Monday, April 11, 2016

It's No Wonder

From the AJC

"Here's the hardest-to-hire list, with comments from the experts:

Data scientist
This job analyzes big data, a field that's difficult to define. The job varies by company and industry. CareerCast thinks 4.4 million such information technology jobs will be open next year.

Software engineer
The Conference Board estimates there will be three jobs available for every 2016 college graduate with a computer science degree."

Let's ponder this a bit.

First there's the data science/scientist thing. Not really that hard to grok. As one might expect, the Wikipedia entry on Data Science offers as good a definition as any out there. To put it in an internet of thingy context tis the data scientist who figures out that knowing when you open the fridge is not nearly as useful as when you use the toaster oven. Some say it is art others say it is just statistics. Either way big business thinks it is a real good reason to up the H1B visas.

Software engineering on the other hand is a worm-feast. Where to start?

Engineering is a licensed profession like being a doctor or lawyer except in most jurisdictions the legal beagles turn a blind eye showing more concern that your nail salon has licensed practitioners than just what yahoos are developing dosage control software for an X-Ray machine. Radiation burns not keeping you up  at night? Then consider this: image how many Licensed, Professional Software Engineers are working on those self-driving cars. You really want to bet it cannot be hacked?

Turns out there is one state licensing Software Engineers and it is no surprise it is the same state that went after Novell for their "Novell Software Engineer" credential--don't mess with Texas. They seem to take a similarly dim view of folks claiming to be a pediatrician simply because they can print it on a business card. Texas licensed the first Software Engineer in the US in 1998 and racked up a whopping 44 in the following 4 years. Doesn't speak to strong market pull-thru from the unlicensed and incapable. The likelihood that any of the software that touches your daily life has even been looked at by a real Software Engineer is as close to zero as can be imagined. Hell, the likelihood it was even written by someone with a first world education is pretty damn small. After all, if you're going to use third world practices to build software you might as well get third world labor to do it.

You can be pretty sure if someone has "Software Engineer" on a business card that is exactly what they are not. Becoming an actual Engineer requires more math, physics and chemistry as well as supervised experience than the average hacker would tolerate. And make no mistake, they're not Computer Scientists either. See, a Computer Scientist is going to prove an algorithm works (or doesn't) using that math stuff. You know, the crap that was so hard you became a programmer instead of a Scientist or an Engineer. And that is what "Software Engineers" really are: programmers. And that is on a good day. The rest of the time they're just coders.

Deep down the folks running big business know all this and when honesty bursts thru as it did with NCR's president they will fess up to needing programmers. But they do this state and our R1 institutions a disservice when they pull our best and brightest out of PhD programs because they need someone to drive Hadoop or hack some java code in a Point of Sale system. They need ITT Tech, not GaTech.