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Gap between degree and job requirements

Dave Lenton
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Joined: Jan 20, 2005
Posts: 1241
I was recently speaking to a friend who graduated from university three years ago with a decent computing degree, but has only just found a job in the computing industry. He's one of the lucky ones - of the 40 or so people who graduated with him, about 4 have got a job in computing.

It seems to me that there is a large gap between what the degree provides, and what the industry requires at an entry level. This is somewhat strange. In many other industries a degree is considered preparation for the entry level job. People in areas such as teaching, medicine and so on will be fairly confident of getting a job when they graduate.

Computing seems a bit different though, with most "entry level" jobs requiring experience that a lot of graduates will not have. Who's to blame though? Is it the employers expecting too much, or the universities not providing what the employers want?

I suspect its a bit of both. On the one hand employers (influenced by employment agencies who know nothing about the industry) are probably a little unrealistic in how much experience they demand for some more junior roles. How can it be expected that a person applying for a junior programming position will have five year's java experience?

The universities are also partially to blame. In my degree course there were about 30-40 people in the final year, and I was probably in the top two or three skill-wise, and got a good final grade. When I started work I found that what I knew was barely enough for me to scrape by. Despite telling me that I had done well, the university had completely failed to teach me anywhere near what I needed to know to be even average at my job. It was fairly clear to me that my course had focussed too much on things I didn't need (I had an entire module on how IT helps museums do fancy presentations) and not enough time on getting programming experience - in my final year only one of my six modules was programming. I think I learned more in the first three months of my job then in the previous three years of university. I was very lucky in that I found an employer who was willing to take me on with not very much experience, and to allow me time to learn what I needed. Other people, like my friend, have not been so lucky and have struggled to find work.

Is this a similar story else-where in the world? Is this kind of gap between the degree and the job requirements a common thing?
[ July 15, 2005: Message edited by: Dave Lenton ]

There will be glitches in my transition from being a saloon bar sage to a world statesman. - Tony Banks
Arjunkumar Shastry
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Joined: Feb 28, 2005
Posts: 986
I think this is not the case only with CS but also other branches of engineering.Atleast in India this type of situation exists since ages.Many people complain about courses being pedestrian and out of date especially in non-CS engineering courses.But how can schools can change their curriculum just because few industrial houses demand?Doing some kind of job between the semesters I think is a good option.
When I was in in school,Fortran 77 was taught.After yielding to such demand,sometime back,Mumbai(Bombay) University switched from Fortran to C++..This was in first year of engineering.So students who were little exposed to computers were forced to learn C++ in 3 months and solve the assignments.not to say how many understood it!
Employers should understand that it is their duty to give sometime to freshers to learn.


Namma Suvarna Karnataka
Sania Marsh
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Joined: Jul 12, 2004
Posts: 469
Dave, you are so right about universities...

My university, forget about newest technologies, jut starting to teach web development. New grads have no idea of what HTML is.

Not that it is hard topic, but correct me if I'm wrong, hiring manager would care more for "HTML" than "Robotics" on your resume, even though a person who successfully completed robotics course would probably be good with HTML, but who cares? they need HTML experience.
Why not to allow students choose j2ee course instead of "Operating Systems" or "Artificial Intellegence"? How many jobs are out there for those who know "Image Processing" compared to .NET? the ratio is probably 100 to 1, so why not to add .NET to curriculum?

I was lucky to have part-time internship during school, thanks to which I was employed 1 month afer graduation.
My friend, however, who is much brighter developer, had to struggle for 1.5 years working for pennies just to gain experience.

Schools should provide at least 2-3 courses on hottest technologies on the market.
Sania Marsh
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Joined: Jul 12, 2004
Posts: 469
Arjun,
I agree it is not possible for someone to do OOP in C++ in 3 months with no programming background, but I'm afraid it is schools fault. in any normal school, a student would go through 6 months training on basic programming skills before they even move on to structured programming. It takes at least 9 months before student can take OOP (C++ or Java) course. and it takes another 3-6 months before they are expected to understand complex OO logic.

One cannot blame employers. If I had my own company, I wouldn't want to waste time hoping that some new grad will learn. What if he is not capable of learning wile at work? How much bad code he will write before he learns? It will be mentally very hard to fire someone from his/her first job if they didn't succed.... Does it really worth it? No, I'd rather take someone who fits my requirements, even if it means paying him/her more, once that new grad will learn, he/she will also start demanding more money.
Amit Saini
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Joined: Oct 20, 2004
Posts: 280
Hi Dave,
My experience was different with my unviersity..
Eg. in from where I graduated (George Washington), we had Java as the standard programming language. All assignments etc, projects were done in Java. By the time MS got over, I had almost 1.5 years experience writing programs in Java. When I went for interviews, I showed some of the projects that I completed as part of the courses. I did study EJB in univ, I did work on Weblogic for that class, worked on Oracle and mySQL for the database class and so on. Other projects were based on php/mysql web development etc.
All this is pretty relevant to an employer looking for a fresher.
So I wont complain..my experience was nice
Tim Holloway
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Jun 25, 2001
Posts: 15952
    
  19

Firstly, the "sweet spot" for many hiring adverts (USA) is generally that they want someone with 2-5 years experience. In other words, someone else footed the bill to actually get you trained, but they don't want someone too expensive (=experienced). Obviously this idea has some basic problems, like filtering out people who might produce a better quality product just to be cheap and taking advantage of the idea that your worth in the company that actually gave you that experience is limited only to the technical side and knowledge of the company as a company has no value.

Which, he said cynically, reminds me that the non-compete for my former employer of 13 years has long since expired.

However, knee-biting aside, I think that also there's the issue of the difference between getting the theory and polishing it into practice. Normally at about this point, I'd drag out the old craft guild model, but since guilds are out of fashion, I think I'll point out that there's another place where mere classroom education isn't enough even today: medicine.

You don't become an MD just by working in classrooms and labs. An integral part of the process is actual time in the field. Where you learn the difference between theory and practice, and what works for you as opposed to others. And do it in an environment where you can be observed and corrected.

Of course there's a problem with observing and correcting in IT. Programmers are notoriously resistant to both.


Customer surveys are for companies who didn't pay proper attention to begin with.
Homer Phillips
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Joined: May 26, 2004
Posts: 311
hi dave,

If you're talking about entry level jobs in the US they are reserved for foreign nationals. OK, if US person got master's from MIT summa cumme laude somebody will hire.

Otherwise there is a large supply of foreign nationals with experience that get hired first. Frequently on this board you will find them asking questions about US jobs. The IT industry pays polticians well and they get a nice ROI.

YMMV
Amit Saini
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Joined: Oct 20, 2004
Posts: 280
Hi,
I just dont see a large number of American students taking up Computer Science in university. I recently graduated and found that all my classes mostly consisted of Asian students (Indians/Chinese/Koreans/Pakistanis and so on).
Americans constituted only a very very small percentage.
This is strictly true only of CS. I noticed, however, for all other fields like Law, Humanities, Arts & SCiences, the reverse was true.
Just my observation
peter wooster
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Joined: Jun 13, 2004
Posts: 1033
Originally posted by Homer Phillips:
hi dave,

If you're talking about entry level jobs in the US they are reserved for foreign nationals. OK, if US person got master's from MIT summa cumme laude somebody will hire.

Otherwise there is a large supply of foreign nationals with experience that get hired first. Frequently on this board you will find them asking questions about US jobs. The IT industry pays polticians well and they get a nice ROI.

YMMV


Response to Offtopic post:
Again Homer, totally off topic and negative. The topic was the relevance of university courses to employment, not the presence of foreign nationals. I agree that the US immigration policies are broken, but there is no reason to hijack most topics with this rant. BTW what are your other "noms de Plume"?

Now on topic:
Most of the seemingly useless stuff taught in university is actually more usefull than the job oriented courses. When I studied math, we had to take linear algebra, it seems totally useless, I never used it in my first two jobs. In my third job, we used a language that included matrix products and inverses as primitives, and suddenly linear algebra made sense. Now that I use java, that knowledge made AffineTransform obvious. That seemingly useless course is now one of the most valuable, all the job oriented programming courses were obsolete years ago.
Mike Gershman
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Joined: Mar 13, 2004
Posts: 1272
Homer's post is not off-topic - it gets to the core of the problem.

No adjustment to US CS curricula will be as relevant to employers as five years of uncheckable claimed experience in Asia. Companies can verify the skills, but it's easy to invent the dates - see some threads here.

The reason US students are not majoring in CS is that there are very few entry-level jobs. This was never true in US IT before the explosion of H1B workers. It's probably just a coincidence.
[ July 15, 2005: Message edited by: Mike Gershman ]

Mike Gershman
SCJP 1.4, SCWCD in process
Mike Gershman
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Joined: Mar 13, 2004
Posts: 1272
Every US medical school graduate can get an internship and residency somewhere in the US.

Thousands of middle to top law students are hired out of law school every year.

The influx of overseas law and medical school graduates is proportionately small compared to CS graduates. It's probably a coincidence.

There is a standard CS curriculum put out by the ACM in close consultation with industry. Following that curriculum doesn't help. Cutting the H1B quota until US employers are forced to resume hiring entry-level US applicants will solve the problem.
Homer Phillips
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Joined: May 26, 2004
Posts: 311
He's one of the lucky ones - of the 40 or so people who graduated with him, about 4 have got a job in computing.
I have been following this profession for a long time. It's hard for me to imagine that 36 people with fresh degrees can't find jobs. Maybe one year in 8 this could be attributed to the business cycle. But the US IT market has not been hiring freshers for about the last 4 years.

Colleges always communicate with local employers about what things students should be studying. Degrees are always accredited by some organization that thinks long and hard about what should be in the course of study.

IMO, it's not students.

BTW, Peter, often when I see you're the poster I skip past your post.
peter wooster
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Joined: Jun 13, 2004
Posts: 1033
Originally posted by Homer Phillips:
BTW, Peter, often when I see you're the poster I skip past your post.


Your loss.
peter wooster
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Joined: Jun 13, 2004
Posts: 1033
Originally posted by Mike Gershman:
Homer's post is not off-topic - it gets to the core of the problem.


It was totally off topic, as I said I agree that US immigration policies are seriously broken, but that has no relevance to the question of whether what universities teach is useful.
Homer Phillips
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Joined: May 26, 2004
Posts: 311
but that has no relevance to the question of whether what universities teach is useful.

The problem is you need to take a drink from a fire hose. By definition, I believe that four years is enough. Like I say, the school these people went to is accredited. They made some terrific investment of time, life and capital. Now society should not be importing experienced foreign nationals at entry level prices and knocking them out of the market.

Let's pose the following question. How about we raise the minumum salary for H-1b and L-1 holders to $50,000 US or some equal number Euros or Yen?
The minumum slary is now the indexed average of 50K for 10 years when it expires and congress revisits it. Failure to post an opinion defaults to I'm vehemently against it. Companies can pay in the US in any currecy they choose. Peter?
Homer Phillips
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Joined: May 26, 2004
Posts: 311
No answer, no comment are all answers. Some people should expose their hidden agendas. Agendas like I'm a buyer of technical services and I want quality as cheap as I can get it. Pete?
Luke Kolin
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Joined: Sep 04, 2002
Posts: 336
Originally posted by Homer Phillips:
[QB]They made some terrific investment of time, life and capital. Now society should not be importing experienced foreign nationals at entry level prices and knocking them out of the market.


Why not? If someone else has made an investment of time, life and capital, what God-given right do these graduates have to a job over an experienced foreign national who is willing to work for less?

How about we raise the minumum salary for H-1b and L-1 holders to $50,000 US or some equal number Euros or Yen? The minumum slary is now the indexed average of 50K for 10 years when it expires and congress revisits it.


Considering that all the time I was on a TN and H-1, I was making significantly more than $50k, I don't have a particular problem with this. However, $50k can be a fortune in Ames City, IA, and a poverty wage in San Diego or Manhattan. Nationwide legislation of pay rates is usually a poor means of helping an industry.

Failure to post an opinion defaults to I'm vehemently against it.


Oh, please. :roll: Failure to post an opinion can mean that your contuining ranting about us evil foreign workers has reached a certain level of irrelevance in our eyes.

Cheers!

Luke
Mike Gershman
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Joined: Mar 13, 2004
Posts: 1272
Luke said:
If someone else has made an investment of time, life and capital, what God-given right do these graduates have to a job over an experienced foreign national who is willing to work for less?

I can't speak for the Almighty, but US immigration law forbids H1B workers underbidding US nationals. The problem is getting the law enforced.

Your phrase "experienced foreign national" explains why some participants on this forum keep insisting that "paid Java experience" is so fundamentally different from all other kinds of experience that nothing else justifies an interview. I don't think they believe it themselves, but it's how they keep the game going.
Luke Kolin
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Joined: Sep 04, 2002
Posts: 336
Originally posted by Mike Gershman:
I can't speak for the Almighty, but US immigration law forbids H1B workers underbidding US nationals.


US immigration law merely forbids H1B workers from being paid less than what BLS bureaucrats have arbitrarily set the "prevailing wage" to be. Wether that is more or less than what US residents work for is totally irrelevant. However, offshoring has meant that everyone is competing against workers across the world - and that is the point I was attempting to make. Why should the accident of anyone's birth give them some inalienable right to a livelihood? That wen out with feudalism.

Your phrase "experienced foreign national" explains why some participants on this forum


If you read the thread carefully, you will find it was Homer's phrase, not mine.

Cheers!

Luke
s mahen perera
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Joined: Mar 08, 2005
Posts: 101
In reply to Daves orignal Post..

I was recently speaking to a friend who graduated from university three years ago with a decent computing degree, but has only just found a job in the computing industry. He's one of the lucky ones - of the 40 or so people who graduated with him, about 4 have got a job in computing.


==> this is quite surprising to hear..cos here in Sri lanka almost all the CS fresh grads are secured jobs soon as they finish there degrees!!



I suspect its a bit of both. On the one hand employers (influenced by employment agencies who know nothing about the industry) are probably a little unrealistic in how much experience they demand for some more junior roles. How can it be expected that a person applying for a junior programming position will have five year's java experience?


yep agreed... but we cant blame them that much cos ultimately they (companies) try to somehow increase there profits at the end of day . If the company is a big one they might be in a position to recruit fresh grads who do not have that much experience and all.. but if the company is small and has very tight deadlines and all ,,,then it wll be difficult for them to wait until the new dudes get ramped up....

The universities are also partially to blame. In my degree course there were about 30-40 people in the final year, and I was probably in the top two or three skill-wise, and got a good final grade. When I started work I found that what I knew was barely enough for me to scrape by.


well.. i have to disagree here a bit... i think we cant expect universities to teach all the new technologies and all.. if thass the case.. then universities will have to revise there syllabus and course content like very often.. ... The unversity is expected to however teach all the basic *Concepts* of computer Science.. for example they have to teach OOP concepts very welll,, so that the Student will be able to learn any new OO Programing Language quite easilly even by him/her self.. of course it will be difficult to teach OOP concepts wihtout practising using some language.. so what the uni can do is do some language like Java basics together with the OO concepts.. The university can also have some subject which will entail all the new technologies.. This will be *one* subject , for example which will have the introductions to J2ee, .NET, Web Services and all.. thass it.. the uni cant afford to have differnt subjects to each of these.. by having such a subject,, the student is given a helping to hand to do his own in depth studies on these areas... ..

and the other thing is that.. universities must have some internship period/ training period for the CS under grads.. so that they can practice what they have learnt in the uni as theory.. This helped me a lot in case. For example the third year in a 4 year degree can be the training period and return back to uni for the final year.. this will help the students immensely,, and even can show this experience for future employers.
Mike Gershman
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Joined: Mar 13, 2004
Posts: 1272
Luke said:
US immigration law merely forbids H1B workers from being paid less than what BLS bureaucrats have arbitrarily set the "prevailing wage" to be. Wether that is more or less than what US residents work for is totally irrelevant.

The BLS is supposed to be setting the prevailing wage accurately so that there is no price incentive to hire H1B workers. That is why these laws were written with wage restrictions. If the BLS is not doing a good job, it is unfortunate, but it certainly not irrelevant to the stated purposes of the laws.

Why should the accident of anyone's birth give them some inalienable right to a livelihood? That went out with feudalism.

Children of the upper classes in both the US and Asia are still "born on third base and think they hit a home run." Even Communist societies have a "nomenclatura" whose children have a monopoly on the top jobs. That's just human nature.

I see no reason why middle class American parents shouldn't also try to preserve some good jobs for their children. That's why there are (under-enforced) restrictions on the H1B visa program.
Luke Kolin
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Joined: Sep 04, 2002
Posts: 336
Originally posted by Mike Gershman:
The BLS is supposed to be setting the prevailing wage accurately so that there is no price incentive to hire H1B workers.


Point taken. The issue I have with the whole prevailing wage issue is that it's such a blunt instrument. I might be making the "prevailing wage" but for someone with over 10 years' experience that may be to little. Then again, I have a liberal arts degree so it might be too much.

Bottom line, if H-1B workers wish to compete on price I'd say let 'em. Efforts to make non-immigrant labor artificially expensive introduced the notion of offshoring, where you are already competing with people across the world based on price.

I see no reason why middle class American parents shouldn't also try to preserve some good jobs for their children. That's why there are (under-enforced) restrictions on the H1B visa program.


In a world where there is global competition, trying to carve out your own little "set-aside" is doomed to failure. Either in the short-run, or if you're successful you'll doom the industry in favor of its more agile competitors. Most set-asides tend to be really successful for people already established, but as a means of providing for the "next generation" they're pretty lousy.

It's interesting and ironic to note that much of India's post-independence history is filled with far more government regulation and "set-asides" based on birth and class than America's. Today, India is moving towards the American model, and some Americans want to move towards the Indian model. The relative success of these models will be no different in 2008 than they were in 1948.

Cheers!

Luke
Mike Gershman
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Joined: Mar 13, 2004
Posts: 1272
It's interesting and ironic to note that much of India's post-independence history is filled with far more government regulation and "set-asides" based on birth and class than America's. Today, India is moving towards the American model, and some Americans want to move towards the Indian model. The relative success of these models will be no different in 2008 than they were in 1948.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the traditional professions such as law and medicine are still mainly reserved for upper caste Indians. I think that that is one reason why talented Indians are flocking to IT. There is no traditional IT caste - yet.

In contrast, US immigration law simply involves giving American workers preference for American jobs. If that's a sin, there are very few countries that are without sin.


Bottom line, if H-1B workers wish to compete on price I'd say let 'em. Efforts to make non-immigrant labor artificially expensive introduced the notion of offshoring, where you are already competing with people across the world based on price.

The price difference is not artificial. No middle class American can raise a family on a typical Indian IT salary. Most IT jobs that can be off-shored have already been off-shored. The issue is enforcing the laws for the jobs left in the US.


Circling back to the main topic, no change in the US CS curricula will offset the availability of underpaid H1B programmers claiming 5 uncheckable years of experience in India.

The ACM CS curriculum is right on target. Colleges are not trade schools. A graduate who truly understands what makes a least cost search algorithm, a well structured object, or an efficient database, and why, will be far more valuable than one who has just been drilled in the mechanics of j2ee and struts. If you want proof, look at the top US schools that can still place their IT graduates. They are at the extreme end of teaching Computer Science rather than coding.

The big issue in US CS education is that US companies are too greedy and short-sighted to invest in entry-level US programmers when they can hire experienced H1B programmers for the same money or less. The best curriculum is of little value without students and most college students won't major in subjects that don't lead to careers.
kayal cox
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Joined: Aug 19, 2004
Posts: 376
Originally posted by Mike Gershman:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the traditional professions such as law and medicine are still mainly reserved for upper caste Indians. I think that that is one reason why talented Indians are flocking to IT. There is no traditional IT caste - yet.


You are wrong. There are no reservations set aside for upper caste Indians. In fact, there are reservation systems in India that makes it much easier for children from backward castes and tribes to get into professional degrees (this reservation system has other problems, but they are not relevant to the discussion here).
Luke Kolin
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Joined: Sep 04, 2002
Posts: 336
Originally posted by Mike Gershman:
Circling back to the main topic, no change in the US CS curricula will offset the availability of underpaid H1B programmers claiming 5 uncheckable years of

experience in India.


There's a dirty little fear at the back of all this - what if those underpaid programmers are more cost-effective than the Americans? What if the fact that their experience is unverified at best or fabricated doesn't matter? Because if this is true, all the formalized training and education beyond a basic point gets thrown out of the window as being pretty much irrelevant.

If an average offshore programmer makes 75% less than me, but is only 66% less productive, then it makes sense for me to be replaced by four of them. The company comes out equal on the dollar side (and maybe a bit ahead because of FICA/benefits) and they're probably ahead on the productivity side (Brooks' mythical Man-Month aside). Capital can be used to replace labor, but the opposite is true - we can use increased labor to offset more concentrated, expensive labor.

What's puzzling is the insecurity of the average US programmer. Do you think that the brilliant minds in the top 2% are spending their days obsessing over being replaced by a half-dozen "average" programmers like you and me making a lot less? We're not even on their radar screen, because what we can do can't scale up. People need to start thinking that way and ensuring that what they do can't be replaced by an untrained, inexperienced individual making a fraction as much.

QUOTE]Colleges are not trade schools. A graduate who truly understands what makes a least cost search algorithm, a well structured object, or an efficient database, and why, will be far more valuable than one who has just been drilled in the mechanics of j2ee and struts. If you want proof, look at the top US schools that can still place their IT graduates. They are at the extreme end of teaching Computer Science rather than coding.

I disagree vehemently. Our line of work has suffered from Science envy and profession envy for far too long, and it distorts our thinking. Most effective programmers and software designers do not need a CS degree or advanced Computer Science training. I don't need to know how to write a compiler or the theorems behind relational databases. What I do need to do is see patterns (instead of regurgitate the GoF) and be able to communicate effectively in a different language. When I think of Djikstra and Hopper, I think of Lenny (sic) and Dennis.

Part of my latest work is building an FDR in VB that links into Microsoft Flight Simulator. It logs data in real-time using XML over TCP/IP to a multi-threaded Java server, which dumps to a database. I can view the results on a web page that links to Google Maps, showing my route, flight parameters and available navaids pulled in from the DoD's DAFIF database. There's only two mathematical equations involved.

I suppose it's an interesting piece of programming work, but what's most interesting about it in my opinion is the data it combines, and the possibilities it opens up. They don't teach that in CS programs. Most of the great hackers have *NOT* had formal training, and there's a reason for it.

Give me a young developer with an aptitude for programming and learning, and pair him or her off with an experienced and competent developer for 18-24 months and I guarantee that will provide a better learning environment than 95% of the CS programs worldwide. The fact of the matter remains that I agree with (I believe it was) James Gosling when he said that software development wasn't a branch of math, science or engineering - it's a Fine Art, and should be treated as such. The only computer-related degree I'd ever take is an MFA in programming. Software development is a lot like writing, painting or composing. You don't need a BA in English, Art or Music in order to be able to create great works in these fields, nor do you need to be "certified" or objectively rated. You need to have passion, natural aptitude and commitment. You can and should study what goes on around you and what others have done before you, but by no means does it need to be done in a formalized setting. I've worked with a number of software developers over the past 20 years in both freeware and professional areas, and I can say that their educational level had little to no bearing on what they wrote.

I speak above of "profession envy". Looking at programming as a craft or a trade is looked down upon, and I don't see why. Efforts to reduce programming down to a mass-produced consistent entity have consistently failed in most cases, much like with writing and literature. We want to be looked at as lawyers or doctors or engineers, when I'm really not certain why that is - except that all three professions have a regulating body that seeks to limit entry to the profession in order to preserve jobs for existing members. I think an apprenticeship model and looking at programming as a trade isn't such a bad thing. It recognizes reality and allows more individuals to enter the field without wasting their time getting a useless BSc.

It's interesting to note that there's a grave shortage of highly skilled BMW mechanics, and one with the proper training and aptitude can easily clear $100k in a given year - and probably more if he develops a good client base. His clients, typically quite affluent, will typically treat him vastly better than their doctors, attorneys or the engineers they hire - because a good BMW mechanic is worth his weight in gold and is incredibly heard to find. They don't quibble with his prices or eccentric habits, because they know that quality matters in this area. If being called a tradesperson means getting the same treatment as this BMW repairman (and making the same money), I'll happily take it - and even wear a shirt with my name on it!

Besides, the professions are overrated. I recently did a refi on my house, and when we did the closing we had an attorney come by to handle the paperwork. Her entire participation was to watch me sign my name a few dozen times, and sign her own a few dozen times. She did this several times a day, five days a week - since Georgia law requires an attorney at a closing. I can't believe anything more depressing or discouraging than spending several years busting my ass off in school and running up huge student loans - and then to do that for a living.

The big issue in US CS education is that US companies are too greedy and short-sighted to invest in entry-level US programmers when they can hire experienced H1B programmers for the same money or less.


If I can hire an experienced individual for the same money or less as an entry-level person, it's not greedy or short-sighted. It would be considered retarded to do otherwise.

Cheers!

Luke
[ July 19, 2005: Message edited by: Luke Kolin ]
Mike Gershman
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Joined: Mar 13, 2004
Posts: 1272
What if the fact that their experience is unverified at best or fabricated doesn't matter?

If that is true, and many JavaRanchers including myself are saying so, than all those "5 years paid Java experience" job posts are supporting immigration fraud. Now to prove it.

James Gosling ... said that software development wasn't a branch of math, science or engineering - it's a Fine Art, and should be treated as such.

That's strange since a lot of his code is right out of CLR, even giving credit. javac is based on javaCC, which is based on the dragon compiler book. Maintainable code may be an art but efficient code is a science called Computer Science. Check out the google screening exam.

If I can hire an experienced individual for the same money or less as an entry-level person, it's not greedy or short-sighted. It would be considered retarded to do otherwise.

We'll see who was retarded after the Indian firms cut the US software houses and IT managers out of the middle.
Luke Kolin
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Joined: Sep 04, 2002
Posts: 336
Originally posted by Mike Gershman:
That's strange since a lot of his code is right out of CLR, even giving credit. javac is based on javaCC, which is based on the dragon compiler book.


I wouldn't disagree. However, compiler writing, lexical parsing and other aspects of creating Java (or any other language) are an incredibly small part of what programmers do. I suspect a lot of CS graduates want to put their education to use on a regular basis, but I contend that tool-making and tool-using are two very different things. If I wish to design and fabricate a revolutionary new type of hammer, I might require extensive experience in chemistry, metallurgy and industrial design. I certainly don't need any of that to drive in a nail.

Maintainable code may be an art but efficient code is a science called Computer Science. Check out the google screening exam.


Everything I learned about efficiency I learned at the age of 16 with a copy of Microsoft Macro Assembler, Turbo Pascal and a 6Mhz AT with a slow hard disk. I learned all about premature optimization and what code needs to be sped up and what doesn't. I learned even back then just how much of a bottleneck I/O really was compared to main memory. I learned caching (and even self-modifying code!). The point is that you don't need a CS education in order to learn how to do that - there's no secret spells they teach you within the hallowed walls of academia.

Right now my hobby site has an enthusiastic young'un who is working as my assistant and chief tester. He's learning Java, source control, maintainable code and all that good stuff. He's 16 years old and hasn't even finished high school, but has something that is most important - passion and a willingness to learn. I guarantee that if he keeps things up by the time he is 22 he will be quite employable.

And no, not because he's not American (although you'd never guess) - but because by then he'll have a half-decade of solid practical experience and demonstrated passion for what he does. In an interview, instead of stupid logic puzzles or GoF design pattern regurgitation, he'll be able to say "let me tell you about the issues I've dealt with the last four years". While there are some hidebound dinosaurs that believe that paid experience is the only real experience, the truth is that "experience" involves working in a production setting, with a live app, live users and real-world problems.

We have very different attitudes towards the future of programming, and free trade in labor. I think a lot of that stems from the fact that I'm from a family of nomads (our daughters are the fourth consecutive generation to be born in a different country than their parents) and my own educational history. I'm just old enough to remember the days of college dropout hackers with long hair, and how they were able to produce some remarkable stuff. That's always going to be the leading edge of any creative pursuit - forget degrees, certifications, corporations and all that. Give me passion and intelligence and a good idea, and the rest will work itself out.

Cheers!

Luke
Mike Gershman
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Joined: Mar 13, 2004
Posts: 1272
In an interview, instead of stupid logic puzzles or GoF design pattern regurgitation, he'll be able to say "let me tell you about the issues I've dealt with the last four years". While there are some hidebound dinosaurs that believe that paid experience is the only real experience, the truth is that "experience" involves working in a production setting, with a live app, live users and real-world problems.

First, he has to get that interview without the requisite five years of paid Java experience. As I've said in other posts, I don't think most employers really believe this nonsense, they are just using it as an artificial barrier to limit entry into the field to their target population - "temporary" immigrants.

You sound like the kind of fellow who will teach this boy how to get past HR to the hiring manager. I sincerely wish him luck.

Of course, there are excellent ways to learn programming other than classroom training. Furthermore, natural aptitude is the most basic requirement for quality work. But I've also seen elegant looking code that scales poorly production in production because the programmer didn't understand algorithms and used bubble sorts or linear searches. I've also seen elaborate work-arounds, both programmatic and procedural, because the programmer didn't want to get down into the bits and bytes and fix systems problems. So the ACM CS curriculum will add value compared to pure on-the-job learning.

If you read some of the Java core library source code, you'll see that it's mostly just well written Java code. 95% of system software is ordinary programming. The special 5% (hardware drivers, etc.) are kept small and isolated. I learned to program by reading system code and the I applied the same techniques in many application contexts.
Tim Holloway
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Joined: Jun 25, 2001
Posts: 15952
    
  19


What's puzzling is the insecurity of the average US programmer. Do you think that the brilliant minds in the top 2% are spending their days obsessing over being replaced by a half-dozen "average" programmers like you and me making a lot less? We're not even on their radar screen, because what we can do can't scale up. People need to start thinking that way and ensuring that what they do can't be replaced by an untrained, inexperienced individual making a fraction as much.


As a matter of fact, yes I am. 2+ solid years of unemployment can do that to you even if every IT professional I know puts me head and shoulders above the ordinary. US companies don't want exceptional talent, for the most part - they want cheap, and it shows in their Internet faces. I've lost count of the number of times, for example, that I've tried to work with my American Exprss account and the part of the system that does what I need is down. Even Cisco themselves have been reported to have some major issues. Certainly what little time I've spent on their site was disappointing.


Just to digress from the whole here-we-go-again cycle of protectionism, offshoring, economic theories, what God want us to have, etc. etc. etc.: Right after I made my original comment near the top of this thread, I read an article written by an MD that said in that profession, it generally took about 5 years of professional seasoning before a doctor was truly skilled enough to make good diagnoses.

Maybe experience really does count for something.
Prem Khan
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Joined: May 30, 2005
Posts: 189
I think we have reached a conclution that most of us workers are pretty pissed off at corporate america/canada.... exept of cource the likes the people that make money off cheep labour.

The point is that something is going to give pretty soon. Companys are being greedy and we can see that, but you cant blame the people who are takeing our jobs because they are simply taking the best deal they are offerd to avoid being poor.

Americans/Canadians are no longer going into IT School like they once did, will even more jobs be replaced with cheep labour, will India and China become more powerful than the U.S ? Is north america canabalizing its own economy ?

Textile, Electronics, Cars, and now IT and accounting. If all the industry is in other countrys, what will happen to our currency over the long term ?
peter wooster
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Joined: Jun 13, 2004
Posts: 1033
Originally posted by Shawn DeSarkar:
If all the industry is in other countrys, what will happen to our currency over the long term ?


Our currency will fall, China just started the process of having a floating currency. Over time the price of chinese goods will rise and the buying power of chinese consumers will rise. Local demand in countries like China and India will take an increasingly larger proportion of their output. This will provide opportunties for trade in the things that North America has in abundance, such as food, oil and raw materials.
Tim Holloway
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Joined: Jun 25, 2001
Posts: 15952
    
  19

Does Alan Kay count as in the top 2%? It appears that HP just canned him.

I'm getting worried. The last 2 weeks, all I ever seem to read about is how major corporations are planning layoffs in the thousands and even tens of thousands. That does not bode well.
Luke Kolin
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Joined: Sep 04, 2002
Posts: 336
Originally posted by Shawn DeSarkar:
The point is that something is going to give pretty soon. Companys are being greedy and we can see that, but you cant blame the people who are takeing our jobs because they are simply taking the best deal they are offerd to avoid being poor. Americans/Canadians are no longer going into IT School like they once did, will even more jobs be replaced with cheep labour, will India and China become more powerful than the U.S? Is north america canabalizing its own economy?


The situation is far more complicated than you point out, and the interests of Americans and Canadians are by no means similar.

I am Canadian. Not too long ago, I was one of those nasty H-1Bs that was out to steal jobs and undercut pay. As part of my job, I was automating functions that allowed us to outsource our customer service functions from the US to a low-wage part of Canada. Nowadays, part of my attractiveness is that Georgia is a lower-wage state than California or New York, so I'm competing and "taking jobs" from those places. The fact remains that we're all competing against everyone else, for our own interests.

Textile, Electronics, Cars, and now IT and accounting. If all the industry is in other countrys, what will happen to our currency over the long term?


What's interesting to note is that I drive an Acura. Well, that's not interesting, but where it's made is - Ohio. My neighbor drives a Honda minivan - which I believe is made just down the 401 from Toronto. They make Hyundais in Alabama, Nissans in Tennessee, and BMWs just up I-85 from me in Spartanburg, SC. The fact is, the United States and Canada have been net beneficiaries of auto manufacturing offshoring in the past 20 years.

Everyone keeps talking about the decline of auto maunfacturing in the US, but it's really only limited to the big 3, and that's mostly because they build garbage. The offshore manufacturers have been building new plants in the US for decades, and there's a reason why.

There are a number of components to the cost of each car, and labor and benefits are only one. There's also the cost of raw materials, and the cost of transporting said raw materials to the factory, and then shipping stuff to the eventual consumer. Then there's (lack of) quality costs, like warranty repairs. The experience of the car manufacturers has been that with automation (and a lack of unions) the labor/benefits portion per unit manufactured gets down to the point where the other cost factors outweigh that of labor. Which is why manufacturers build new factories in America - they're reasonably well automated, benefits aren't crazy, and the negligible rail shipping costs for steel and autos make a lot more sense than building a plant in some Third World country. VW had something in Brazil, but shipping and quality costs made it a failure.

While the dynamics are somewhat different for services (the product/raw material transportation costs are communications, which is much cheaper) the principle is the same - when you knock down unit labor costs (the pessimists say by lowering wages, I say by increasing my productivity) to the point where communications costs and quality costs of offshore match the labor costs, then you'll keep stuff in North America.

If they can still build cars in North America despite worries about offshoring of auto manufacturing that began before you were born, our grandchildren will still be developing software.

Cheers!

Luke
Pat Peg
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Joined: Feb 04, 2005
Posts: 194
Originally posted by Luke Kolin:

If they can still build cars in North America despite worries about offshoring of auto manufacturing that began before you were born, our grandchildren will still be developing software.


The basic flaw in this argument is that while, yes, jobs in the automobile industry have returned to the US, they have returned in much lower numbers and lower paying jobs. To point out that it is only the big three is a bit unfair as there really are only 3 manufacturers in the US.
Luke Kolin
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Joined: Sep 04, 2002
Posts: 336
Originally posted by Tim Holloway:
Does Alan Kay count as in the top 2%? It appears that HP just canned him.


Was Alan Kay's job shipped offshore? Didn't think so.

I'm getting worried. The last 2 weeks, all I ever seem to read about is how major corporations are planning layoffs in the thousands and even tens of thousands. That does not bode well.


You could see the HP layoffs coming months away, since right after the Compaq merger. That's a company that has seriously lost its way, and to expect job security out of such an entity is extremely perilous.

Cheers!

Luke
Pat Peg
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Joined: Feb 04, 2005
Posts: 194
Originally posted by Luke Kolin:


You could see the HP layoffs coming months away, since right after the Compaq merger. That's a company that has seriously lost its way, and to expect job security out of such an entity is extremely perilous.

Cheers!

Luke


Agreed, The only stable computer company at the moment seems to be Apple. I don't think I would worry to much because HP is laying off-they aren't exactly in the software buz anyway.
Tim Holloway
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Jun 25, 2001
Posts: 15952
    
  19

Originally posted by Luke Kolin:


Was Alan Kay's job shipped offshore? Didn't think so.


Bets? Now there's one more out there in the unemployed pool putting that much more pressure on the others and making it that much less attractive for someone considering a career in US IT or computer science.

HP has been right up there in the the front of the pack when it comes to offshoring. Meaning, that assuming that they haven't given up on the idea of innovative software as a viable product that they have a place to get it at rates that are flatly illegal in the West. Where I live even Georgia looks expensive, and I can't even begin to compete against people who don't have to pay for and infrastructure that incluses steady electrical service, reliable telephones, worker safety, etc. Even without a Lexus.

Anyway, HP's woes are one thing.
Anand Prabhu
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Joined: Dec 19, 2003
Posts: 299
Originally posted by Luke Kolin:


What's interesting to note is that I drive an Acura. Well, that's not interesting, but where it's made is - Ohio. My neighbor drives a Honda minivan - which I believe is made just down the 401 from Toronto. They make Hyundais in Alabama, Nissans in Tennessee, and BMWs just up I-85 from me in Spartanburg, SC. The fact is, the United States and Canada have been net beneficiaries of auto manufacturing offshoring in the past 20 years.

Everyone keeps talking about the decline of auto maunfacturing in the US, but it's really only limited to the big 3, and that's mostly because they build garbage. The offshore manufacturers have been building new plants in the US for decades, and there's a reason why.

There are a number of components to the cost of each car, and labor and benefits are only one. There's also the cost of raw materials, and the cost of transporting said raw materials to the factory, and then shipping stuff to the eventual consumer. Then there's (lack of) quality costs, like warranty repairs. The experience of the car manufacturers has been that with automation (and a lack of unions) the labor/benefits portion per unit manufactured gets down to the point where the other cost factors outweigh that of labor. Which is why manufacturers build new factories in America - they're reasonably well automated, benefits aren't crazy, and the negligible rail shipping costs for steel and autos make a lot more sense than building a plant in some Third World country. VW had something in Brazil, but shipping and quality costs made it a failure.

While the dynamics are somewhat different for services (the product/raw material transportation costs are communications, which is much cheaper) the principle is the same - when you knock down unit labor costs (the pessimists say by lowering wages, I say by increasing my productivity) to the point where communications costs and quality costs of offshore match the labor costs, then you'll keep stuff in North America.

If they can still build cars in North America despite worries about offshoring of auto manufacturing that began before you were born, our grandchildren will still be developing software.

Cheers!

Luke


Good points and a good analysis on the auto industry. I have been in the auto industry for a while now and I do concur with most of your observations. How the big three have got into the current mess is a sad and a long story. It includes the time in the 60s when the foreign competition was non-existent and the companies were in complete control of the auto market. And the government too played some part in putting pressure on them to give good benefits and pension plans to the employees so as to serve an excellent example for benevolent capitalism. And of course, quality was not the topmost in the minds of the big three. They were concerned with producing jazzy cars for the hungry consumers. And when the imports came with their tremendous focus on quality and keeping the consumers needs in mind, the big 3 started losing the market share. Then they surrendered the car market to the imports as the return was less and focussed on the truck market which provided bigger returns. Now all factors have converged on the big three. A lot of money goes in providing pensions and health care to the retired employees. And the union members have tremendous job security and benefits which would make us salivate. With poor products, increasing gas prices , a poor brand image compared to the imports, now they are commiting suicide. Look at the discounts offered on all cars. Now, the employee discounts are offered to everyone. And Ford and GM are losing tremendous money on the automotive operations. It's only their financial arms which are a saving grace. Really, tumultous times await in Detroit. Visteon and Delphi are nearing brankrupcy. Collin and Aickmann declared branrupcy a couple of months ago. And I just read in today's papers about Ford desiring to slash more than 10% of her white collar force.
Homer Phillips
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Joined: May 26, 2004
Posts: 311
Autos, steel, electronics are all different. In none of these businesses were hundreds of thousands of foreign workers brought to the US.

I have been seeing many a new GM product on the streets lately. For junk, the paint jobs sure look impressive.

Luke aren't Canadians sort of nationalistic? They go so far as to say some percentage of programming on their radio/tv stations has to be home grown. Think of it, people demand their goods based on the accident of where they were created.

I suppose it's hard to argue that a person who has benefited so greatly from the H1B program would not be all for it. When US citizens meddle in Canadian affairs is it well received?
Luke Kolin
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 04, 2002
Posts: 336
Originally posted by Homer Phillips:
I have been seeing many a new GM product on the streets lately. For junk, the paint jobs sure look impressive.


Homer, please tell us your analytical skills are more advanced than this. I think so, but others might take your statement at face value. We both know that the ultimate quality of a car is based on a lot more than its paint job. There's a real reason why GM always touts their "initial quality" results only - because that's all they can tout. When it comes to quality of a car 5 or 10 years down the road, or average resale value (which is probably the best overall gauge of what the public thinks the car is worth) Japanese cars beat the competition hands down. There's a reason for that, and it's not the paint job.

Are you going to suggest that Windows is a superior operating system to Linux because the UI is nicer?

Luke aren't Canadians sort of nationalistic? They go so far as to say some percentage of programming on their radio/tv stations has to be home grown. Think of it, people demand their goods based on the accident of where they were created.


I'm glad you brought this subject up, because it's a lot more complicated than you make it out to be. In fact, it's a situation where you should be careful what you ask for, in case you get it!

The first point about Canadian Content (or CanCon as we call it) is that it's exceptionally rare for governments to legislate content requirements if people would willingly chose said content en masse. If Canadians were so much in favor of Canadian content, then CanCon rules would not need to exist in the first place! They very fact that CanCon regulations exist in the first place is because Canadians, given the choice, will happily consume the best TV, movie, and music content, no matter where it was produced. Needless to say, this made people in the Canadian arts industry quite perturbed, and they got the government to step in to force broadcasters to buy and air their content, no matter what the public wanted to do.

The more insidious part of CanCon is that it doesn't rely on a common-sense version of what is "Canadian". Let me explain.

Have you ever heard of Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, John Candy, Martin Short, Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin? In the early 1980s, before most of their movie careers took off, they were a successful comedy troupe out of Toronto that had a TV show called SCTV that was picked up by one of the US networks. It's a little cheesy today, but still good. Unfortunately, when they wanted to broadcast it on a Canadian network, the bureaucrats stepped in and said there wasn't enough "Canadian Content". They all said "whiskey tango foxtrot!" They were Canadian, filiming in Toronto. Sorry, said the bureaucrats - you need another 150 seconds of "Canadian Content" to qualify and get broadcast. So Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, in spite, put together two and a half minutes of stereotypical Canadiana - two toque-wearing hicks from the "Great White North" drinking two-fours of Molson Canadian, frying backbacon and generally being obnoxious. They translated it into a movie and a lot of money, but the very fact that it had to exist is ridiculous.

As you can see, Content made by Canadians is not necessarily Canadian Content. The more recent, and very famous example is Bryan Adams, who's a rock musician out of Vancouver. He put together an album around ten years ago that also didn't qualify under Canadian Content rules. (In music, there are five factors used to describe CanCon, including the songwriter, producer, recording location, mixing location, etc and a song needs to be Canadian in two of the five.) Unfortunately, Bryan Adams only met one of the five - so sorry, Bryan. There was an outcry over that one.

Let's take the same example and apply it to you. Let's pretend we describe software as "American software" by looking at the programmer, the location of its development, the language, IDE and its packaging and distribution.

Are you a US citizen? Great. Working and writing the software in question in the US? Good. How about the language? Oops, sorry. Can't qualify there - James Gosling is a foreigner. OK, how about the IDE? Well, if you're using NetBeans, that doesn't qualify (written in Czechoslovakia). Eclipse? Well, considering the number of foreign authors and contributors, we realy can't call it American, or anything else. Packaging and distribution? Well, if your company has a branch in Ireland (like my last one did), you wouldn't qualify there either.

So if we took CanCon rules and applied them to US software development, there's a lot of software that wouldn't qualify.

So I'd suggest that your assertion that Canadians want stuff produced in Canada is incorrect. Canadian content producers certainly want Canadians to be forced to consume what they create (their own little "set-aside"), and don't even get me started on the cable/satellite industry - let's just say that Canada is the only First World country that makes it illegal to posess a satellite dish that allows you to get around content regulations.

I suppose it's hard to argue that a person who has benefited so greatly from the H1B program would not be all for it. When US citizens meddle in Canadian affairs is it well received?


I like the "meddling" part, Homer. It usually is a sign that rational arguments and analysis are giving way to "just go home!". When the US citizens live and work in Canada and pay Canadian taxes, then they can "meddle" all they want.

I would suggest that your and others' bitterness about non-immigrant and immigrant workers stems from personal experience and bias, as well as incorrect assumptions about non-immigrant workers. To paint them all as Third World laborers working for pennies a day is inaccurate, since the majority of non-agricultural non-immigrant workers come from First World nations like Australia, Canada, France and the UK whose citizens are extremely unlikely to tolerate the abuses you claim are rampant.

And for what it's worth - the H1B program didn't get me to the US, or keep me here. It definitely made my life logistically simpler, but it's not the only way for a Canadian to legally work in the US.

Cheers!

Luke
 
 
subject: Gap between degree and job requirements
 
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