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No More Suits; IT Worker Shortage Will End Soon

Roblimo posted about 15 years ago | from the and-other-random-observations dept.

News 380

A lot of people (even Jon Katz) have been telling me I should write a Slashdot feature myself now and then. Fine. I'm in a strange mood today, and a lot of strange thoughts have been buzzing through my head this week, so here goes. My first "observation of the week" is that the word "suits" is no longer viable to describe managers in tech companies. We need a more accurate term, and I have one for you. (More below.)

I was up at Andover Corporate HQ Tuesday. It's 400 miles from my home office, so I don't get there often. This time, for no particular reason, I happened to notice that while Andover has plenty of administrative and marketing and other suit-type people floating around the office doing whatever those people do, none of them wear suits to work any more!

But there was still a clothing division between the execs and the workers: ironing. The programmers, artists, writers, and hardware wranglers wore basic, simple, unpressed t-shirts and jeans or other working-type pants, while the biggies over in admin-land all looked like they spent significant time and energy getting their casual outfits to look "just right" before they came to work.

After I realized what was happening at Andover, fashion-wise, I called some friends who work in other new media and tech companies and asked them if the same thing was going on in their offices. To a man and women, they said it was. Nowadays, there are no suits in tech companies unless network TV cameras are there and rolling, and often not even then.

From now on, in the interests of journalistic accuracy and linguistic precision, I am going to refer to the executives formerly known as suits as "Its," an acronym for "Ironed T-Shirts."

"Yeah, I had a great idea but the Its were too clueless to figure it out!" is an example of how you might use Its in a normal workday sentence. Feel free to do so. I have not copyrighted the word. It's now yours as much as mine to mess up, mispell, or whatever else you like to do to words in your spare time.

The IT Worker "Shortage" Will End. Soon.
Once upon a time, back when the world was young and "engineer" was a word used to describe hairy-eared men who designed real, physical things and programmers were looked down upon as glorified typists, the U.S. had an "engineering shortage." All through the late 60s and early 70s publications like the Wall Street Journal ran article after article about how America's potential economic growth was being stifled by a shortage of engineers and technicians. Business-owned politicians loosened visa restrictions for engineers and technicians from other countries because of this supposed shortage, engineering salaries shot up, and suits (which is what Its were called back then) constantly whined about the impossibility of managing their arrogant techies, all of whom knew they could find other jobs in seconds and, therefore, demanded all kinds of perqs, up to and including free coffee and sodas, in-house gyms, flextime hours, and so on.

You could take any of those 60s or 70s WSJ stories about the "engineering shortage," change a few words in them, and run them today as panic pieces about how it's impossible to find competent programmers and sysadmins at reasonable salaries, and how when you do scare up a few of these rare beasts, they won't hew to the corporate line and respect corporate authority and salute their MBA bosses like good little workers. Indeed, the WSJ may actually be changing words in those old stories and rerunning them. Who would know?

But those of you beyond a certain age will recall that, one day, all those formerly high-rolling engineers were suddenly seeking exciting new careers in convenience stores, service stations, and fast food outlets that didn't pay enough to cover the mortgages on their nice suburban houses, which suddenly became hard to sell because there weren't enough other engineers with good jobs available to buy them. The economies in places like the Boston suburbs and Silicon Valley and other "high-tech capitals" tanked. Life was rough, and a lot of people (including me) got burned hard and ended up with scars that they/we carry to this day.

All good things come to an end. Right now, yes, it's good to be the king (or at least the Network Administrator). But remember what happened to Louis XVI when the rabble got fed up with paying for his high living and decided to take him down a peg.

And does anyone here remember the oil crisis of 1973? I sure do. The U.S. seemed to be spending all of its money importing Arab oil, which climbed to nearly $50 per barrel at one point when OPEC [the Organization of Petrolem-Exporting Countries] got especially feisty. If this trend went on, economic pundits said, the Arabs would own America (and most of Europe) outright within a decade or two. By extrapolating then-current trends and drawing them as lines on colorful charts, this thesis was easy to display on TV shows, on newspaper front pages and in slideshows at business conferences so that everyone could get nice and worried about it.

But last I looked, OPEC was just about dead and oil was selling in the $10 - $20 per barrel range. The danger of predictions made through extrapolations is that something always seems to come along that messes them up. In the case of oil, it was a major change in consumption patterns. Oil got too expensive, so we (the oil-importing countries) simply stopped using so much of it. The most visible example of this change: what we call a "full-sized American car" today wouldn't be a pimple on the bumper of, say, a 1970 Buick Electra.

Believe me, somewhere in a secret cavern beneath the Wharton School of Business (which is to finance as Stanford is to Computer Science) or someplace similar, teams of fiery-eyed MBA candidates are plotting to take down today's computer professionals as hard as OPEC, engineers, and Louis XVI all got slammed in their respective days.

So enjoy the ride while it lasts. It's great fun. But don't take out a 30-year mortgage based on it. Something - it could be genetic algorithms or some other new, less labor-intensive programming methodology or it could be an overall economic downturn that ripples through the high-tech industries and brings Internet growth to halt the same way the construction-driven economic boom in Austin, TX in the early 80s collapsed in on itself when a comparatively small number of construction workers lost their jobs and couldn't afford to buy houses, which led to even less housing demand, and so on all the way down - will throw a lot of high-tech workers out in the street. I have no more idea than anyone else of what the proximate cause of the next tech-industry recession will be, but I guarantee that it will come. One always does.

Indeed, if this thoughtful article from Linux Journal has any truth to it, today's shortage of computer professionals may be as false as many people thought the 70s oil shortage was, so it may already be time for IT workers to start doing a little financial hunkering-down, especially if they're over 30 and unwilling to work slave-length workweeks.

Is Slashdot a Magazine?
I have always considered Slashdot an online magazine. And I have always respected the American Society of Magazine Editors [ASME] and believe their stringent code of ethics should apply as much to online publications as to those printed on paper. So I decided to join. $225 a year, and Andover'll pay for it anyway, so why not?

But guess what? This august body still only accepts members from print magazines. As a purely online editor, I'm apparently not worthy. Which means, by extension, that you, as an online reader, are not as worthy as a print magazine reader. No big deal. I find it more amusing than alarming - for you and me, at least. But this is sad for the ASME; it is freezing out the most vital, highest-growth part of the periodical news business when, instead, traditional publishers' and editors' organizations should be courting us online people in order to assure their own future survival.

Here is the last paragraph of my e-mail response to the turndown I sent to arhodes@MAGAZINE.ORG:

Depending on your reckoning, the 21st century starts in either ~3 or ~15 months. If ASME decides to enter it at some point, please let me know. I'll be there, waiting for you to catch up. ;)
- Robin "roblimo" Miller
Elkridge, Maryland, USA
10 October 1999, noon EDT

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Calling them 'Suits' is infantile (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625030)

I thought Geeks were supposed to be mature adults. Oh well.

Good Story. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625031)

I liked it. Engineering recessions come and go. It happens in other businesses too: the old companies get fat and lazy, new technologies come along. But is a new recession likely soon? Certainly some sector of geekdom will take a hit. I just hope it's in Visual Basic programming and NT administration. I think there's a bright future for cgi, thin client, gtk, linux, etc.

And don't worry, Roblimo ... if you can write like that, then you're not too old.

Techs unite against MBAs!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625032)

who needs em anyways.......

I guess its better than "UNS" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625033)

I hate that commercial

There is no IT shortage. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625034)

There isn't. Supply and demand baby.
The ITS and IS's (ironed socks) will
*always* cry shortage when they can't
pay minimum wage.
So what do they do? Amidst the "shortage"
they neatly sidestep the majority of available
citizen candidates and hire...indians...Who
will telecommute for 2 dollars an hour or, will
work for very little here in the states.
You see the indians everywhere now. This
is why. Did the suits get their bill? The nerd-killing bill?
So Roblimo, you are correct. And the method
is cheap foreign labor.

I'm sorry if this article seems xenophobic
but it's true! I have *firsthand* knowledge of
a huge tech employer who has telecommuting
indians on the payroll for the cushy payrate
of..drumroll please...2 dollars an hour.
Those who could barely speak were brought here
for probably half(or less) the payrate of
a US worker.
Folks, the greasy wheels are turning.

suits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625035)

Ive been saying that the IT jobs are going to change in the future, but just like anything else, who knows what it will really hold. I can learn from older folks past, but what is to say the period it takes for job markets to change. Surely, if there is another depression, recession, etc things will change. True it seems one always hits now and again, but will it really hit the people that are the 'lifesblood' of the future?? I surely think that I can truthfully say that IT will be one of the most important fields ever in history. But only parts of it. I dont think there will be any more demand for e-commerce developers past the next 5 years more than there is a need for McDonalds workers. If you want to get a stranglehold on a market, making an impact by developing new technologies -- not simply using them -- would be the first choice.

Economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625036)

Isn't it sad that people insist on everything, the Internet included, being built on an economic foundation when it is all to apparent that economies never last.

Shortage of Engineering Talent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625037)

I have never worked at a place where there was a scarcity of good engineers willing to work market rates. What I do see as a problem everywhere is incompetency at the management level. So many buzzword spouting, turf-protecting, accounting department programmed "suits", "iron t-shirts", "PHBS" just don't have a freaking clue how to implement a solution correctly, easily and efficiently. If some the officers had actully spent some time in the foxholes, their armies would win a few more wars. Hey, American business, wanna do better? Give the alpha geek a no-questions-asked budget.

Re:A.K.A No Shortage of NT Drones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625038)

Hmm... When I went to RIT about 3 years ago, they were teaching NT indeed, but they were also teaching *all* about TCP/IP - examining each layer and going into the labs, sniffing packets and actually seeing what an ARP conversation looks like, exactly what happens when you do a traceroute (does anyone here know without having to look it up?), etc... They also had a segment of a class take a detailed look at Ethernet and Token Ring. No UNIX you say? Bullshit. Plenty of UNIX being taught at RIT. Ever see the Solaris/SGI lab? At last count (3 years ago) there were upwards of 50 UNIX boxes in there and they were expanding! Sorry dude but you made a broad judgement based on a narrow bit of experience and it is just plain wrong. AC

Re:There is no IT shortage. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625039)

One point I forgot to make. un*x jobs seem to still pay reasonably well.
To do un*x, one needs a pretty good command
of english. If I'm not wrong about the indians
(and other imported labor) and I hope I am wrong,
perhaps the nixes will be the final frontier
of jobs that are worth a damn.
You don't need to know english to run windows.

That post had the quote of the year. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625040)

I think this post has the quote-of-the-year in it. "Just knowing how to write printf("Hello world.\n"); is not going to help you much when you've been given a core dump, the source code, no way to reproduce the problem, and were told to figure out what happened, and to fix it. "

Where's the Best Place for IT jobs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625041)

Whether there's a shortage or not where's the best place to find IT jobs on the web that are actually hiring. Whether you have to wear a suit or not, you still have to go in to those "cathedrals" to work. What are the best IT jobs sites that offer more the "bazaar", work-at-home, settings?

Re:Calling them 'Suits' is infantile (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625042)

That's better than being 20 and about to die from aids.

It's retribution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625043)

Why not? I've read and heard the words "propellerhead" and "techies" used by "suits" to refer to us.

I just want to be a monkey who wears a suit. I know, I'll go to business school! -- Futurama

A post is not a feature (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625044)

Get a clue

Re:A.K.A No Shortage of NT Drones (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625045)

I'm an RIT student and I know all about the IT program.

You're right.... in some sense, it does pump out Microsoft drones. The IT program is designed to produce multimedia people and general computer flunkies. It isn't a program for serious geeks.

Most IT people (at RIT) will admit that they aren't good programmers. The really good programmers are in CS or SE. The hardware wizards are in CE or EE. The business analysts are in MIS. IT is for the in between people that can do the pointy-clicky stuff but not much else.

I too am disgusted by the growth of the IT department. The program is designed to be easy. For a while they were accepting everybody who applied. IT majors now comprise more than 10% of the whole school. I'm not saying that all IT majors are idiots, just that idiots can get by and possibly even thrive in IT.

With the program changes that IT has made in the last few years, a student can graduate from IT without ever taking a real programming class (I don't consider VB to be a realy programming class.) I took the first two C++ classes offered by the IT department and they were both complete jokes. The worst thing was, most of the IT majors in the class were struggling!

The other programs I mentioned, on the other hand, are all really great programs. If you don't mind the snowy winters and mediocre schol spirit, RIT is a great school.

Didn't know OPEC nations had been made obselete... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625046)

We went to war to protect Kuwait...we still pump billions into the Gulf economy...uh Katz, where exactly did the OPEC countries "lose power". Some countries over there don't tax their cicitzens at all.

Finance industry also in HUGE trouble (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625047)

Schwab, Waterhouse, ETRADE, AmeriTrade, and others are gutting the professional brokerages.

Wharton better work on that one before they figure out how to dethrone the techies.

I think we are missing the issue here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625048)

OK, it seems a little wrong to be focusing on what to call "suits" and what to call "techies" when we have something like the H1-B bearing down on the Information Technology profession. I almost believe someone put those two articles together to see which issue we would focus on. We are about to get "played"...and in a big way. Unless, we stand up collectively and recognize that the quality of other programmers does affect how you will be perceived by non-programmers (and how effectively you program). Hence, Y2K...if things go insanely wrong...guess who will get blamed? So, like the BAR association or the medical profession there must be more stringent criteria for CALLING one's self a programmer and programming for critical infrastructure applications (and I am not talking about web-site design). I mean don't see Miller freaking out about the shortage of Doctors or Lawyers. No, because it has been well established that individuals in the medical and law professions are talented, rare, and require significant education. Why should programmers be any different? There is a significant political aspect of this issue that we cannot afford to ignore. Time to grow some teeth!!!!

Re:There is no IT shortage. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625049)

The official languages of India are Hindi and English...While almost all of them have a distinguishable(and rather thick) accent, all Indians I have known display a much, much better command of English in written communication than American students. I have been a teaching assistant at a well-known university for almost two years, and have graded homeworks and papers of CS undergrad and grad students-not a single "definately" or other typo in Indian grad students' papers; whereas typos and broken sentence structures were much more common in American students' work. On the other hand, although I admire their work ethics and technical diligence, I will not be able to say the same for Chinese tech workers. The "IT worker shortage" subject seems to be the Achilles' heel of otherwise diverse and tolerant Slashdot community. There IS a shortage in this country. For reasons beyond me, I believe that American students simply are not interested in pursuing advanced study in IT fields. Walk into any graduate school of electrical engineering and computer science, compare the number of American and foreign students and decide for yourself. The only exceptions will be some schools which are very well known for their racist approach to student acceptance.(Berkeley automatically comes to mind. Disclaimer: I have never applied to nor rejected by Berkeley) I assume most people who have this prejudice against Indian tech workers did not have a chance to work with them, and get to know their dedication and skills. Let me stress that I am NOT Indian. I am a foreign tech worker, though. And yes, I have a Slashdot login, but the scent of racism in the air forced me into the Karma protection mode..

Suit in a t-shirt is still a suit. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625157)

Guess it makes morons harder to spot though.

But it is not surprising that people dress down
to geek level now when they have inherited the

End of it-worker shortage? I'm not a sys-admin
but it seems a lot of their time is spent on
helping clueless users. As long as people are
as stupid as they are today when it comes to
computers it-workers will be in high demand.

Buoyancy? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625158)

Rob, usually love your stuff, and your "chronological advantage" over a lot of the less experienced element out there.

But not today. The "Internet Economy" go down the toilet? It /is/ possible, but frankly, your rationale is like someone in the 30's saying that if the economy slowed down, they'd be able to get rid of the new fangled "telephone" they'd just got in their office - return to the good old days, etc. Not very likely.

The Net's changing everything, as you kind of admit with your comments on ASME. Sure, the /profile/ of non-suit employment can change [hopefully MCSE's get real jobs] but this net thing's only just started. Don't write it off yet.

Have to wear a suit, must work 9 to 5???? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625159)

When I dropped out of college in 1982, my aunt told me that without a degree:
  • I would have to wear a suit and tie everyday.
  • Work 9 to 5 (the ones during the day).
  • Get paid minimum wage.

In the late 80s, people said that programmers would be put out of work with all the new application generators. Why pay a programmer to write a program when I user can just paint a program.

Now computers will be programming themself???

Companies are claiming that there is such a programmer shortage, so that that the visa limits must be increased. Many employers will say, if you don't have X number of years of XXX, then we can't even look at you. In 1988 I was called by a headhunter looking for someone with more than 10 years of DOS programming experience.

It's always going to change and people will keep saying this sort of thing all the time.

Injured worker wins against Mattel! []

Re:Nope. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625160)

The 'fear factor' plainly shows. There is another reason to go to college, you know. I have met a lot more geeks in college than I do, say , working in IT departments. We want a guarantee. Yeah, Ive been coding assembly since I was 15. Yeah, Ive been doing production level stuff for years now. So What?? I think every good *engineer* must have went to school, and a good one to boot. I doubt that many of the 'well known' programmers have done half of what the geeks from good golleges have done. But your right about one thing -- goingto college wont make you good. Me and the fellow geeks notice this all the time. So we breeze through each course, bored to tears because we have actually applied bits bytes and boolean math to real world already. But what going to (a GOOD) college WILL do is make a good GEEK a whole lot BETTER. What job makes you build assemblers, linkers, compilers, documentation, and every data construct ever known to man within 2 years?? sounds more valuable to learn that doind SQL and perl all day.

Labour Shortage (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625161)

I live and work in NYC. I am both the system administrator and MIS director for a fast growing company. I have observed there is not actually a labour shortage. Certainly finding qualified workers in computer industries is much more difficult than in other fields, but not because of a lack of people, the problem is the wrong philosophy.

Most companies in NYC fall into two catagories. There are the companies who think only the young are qualified for computer work, and there are the companies who are so entrained in corporate doctorine they believe those with several years of experience must get pay raises in scale with the initial abnormally high salaries, it is cheaper to hire or retire them so younger cheaper workers can be hired, (regardless of qualification.)

The reason for the complaining to Congress about a lack of qualified workers is to create an influx of younger workers so big business can make all the old people retire. All of the retired computer industry workers I have been exposed to are very intelligent and versatile geeks, yet they are living off of social security because no one will hire them.

If business made an attempt at hiring and maintaining qualified employees instead of cheap / young employees there would be no labour shortage, nor would we have the wide spread unemployment of the older generation. With the increased job security wages would actually decrease, and thanks to focuses on skilled employees company productivity and efficency would increase.

[I am a 23 year old hacker and management in one package. Take it for what is is worth.]

Tech Worker Shortage is here (4)

Anonymous Coward | about 15 years ago | (#1625168)

Working in the ecommerce industry, focused on Java/Corba/Unix, I can say competent developers are indeed hard to find. You can't hire them, you can't find them and they do charge a high hourly rate.

I charge a high hourly rate and I still get 3 contacts a week wanting me to fly to Kansas City, Seatle or Montreal to do Java/Corba development.

The problem I find is that most of us high paid consultants is that we stir up some sort of jealousy in the corporate converted crew. These converts are COBOL/Mainframe or VB/VC++ guys 'retrained' in the ways of distributed computing. They still think procedurally and structure their OO applications as such. They have a hard time understanding multi-threaded issues and are still scared to move forward into new technologies (such as XML or using COS service like Naming, Trading or Properties).

Or there is the young crowd with no direct experience developing large scale systems that make snap judgements and write a new service to handle some new fucntionality. Forget logical partitioning of the application or requirements. Forget real knowledege even, they can talk the talk so they must be bright and know what they are talking about. Bullshit! They are inexperienced, so get their noses out of your asses management!

This coupled with incompetent recruiters makes things even more complicated for us competent consultants. I get a call, 'Hey, you know Java right?' me: yes I do. recruiter: Well, I have this great JavaScript position me: click.

It is generally thought that Indians, or other foreigners are generally brigther than their american conterparts. Obvisouly this is flawed. Just because one is an Indian doesn't mean they can walk the walk. They are like the rest of us. Some idiots, some extremely competent. The real difference is that I'll charge you for overtime, because it is the law that I get paid for what I work, while they don't, in general. (I'm not singling out Indians in this case, and, yes, I have Indian friends - I also know a couple of idiot Indians).

Another point is is that management inforces incompetence. The Its allow for underperformers to continue under performing. 'Hell, we are a big corporation, he/she is a nice person, let them ride the system' Forget they can't tell you what requirements are met by their code, they can't tell you a damn thing about their code except that it works (sometimes) and they sit on their ass soaking up the $.

Once the corporation (pick one) gets a hold of me, I tend to work my ass off (60 hour weeks) and get more and more responsibilities because I'm the only one in the whole freaking group that can do it. Finally I get burnt out (generally 6 months) and terminate my contract.

You better pay me for what I'm worth or I just won't work for you. I don't give a damn if I make more that your CEO, I'm making you money, giving you what you want, not sitting on my ass surfing the net every 30 seconds, or talkin in the hall, or in the cube next door. I'm producing, I am the critical path for all of your assignments because your people can't do the work. Your success depends on me. Pay me what I'm worth or I'll go to your competition.

Re:Rob, great article (1)

Roblimo (357) | about 15 years ago | (#1625169)

Oops! I knew that. Sometimes when you're trying to type at the speed of thought you screw up. Thanks for noting the mistake. Correction made.

We can discuss the exact excesses of French Monarchs later; Lou the 16th may have been agreat guy, but last I heard he didn't turn Versailles into public housing and cut off funds to his horde of freeloading nobles and cut taxes on the workers or anything like that; he was just *nicer* about ripping off the peasants than his predecessors had been.

Besides, as you all probably figured out, I was thinking about the Mel Brooks pastiche, not real French kings. ;-)

- Robin "it's good to be the writer" Miller

Re:Huh? (2)

Roblimo (357) | about 15 years ago | (#1625170)

1. Hey! I did my research! I called people at other New Media and Tech companies and they told me their suits were now Its (pronounced like the contraction "it's" in my mind, but feel free to do it your own way) too.

2. The "no current shortage of tech workers" thought was in the Linux Journal article. Hit the link. My personal feeling is that the tech industries are in the midst of a boom similar to one driven by construction, and those always end hard! "Those who don't study history are dommed to repeat it" & all that. But I'm no smarter than any other so-called pundit and I do not claim inspiration from [your favorite deity here]. I just toss out debating points, and try not to take myself too seriously.

3. I don't care much whether or not the ASME decides online editors should be allowed to join. It doesn't affect me (or you) one way or the other. I just feel a little sad for *them* is all. There are plenty of fine associations for online journalists and editors where I'd be more at home anyway.

As far as feeling ornery today, you're not alone. So am I - as you probably noticed. ;)

- Robin "roblimo" Miller

Re:There's a substantial difference scenarios (2)

Roblimo (357) | about 15 years ago | (#1625171)

I don't think things will come to a grinding halt; even during the "horrible" 1930s depression the U.S. economy only shrank by what? 30%?

What ends "consruction booms" isn't usually a stop to the economic activity that created them, but rather a flattening of the growth curve that turns previous extrapolations sour.

Note that I do not claim to know *what* phenomenon, either economic, social or technological, will end the current computer & Internet boom, just that something or other will.

All booms end. And shortly before they do, all the people doing well during them come up with many reasons why this boom is different from all previous ones, and will continue on, unlike any that have gone before. And the people who make the "this will go on forever" predictions are always wrong. Every time.

Any number of unpredictable changes, from the sudden emergence of a new religion or attractive but dangerous social philosophy to a climatic disaster, could cause the computer and Internet industries to stop growing or even to contract.

By definition, "unpredictible" events can't be predicted. The only prognostication you can sanely make about them is that there will always be one sooner or later.

Or, don't get complacent. This universe is not a kind and gentle place. It has a strong tendency to deliver major upside-the-head smacks to anyone in it who displays too much hubris.

- Robin

Re:Techs unite against MBAs!!! (1)

CrazyLion (424) | about 15 years ago | (#1625172)

Having just finished my BSBA and planning to get an MBA once I get enough work experience to get into a good program, I recommend against it. Only small percent of MBA's manage techs. But a LOT of MBAs are providing jobs for sysadmins and other techs. In the company were I work (non-tech), we have a fairly large work force of sysadmins who maintain network of computers used by MBAs - get rid of those MBAs and techs lose their jobs.
Remember: not all MBAs are created equal ;-)

Geek Symbiosis... (1)

SoupIsGood Food (1179) | about 15 years ago | (#1625178)

Absolute baloney. I'm a sysadmin: I couldn't code my way out of a paper bag, and I only know scripting languages. (Shell script, apple script, get the gist.)

I am surrounded on all sides by genius programmers who eat, drink, sleep and breathe C++. They make jokes entirely in algorthyms. They also wouldn't know a logical volume manager from a poisonous snake.

True story: an entire company full of programmers, young and hungry GenX'ers, old and savy baby boomers...twenty experienced and smart people. And they could not, for the life of them, figure out how to get a Sun workstation, with the latest version of solaris, running NIS. They spent the better part of a month arguing with Sun, trying to understand what the people on the newsgroups told them, and they eventually just gave it up as a bad job.

My first day, I walk into the computer room, and walk out fifteen minutes later with a properly confugured workstation. I even added a spare SCSI disk they had laying around to it.

I can only conclude that there are two orders of geeks: those who make the toys, and those who get to play with them. One cannot exist without the other, and neither has any clue how the other side works it's black magick.

SoupIsGood Food

Re:A.K.A No Shortage of NT Drones (1)

Deviant (1501) | about 15 years ago | (#1625184)

It was not my intention to knock RIT in general, I have several friends there majoring in Computer Engineering and Computer Science. I am just saying that the IT program there is characteristic of IT progams elsewhere, and there are alot of people with these degrees that just learn NT and TCP/IP and not Unix or much real meat behind computing and technology. You have to hand it to Microsoft, teach the kids NT and they will stick with it even if it is buggy and unstable in the workplace.

A.K.A No Shortage of NT Drones (2)

Deviant (1501) | about 15 years ago | (#1625185)

I live in Buffalo, NY and I am a freshman at SUNY Buffalo majoring in Computer Engineering. Last year I was horrified when I visited what is supposed to be one of the best technology schools in the region, RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology), teaching a corse in IT. They were just teaching them Oracle and NT. 5 years at a top notch college to be an NT drone. I see people with less knowledge than I, who have such degrees, making top notch salaries as system administrators. I think that you are correct, a shortage will come to an end, and it will be the shortage in such people. Those that will survive the shortage will be those who have unix and linux expertiece and will be able make the transition from NT to Unix when Windows 2000 isn't what everybody thinks that it will be. I think that Unix people, that real programmers who know their stuff, Web designers, and engineers taking computers and finding new and provocative ways of using them to make the work of industry and commerce easier will still be in short suppy as long as colleges keep churning out glorified MSCEs. Then again that is just my opinion and I could be wrong.

Nice... (3)

tzanger (1575) | about 15 years ago | (#1625187)

Great first feature. It's exactly the kind of thinking that you point out that gets people in trouble and exactly why I never listened to the guidance councellors in school.

"Get thee into computers! Programming! We nEeD you there!" they practically screamed at me.

I headed into electronics instead. Not just digital electroncis which is what they are screaming everyone wants, but rather the hard stuff. Analog. RF. Magnetics. I still program, but it's certainly not applications programming. A little web stuff here and there to make things available but that's it. Embedded systems design is quite different than app design. Bugs (hardware especially) are a lot costlier and as such people aren't as ready to jump into the field unless they really know what they're doing. Why worry about doing as perfect a job as you can in the time alloted when you can do as good as necessary and release a patch later on?

Actually I take that back... it's not becuase they could do a better job, but rather because they probably can't. You need to have a knack, a passion, for programming rather than just be trained in it to do a good job and most programmers, IT professionals, web designers, etc. just don't have that 'edge'.

So back to what causes this. What happens when there's a shortage of position 'x'? All the sheep run for it and then by the time they've got their training there's a surplus and all those skills they spent years in school for (and for most, gathering tidy loans for) are now not so much in demand as they once were. The bills are coming in and the high-paying job isn't there so what do the sheep do? Listen to the guidance councellors again and when they say there's a shortage of position 'y', blindly repeat the cycle.

Education isn't bad. I'm not saying that. But most kids these days are taking the words of a fortune teller and basing their future on it instead of finding out for themselves and/or persuing what would be right for them. Worse than that, the fortune teller has a perogative to get as many students into university as possible to make the school stats look better. Who cares if they don't need to go. College is thought of as "for people too dumb to get into univeristy" in Canada, which is sad. Get in, get skilled, get out. Get a job and make some money so that if you want to really get into the field, now go to university and learn all you possibly can, if you have to go to university at all.

Sorry about that, but whenever I think of school that's all that comes to mind. People going into computers and IT and web design because everyone is telling them to. They aren't particularly skilled or have a knack for it, but by God they're gonna make some serious cake doing it. Until they find out everyone was thinking the same thing and they've surplussed themselves and the fancy cars and big houses don't have anything supporting them anymore.

Re:Buoyancy? (1)

GrenDel Fuego (2558) | about 15 years ago | (#1625190)

He's not saying computer programmers won't be needed. He's saying there would be a huge jump in the number of programmers, which would drop the value of the individuals. Basic supply and demand.

Don't expect automatic programming EVER (1)

dsfox (2694) | about 15 years ago | (#1625191)

Considering what programming is - describing how to do things - its not plausable that an automatic way of doing it will ever be developed, at least not for anything interesting. If you can do it automatically, its not really programming.

To put it another way, programming is inherantly less automatable than the tasks that are being programmed. As long as there are activities that can't be done automatically, there will be a superset of programs to do those things that can't be written automatically.

Rob, great article (3)

aheitner (3273) | about 15 years ago | (#1625193)

But that was Louis XVI.

Louis XIV was the Sun King. He was an absolute monarch who finally managed to get the nobles under control (which Louis XIII, of Muketeer and Cardinal Richelieu fame, had never managed to do).

Louis XV was an even more extreme successor. His famous quote was, "After me, the deluge", and he lived like he believed it.

Louis XVI was a genuinely nice guy who was not totally unamenable to reforms towards a more constitutional monarchy. But the rabble cut his head off anyway. Honestly, I'm a fluent French speaker, and I don't understand the French either :)

my perspective, for what it's worth ... (1)

YogSothoth (3357) | about 15 years ago | (#1625194)

To be a top notch software developer, you need two things: motivation and talent. Motivation is a function of the individual, but there really isn't much you can do to increase your level of talent - it's much like playing the violin, you either have the ear for it or you do not.

Now consider the fact that due to the increased salaries many people who otherwise wouldn't have chosen computer science are going into that field. For the sake of argument, let's call those people 'opportunists'. Now there are two possibilities:

  • The opportunists, in general, do in fact possess the talent required to be good programmers

  • The opportunists, in general, do not in fact possess the talent required to be good programmers

One way to analyze this problem is to consider what these opportunists would have done if computing salaries weren't sufficient to draw them into that field. Let us suppose that the opportunists would largely have chosen engineering, math, physics, etc. if not for the increased salaries. I know quite a few outstanding programmers who came from those fields, so if this is indeed the case we might well be on our way to seeing an end to the shortage of developers. On the other hand, suppose the opportunists would have largely chosen management, finance, etc. if not for the increased salaries. While I admit the evidence is largely anecdotal, I personally don't know anyone from those backgrounds that I would consider a top notch developer, and I know a lot of developers. Certainly, I believe we would all agree that in general, a person with a math/science background is more likely to be a great programmer than a person with a business background (though of course, there are always exceptions to the general rule).

So the questions is, which set of people is more likely to answer "money" when asked: "What is your primary motivation when choosing a profession?".

  • The math/science folks

  • The business folks

I believe it is far more likey that the business folks would list money as their primary motivation. What people often do not realize is how rare the talent for programming is, in general. Throwing more bodies at the problem (particularly bodies that come from a group not known for its history of producing quatlity programmers) won't change that.

The only thing that could ultimately change the situation is economics - if the demand for new software falls, the shortage of skilled developers would be diminished. I think this would only occur via an economic downturn as computers are an integrated part of our lives and businesses and that integration will only increase.

Anyway, that's my take - flame away.

Huh? (1)

Trick (3648) | about 15 years ago | (#1625195)

1. Where I work (and in my position before my current one), you see a lot of suits actually wearing suits. They're not gone yet, by a long shot. I suspect Andover's not your typical tech company.

2. Was the reason there's not really a shortage of tech workers in that article somewhere? If there was, I missed it.

3. If they want to be a journal for print magazine editors, that's their business. I've got my doubts that hurling insults at them is going to change their minds.

Guess I'm just feeling ornery today.

Consult, v. t. To seek another's approval of a course already decided on.

You dont understand (1)

chirayu (3931) | about 15 years ago | (#1625196)

Software industryis different. S/w engg never write s/w without bugs. Try to find out how many people today are still fixing bugs and enhancing software in the 1970's and 80's. You will be surprised. The problem with this industry is that there is no good proven quality standards being followed. More than 50% jobs today are maintenance related.

If you want to survive in this industry you have to be on the bleeding edge of technology. Good enggs just cannot afford to do a 9-5 job and go home , They have to do extra reading to keep up with the new technology. People who dont keep up with technology are the ones who will bet left behind. I usually classify technology in two branches :

- Hard. This one takes a lot of time to learn and you got to have solid grasp of concepts to be working in this area. example writing protocol software, OS's etc.

- Soft. This one is easy to leanr. You dont really need a BS degree. A six month course is all that you need. This technology can get outdated easily..but it is also easy to learn similar new soft tech existing at that point in time. example html, perl etc.

I havent got time to organize my thoughts...but a last thought is..if we really predict that the world is going to see major technological advances next century and I am sure there will be many related to new internet technologies (access, interface) I dont really see a point where the glut os s/w engg will end.


Re:Calling them 'Suits' is infantile (2)

displague (4438) | about 15 years ago | (#1625199)

If every group of humanoids with a nickname for another group of humanoids were infantile, we would need alot more diapers and bottles.

Who are you, Anonymous Coward, that had not realized they were being called suits for quite some time. Why would you be so hypocritical as to play the name-game on those who you say play the name-game.

Strange world, Stranger people.

Marques Johansson

Thanks! (2)

sinnergy (4787) | about 15 years ago | (#1625200)

You did a fine job on your feature, Roblimo.

I thought your piece was very though provoking and "to the point", which is difficult to find in today's modern media. While I don't necessarily agree with you in the fact that the current tech shortage is a falacy, I do agree with you on some of the other points you make.

I also found your discussion of a number of topics particularly interesting. I am all about getting to the meat of the matter and cutting out as much verbiage as possible. It was refreshing to see so much content is so little space.

For what it's worth, I think Slashdot (and many other fine online publications out there (although Wired is certainly questionable these days)) has every right to be called a magazine. Good luck on your attempts to gain the respect and peer acceptance Slashdot rightfully deserves.

Please grace us with another feature soon!

- Froggy

Old news (1)

Brian Stretch (5304) | about 15 years ago | (#1625204)

See this article in National Review [] for the non-WSJ right-wing point of view, from clear back in June '98. There is a lot of overlap with Bryan Pfaffenberger's article, with the exception of the professional organization nonsense.

Re unemployed hardware engineers: this happened mostly because the Defense Department procurement budget was gutted by the Bush/Clinton administrations and the pre-11/94 Democrat congress. So far the post-11/94 Republican congress has failed to correct the damage, courtesy of Clinton's veto pen. Decimate the biggest market for those engineers and yes, salaries and employability go all to hell. Throw in the technophobic attitudes towards nuclear power for good measure. (Had an interesting conversation with a disgruntaled nuke-tech a while back...)

Re don't spend the future: ditto. I'm keeping my debt level in check, even tho the U.S. federal tax code is rigged to encourage massive mortgage debt (best tax deduction on the books). All these folks with their heavily mortgaged McMansions and nice debt-fueled stock portfolios are going to look real stupid when/if the market tanks and their debt level doesn't. (This is what Greenspan is really worried about when he talks about "irrational exuberance", but he hasn't found the right words. Nuking the deductions in favor of a dramatically lower tax rate, as the Flat Tax proposed by Steve Forbes [] does would correct this serious economic instability.) I'm not saying don't have a little fun, and certainly not saying don't buy stocks, just watch that debt!

Techie Shortage over? (1)

Passman (6129) | about 15 years ago | (#1625205)

At the moment I guess it depends were you are. Here in the Midwest it's almost impossible to even get your resume looked at with less than five years experience.

You ever tried to get five years experience as a System Administrator when everyone wants five years system administration experience before they will even hire you?

Maybe you can't see the end yet but around here it is fairly obvious.

Re:A.K.A No Shortage of NT Drones (2)

Sontas (6747) | about 15 years ago | (#1625207)

Well, I attend school at RIT. I'm in the Computer Engineering program, but I think I can speak to a possible reason for what you saw.

About five years ago RIT started their IT program. Previous to this it did not even exist. The enrollment for that program was something like 50 students I think. In two years time (when I first started attending) the enrollment was up to on the order of 150 freshman for 1996, I think. The next year enrollment in the freshman class was doubled. This caused the school to have to shuffle the IT classrooms around and to build an entirely new building to house the next years incoming IT class.

Point here is that the IT department was started on 50 students and a few professors as an experiment of sorts. The industry and demand for IT grads then exploded (very few actually saw this coming, especially those in control of programs at universities, etc), leaving RIT and many other schools, I suspect, scrambling to put together course plans, hire professors, find room for classes to be taught in, etc. Even last year and now, the department heads are still trying to come up with a solid IT curriculum. And to be fair, IT is a very agile and quick moving target. It has been for the past few years and it probably will continue to be for another few. Creating a solid and industry applicable curriculum is a hard thing to do, especially in these circumstances.

As an aside, RIT excells in their CE, EE, SE, and CS programs. Their imaging sciences related programs are top notch as well. Don't knock the entire school simply because it has a young and developing IT program of study.

Depends on the "worker" (1)

whig (6869) | about 15 years ago | (#1625209)

It's important to distinguish between supervision and maintenance, on the one hand, and research and development, on the other.

Sure, system administration requires a high level of competency, but it is something which many people can learn to do with training and adequate experience. Let's be honest, this is glorified janitorial work most of the time, something that needs to be done, but doesn't require a whole lot of genius. There are exceptions, of course, but generally it requires only the understanding and use of tools which have been provided.

On the other hand, to develop a new product or tool requires significantly more skill. And it is a well known fact that top programmers are ten times as efficient (at least) as the rest. This has to do with a natural capability, something which cannot be taught or even learned through experience, you either have it or you don't.

For those who are in the first category, high salaries will not last forever, as the market will certainly supply an ever increasing number of people who are willing to learn the skills needed in order to board the gravy train. It's actually somewhat astonishing that so few people today have so little clue how to administer even their own desktop. I think more and more people are becoming clueful, but this is counterposed with the rapid increase in new users which have even less of a clue than the prior set. This trend is likely to continue for awhile, so there is some job security in the medium term, but eventually there will be some equilibrium and salaries will trend downward.

On the other hand, those who have skills which are innate, whose abilities cannot be reproduced by formal methods, will continue to remain highly prized and well compensated forever.

Oilprices (1)

tob (7310) | about 15 years ago | (#1625211)

Last I looked oil was doing $22-$23 per barrel. Not $50, but definitely more then the mentioned range.


Re:... (1)

Signal 11 (7608) | about 15 years ago | (#1625216)

Funny... you just agreed with everything I said, but yet you're disagreeing with me?!

I just got done explaining that people who are only in it for the money will wind up competing with themselves - not people like you and I!!!


... (2)

Signal 11 (7608) | about 15 years ago | (#1625218)

Eh, let's all start a campaign to print slashdot out on our laserjets, dot matrix printers, and post it all over the office (just like those UF comics I know you have hanging in your cube). "not in print" my arse. It's just that the news happens so quickly there's no point to printing it - it's not that we can't... :)

Anyway, back to the issue of IT shortage - yeah.. right. I don't know about you, but I spent alot (and I mean *alot*) of time doing tech support. The vast majority of people may eventually become computer literate enough to send e-mail and browse the internet without having to call us someday.. but I can guarantee you there will always be the same percentage of people who actually enjoy testing the limits of computers. And 'geek posers' are very easy to see through.. just ask them what BIOS, EIDE, or PLL means. If you really want to be mean, go into 'raw Data mode' and start throwing out random tech terms like so:

Well, after I reconfigure SMB on a VAX to use my 8.4 Gb HDD instead of my old SCSI, I'm going to restart all the daemons, and then check for network connectivity using vi and a toothpick. :) If networkweek was still running bofh weekly's, I'd suggest the excuse-of-the-day as well.

Anyway, my point is that while lots of people will flock to the money to get into computers, it really won't affect those of us who *really know the technology, and enjoy working with it*. The wannabes will compete with themselves...


Suits are vanishing. (2)

Accipiter (8228) | about 15 years ago | (#1625222)

One probable reason Suits are disappearing from the workplace is because companies are starting to see the value of making their employees comfortable. (Yeah, I know the corporation as a whole doesn't care about Joe Employee as a person, but they've figured out that comfortable employees are productive employees.)

Take the 'Power-Nap' craze. Employers are actually setting up rooms for their employees to take 10, 15, 20 minute "power" naps. It refreshes them, and boosts their energy and productivity. Likewise, a lot of employers have figured out that techies, and programmers, and others are just NOT comfortable wearing suits to work. So? So that means they're busy concentrating on their discomfort, therefore they're not as productive. Ties feel restrictive, and suits are heavy and bulky. Get rid of that crap, and employees are happy.

-- Give him Head? Be a Beacon?

Re:Suit in a t-shirt is still a suit. (1)

mke2fs (9166) | about 15 years ago | (#1625227)

Even tho users stay stupid the demand for IT personell will not grow.
What will grow is the workload on every single IT worker.
Tech firms won't spend much more money on more folks, but rather pay overtime to those they already have. They might even give the job to one that already have 2-3 other things to do just to save $50,000 a year...

Re: _ AWESOME _ (1)

BlueWire (9674) | about 15 years ago | (#1625229)

Recursion... I love it...

Still some holdouts (1)

DeathB (10047) | about 15 years ago | (#1625230)

While most of the actual tech companies seem to have gone for a more relaxed dress code, the same is not yet true in IT departments of normal companies. As of about half a year ago, the insurance company I was working for still required men to wear a button down shirt, and tie. ( They had much more lax dress codes for females, but that is another debate for another time ).

During the time that I worked for them, my project group was moved to a facility of it's own, and the project team was allowed to wear just "business casual" (polo shirt and khakis for the most part). When one of the VP's got wind of this, he blew his stack and demanded that we comply with company dress code.

Needless to say, this same company does not have much luck with younger developers.

As far as there being no real shortage of tech workers... That may be what the stats say, but just last week I was at a job fair [] where companies looking for CS majors outnumbered the actual graduating students, almost 2-1 (and that's assuming that none of the students go to grad school). We may be heading for something worse, but it doesn't seem bleak yet...

IT Workers Unionize? (1)

WH (10882) | about 15 years ago | (#1625231)

If there really becomes a shortage and the the pay of the IT workers goes down. Wouldn't you expect the IT workers to unionize and drive the prices back up?

There is always a need for good people (1)

ZeroLogic (11697) | about 15 years ago | (#1625235)

I remember a WSJ article a month (2 months?) ago that talked about how people are leaving the "hard" sciences in favor of technology, and how in the future, the world is going to need less HTML programmers... That and the last ask /. [] , where "JD" said he was going to college in two years but only wants a trade school runs along the same (and equally depressing) lines. Personally, I see the need for good developers, requirements analysts, design architects and the like are going to go up. But as new software becomes more of a scripting process (under a component based system) then the demand for mediocre programmers will go down. The worst thing that anyone can do is allow themselves to stagnate. /ZL

Re:There is no IT shortage. (1)

mrsam (12205) | about 15 years ago | (#1625238)

Don't worry about. Just go about your business, minding your own, and wait for those discount programmers finish their job, get their 20 bucks, deliver their brand new "trading system", and split.

Then, once the new "trading system" starts dumping core at 11:07 AM, while the Dow is up a 100 points, you will cheerfully agree to fix their mess. For $100/hr. Then, after poking around for the rest of the day, you will announce the next morning that the system is not salvageable, it's a big mess that can't simply be patched here or there, and that it must be rewritten from scratch.

I have heard (but not yet seen) the things that you have described. It doesn't worry me one bit.

Nope. (4)

mrsam (12205) | about 15 years ago | (#1625243)

I do not believe that the shortage of highly-qualified, high-skilled, programmers will end anytime soon.

Sure, there'll be plenty of people whose eyes glaze over while reading the classifieds and seeing the salaries and rates of computer programmers. They'll turn around, and say to their drinking buddy: "Hey, Zeke! Look how much computer programmers are being paid these days (burp)! I think I'm going to go and become a computer programmer!!! (hic)".

So, they'll go to some diploma mill, go through the motions, and, presto! New! From Spishak! It's "The Programmer In A Box!!!!!!" Instant ASP! Instant Perl! Instant C++!!

So, the great unwashed will be hired en masse by clueless companies who will think that they'll save a bundle by hiring these new programmers at entry-level salaries or rates. They'll tinker around, for a little while, and things will seem to be fine for some time. Then, everything starts to crash and burn, the environment at work starts to get a bit tense because all the problems, so the new programmers will split, and the companies will be left holding the bag.

Who do you think the companies will turn to, now?

Yup, meanwhile, the Programmer In A Box[tm] is busy running the scam at another clueless company.

I did not go to college and sign up for the comp-sci major because I wanted to make big bucks. In fact, when I was in school, programmers didn't really make that much money. They made a good buck, or two, but not that much. I became a programmer because that's what I really wanted to do.

Predictions that IT worker shortage will end soon are generally based upon the alleged scores of students signing up for computer science majors or computer schools, nationwide. My opinion is that the main attraction for most of these people is only the high salaries and rates that are being paid to highly qualified and skilled programmers.

Except that just the desire to earn big bucks will not make you a good programmer. There's a very good reason why good programmers make good money. Computer programming is a very mentally intensive job. To be a good computer programmer you not only have to know the computer language of choice. It also requires a certain mental discipline, I'd even say that it requires a certain way of thinking. Just knowing how to write printf("Hello world.\n"); is not going to help you much when you've been given a core dump, the source code, no way to reproduce the problem, and were told to figure out what happened, and to fix it.

I believe that very few of these people, who are looking in to cash in on the supposed IT worker shortage, are really prepared for the job. And I wish them luck. I really do. The more they screw up, the more money the rest of us will make, cleaning up their mess.

And even if I'm completely wrong, the bottom line is that we'll always have 10, 15, or more years of experience more than they will do. That cannot possibly ever change, so no matter how many bodies you'll throw into a computer science major, the number of people who already have decades of experience will never change.

... Man... /. needs a good spell checker and grammar checker.

Re:Nope. (5)

Sensor (15246) | about 15 years ago | (#1625254)

I really don't belive that post is worth a 5 - but whats worrying is that lots of this readership seems to. This is the same sort of self agrandesment as we get with any Linux story - look at this objectivally guys if you don't you run very serious financial risks.

What Rob actually said wasn't that there was going to be a huge increase in the supply of programmers but that there was almost certain to be a structural shock to the industry... he specifically said that he could not predict the source of this shock.

This could be that:

a) More problems are solved by pre-packed solutions - hence less need for custom solutions or from a sys-admin point of view maybe vast leaps forward are going to be made in reliability.

b) A new language comes out which lower quality programmers can use to achive equivalent results.

c) Large amounts of new labour become available - look at all the companies which have experimented with outsourcing their projects to 3rd world techies... these guys are just as bright, work just as hard (or harder) and cost fractions of a western worker.

The likelyhood remains that if this industry (IT et al) where to remain structurally the same then salaries for techies will level off and then fall in the medium term due to increased supplies of new graduates (of which I am one).

But look at the longer term and the chances of some random inovation reducing the numbers of us which are required or much more likely changing the TYPE of techie that is required is pretty good.

We are still an infantile industry - demand is high prices are volotile but can it really last indefinatly.

I doubt it and I'm certainly not going to bet my future/pension and morgage on it.

just thoughts


Re:A.K.A No Shortage of NT Drones (2)

Processor AL (17975) | about 15 years ago | (#1625262)

I agree with your point that it seems a lot of "CIS" students are really MCSE's in training. I have met several younger geeks lately, and their curriculums are like: designing networks, NT administration, and, oh yes a semester of c/c++ thrown in for good measure.

I think to myself sometimes (while glancing at the Altair 8800 callous on my right index finger), Doesn't anybody learn what a computer does right after the power goes on any more?

On another note, in the interest of fairness, I would like to throw out this info about RIT. I stumbled across the Computer Science House at RIT Page when checking out IMP [] . (Link is at the bottom of the page) Checking out their "house projects" page indicates, to me at least, that they are learning a tad bit more than just configuring NT boxes. A couple of highlights from that list: Porting NetBSD to DECStation 5000 and writing an FTP server for BeOS...Sounds a little beyond textbook, IMO.

-- Have you hugged your assembler lately?

There's a substantial difference scenarios (1)

TraCer00t (18330) | about 15 years ago | (#1625263)

While the engineer boom did die off in the past, it's important to note that this was a type of "construction" boom. People were building things, and by the very nature of the beast, this can only go on for so long before busting out.
  • There is only a limited amount of space.
  • In the case of highways and other govt. project, there is only a limited amount of money they're willing to spend before it's adios.
  • This infrastructure has been building itself since the birth of every single country in the world. Since most post-industrial societies are already quite "built-up" economically, there is already an existing infrastructure to build upon that invevitably limits the growth potential for the boom.

I don't beleive this will happen for IT workers for quite a long time. Case in point:
  • The shortage of IT workers has been there for years, yet the amount of new students in CS is going *down*.
  • Not everybody can become a programmer/sysadmin/whatnot (unlike the industrial revolution where anybody could work in a factory). It does require a fair amount of discipline, and a passion for your work that some people simply do not possess. (well, to be any good ;)
  • There's simply TOO MUCH work to go around. Most companies can't fill the programming positions that they need. (This is a testimonial, I have yet to see a single company not "looking to hire" IT workers of some type.)
  • Most companies can benefit from competing on the Internet because of next to nonexistant taxation. Add dollar values to a killer concept and you've got a winner.

To be honest, I do believe the "hotspots" of IT today will slow down, I don't think it will all come to a grinding halt. There's still too much to be done since there is not very much existing infrastructure to build upon, and it's all still very primitive. (Some US president once said that "everything that could be invented, has been invented". Of course, he was far off, but I think that assuming that what we have now won't change quite a bit is equally short-sighted.) We essentially have to build the entire infrastructure from the ground up. The Internet is in it's infancy, and we're nearing the limit of our existing techniques for processor production, but the micro-processor is ANYTHING but the bottleneck in most of today's machine. There are many applications of technology waiting to happen, and only time will bring them to a reality.

I believe that the IT worker shortage is more due to the existance of an IT revolution, where competing industries that don't jump in on the race will be left in the dust.

The industrial revolution did eventually die off, but it DID take SEVERAL years. And look at the repercussions... no one saw all of the factories close down. It just became a WAY of LIFE, and I think that's what will eventually happen in the future, given time.

If the IT shortage really is ending... (2)

wesmills (18791) | about 15 years ago | (#1625265)

...that makes me glad I'm graduating with a CS degree (BS or BA? I hate math... Opinions welcome) and a dual minor in education and history. Why, you say? What good does this do this discussion?

Simple: One of the biggest problems with our country at large is the fact that we are simply not teaching what needs to be taught. I'm not a Linux guru by far (I can get a box up and running, stock install, in 5 minutes...including finding the CD and coercing a recalcitrant eth0 system into working, but that's another topic), but I firmly believe the computer educations we are providing to students is a joke. We teach them how to use PowerPoint, MS Windows, and nothing about how the PC actually works. My Comp. Lit. class in 8th grade (long time ago) focused on using IBM's Linkway to make cheesy presentations! Oh, how I'd hoped we'd be past this now, but we've since evolved into using the Office suite for everything.

This is great for breeding kids who like a point and click OS (don't get me wrong, I like it as well, and have to use Windows for work, but I still piddle with Linux daily) and who don't want to think about what the computer can actually do, but where's the challenge? Why not teach them about how the innards work with each other, how the hardware interacts with the software, even if its only on a rudimentary basis. A little knowledge is better than no knowledge at all.

Good points (1)

QuMa (19440) | about 15 years ago | (#1625267)

A few good points, great first article... However, I'm not to wild about the "Its" word. Somehow it makes me think of the abrev IT, which is imho an awfull hypeword too, but nonetheless, I think it doesn't quite bring the right image to mind.

As for the ASME, I only have one thing to say: HAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHA. Imbiciles... (With apologies to all imbiciles).

All in all, a very nice "Feature". And not even a bad first feature/first post pun :-)

Shortage of what? (3)

LL (20038) | about 15 years ago | (#1625272)

The problem with technology is that it comes in waves and therefore everybody starts paddling furiously at the same time. Naturally this leads to a severe shortage of the fad-to-be, whether programming language, app or digital-whatsits. The only real shortage is that of management talent as companies without a clue are losing people left, right and centre to those firms which do appreciate and treat their people well instead of trying to hire the lowest cost fresh-out-of-college app-builder. Given a choice between 120 hour weeks paying $250K or 60 hours paying $100K what would people choose? Burning out your engineers through stock option pyramid scams in order to cash out on an IPO is not a sustainable practice. Like in any industry boom/busts occur but IT is a portable skillset and if you're willing to travel, there will always be more relaxed opportunities elsewhere.

Part of the problem IMHO is the relentless hyping of certain technologies. Sure the internet will change things but it will still be around (and cheaper) 5, 10 years later. It's absurb to think new businesses won't still be created n years in the future. From what I understand, part of this is market priming in order to adopt the most expensive components now (and thus preserve fat profit margins) before it becomes a commodity.

Let's look carefully, people are paid (roughly) according to the value the market places on their labor, skills and talent. Society has deemed that a surgeon with megayears of specialist training is worth more than a janitor. Thus skills which are not easily acquired or substituted (e.g. high manual dexterity, intensive knowledge, or natural leadership) tend to be more highly rewarded. Oh and pick a field which is likely to be in long-term demand, pricing inelasticities and has natural barriers to entry. Plastic surgery sounds like a nice area :-). I recall this SF story (name escapes me at the moment) which invented a device that could immortalise a worker's assembly skills but once they've captured the performance of their best worker, they fired him. With increasing IP going into software, I wonder who else will be next on the firing block.


'IT' as 'hypeword' (1)

delmoi (26744) | about 15 years ago | (#1625274)

I think the fact that "IT" or "Information technology" is such a hyped term in our world, and espesialy for MIS type people that it's perfict to describe the "Neo suits". Or perhaps to describe the clueless 'psudo-geeks' or 'psudo-hackers'.

These people are some of the most annoying people on the planet. While I don't have a problem with the term "information technology" the way I have a problem with MIS people, I think the fact that "its" corrosponds with "Ironed Teeshirts" and "information technlology" works well.
"Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"

The end to the Programmer Shortage (1)

extrasolar (28341) | about 15 years ago | (#1625275)

Well, one day some programmer will come up with a program that writes programs and then programmming will become obsolete. And it will happen too. The programmer will know what the result would be, but does it anyway because he thought that it would be cool and that is just the way we are.

Now if you get technical, I can imagine many ways where this happens already but I am thinking artificial intelligence and neural-nets and stuff like that so that a programmer wouldn't be happening.

But really, Its? What is wrong with somwthing more pronouncable like iron-clads or smoothies? Ah well, I can't imagine calling someone a suit anytime soon either.


intelligence shortage? (2)

jpritikin (30460) | about 15 years ago | (#1625280)

Quality programmers are hard to find exactly because our leading programmers keep raising expectations. Ten years ago, even a superstar programmer isn't going to be able to set up a national bookstore because the web infrastructure just isn't available yet. It's somewhat similar to athletic inflation in the Olympics. Today's runners just run faster than runners 50 years ago. We know more about how to train (& have better drugs :-). And computers give even more leverage because reuse of talent (good code) is relatively easy.

So can we keep getting smarter forever without a paradigm shift? We have been through the industrial revolution and now we're in the information revolution. What's next? Or more fundementally, what is intelligence?

I think what people call intelligence has a lot to do with the ability to concentrate. Are chronically distracted people intelligent? I've spoken to people who can't hold a conversation for 10 seconds! In other words, I don't think it's really important what you choose concentrate on, but if you can concentrate you'll probably be considered intelligent. After all, I think that people who concentrate a lot literally perceive more clearly.

Hypothetically, let's say you are a superstar programmer but then you see that the competition is getting too strong. You're no longer going to be able to bring in the big bucks. Let's say that another field opens up. If you can apply your skill in concentration to the new field then you'll be able to pick it up faster than anyone else. So, I don't think fundementally smart people need to worry about making money. They'll always be on top because they can perceive quicker and more clearly where the top is. However, let's imagine life speeds up a lot more and that paradigm shifts that used to take a generation now happen more often; Internet time reduced by another order of magnitude.

Might competition itself be made an object of concentration? Can the behavior of an ultimate competitor be boiled down into a simple description or diagram? If so, what would that mean?

Maybe I'm an idealist, but I think that everyone could have more wealth (be more satisfied) if folks were meticulous about avoiding the destruction of wealth. What really bugs me is when I'm having a good time and someone else barges in and does something stupid. "Gee, you've written such a nice piece of software. How about if I sell it and give you .05%? I want to build a new castle so I'll need my fair share (50%)." What's Gates going to do with all his money?

To sum it up:

  • Concentration is like abstract intelligence.
  • People should try to learn how to compete more optimally, not just within their chosen field but in general.

Error regarding engineering shortage (1)

magellan (33560) | about 15 years ago | (#1625292)

The end of the engineering shortage was caused by a couple of things. The problems in the Boston area were caused in part by companies moving to the sunbelt. There was certainly more of a shortage in Texas and Florida than Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

The other factor was the reduction in defense spending. Defense spending drove much of the technology research in the Boston area. After Vietnam, and continuing through the Carter administration, spending declined. The Reagan "buildup" was short lived, for the most part purchased weapons that had already been designed (i.e., B-1 bomber), and the research spending was more focused on SDI. The fall of the Soviet Union ended most of the remaining research.

As an Aerospace Engineering undergraduate student in the 1980's, I saw much of this first hand. Many students entered the Aerospace curriculum in '86/'87, and then the bottom fell out, leaving many who graduated from '88-'90 unable to find jobs, or losing the jobs they had.

Fortunately, commercial business in technology research started taking off in the early '80s, and has continued. We are in period of fundamental change, from the industrial age to the information age, and we are probably only about 25% of the way through the transformation. The tech worker shortage will not end any time soon. There is simply too much to be done.

Finally, while it is easy to be critical of immigration as a solution to the tech shortage, one only has to look at where these immigrants are coming from: Countries with high education standards, and a local economy that cannot provided the necessary jobs. This means India and the Orient. These are not sweat-shop workers, in many cases these people have advanced degrees, and are very good at what they do. They also have much better work ethics and stronger loyalty than the typical American worker. The real issue in the future will be whether they immigrate to America to pursue employment, or if major companies outsource entire development departments to front companies in India and Taiwan--which will happen if restrictions against immigration are put in place.

The best thing a young person can do is get a college degree, and earn a reputation as a serious person, one that your references will attest to. And realize these two fundamental facts of life:

No one owes you a job. You have to earn it.

You have to pay your dues in this world. Your boss' feel that they paid their dues, and expect the same of you. This may mean working as a contract worker for a year or two to gain a level of experience to apply for a higher position.

My company has over 1900 open positions. My boss spent six months trying to fill a position recently, inteviewing about 60 different people. But the only thing a boss likes less than filling a position is firing somebody. That means the boss has to have the utmost confidence that a person is the right person for the job.

Don't use Its; it's overloaded (2)

tmoertel (38456) | about 15 years ago | (#1625296)

On the whole "Its" thing, it's not going to work because the meanings for its letter triple, i-t-s, are way too confusing already. (Take the previous sentence, for example.) If choosing between its and it's is a brain-numbing challenge for most of us today, why make the problem worse by throwing another meaning into the mix?

May I suggest an another option:

  • DAWDress-Aware Workers. Our bosses.
  • DOWDress-Oblivious Workers. Us.

Some notes:

  • That DAW, when pronounced, sounds much like an enthusiastic "Duh!" with a Texas drawl is not a coincidence and is highly suggestive of the deep truth hidden within.
  • That DOW is sometimes used to refer to the Dow-Jones Industrial Average is also not a coincidence. When the DOW climbs, we know whose work made it possible!

So please consider DAW and DOW.


Re:Don't expect automatic programming EVER (1)

w3woody (44457) | about 15 years ago | (#1625305)

Actually, I see three things comming down the pike which could significantly reduce the number of manhours needed in order to get an application off the ground.

The first thing is the use of web browsers as the software's UI. In several IT departments and several companies I've done work for, they're increasingly using CGI and PHP3 (or other sever-side HTML processing) in order to present user input options and present information for things like inventory tracking software and the like. It takes a lot less work to do inventory tracking using PHP3 and MySQL than it does rolling your own UI.

The second thing I see is the increasing use of reusable objects, encapsulated in their own executable files. Things like COM objects in Microsoft Windows is significantly increasing the acceptance of reusable objects in the Windows world, to the point where many programmers I've met in the Windows world do little more than glue COM objects with VB for a living. I also see this happening with JavaBeans.

The third I've seen is the attempts for companies like Microsoft and Sun to provide prepackaged solutions for embedded software development. Now that it only costs a couple of bucks to get a fairly impressive amount of computing power on an embedded chip, it's worth it to a company to spend an extra two dollars for a processor which can run a prepackaged embedded OS, rather than pay the engineering costs (and take the risk) of rolling their own. Other companies (notably those who were formerly competing with Microsoft in the OS market in the 80's) are already migrating into that market.

All of these are causing companies to use "off the shelf" code rather than rely on a software developer to roll new code. The solution may seem inelegant to a skilled programmer, but it does make sense: it reduces corporate reliance on programmers, and it reduces the risk to companies failing to implement a solution.

Re:Suits and Workers and Magazines (1)

w3woody (44457) | about 15 years ago | (#1625306)

There has never been an "IT worker shortage". There is a "shortage of IT workers at the salary we offer".

Reminds me of the joke about a company looking for a Java programmer who had 10 years of Java programming experience. They were willing to pay $40K/year.

Of course the sad part about this was that I first saw this joke a year back in the Los Angeles Times help wanted ads...

Re:Nope. (2)

w3woody (44457) | about 15 years ago | (#1625307)

Who do you think the companies will turn to, now?

It's happening now. And as a freelancer who comes into a company and fixes someone else's mess, I guess the answer to your rhetorical question is me.

The only thing that is going to prevent the collapse of the market for software developers is the fact that just about every little trinket has a microprocessor in it now. Unfortunately, though, I think what is going to speed this collapse along is those very same "idiot" programmers you allude to--I've seen more than one company who, when faced with a project that needed some custom programming, decide to scrap the entire project rather than face some 22 year old with a diploma fresh from a diploma mill.

*sigh* It's just all screwed up...

Not so sure (1)

Hard_Code (49548) | about 15 years ago | (#1625309)

I dropped out of college because I couldn't stand being so excruciatingly bored...being addressed in the same audience as the dolts who decided upon, arrival, to major in comp sci because it was "cool" and had absolutely no clue. Even starting with 400 level courses my freshman year, it was basically an oral regurgitation of reference material. When you went to an English class, did the professor just read the dictionary aloud to you? College can stuff things into your head (which any intelligent person can do themselves), but it CAN'T /make/ you smarter, or make you pick up ideas faster, or make you intuitively understand something. Those are all gained from talent and experience (which college, in my experience, gives one absolutely NONE of). Why do I need to pay XX grand to have some professor regurgitate a book I can read for myself, or go on long diatribes on his "pet" topic? Boring waste of time. Anything I ever actually /learned/ I did on my /own/ initiative, not because somebody was trying to stuff facts in my head. BTW, I now work for the actual university I dropped out of (about a 1 month time period between dropping out and getting hired). And I'm valuable not because of the stuff I would have had stuffed in my head (all of which would pretty much be irrelevent anyway...things change so fast), but for my ability and willingness to learn and adapt, and creativeness. Having performed tedious, mundane and rote comp sci material does not help. College can expand your horizons, but only if you entered it with a narrow, closed mind in the first place.

Re:Suits are vanishing. (1)

Hard_Code (49548) | about 15 years ago | (#1625310)

It just doesn't make sense to stifle employees. Programming is an intensely creative and mentally rigorous activity. Nobody forms art companies and puts artists in suits and expects them to work do they? In reference to a recent slashdot feature on burnout, some of this "making employees comfortable" stuff, is underhanded though, as it entices them to make work their home, and thus the company squeezes much more out of them (here, have a soda, stay until 12 at night, we'll give you a massage). You can't make people so comfortable that they overwork...burnout is extremely expensive. People HAVE to stop and do something stupid and pointless that takes no mental activity. This is why I don't feel guilty when I actually take a real lunch break (what's that right?), or read some magazine article (usually a techie magazine), or just follow some links on slashdot. The mind has to recoup so that it can afford to be creative.

Suits as a descriptive term (1)

DocBear (52577) | about 15 years ago | (#1625314)

Even here in Silicon Valley, where almost no one wears a suit, the term is used often to identify those who profit from others' designs and engineering, as opposed to those that do the design and engineering.

It is not always a term of derision. But it is almost often used in context of "us vs them". It is not very much different from the longhairs vs rednecks terms from the '60s. Very few of those who had shorter hair in the '60s fell into the stereotypes of what are now called rednecks. The term was coined because of stereotypes. The same thing is true today, with the "suits" stereotype.

I am a software developer, but I have worked with some very very sharp marketing, finance, and senior management folks who have made dreams come true for a lot of engineers.

I still call them "suits", because their function is to deal with the business realities that I choose not to work with. But I respect the good ones.


Re:Tech Worker Shortage is here (1)

beulah (58027) | about 15 years ago | (#1625321)

I've been in the same place myself, except in system administration. When you are the alpha geek of a computing environment it is a thrill. But eventually you realize there are limits to being the alpha geek. And if managmeent doesn't pay you or respect you like you deserve, it's even worse. I quit my job as network administrator. Now I'm going to grad school in a different field entirely. I never want to be a network admin again, because you get no real respect from anyone.

Re:Skilled labor shortage ? (1)

sirket (60694) | about 15 years ago | (#1625324)

EXACTLY. I get hundreds of resumes a week from people looking for administration jobs. However, only about 1 out of every hundred is even remotely qualified. I can find you about a hundred reasonably qualified MCSE's in a week but Unix people are almost non-existant (There are plenty of Unix posers but they are easy to spot).

As for the industry as a whole... Just considering the companies I deal with on a regular basis, this tech boom is anything but over.


Zits (0)

The Future Sound of (60863) | about 15 years ago | (#1625325)

I think that the geeks should start referring to themselves as "Zits" to contrast themselves from the Its - not because it's and acronym for anything, but because it's evocative of their skin-tone resulting from a CRT-bathed life of no exercise, junk food and frequent and prodigious masturbation.

Missing the point (5)

babbage (61057) | about 15 years ago | (#1625326)

Many of the comments I've read seem to be taking away the wrong point. *Of course* programming is difficult. *Of course* you can weed out the good programmers from the bad. But guess what? Engineering is difficult too! And some people are good at it while others aren't, just as with programming.

And that could be precisely the engine behind what Rob describes. Did the engineering profession disappear recently? Of course not. And programming won't go anywhere either. But there are probably fewer engineers out there today than there were then, and the ones that remain are probably the more skilled among them. (I have no numbers to support this, only anecdotes). There isn't as much money sloshing around for the reamaining engineers to grab either. What's to say that the bulk of today's coders won't be driven out as well, with only the very best remaining -- if even them?

I think it's perfectly reasonable to assume that IT will go down the same way. Consider that much of the growth behind IT is the move to get businesses onto the internet, and to build the infrastructure to get people on at home at better speeds. In other words, we're in a building phase, much like countries went through when they joined the industrial revolution. But just as with that period, it will end. Eventually, there weren't as many new factories to build, the telegraph lines had been laid, the rivers all had steamboats, and while these things persisted, they slacked off. So it may be here. Eventually, the fiber optic lines and satellites will all be in place; the companies will have their E-Commerce(tm) departments up and running; and the opportunities for new entry will, not disappear, but diminish.

If you think this can't happen, you're delusional. Nothing lasts forever. We've got it good now, but something -- who knows what, who knows when or how soon -- will bring it all to an end. Plan for it. If you are not absolutely top notch, plan on a second career.

One of my professors got his undergrad degree in aerospace engineering -- he worked on the Apollo program and helped send people to the moon. In his domain, he was great -- but one day we stopped sending people to the moon, and he had to find a new job. For a while, he bought a bar & lived as a bartender. Now he's a professor. But he'll probably never send people to the moon again.

It's not pessimism guys, it's reality. Plan for it or get burned. Consider yourselves warned.

continuing the trend. (1)

randy9999 (62715) | about 15 years ago | (#1625328)

Given that we've making technological advances in leaps and bounds
(there's more computing power in your playstation than there was in the world thirty years ago)
why cant this trend continue forever?

(or at least more than 5 years?)

And a shortage of CHEAP workers. (1)

Convergence (64135) | about 15 years ago | (#1625334)

More accurately, there's a shortage of cheap AND good workers.

Nt admin in a box, just add $700 dollars (1)

EEE (64293) | about 15 years ago | (#1625335)

Interesting article that reveals the ugliness of the tech market. Nowadays people are so consumed with the quick easy money of earning an MCSE degree that no one takes time to stop and look at the reality of an over saturated market. The world doesn't need another Devry drop out who is out to make a fast buck, no the world needs people who eat and sleep computers who adjust as needed. Sure the market is due to crumble in the next coming years for computer pros but the ones left standing will be those who started with computers as a hobby and not a job.

In the 60s the engineer ruled now its the Nt admin, let us just hope that the next trend won't be the Red Hat certified professional in a box.

This article touches base on so many aspects that it is disturbing. Speak to any engineer turned computer hack or programmer, and if he or she tells you different they won't survive the next economic flux.

Ex Electrical Engineer

pronouncing its (1)

frankmu (68782) | about 15 years ago | (#1625343)

is it "eye teez"?
or its, as in "It's a nice day today"?

Suits and Workers and Magazines (1)

sgs (78161) | about 15 years ago | (#1625353)


For the, uh, suits, its a mark of status. Consider the concept of the "power suit", or, even sillier, the "power tie". An anthropologist could have all sorts of fun with corporate power relationships.

IT Worker Shortage:

There has never been an "IT worker shortage". There is a "shortage of IT workers at the salary we offer". Raise the salaries and workers will come out of the woodwork. Hint -- look at housing prices. A mid-level worker should be able to buy a mid-priced house with no more than a 20 minute commute.

As to what the B-schools are up to, there are a number of obvious trends:

1. Foreign workers. They get paid less and are far more docile than domestic workers.

2. Overseas outsourcing. Move the whole operation to India or Russia. Even cheaper than #1, but they lose control over the workers.

3. The search for a magic "software engineering methadology" that will enable illiterate Malaysians to crank out top quality code for US$0.18/hour like they crank out sneakers.


Skroom. They're dinosaurs anyway. (1)

Baldrson (78598) | about 15 years ago | (#1625355)

A lot of people (even Jon Katz) have been telling me I should write a Slashdot feature myself now and then.

Since over the last few days you've posted about as many articles as all other editors combined, I'd say you have taken on more than enough already.

so artists will finally get a job.. (1)

zerone (83179) | about 15 years ago | (#1625358)

..and they won't have to cut their ear off and die before getting noticed or paid.

"As information and intelligence become the domain of computers, society will place new value on the one human ability that can't be automated: emotion [] . Imagination, myth, ritual -- the language of emotion -- will affect everything from our purchasing decisions to how well we work with others.. Ideas like quality, efficiency, and reliability will no longer sell products. In the end, I'll buy a phone because of its color, if that's what moves me."

"Any job that can be measured for productivity probably should be eliminated. The wonderful news about the Network Economy is that it plays right into human strengths. Repetition, sequels, copies, and automation all tend toward the free, while the innovative, original, and imaginative all soar in value" []

No offense, folks, but i41 can't wait until this communications revolution can more easily tap the creative potential of non-technical people (like yours flamebaitly true:*).

NAGs (1)

SPorter (83284) | about 15 years ago | (#1625360)

N ot A G eek

Re:Nope. (2)

Stormin (86907) | about 15 years ago | (#1625362)

I agree. But a lot of those Programmer-in-a-box's are already out there. A friend of mine wasn't happy with the income he made from his bachelor's degree - even though he was doing what he'd "Wanted to do since I was six years old". So he got a master in Computer Information Systems. He now works for a well known, international company in their MIS department. His idea of programming is to copy blocks of code from the sample CDs that come at the back of programming books, without understanding what they do. Coding for him means moving them around, re-arranging stuff, and so on... but without a solid idea what the stuff does! He asked me to look at a computer program he was working on for class once. It was a C++ subroutine, and every four lines or so he had

return 0;

I asked him why he put that there, and he responded "Because it's in the book." He didn't understand that everything after the first return would never even be executed. He didn't understand call semantics. But he's now a "Developer".

People like this are not a threat to the incomes of the readers of this board. We are a threat to their incomes, when their stuff stops working.

I'm also tired of hearing how record numbers of people are entering CS programs. As Sam said, they're going in for the money... and they probably figure they know how to play Doom, so this must just be advanced doom playing. These people are never going to last four years in a CS program.

Skilled labor shortage ? (1)

Money__ (87045) | about 15 years ago | (#1625363)

Saying there is a shortage of skilled workers in the hitech industry is like the NBA saying there is a shortage of players in the league. There isn't a shortage of players, there's just a shortage of _GOOD_ players.

Engineering "Glut" (1)

belswick (88287) | about 15 years ago | (#1625365)

I also am grey enough to remember the engineering glut, at least from my POV in California at the time. At one time during that period, I was trying to hire engineers to help me develop digital media systems (back before it was so fashionable). I was innundated with applications from folks with advanced degrees and years of experience, unfortunately in all the wrong specialties. And when I say specialized, I mean these guys spent their entire careers narrowly focused on tiny parts of systems with little or no application outside the context of the system. As you might guess, these candidates came overwhelmingly from the aerospace industry, which apparantly pigeonholed engineers with a vengance. I ended up filling the first position with an immigrant from the UK because I could not find a candidate with the right qualifications from the local talent pool.

So, a couple of observations:
1. The engineer glut as I saw it was not caused by evil MBAs plotting in a basement, but by a shifting of national priorities away from defense work and toward social welfare programs.
2. Many of the affected engineers dug their own graves by becoming too specialized and failing to train outside their very narrow areas of expertise.
3. The next glut will happen when the money finds somewhere else to go, probably when the Internet is built to about 80% of wherever it is headed. That will not happen soon unless outside forces such as a financial depression or a war force a major priority shift. Of course, the sudden emergence of a new technology such as genetic engineering could cause a smaller reallocation of funds, but in that case the transition would be more gradual giving the more forward-looking engineers time to retrain.
4. At risk of repeating an overused line, engineering (and other) professionals need to take more responsibility for keeping their skills updated. The only place to get lifetime jobs with pensions will be at Wal-Mart or the Post Office as time goes by.

So I'm not so sure that the IT worker shortage will end "soon", but it will end eventually. Tech-Nerds had best be prepared to take advantage of the next wave when it comes, by keeping their focus a bit broader than the requirements of their current position and investing in their own skillset. Whining about H1Bs and foreign workers will not save you!


ITS (1)

orz (88387) | about 15 years ago | (#1625366)

However it is that you pronounce that, there will be a name-space collision with something important. Because of that, it's not going to stick.

Re:... (2)

ckrough (90585) | about 15 years ago | (#1625369)

I can't disagree more. After 6 years in the computer industry (sales, support, netadmin ... several hats) I have returned to school to get a so-called higher education and a CIS degree (they pay more if you have the paper:) I would say that only around 15% of the students, even in the higher level CIS courses, are real geeks. The non-geeks can't handle anything that isn't "in the book". People who can't think logically (in a computer sense) won't make it as net admins or programmers, or any other position that there is a demand for. The difference between the rebound in the supply of engineers and what may or may not happen in computers is that Engineering is a trade you can train for and with enough practice become good at. (Now you engineers, don't go flaming me. I am not talking about designing satellites, I am talking about the average engineering job) In computers you can take as many courses and get as much training as you want, but unless you have "the knack", your just not going to be anything but level I tech support. Crow

A communication problem... (2)

drwolf (91119) | about 15 years ago | (#1625371)

This is slightly off-topic, so moderate down as appropriate.

I am a self-described geek, have an advanced degree, and am finishing up an MBA at one of the aforementioned satanic institutions, so take this FWIW.

The hostility that i'm seeing by techies to their PHB's really is (IMHO) about a communication gulf.

Many of my peers in business school are getting involved in high-tech, obviously because that's where the money is.

The more self-aware ones realize that they haven't got a clue about the underlying technologies, but they are making an attempt to learn. The M$ mentality still prevails, but the volume of people asking me about my linux boxen increases daily.

I think that many business-types would appreciate the techies in their companies giving them the scoop on the latest technologies. These people are not idiots, but you need to do it in a language that they understand. Money.

Want to use linux as a print server? Don't just tell your manager that Linux rules and NT is a bloated hog.

Intuitively, we believe that Linux is a superior solution. So prove it: fire up excel and do a little NPV analysis. Show them with numbers that your alternative is viable and fits with the goals of the business. In your model's assumptions, explain the merits of the technology as best you can.

It's not rocket science, and it would go a long way to helping foster acceptance of OSS by people who were previously clueless. Not to mention the fact that communicating effectively with management makes you that much more valuable to those you work for. [An important skill, if Roblimo's hypothesis is correct.]

Sorry for the rant, but I too am tired of seeing superior solutions passed over because those in the know could not or would not make a proper business case to management. To me, this is just as egregious as managemnent forcing IT guys to wear ties :)


[tieless, wearing a mumu like homer.]

Re:Economics (1)

Lorenzo Smythe (91161) | about 15 years ago | (#1625372)

Your assertion makes no sense. In the first place, *all* areas of human endeavor are built on the economic foundation prevalent at the time it is undertaken. In the *second* place, what were you planning on using to pay for internet technology's ubiquity? Lorenzo

Start our own ASME? (1)

Issue9mm (97360) | about 15 years ago | (#1625382)

Why not start our own ASME, or more accurately, ASOME? (with the 'O' being thrown in for "online") Granted, I'm an idiot in the means as to how to do this of course, but I'd say between the editors/posters/readers of Slashdot, we've got enough online pull to get a couple of other big names aboard at least. Once the ball is rolling, who knows???

{include_ps.h)Nice article Rob. Very well written. I think maybe /. oughtta have an "article" section tho maybe? It's not all the time that I wanna read specifically news, and should have some way of distinguishing. The main difference being, articles wouldn't go out of date as quickly. Anyway, guess I'll get back to work now.

Re:Shortage of what? (1)

bukvich (98921) | about 15 years ago | (#1625391)

One nitpick here: there isn't really a free market in surgery. The American Medical Association regulates the supply. They have a guild. Techies being paid as much as surgeons probably is temporary, unless we can organize as well as they.

Re:Huh? (1)

magicpaul (98982) | about 15 years ago | (#1625392)

(2) no it was not - which makes sense (read the article again)

(3) i fail to see how the last paragraph would be considered an insult

(3b) to avoid confusion they could change their name to ASPME

(3c) it is an insult that they won't accept /. as an online periodical

(3d) _ who wants to start ASOME, or perhaps AWESOME -- the American & World Editors Society of Online MagazinEs ?_

_ AWESOME _ (1)

magicpaul (98982) | about 15 years ago | (#1625393)

Or maybe, the Awesome World Editors Society of Online Magazines and E-zines.

Just a thought...

Re:Not so sure (1)

magicpaul (98982) | about 15 years ago | (#1625394)

I'd say that I pretty much agree with your take on college.

I'm here right now and don't feel I'm getting much out of it, except for when I attend meetings of our IS/IT club, which tend to be way more informative and interesting than most of my classes most of the time.

You should see the corporate recruitment that goes on with our IT crowd, though. There is no fear here about job placement. Most concern themselves with deciding whether an offer should be passed up because a better one can be had.

There's a lack of *skilled* IT workers (5)

Chad Stansbury (100803) | about 15 years ago | (#1625404)

While I agree that there is not a lack of IT workers out there, I would have to say that the percentage of *skilled* IT workers is very small. I can't tell you how many times that I've talked to a highly-paid consultant about how I made some algorithm faster, get into big-O notation, and see his/her eyes start to glaze over. Unfortunately for someone like myself, who cares about the efficiency of their algorithms, the huge advances in processor speed have rendered such details unnecessary in most business applications. 90% of the code I review nowadays is just total cr*p, and it's due to the attitude that everything can be fixed by throwing more hardware at the problem. I'm beginning to feel like an old man (remember the old days...) and I'm only 29...

Suit? A dysfunctional evil. (1)

shagoth (100818) | about 15 years ago | (#1625405)

The real problem with Suits per se is the fundamental lack of understanding of the engineering mentality and perspective. Since most IS managers, it seems, have come out of business training with only a modicum of technical knowledge. Those few engineering managers who have both the technical savvy to herd cats in the traditional engineering sense and have the ability to speak the financial-babble of upper management should work together to promote that unique blend of skills that prevents the boneheaded Suitian behavior we so often associate with management. Perhaps Engineering Degrees with associated MBAs as a secondary training path. Engineers first, suits second. Of course, that probably would just produce alot of dangerous whores.
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