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The Industry Problem Expand / Collapse
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Posted Sunday, November 13, 2011 9:53 PM


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Comments posted to this topic are about the item The Industry Problem






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Post #1204867
Posted Sunday, November 13, 2011 9:57 PM
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The way I heard it, is kids who in high school get really excited by technology, and join the robotics club or "mouse squad" or electronics club or whatever, get to college and are immediately slapped down by the intense math courses in STEM programs... and lose their interest. The comments on the article you linked alluded to this but didn't quite say it this broadly. Apparently some colleges are aware of the negative impact of this and are thinking on how to address it.
Post #1204868
Posted Monday, November 14, 2011 4:33 AM
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Back in the 'old days' when there weren't STEM courses, most of us had quals in other subjects. Mine was Politics, Political Philosophy and Economics but oddly most of my comtemporaries had Geography degrees if they had a degree at all. We seemed to end up in computing because we could think 'outside the paper bag' i.e. bring some sort of lateral thinking to a problem. I did once get a job because I was 'that girl with a Maths A level'.

The recent graduates I've met don't seem to be able to bring a broader aspect to an issue. They seem to follow a set path and, when that doesn't work, they are stumped i.e if it isn't logical it cannot be right. Life isn't logical and neither, I swear, is computing. Perhaps it is the way they are taught?

I recently asked for a 'Retired Members Forum' (which has been set up) for those of us who have stopped working for a living but not stopped thinking. I also hoped for interest from the younger end of the profession who were stumped by older legacy systems which are prone to the eccentricities of those early programmers.

Perhaps I should have asked for it to be called 'Old Codgers' ?



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Posted Monday, November 14, 2011 6:37 AM


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Thanks Steve for yet another link to a very interesting article.

Years ago, computer shops divided responsibilities. You had systems analysts and business analysts. They drew up the plans, the 'programmers' implemented the plans. In this model, only the analysts really needed to know the business. If the programmers understood the business, great. If not, no big deal. The programmers needed to do things like write in binary; something usually only understood by math majors.

Today, we have 'software developers'; people who know it all. The number of jobs for pure analysts has been decreasing for a long time now. Hence, developers need to be people who understand business. The number of computer jobs that require high-level math, or even deep understanding of computer circuitry are few and diminishing. If it's possible to draw up a spec and pass it on to someone who doesn't understand your business, there are hoards of overseas consultants waiting to implement designs for a fraction of the pay that Americans want.

The previous posts about education have it right. Kids in high school play with high-level functions on computers like Lego robotics, simple animation, and other things that anybody could learn by reading a book in the "Dummies" series. Because they hang around with computers, they're branded as geniuses. They get to college in a STEM degree program though and get difficult math and engineering courses thrown at them - There they either lose interest or just don't make the grade. That's why the line share of IT jobs are filled with people whose minds understand business principles more than by people who understand differing theories of how memory should be managed on the processor chip.


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Post #1205104
Posted Monday, November 14, 2011 6:45 AM


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Good editorial, good article.

I think two bits sum it up. The statement that people with CS degrees often don't know what they really need to do, and the statement that colleges are losing people partway through STEM programs. 2+2=4 pretty clearly. The programs aren't preparing people for work, and the students quite possibly realize this partway through.


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Post #1205107
Posted Monday, November 14, 2011 6:45 AM


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S Hodkinson (11/14/2011)
I recently asked for a 'Retired Members Forum' (which has been set up)

Perhaps I should have asked for it to be called 'Old Codgers' ?


Perhaps an even better name would have been "Wisdom". You do not gain wisdom by going to school. You gain it by life. I would recommend changing the name, but change it to something that is inviting to Non-retireds to come and look for answers. Probably not having too many articles about AARP memberships would be beneficial too.

I think what has been said is very true. Being able to think is more important than knowing the way "it should be". I was a music major first (until I added the computer Science major). Techniques I learned from my Dad, a hardware store owner, have also been helpful in solving issues I have faced in the technology field. I think my "classical" training in CS is helpful in methodology, something I see lacking in non-CS people at times, but it is not the end all. I agree that graduating a high number of STEM kids, without the knowledge of life, isn't really that helpful. You need to be smart, but smart means many things.


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Post #1205108
Posted Monday, November 14, 2011 6:54 AM
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Although I graduated with a CS degree over 7 years ago, I can see how it doesn't necessarily mean that I would be suitable for this kind of work. A lot of the courses were teachning math or programming techniques (with a couple of non STEM courses thrown in as filler) but it was also possible for someone to barely make it through the degree. I recall one student who couldn't program at all and was bewildered at how he made it to 4th year. It's possible he was capapble of doing the straightforward stuff and then on group assignments where this lateral thinking is required, he was one of those who didn't contribute much while the one or two sharper ones on the team spelled out what he needed to do. Then again, it's what you see in the real world as well. There's some sharp people who can see and plan and others that can do grunt work.

I've learned most of what I need to do while on the job, although the CS degree gave me great preparation for it (how to read grammar, statistical analysis, programming theory, database theory, etc). But that doesn't mean that someone who is sharp but studied something else couldn't excel at this either. One of my coworkers studied fine arts. He's really sharp and excels at his current job since he's learned how to do it on the job. But you know what? That fine arts degree means that I go to him when I need help making a report look good whereas he comes to me when he needs some help on an algorithm or database design. Diverse educational backgrounds makes us a stronger team, no doubt about it.

The people you find who didn't study CS but are really sharp would move into a technological career because they're smart and this is where you find the tools required to really use it. Whereas someone who goes into a CS degree because they think it will get them a great job when they graduate but isn't quite as sharp will likely get into the industry but they may not excel.
Post #1205112
Posted Monday, November 14, 2011 7:25 AM
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For whatever reason I have found that most of the most creative IT professionals have a degree in a non-STEM subject, if they even have a degree at all. I have known good STEM IT professionals, and on the occasional topic, such as octagonal numbers or some such, you could see the occasional advantage of their degree. Had I studied computer science in school, it would have almost no applicability to today's technology. That I learned to think through difficult problems has been much more useful to my IT career. And outside my IT career as well.


Post #1205133
Posted Monday, November 14, 2011 7:56 AM
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I really take personal offense at the phrase in the editorial:
"It also seems that many of the people I've met with CS degrees are often those that make he most mistakes in real world software development or system administration."

When I decided to get into the field, I went and got a graduate degree in computer science. It wasn't easy. After taking a few courses I applied for a development job. They gave me a test in C++ and because of my course in graduate school, I aced the test. They then told me I would need to learn VB, so I picked up a book and learned the language. I worked fulltime during the day and went to school at night. I graduated with honors and I continue to learn and work hard to this day. Later on I became a DBA as well and I believe that my foundation in learning helped me. I am known in the office as the person who makes the least mistakes. To say that people with degrees make the most mistakes is ridiculous and not based on fact. By the way when you stated it in your editorial you misspelled the word "the".
Post #1205157
Posted Monday, November 14, 2011 7:57 AM


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My thoughts:

http://nebrasql.blogspot.com/2011/11/industry-problem-according-to.html

Thanks for a great article as usual Steve!
Post #1205158
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