor laws and possibly an attempt by the gov't to encourage employers to hire older programmers (retraining programs or tax credits).

Proving age discrimination is relatively straightforward. Match job placement ad to resume's submitted, interview, and salary requested. You know there is a problem when a company is not hiring any 35+ year old programmers because they don't interview any.

Re:So goes the economy (3)

slashdot_commentator (444053) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185715)


Its the age discrimination that is the key. If the industry was genuinely tight for experienced programmers, they would be more aggressive about hiring 35+ year old professionals, rather than avoiding a large group of people most likely to match the skillset.

Re:Cause and Effect (2)

jeffy124 (453342) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185720)

I believe you should retract your statement:

Example from the real world: Mac OS X is out. But there are still some companies that produce Mac OS 9 software (which doesn't work on Mac OS X).

Within OS-X, there is a program called Classic (during development it was code-named TruBlue). It's a program that emulates the OS-9 environment for a program written for OS-9. In order to use it, you must have an OS-9 and -X partition on your disk. How do I know this? I use it. It works. OS-9 programs work on my OS-X.

Result: They won't sell anything.

Apple developed this Classic environment specifically for older applications and apps that couldn't get converted to OS-X in time for it's release. Result: OS-9 Apps do work on OS-X. Second Result: Products for OS-9 will sell to people using OS-X.

Re:Cause and Effect (2)

jeffy124 (453342) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185721)

Another item to chew on:

From my experience, esp. old people can't or refuse to learn.

How can you say that? I work with many people who are close to retirement. There's one guy in my company who is 70+ years old just so that he can toy with the latest and greatest technologies. This guy is well versed on the latest well-established technologies like Java, with AI applications, within CPU architectures. It sounds to me like you're stereotyping a class of programmers based on one bad experience or that line from Moe: "Call this an unfair judgement, but old people are no good at anything."

Objectivity and older programmers (2)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185732)

I just found the following, partway down the report, discussing the issue of older programmers whose skills have atrophied.

The industry lobbyists then claim that the C language is not enough, asserting that Java and C++, with their ``object-oriented programming'' (OOP) philosophy, represent an ``abrupt change in the paradigms of programming.'' This is simply false. Those of us ``dinosaurs'' who have been programming since way back in the days of punched cards have heard claims of ``abrupt paradigm changes'' many times as programming languages have evolved over the years. The claims have always simply been hype. Programming is programming is programming, and it has always been a straightforward matter to quickly become productive in a new language.

I strongly disagree with this. In fact, I think older programmers claiming that things don't change and therefore they don't need to keep learning is exactly why a lot of them find it harder to get work. They think they know it all, just because they're older. A few of them do, and they're priceless. Most of them don't.

I have worked with several older and more senior programmers, who had a lot of C experience, but now program C++ or Java. Those who can actually do OO well are few and far between, particularly the "C++ programmer", who are really writing C with a few classes around.

It's all about the money... (2)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185733)

As a manager of developers, I can tell you that there absolutely IS an shortage of IT people. At least a shortage of good ones. I mean, I get tons of resumes from people who don't know anything about software development, but they're not useful to me.

How much were you advertising and offering them?

The office where I work offers the "going rate". Unfortunately, the "average programmer" expects the "going rate", and the average programmer ain't that good. If you want people who can really pull their weight -- certainly if you want the hackers who are ten times more productive than "just the next guy", and pull his weight too -- you obviously have to pay for it. I accepted the "going rate" when I started, as it was my first job and I wanted a foot in the door. My salary has since increased by more than 50% in less than two years, and I expect it will continue to increase quickly for a year or so yet. If it didn't/doesn't, I know of plenty of places who would now offer what I'm looking for to someone with a demonstrated ability to get things done.

Sadly, we don't live in a meritocracy. The guys who does ten times as much useful work (and a few do do that) aren't likely to get paid ten times as much. But you can bet they're going to get paid several times as much, and if you're not offering that, you're not going to get them.

Perceived or not, it does affect the industry (1)

Ulwarth (458420) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185735)

I suppose it could just be all in the heads of those doing the hiring, but at least in my experience companies treat their programmers (or other IT folks) like they are worth their weight in gold. Mind you, these are the very same companies that treat their _other_ employees (managers, admin/secretaries, marketing) like they are entirely disposable.

Perhaps it's more that there's a shortage of _good_ IT personel?

H1-B, not for Canadians, eh? (1)

p3bf (459005) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185736)

Lots of talk about the H1-B [grasmick.com] , but let's not forget our trusty TN-1 [grasmick.com] , the "gift" from NAFTA. Any Canadian sweating their way through an H1-B is probably barking up the wrong tree. Unfortunately U.S. employers' legal beagles are so used to working with H1-Bs that they aren't familiar with the trusty TN-1*. Why wait months when 20 minutes at the border will do ya?

I've always liked this quote from Grasmick [grasmick.com] 's site: "If you're Canadian and have an H-1, you're probably on the wrong visa."

_________
* Yes, I've been through this and fought it. I had to educate the U.S. lawyers, but they finally saw the light. In the end, though, I got fed up with trying to educate both the employer and his legal team and decided to spend my time elsewhere. Any employer (and their legal team) too thick-skulled to understand simple details like the difference between an H-1B and a TN-1 are probably not the kind of people you want to work for.

Re:not programmers, just the other IT workers (1)

gnugeekus (463988) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185741)

That's odd. When the company I worked for went under, they laid off everyone, including the "real programmers". This "only idiots are getting laid off" attitude that I see here all the time is complete bull. Many companies are going completely under right now. When they do, everyone gets the axe, including all the programmers. I know plenty of excellent programmers currently looking for work. The programmers where I worked were responsible for creating the first 100% complete implementation of Sun's JDO specification. They were excellent programmers, and they all lost their jobs, just like many people in the area.

Just don't get it do you? (1)

Giant Hairy Spider (467310) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185742)

It's not supposed to be about tricking foreign workers, it's about tricking government into loosening protectionist restrictions on foreign workers so people like you who have lower salary expectations than US citizens will drive down salaries.

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Re:Just don't get it do you? (2)

Giant Hairy Spider (467310) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185743)

I didn't say I necessarily agreed with protectionist policies. My point was that any deception would be aimed primarily at the government.

If someone is ready to work for 50% of the nation wide median salary it's his goddamn right to use that to make himself attractive to the potential employer.

The relevant question, though, is: if someone from outside the nation is ready to work for 50% of your salary, having never paid taxes to your country or contributed to it in any way, lacking the debts of your country's high-priced university system, is it his "goddamn right" to be given a work visa and let into the country to compete for your job?

Note: I am not an American, and I don't live or work in the USA.

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The fake IT worker shortage (1)

takochan (470955) | more than 12 years ago | (#2185747)

>It seems (surprise, suprise) that this whole >IT labour shortage crisis was a myth >generated by large IT companies to justify >importing boatloads of foreign IT workers >willing to work for low wages in >substandard conditions. Anyone have any >experience with this?" Uh..Yes, that's right, the IT 'shortage' is a myth.. it is fake. It is an excuse to keep salaries lower than they otherwise would be (ever wonder why IT workers make less than doctors, MBAs, lawyers... if there was such a shortage?). The IT shortage was an excuse to pass laws to get cheap programmers (usually from India, China) to replace Americans via laws passed by the senate/house which were bought and paid for big tech firm lobbyist money. THere is now tons written on this Check out: www.programmersguild.org/american.htm www.zazona.com and usenet: alt.computer.consultants..
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