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The Industry Problem

By Steve Jones,

The majority of the people that I know working in technology do not seem to have college degrees in computer science. I know many people with degrees in many other subjects, and quite a few people that don't have a degree. In most of those cases, the successful individuals have worked in the real world and gathered their knowledge about technology through hard work across time. It also seems that many of the people I've met with CS degrees are often those that make the most mistakes in real world software development or system administration.

Colleges don't teach you all the skills you need in the real technology world. The best workers I know in this business are the most adaptable, thinking laterally about problems, and bringing flexible approaches to solving problems. With many surveys showing a shortage of technical talent likely in the next few years, we ought to be encouraging more people to enter the technology field.

When I saw this article about college graduates in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects, I had mixed feelings. On one hand I think that people growing up today need to be smarter, and more educated than ever before.  Expecting to coast through some job, whether it's in technology, marketing, medicine, or any other field, on the basis of what you learn in your 20s is not acceptable. I think that a larger and larger percentage of the population needs to constantly improve their understanding of how technology works, learn how to find patterns in data and apply new concepts to solving problems, and use computer tools to perform more complex analysis of data. That would seem to require a heavier grounding in the STEM subjects, and perhaps more major concentrations in those areas.

On the other hand, lateral thinking doesn't necessarily come from heavy concentrations of one subject. The broad education that can come from different types of learning are invaluable, especially in a global, complex world that is growing every closer together. The success of so many friends that didn't study STEM subjects makes me think that people can study anything, as long as it requires them to work hard, and learn to think through a series of challenges.

There are many pundits noting that we have a shortage of workers in the technology area. If that's true, then I'm not sure the solution is pushing more STEM subjects on students. Instead I think we need to provide people with a better image of working with technology, and excite them by the challenges and opportunities that are available to those that have chosen this career field.

Steve Jones


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