[FoRK] Enterprise software development: Do we have an age problem?

Ken Ganshirt @ Yahoo ken_ganshirt at yahoo.ca
Mon May 24 11:57:56 PDT 2010


--- On Mon, 5/24/10, J. Andrew Rogers <andrew at ceruleansystems.com> wrote:
> 
> The best and brightest only occasionally "go into" CS, many
> of them seem to arrive there incidentally.
> 
> I've noticed that a significant portion of the really sharp
> theoretical computer science people I run into are
> cross-overs from a science or engineering discipline and
> never had a proper CS education. I wonder how much of that
> is a selection effect and how much of that is a reflection
> of the state of CS as an educational discipline.  If a
> particular field of study produces a statistically
> noticeable number of experts in an unrelated field, it
> raises interesting questions about the manner in which
> experts in a field are produced.
> 

Or it could simply be that they are coming from fields where a useful level of computer literacy and competence is a necessity in the field just to do the work.

One of my best new hires a couple of decades back was a rocket scientist ... well, actually an astro-physics doctoral student. He needed work to pay the rent (not much call for astro-physicists on the Canadian prairies) so he put skills that were necessary to his chosen field to work for him. He's still there as far as I know, so I guess I was able to keep him interested.

As a hiring manager in a systems group in the Engineering department I almost never hired anyone out of the CS program. The local university has a dual degree program in engineering .. majors in electrical/electronics engineering and CS. It's a wonderful place to get developers for telco engineering applications. It gives them options, too, because they can switch back and forth between development and "real" engineering tracks. They also approach software development as if it were an engineering discipline which has numerous benefits. We do everything possible to nurture and support that program.

The thing I always found with CS grads was that they generally don't know shit about anything else. It's a real pain trying to manage a group developing, say, an accounting application when they don't know diddly about accounting or even basic business principles. For finance and administrative development projects I would rather hire someone out of an accounting or business admin program who has a few CS classes.

It's as much a mindset as anything, I think. Someone coming to IT from another field is aware that there are other things out there.  They've already demonstrated that they can have some success at something other than cranking code. They seem to be more able and willing to learn about the business operation behind the development project than pure CS grads. 

CS grads, in my experience, when hiring into internal IT, want to operate as if the IT department is an external IT consultancy rather than being an integral part of the business, whatever that business is. There are IT staffers at the telco where I spent most of my career who have been there for twenty or thirty years and if you ask them what business they are in, they do not say "telecommunications".

       ...ken...





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