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Our Education System Is Failing IT

Unknown Lamer posted about 6 months ago | from the take-your-money-and-leave-you-dumb dept.

Education 306

Nemo the Magnificent (2786867) writes "In this guy's opinion most IT workers can't think critically. They are incapable of diagnosing a problem, developing a possible solution, and implementing it. They also have little fundamental understanding of the businesses their employers are in, which is starting to get limiting as silos are collapsing within some corporations and IT workers are being called upon to participate in broader aspects of the business. Is that what you see where you are?"

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Heck yes... (5, Interesting)

Zelig (73519) | about 6 months ago | (#46812421)

Most of the folks in IT are Operators of Interfaces.

Re:Heck yes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812449)

Amazon has some nice interfaces. Click a button, launch a server. Ain't the cloud wonderful?

Re:Heck yes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812799)

Yep it is the primary reason we now block Amazons IP range at our firewalls, the amount of bot and script kiddie servers coming out of their cloud is insane.

Re:Heck yes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46813081)

Thanks for the hint. We will probably do the same, as we don't communicate with Amazon cloud instances anyway. I will bring up the issue in our next meeting.

Re:Heck yes... (5, Interesting)

beheaderaswp (549877) | about 6 months ago | (#46812483)

I think I agree with you. My first IT related job was transcribing sheet music into basic music code back in 1984.

Since that time I've seen the intellectual capacity of IT workers drop consistently- while their arrogance has increased. It's a function of the field expanding so fast... in order to man departments you have to compromise on quality by hiring for specialties. Also there's the problem of industry certifications. They are not at face value bad... but those with real skills know that the certification is more or less a learning permit- while management considers it a qualification.

In my day (I'm a year or two from 50) people made their way in IT based on ability. That was the catalyst for the entire industry. It is what built silicon valley and the economic ripples it created.

The way I see it, we've gone from recruiting people who loved computers and played with them on their own, to hiring people who shop for a career in their educational choices. That's a path to mediocrity. Always has been- always will be.

Re:Heck yes... (5, Insightful)

gweihir (88907) | about 6 months ago | (#46812701)

Indeed. There are rare islands of skill and competence, and you always find that in them, people care and actually like working with technology. But most people that go into IT today do not have what it takes and should have stayed away.

Re:Heck yes... (5, Informative)

geminidomino (614729) | about 6 months ago | (#46812775)

In my day (I'm a year or two from 50) people made their way in IT based on ability. That was the catalyst for the entire industry. It is what built silicon valley and the economic ripples it created.

Things weren't a whole lot better then. Sturgeon's law still applies, it's just that IT as an industry has vastly expanded so that 90% is a much larger raw number now.

Remember about the old joke about the Evil Empire, before Microsoft took the epithet?

How do you spot an IBM field tech with a flat tire?
He's the one on the side of the road, changing all four tires to see which one's flat.

How do you spot an IBM field tech that ran out of gas?
He's the one on the side of the road, changing all four tires to see which one's flat.

Re:Heck yes... (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 6 months ago | (#46812831)

If you're willing to pay you can hire good people. It's just that the big publicly-owned Silicon Valley companies can use their funny money to pay more than you can.

If you go to places where people are living for quality-of-life and not just money, you'll find more of the competent folks. The competent folks in sucky-places-to-live have all moved to the aforementioned corporations or nicer places to live.

Re:Heck yes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812609)

Absolutely I agree. I recently assisted one of the juniors I mentor with diagnosing a problem. I asked them if they knew the protocol used in depth, and their answer was yes. It turned out they knew how to use a GUI that used the protocol, and had no underlying understanding of the protocol itself. They also had no idea where to start. It took me a couple of hours to teach them what was going on, explaining basic concepts such as packets and the client server exchange.

Re:Heck yes... (2)

dougg76 (1078049) | about 6 months ago | (#46813055)

Let's not confuse knowledge with critical thinking.

education doesn't work (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812433)

Most people think critical thinking is something that "haters" do.

Re:education doesn't work (1, Flamebait)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 6 months ago | (#46812565)

"No child left behind" is the expression that George W Bush was using to direct the education system. Essentially that means that classes need to slow down to the pace of the slowest pupil making all knives in the box blunt and useless.

It is interesting to realize that in 2001 (before 9/11) George W Bush did meet the Social Democratic party leader and then prime minister Göran Persson [wikipedia.org] who earlier was heading the schooling department. The slogan "No child left behind" does match very well with the standpoint that the Social Democratic party has - that the class shall be slowed to the pace of the slowest pupil and that no grades shall be awarded until very late in the schooling.

The following quote is suitable when it comes to education:

Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

Re:education doesn't work (1)

donscarletti (569232) | about 6 months ago | (#46812773)

When mentioning the positions of government officials online, it's a good idea to mention the country of the government they serve in, i.e.

It is interesting to realize that in 2001 (before 9/11) George W Bush did meet the Sweedish Social Democratic party leader and then prime minister Göran Persson [wikipedia.org] who earlier was heading the schooling department.

The same of course would apply to former American President George W Bush, if you had mentioned his position.

Re (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812857)

Except that, like it or not, the entire world knows who G. W. Bush is and what country he led, whereas the name of past Swedish prime ministers amounts to minor trivia at most. Could be because the US was and currently is the largest economy and politically most internationally active country in the world... or it could be because he bombed your country or one of you allies, but you will know who he is.

Re:education doesn't work (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812867)

Essentially that means that classes need to slow down to the pace of the slowest pupil

That's called detracking [educationnext.org] and it began long before Bush.

It is just so horrible (4, Funny)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 6 months ago | (#46812439)

So horrible that hardly any of the European or American young IT workers are qualified.

Too bad there was not some way we could get around this problem. You know perhaps get around this and maybe save some money too hmm.

Just think about how horrible it would be if CIO's and MBAs wrote such an article and published in a well known magazine that they could give to EU politicians and senators on something that needs to be done RIGHT AWAY!

 

Re:It is just so horrible (5, Insightful)

AK Marc (707885) | about 6 months ago | (#46812549)

It's not about the Americans being not "qualified" but that a E/CE/CS degree is irrelevant to IT. IT is, in the most general sense, best served by a logic and philosophy/psychology degree. Every problem is solved by a binary decision tree.

"The computer isn't working." Well, that's hardware or software. If hardware, it's an internal or external fault. If internal, it's a part failure or install failure. If part, replace part. If install, re-seat hardware. Most any problem is a set of questions, each one narrowing down the choices, until the answer is found. The ability to break down problems like that is logic. Knowing what to ask and how to respond is generaly from experience. Dealing with the people that are experiencing the problem, or designing something for them to use is a "soft" skill that a psychology or other "soft" degree might help best with.

There isn't a good education for IT. It's never been addressed. The few places that teach "IT" generally teach to some specific certification tests, and nothing about how to apply it.

Re:It is just so horrible (5, Funny)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 6 months ago | (#46812589)

That can't be true.

According to HR pc techs need calculus skills as we do differential equations all day and work in polynomial time when working with tickets.

Re:It is just so horrible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812777)

According to HR pc techs need calculus skills as we do differential equations all day and work in polynomial time when working with tickets.

If you can't solve tickets in polynomial time, you are totally screwed. Linear time should be expected (if it takes longer per ticket when there are more, thats bad, but non-polynomial, thats just horrid)

Re:It is just so horrible (0)

gweihir (88907) | about 6 months ago | (#46812717)

Sorry, no mod points, but nice satire! So a symbolic "+1 Funny" for you.

Re:It is just so horrible (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 6 months ago | (#46812555)

He talks about college and trade schools, but says nothing about on-the-job training.
Businesses no longer seem willing to invest any capital in directly educating the worker they want.

The closest we get is coordination between a college and business,
where the business helps design the school's curriculum to provide the kind of skills the business wants.

Re:It is just so horrible (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about 6 months ago | (#46813015)

Largely because better trained staff will demand more pay, or will go somewhere else to get it.

oh (4, Informative)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 6 months ago | (#46812441)

This is what happens when your field turns from a niche specialist thing where only experts will have a chance to get in... into a field where they're selling degrees during commercial breaks for Jerry Springer. You want the smarts ones, you need to pay for them.

Re:oh (4, Interesting)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 6 months ago | (#46812459)

You can. In India.

The fact that MBAs and CIOs are the ones whining make me always suspicious who of course get quoted in all these articles and probably contribute to them. How convenient this propaganda can now be used and passed around to politicians to increase H1B1 visas as a response.

Sadly many with years of experience now can be as good if not better than the native ones anyway so go cheap.

Re:oh (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 6 months ago | (#46812537)

Oh for Christs sake don't reply to my posts with this inane anti-immigrant crap. All the Indians I work with are damn good at what they do. The problem with immigration is that people like them, that are law abiding citizens, great at what they do, and highly desirable in the workplace, aren't given immediate citizenship. If you want to come to this country, have no criminal record, and can hold a job for a year or two without incident you should be given citizenship. Immigration issues would be over and done with.

Re:oh (5, Informative)

kaladorn (514293) | about 6 months ago | (#46812651)

I, on the other hand, have had a mixed experience with Indian workers.

I worked on one team with 3 of them. One was female, the other two male. One of the males had a good business head and presentation and passable technical skills. The other fellow was out of his depth and was compensating by trying to talk over everyone. The gal was the smartest of the lot and new her stuff (the QC side of things) better than either of the male devs, but their cultural propensity to just marginalize or ignore the female (or try to speak for her) meant the best way to let her excel was to arrange interactions with her that did not involve the two indian males.

On another project I worked on, offshoring a code base for a major US Telco, I will tell you that there were some smart devs (they got what I was presenting) and there were others who struggled and I don't think ever did fathom the complex code.

Frankly, the Russians I worked with were better as far as offshore resources go - thorough, smart, logical, didn't try to claim what they didn't actually know and figured out a lot of things as required (and did a good job of being thorough).

I think the only two objections I have overall (as a generalization) to Indian workers are a) tendency to be patriarchal and not listen to and respect females and b) a tendency to say yes to everything when it comes to 'can you do X by time Y?' even if the thing they are agreeing to do is well beyond them. They can't seem to say no or it'll take longer. Everything is yes. We learned that we could not depend on any time estimates and routinely doubled their estimates and sometimes even then had to get in and solve the problems ourselves.

Any group of devs is going to reflect the amount and nature of their education and their cultural perspectives. Being Canadian, I've had some good fortune to work in very diverse settings with many cultural groups and nationalities. As long as you know who you are dealing with and allow for that, you can work well together.

In the case of IT work, the skillset required for broader business aspects of that field require a broad knowledge of many technologies, a broad knowledge of business practices, and the business to treat the IT staff less like a cost center and more like a critical piece of infrastructure - provide training, support sufficient time for projects and manpower resources, and to generally not try to get the IT staff to be responsible for everything, all of the time, in all respects, with few or no resources. That's the most common failing in IT departments - how companies see them as an expense and try to minimize that to the detriment of employee quality and their overall business in the long run.

Re:oh (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 6 months ago | (#46812553)

Why do you hate MBAs and CIOs? Envy?

Re:oh (1)

iNaya (1049686) | about 6 months ago | (#46812849)

Not really. Most of the MBAs I know have had great difficulty finding a job. There is a huge oversupply of them.

Re:oh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812977)

Naw, the guys from India have the same problems, if not exacerbated by difficulties communicating. They are just cheaper.

That said, your average IT guy with very little critical thinking skills, while maybe embarassing, is still good enough to deal with 90% of users problems.

Yep, you get what you pay for. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812473)

The best people know they can find a job pretty much anywhere, so they often do. Fail to attract and retain them and you're left with only the mediocre ones at best. It looks cheaper to the bean counters because they only try to reduce the cost of the bean seeds without properly accounting for the harvest.

Re:oh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812493)

People only care about things that have monetary value. Computing was a field for expert specialists when computers were expensive to own and operate. Now that computers are ubiquitous and dirt cheap, people don't respect the geeks who understand the technology.

you FAIL IT (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812455)

second post, bitch

communists and socialist... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812469)

have been controlling the public schools for over 50 years so how could this story be true?

Re:communists and socialist... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812833)

If you weren't so public school "educated", you would be thinking how could it not be.

Not surprised (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812475)

A training company I'm working with has done some research into this topic. They found that only around 15% of people in Canada/USA are critical thinkers. It would be great to see more critical thinking in IT, but most people just aren't wired that way. And with IT being such a broad field, not all IT jobs require sophisticated critical thinking skills.

That said, I'm not opposed to exposing people to situations requiring critical thinking, or stretching people to develop those skills. Let's just not get upset when Joe Cablemonkey isn't a masterful critical thinker.

Re:Not surprised (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 6 months ago | (#46812863)

It would be great to see more critical thinking in IT.

"Critical Thinking" is a stupid meaningless phrase. The wikipedia page [wikipedia.org] contains nine different defintions, several of which contradict each other. One listed definition is that "critical thinking" is a "commitment to the social and political practice of participatory democracy". What the hell does that mean?

Both you and the author of the article seem to assume that "critical thinking" is a synonym for "problem solving". But that is just "normal" thinking. So instead of using some stupid confusing psychobabble to say "IT people are bad at critical thinking", just say what you mean: "IT people are bad at problem solving".

Accreditation and continuing education. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812477)

Almost every profession requires its members to engage in continuing education. Not IT.

I would love to see a neutral, non-lobbying group formed solely for the purpose of periodically certifying the quality of IT professionals by live demonstration, a la the bar exam for practicing attorneys.

College exams don't count; all they prove is that the student knew (or was able to cheat enough to pretend that s/he knew) CS theory just long enough to pass the coruse. It says nothing about current knowledge or software development skills on non-toy projects.

Re:Accreditation and continuing education. (2)

nomadic (141991) | about 6 months ago | (#46812573)

Eh, I've been both an IT guy and a lawyer, and honestly the bar exam isn't particularly hard or connected to what lawyers actually do. From what I've heard the higher-end certifications in IT do a decent job.

we need more trades / apprenticeships in IT (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 6 months ago | (#46812481)

we need more trades / apprenticeships in IT and not CS that is a lot of theory and lacking in hands on skills.

Re:we need more trades / apprenticeships in IT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812991)

That is what CAUSED the problem in the first place.

Without the theoretical background you don't have the skills.

IT is a mathematical field... but it is no longer treated as a field of mathematics, so you get very few with the mathematical problem solving focus that is required to solve problems...

22 catch. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812487)

Education is failing IT. IT is failing education too.

Oh computers will help education! We'll all be geniuses all we need is more computers!

Look. Heres a video of a cute cat doing something stupid! It's the most popular thing on the planet right now!

Re:22 catch. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812547)

We'll all be geniuses all we need is more computers!

It worked for the Lawnmower Man.

participate in broader aspects of the business (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 6 months ago | (#46812489)

Okay, let's start with my hours, salary, and other benefits... If they're going lay on extra workload, make sure there's a matching increase on the flip side.

Perhaps, but I'm not convinced (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812497)

People who are weaker at root cause analysis tend to get stuck and Level 1 or 2 tech support. More capable people reach the advanced analyst levels and do well there. Since the demand for support analysts is roughly L1 > L2 > L3 > L4, it might look like "most IT workers can't think critically."

people who think critically can't pass L1 quotes (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 6 months ago | (#46812563)

people who think critically can't pass L1 quotes and other stuff that to smart for them. Best buy and other places used to pass over the people to smart to sell the rip off extracted warrantys

Not our education system (3, Interesting)

EMG at MU (1194965) | about 6 months ago | (#46812499)

You can't blame everything on our education system.

First, the majority of people do not possess the ability to think critically. You can't teach that skill. You can try to foster what ability a person might have but you can't turn someone with no ability to think critically into someone who exemplifies that ability. By middle school someone either can think for themselves or they can't.

Second, why is everything the education systems fault? Why don't parents encourage their children to think critically? Why aren't parents responsible for enriching their child's development so that they develop the skills needed to succeed.

Reality check: not all teachers think critically. There are a lot of people of average to below average intelligence / critical thinking ability that are teachers. Want great teachers? Do you want the cream of the crop? Then pay them to deal with your whiny privileged spawn instead of the much more glamorous and lucrative jobs they have. Instead of attracting the best talent we have states actively eroding teacher benefits which drives the talent away and opens the door for Teach for America type excuses for real teachers.

Yes I agree there are a ton of people in IT and every other profession who completely lack the ability to think critically.

No I do not blame "our education system"

Re:Not our education system (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about 6 months ago | (#46812605)

First, the majority of people do not possess the ability to think critically. You can't teach that skill.

uh....yes you can? I sure wasn't thinking critically when I was young, and I doubt you were either. I don't even know why you think people can't be taught this, if you do a search for "teach critical thinking" there are plenty of results on how to teach critical thinking.

Maybe you just guessed that it's not teachable? Which ironically would be a failure to think critically.......

Re:Not our education system (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812611)

Because if we got rid of tenure and paid teachers minimum wage the problem would go away!

Just ask any republican or Tpartier folks

Re:Not our education system (2)

gnoshi (314933) | about 6 months ago | (#46812641)

First, the majority of people do not possess the ability to think critically.

Yes.

You can't teach that skill. You can try to foster what ability a person might have but you can't turn someone with no ability to think critically into someone who exemplifies that ability. By middle school someone either can think for themselves or they can't.

No. There has been a lot of research on critical thinking in both psychology and education, looking at both the ability of people to engage in critical thinking and the extent to which it can be taught. Typically what is found is that critical thinking is not particularly innate, and that people improve considerably with teaching. Some people grasp it more readily than others, but (like a great many talents) with training and practice most people can become proficient. Quite a few university degrees (e.g. philosophy, some areas of psychology, and if you're lucky politics) include specific courses on critical thinking and formal logic.

Re:Not our education system (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812899)

First, the majority of people do not possess the ability to think critically.

Yes.

You can't teach that skill. You can try to foster what ability a person might have but you can't turn someone with no ability to think critically into someone who exemplifies that ability. By middle school someone either can think for themselves or they can't.

and if they can't they end up voting Democrat

Re:Not our education system (2)

eyepeepackets (33477) | about 6 months ago | (#46812885)

In the U.S., critical thinking skills are acquired via the liberal arts side of the higher education system (you know, the ones the business and technical training side loves to sneer at while making jokes about burgers and fries.) We don't teach high schoolers and below how to think, we teach them _what_ to think; school in the U.S. has mostly been about socialization since the mid-20th century. Even in our higher education system, the only ones who really get critical thinking skills are the wannabe lawyers and philosophers. Simply put, these skills have not been valued by U.S. business people since forever and so they aren't taught but to the specialist few.

Business and technical people whining about employees without critical thinking skills reminds me of Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby, only in this case they made the tar baby themselves.

Re:Not our education system (2)

khallow (566160) | about 6 months ago | (#46812969)

critical thinking skills are acquired via the liberal arts side

That's vile slander from the detractors of the liberal arts. How could you properly indoctrinate students in thoughtgood, if you're so far off message? There are a lot of fields, such as the victim studies where critical thinking just gets in the way.

Re:Not our education system (1)

khallow (566160) | about 6 months ago | (#46812939)

First, the majority of people do not possess the ability to think critically.

IMHO, if they have a brain, they have the ability. Not thinking critically is not the same as not having the ability to think critically.

Second, why is everything the education systems fault? Why don't parents encourage their children to think critically?

Why? You just said most people don't have the ability. Encouragement from parents wouldn't change that (and would actually be a waste of the parent's time), unless the ability actually was there.

Instead of attracting the best talent we have states actively eroding teacher benefits which drives the talent away and opens the door for Teach for America type excuses for real teachers.

Just think (well, if you have the ability to) how much worse it must be in those countries which aren't spending as much on education per student [businessinsider.com] as the US does - like Finland, Sweden, Japan, and Germany. They must be absolutely benighted places.

Sure you can teach critical thinking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46813085)

You just need to get the smart ones interested and run remedial classes with lots of examples for those that don't catch on quick.

It's no different to reading or writing, or basic math. Would you argue that you can't teach most people to read and write? Sure you can't teach someone to be the next Shakespeare, nor are you going to teach advanced calculus to someone who doesn't like math, but we're talking about people not monkeys and dogs here.

And as for parents....parents who weren't taught how to think critically can hardly pass that knowledge on to their children.

U.S. FAILS IT!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812501)

("IT" is producing intelligent, knowlegable adults who have a wide an reasonably in-depth knowlege of use in the workplace.)

Cost and opportunities (2)

NitWit005 (1717412) | about 6 months ago | (#46812505)

He asks the question: "So why do we tolerate IT pros who don't understand the basics of how a computer or network works?".

If someone is skilled at IT, deeply understands computers and networking, and has critical thinking skills, they can get a better job. There are few people like that anywhere. Why would they be sitting around in IT? They should be designing a router.

And frankly speaking, they don't need to know the deep depths of how everything works. It would be silly for a hospital to demand that every staff member have the highest level of education. It's a waste of resources. The vast majority of work can be done by less skilled people. Just like in a hospital, if a diagnosis seems difficult, you can bring in the expert. You don't need a building full of experts. Sure, it would be nice, but the waste would be staggering.

Re:Cost and opportunities (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46813007)

" but the waste would be staggering"

And it is. You now know why the the US healthcare is the most expensive and least effective...

"Get off my lawn" (4, Interesting)

redmid17 (1217076) | about 6 months ago | (#46812511)

Is Slashdot linking to Bennett Haselton's dad now?
If the IT sector were really that devoid of workers with an iota of critical thinking ability, the entire state of IT in the country would be in shambles. Now he does have some valid complaints (ie plenty of Cert WIZARDS!), but the entire article is one giant strawman he constructed. I don't think IT (or at least non H1Bs) is any worse off than any other sector of the US job market. This strikes me as a case of "this new generation sucks a lot" which we roll through every 20 years or so. The WW2 generation said the same thing about the Boomers and Gen X.

The first track consisted of self-motivated high school and college students who taught themselves the necessary PC skills to get a job, sometimes before graduation. The second was the trade school, which produced droves of "certified" 20-somethings ripe for the picking in the rapidly growing IT field.

My mileage will vary from most of the people here, but these two sectors make up a small minority of what I've encountered. The first "track" is essentially career service desk folk. They don't really need to think super critically. They aren't paid enough to. The ones who are very good at it end up as Tier-2 or Tier-3 support. They do triage work and respond to critical incidents. They need to know how to diagnose problems and think critically. The second track definitely exists. I've met them. I haven't seen them actively employed for the most part, and those that were employed didn't remain for long.

The circle jerk in the comments section is pretty hilarious too.

How about employers failing? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812519)

Or is anything that costs a penny over a minimum wage too much? What happened to an employer investing as much time into an employee as the employee invests of his own free time? We learn plenty on our own dime just to keep up with the insane fashions in IT, why can't the employer put aside a few hours a month to show us simple IT folk what's going on?

But I guess we're cheaper if we're terrified, eh?

Most definately (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812527)

The vast majority of people that I have interviewed have no clue how to properly troubleshoot. I ask everyone the same question. User calls and says they cannot connect to the interwebs. What do you do? The simulated problems is that the DNS service on the internal server has stopped therby not resolving host names. Almost everyone starts with the obvious of check your cables and then reboot. I have tried to guide people to the answer for 45 minutes with some to no avail. These are people with YEARS of experience in IT, most looking for Network Admin jobs. Most hardly have a clue how to use a command prompt to troubleshoot the possible answer. I have interviewed college grads with an emphasis in databases that could not tell me what a primary key was. Our education system is not failing IT. IT is failing because it lets unqualified people have jobs in IT. People with no motivation and they want to be successful but either have no clue or no real desire to do anything about it. Part of the problem is that people are under the delusional belief that anyone that can set up email on their iPhone is a genius and therefore should be allowed to build their network. Trust me, all they are good for is setting up email on your iPhone. And many of them can't do that right either.

Re:Most definately (1)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 6 months ago | (#46812595)

Why do people have such a hard time spelling "definitely"? Is it that hard?

Re:Most definately (1)

mooingyak (720677) | about 6 months ago | (#46812679)

Why do people have such a hard time spelling "definitely"? Is it that hard?

I know what you mean. It drives me nuts. It's defiantly not that hard to spell.

Re:Most definately (1)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 6 months ago | (#46812753)

>I know what you mean. It drives me nut's. It's defiantly not that hard too spell.

Fixed that for ya.

Re:Most definately (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812659)

I ask everyone the same question. User calls and says they cannot connect to the interwebs. What do you do?

Send someone to fix the problem. If you can't send someone, give up now. The user at the other end of the phone will lie to you. You can tell them to reboot, and they will say they have rebooted, and it will be a lie. You can tell them to check the cables, and they will lie about it. You can tell them to open a command prompt and you can tell them exactly what to type, and the user will lie to you. The user is always a liar.

Re:Most definately (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 6 months ago | (#46812757)

I completely agree. We have far too many people in IT that have no business being in a field that is still evolving. No passion, talent or dedication? Forget it. These people will never be any good.

I've never seen a well-run IT department (1)

Greyfox (87712) | about 6 months ago | (#46812567)

Though I have seen a few less-badly run ones. Sometimes there's actually a competent guy in there, trying to manage a few hundred servers and dealing with constant user abuse. Sometimes there're nothing but a bunch of monkeys who will just keep trying to reboot the machines in the hopes that will somehow fix all those misconfigured servers. The single unifying theme is that there are never enough resources allocated for even the best people to do a good job in those departments. I could point to companies that could be growing two or three times faster if not for their shoddy IT practices. Or companies that will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to BFI their IT solution, while shackling their developers with Citrix. I guess because even on today's ultra-fast computers, everyone deserves the experience of doing all their work on a network-connected computer via 2400 bps dial-up. I suppose IT will take the blame for that as well, though. It's OK. They're used to it.

Outsourcing kills experience (5, Insightful)

slayer991 (3624861) | about 6 months ago | (#46812583)

It isn't education, it's the lack of experience. We've outsourced so many of the entry level jobs, where are the young people supposed to learn? That's the real cost of outsourcing...without an entry-level position and ability to learn how to troubleshoot, there's no place for kids to learn how to do their jobs. Most of the really good systems engineers I know started on the help desk, worked desk-side support and then did infrastructure support (servers/network/storage/security). They understand that their jobs still come down to delivery of solutions to the end-user. They understand that the end-user doesn't care what backend BS broke, it's just that they can't do their job. We're missing that at the mid-level...and most of the really great infrastructure people are in their 40's now.

Re:Outsourcing kills experience (4, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | about 6 months ago | (#46812911)

It's more than just outsourcing. Most of those young people haven't worked at anything before they enter college and a lot of them don't start working till after they leave college. Going well into your adult life without actually holding any job (even one outside of IT) is pretty destructive just on its own.

That's called progress (2)

Animats (122034) | about 6 months ago | (#46812601)

And yet the process most of today's IT pros use to learn a skill amounts to asking somebody else how to do something.

Well, that's progress. Progress involves not having to know how the layers underneath work. This allows operating at a higher level of abstraction. How many drivers can change a spark plug today?

The trouble with this in software is that our abstractions are still flaky. Computer users still have to worry about bugs which allow stack overflow attacks, library bugs, backdoors in firmware, and middleware which doesn't conform to spec. (Hardware is in better shape. Users rarely have to worry about CPU design errors, voltage control problems, electrical noise, static electricity, failed gates, or connector intermittents, all of which were problems with early mainframes.)

Computing has become, to some extent, a ritual-taboo culture. We have huge books of examples on how to do things. If you take API documentation and write code to exercise the API in ways not used in examples, it is likely that many of today's APIs will fail. As a result, asking someone how to do something is more likely to work than reading up on an interface and expecting it to work as documented.

(Open source doesn't help. Ever try to get a bug fixed in open source code? I have bug reports with clear test cases that have been outstanding for over five years.)

eduction system? (3, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about 6 months ago | (#46812635)

Apparently there aren't enough welders in America [wsj.com] . Not everyone needs to be in IT, or graduate from college.

Re:eduction system? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812747)

Welding is a dangerous job and requires skill at a repetitive task while in uncomfortable or cramped positions.
You are exposed to metal fumes, dangerous gases and particulate matter.
You are exposed to very strong UV light. "sunburn" is common. As is eye strain and damage.
You will be around heat and sparks all day long.
You will be wearing heavy leather year round in all temps.
Lung disease, eye problems and cancer are in your future.
Your safety equipment is often paid on your dime. And also largely consists of being told to 'tough it out you pussy'.
500,000+ welders are injured annually.

The pay average is about $15 an hour and often a 'union' will take it's cut too in the form of 'dues'.

Fuck that sounds great!

Re:eduction system? (3, Informative)

dcollins (135727) | about 6 months ago | (#46812859)

"500,000+ welders are injured annually."

Impossible; there aren't 500,000 welders in the U.S. There aren't even 400,000. (In 2006: 393,000 per American Welding Society).

http://www.aws.org/w/a/research/outlook.html [aws.org]

If we add up all the OSHA injuries of all types from all construction & manufacturing industries (incl. manufacturing of food, textiles, paper, plastics, etc.), the grand total of all injury types in a year is less than 200,000 (197,000 by my count). So 500,000 welding accidents in a year is total fantasy.

http://stats.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/osh/case/ostb3593.pdf [bls.gov]

Re:eduction system? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46813049)

So welders are only allowed to be injured once a year?

Quit recruiting the wrong people: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812675)

IS majors can't hack it. They have, "Leadership in IT," seminars. They want tech jobs, but they're afraid of tech.
While they're doing that, CS majors are solving complex problems.

Quit hiring from the wrong pool.

what's failing is slashdot servers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812677)

redirect from classic.slashdot.org no longer works and takes you to horribeta version.

more dice fodder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812721)

18 year old single women in my area.

Enjoy that, dice.

The biggest problem... (2)

goathumper (1284632) | about 6 months ago | (#46812729)

Are the business leaders and their "collusion" with the vendors. It's all too easy to require new IT talent to be "Cisco-certified" or Java-certified or this-or-that certified. Think about it. Cisco wants their certified engineers to be "recipe-followers". If they run into a brick wall, they're supposed to run home to mama so the business can buy Cisco support time and contracts. Likewise, the business doesn't want to risk it with someone who isn't Cisco-certified because that gives Cisco an out in case things go wrong (i.e. "your guy messed with something he shouldn't have messed with, covered in clause 32-a-X-35-b-VII-(x$^32) in the support contract, written in 2 point Arial font in white ink. Pay us more or fuck off.").

The same principle applies to other technological areas. I'm not defending them, simply pointing out their (twisted, so-so far gone) logic. It's about risk management and having someone to blame (or sue). That's what the suits care about. It's the single, solitary reason M$ was never in any real danger from Linux on the desktop - corporate IT departments were NEVER going to move away from being able to point the finger at Redmond when shit went down. It's all about self-preservation, really.

Remember that in business (moreso in BIG business), the higher up you are, the more important it is to cover your ass, over being good at your job.

Education is designed to do that (2)

CmdrEdem (2229572) | about 6 months ago | (#46812759)

IMHO education does not teach how to explore new possibilities. It teaches rules and discipline. Some times, if you are lucky, you find someone that can jump start your brain to think critically and try to find new answers to old questions, that people already answered for you. That is the beginning of the process to find new questions and the respective answers.

In Computer Science the education issue is specially bad because we are taught how to think like the machine. How to constraint our thoughts to fit that little box that is good with math and nothing else. And then teach the machine how to do that. Ow... the irony.

Re:Education is designed to do that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812917)

I don't know what CS courses you took but maybe you should have spent more time doing algorithms and complexity theory proofs?

Perhaps not really failing but perhaps weeding out (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812767)

I think that with the advent of how the technology revolution has progressed, the general population sees geeks these days as having admirable qualities. As such, they want to get into the industry, due to mainly it's higher than normal salaries. The movement of "everybody should learn to program" has some pitfalls. I think it's philosophically good that "everybody should learn to program", but on the downside, those that can't hack it, shouldn't be in technology, pardon the pun. Computer science has its origins in pure mathematics. It is a super-science, nothing less, but this is often overlooked, due to the massive amounts of hype that goes on these days with technology. Many people believe that because one is a whiz at using electronic gadgets, this by default, makes one good at computers, with the stretch towards being a programmer. The university I attended has always stated that "we are not a trade school". I sincerely believe that this is an important distinction to make. Many people who attend trade schools sometimes poo-poo the university education, although the converse I've not seen to usually be true. It's not that by default, a university gives a superior education, but its main focus, at least in my own experience, is to teach the fundamentals, abstract thinking, critical thinking, and broader thinking than just a narrowly focused subject. It's not to learn the latest hip language or acronym to stick on their resume. I strongly believe that studying other subjects other than computer science can enhance learning in computer science, something that a university has traditionally believed as well by "forcing" a minimum number of credits in other subjects. As an example, the notion of Agile development is nothing new at all to myself. One famous person stated about 40 years ago, "be like water", and at least to me, that sums up what the core of what Agile development is all about.

I blame Microsoft (2)

DMJC (682799) | about 6 months ago | (#46812779)

As someone who works in ICT as a network administrator it's quite simple. Stop hiring Windows only "IT professionals". I was hired by my employer because I had Cisco studies under my belt (CCNA courses not exams) as well as a broad base in Linux/Unix/Macintosh as well as Windows. I am working in an environment that is 99% Microsoft, but I slip in the odd Linux machine where it helps me work better. Too many people are locked into the mindset of click click, and Microsoft does nothing to make people look into deeper causes of problems. It's shit like rebooting for driver installs, software updates, small patches etc. That is killing the knowledge of IT workers. The Unix mentality is: oh you broke an application, guess you'd better go fix it, because a reboot sure isn't going to. Whereas on Windows, there's a 50/50 chance that what killed your app is crappy memory management on the OS, or a bad configuration. Far too many people graduate with degrees then just happily cruise into their $40-50k/year jobs. Then when they get called upon to do real IT engineering/sysadmin work, they stick their hands up, because they think that troubleshooting some idiot's exchange issue is the same as reinstalling a proper Cisco or Juniper router/switch. Hell I had a level 2 tech the other day, complaining that it was "so hard" to boot a router into rom-mon mode, and upload a PRE-MADE! config file for $400/hr and that he'd have to document it, because it's so hard. What the hell? that stuff is second nature to anyone who's done entry level Cisco, a course that gets taught at High Schools here! The lack fo basic commandline skills is sickening. The amount of money being wasted on over-priced software is sickening. Because noone is spending the time to learn alternatives to the junk they're using now.

Re:I blame Microsoft (1)

ledow (319597) | about 6 months ago | (#46813009)

I'd extend your argument further than that.

Stop supporting single-vendor qualifications. And especially those qualifications RUN BY those vendors. I don't really know of another industry where the qualifications are run by a particular vendor and nobody else.

But, above and beyond that, I'm employed generally because I can learn anything quickly. Throw me in front of Linux, or Mac, or old Windows, or weird Windows configurations, or tell me you want the cutting-edge stuff just out of MS, and I'll get it done for you. I won't steer you towards what I'm more familiar with just because I'm more familiar with it.

The day I'm no longer able to learn, I'll be useless. Fortunately, science says that the more you learn, are forced to learn, and continue to learn, the easier learning is and the longer you continue to learn.

Compare to someone who took one of those "memory test" courses that changes every year so they can get another few thousand out of you, and who has never had to sit, think and research "How the hell do I do that?".

I find that invention, and compensation for problems, and improvisation is much more valuable than paying a vendor a few thousand in order to memorise their latest arrangement of menus.

I think I've heard all this before (1)

BlameCanada (176521) | about 6 months ago | (#46812791)

Sounds an awful lot like the generic refrain: "Kids these days..."

Or harkening back a few years:

"What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?"

4th century BC (Plato)

Started in the 1990s (2)

Casandro (751346) | about 6 months ago | (#46812801)

When people believed you could use a computer without being able to program. That's how mandatory programming courses got shut down and the incompetence "trickled down".

I don't bother to learn the business I work for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812809)

I run your network, I don't make you money directly and I couldn't care less what it is you sell because my job is not influenced in any way by what you do unless you screw it up and don't have the money to pay me.

Critical thinking in IT? (1)

Malkin (133793) | about 6 months ago | (#46812821)

If IT workers knew how to think critically, they would go into programming, instead.

*cough* OK, that was mean. The thing is, critical thinking skills are notoriously difficult to teach effectively [gmu.edu] . Maybe we should put more effort into hiring IT workers who can solve problems, instead of looking for people with the right combination of resume bullet-points. If we created greater demand for critical thinkers, instead of creating demand for certifications, perhaps we would see more effort put into learning to solve problems.

Or not. Maybe we just wouldn't find anyone to hire.

Re:Critical thinking in IT? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812823)

Or maybe they're the smart ones who get to browse the internet for eight hours a day while the code monkeys juggle metrics and attend meetings...

Re:Critical thinking in IT? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812965)

If you're smart you won't waste your life browsing the internet for eight hours a day. Instead you could actually achieve something in life.. like write and deliver fantastic software.

Re:Critical thinking in IT? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812987)

If IT workers knew how to think critically, they would go into programming, instead.

*cough* OK, that was mean.

Not mean. Just retarded. So many code monkeys don't know shit about the basics that you wonder why the system is still running. Too many people trying to invent perfect solutions anew. Or just programm stuff themselves, because they can do better than the lib that comes with the system. Then comes the big 'Ups' and in rare cases the realisation that the prformence bogging checks might have been safeguards.

Never mind IT, everyone should be learning critica (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812853)

Never mind the IT industry, critical thinking is probably the single most important skillset /anyone/ can have, yet for the most part it's not actively taught to anyone other than philosophy majors. Critical thinking skills should be taught to everyone as a fundamental part of basic education, never mind post-secondary.

dumb article (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812865)

if you want people who can solve problems that fewer than 10% of humans can figure out it will cost you. you can't revise your curriculum to make someone's brain work better.

Lack of critical thinking starts with loans. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812897)

Anyone who takes one out has no capacity to think critically about anything.

Then they enter a career where management fucks them constantly; No Overtime Pay and No W-9 Contract Work and Industry Leaders spending Billions to bring over more H1B's and try to build systems like they are a manufacturing line that fail spectacularly and in ever more grandiose and wasteful fashions. When you hit 40, your career is over. Over 15% of MIS graduates are jobless.

Kids these days are seeing the writing on the wall, and that's why enrollment is down for computer science, why existing IT staff are making career moves out of the path, and why companies are literally running their systems and people to the point they are willing to and in many cases do end the business. If your ERP system went down tomorrow, and it was gone. As in no backups, no ETA on getting back online, you get to stop and start from scratch. What would you do? We just avoided that where I work, twice; the previous admin put up a shit-fest about how everything he had setup was fine and guess what. I'm still swearing at him. Management finally "Got it" and they finally Got that they have someone that can get them setup, but I don't trust them. Whatsoever.

And that's the thing; IT gets more complex, they demand more, but business people don't and they don't want to understand anything. They just want it to work.

Most college programs get people to a certain level of understanding about various systems, however vendors, and both Microsoft and Cisco is notorious for this, do not focus on simplifying the understanding of their systems and conveying that understanding to their students. When you read the cert book and take the course, you only get about 25% of what you need; the rest has to come from lots of research which is time consuming and honestly, when you are working 80hr weeks who has the time. Employers want jaberwockie employee's; they want to buy skills and not the people. They view Lean as a way to asset-strip their workforce further and DevOps as an IT person who is a master of everything at half the cost. They completely miss the fucking point.

My next position I've written down 6 questions, and if management doesn't answer all 6 correctly, I will not work for them. They are simple questions.

A: What's your companies greatest asset? (People; any other question is a red flag).

B: Why should I be interested in the long-term health of your organization? (If You cannot explain this to me, your company is fucked 7-ways from Sunday).

C: If I bust my rear and complete a half dozen projects for you in the next year. The sum of increased revenue and saved capital is between 5 and 7 figures, what is my reward? (If you don't know this ahead of time you are doing it wrong).

D: Why should I trust that you will reward me? (If you can't answer this, wrong).

E: Why do, or don't, I fit into your corporate culture? (Tells me what you are looking for and if you are going to lie to me; if you lie to me at an HR interview, then that's endemic in your corporate culture and you are fucked.)

F: Why would I want to work for you and not work two jobs flipping burgers instead? (The correct answer here is "you make 3x as much and work half the hours". Any attempt to compare the job to flipping burgers in any other way is a sign of a sick organization.)

I can't relate, but it makes sense (2)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | about 6 months ago | (#46812907)

Over my course of 13 years in IT Consulting, one of the most often repeated compliments is that I am a "genius" for being able to get up to speed on business requirements and advance a narrow feature set that was more value-added to their user base all over a single conversation.

While I've always seen my ability to understand "C-Level Speak", "Marketing Logic" and business principals as tangible assets that should define the software, I never thought I was anything but slightly more adept than other developers, since it was to me at least a given that all developers account for the business principals we are developing against -- I see now that perhaps I am a rarified quantity.

However, this has prevented me from using services such as O-Desk which focus on having customers spy on screen shots and key strokes of your "clocked in time", as I am all too aware that my most meaningful work is done while having a beer or 3 while I chill-intensify while mulling over the business aspects gleaned during that conversation and deriving user-flows and architectural concepts, which are then presented for approval and adoption. No keystrokes can be logged during that interval, which is really the most value-added and happens throughout the dev cycle as features are added and I work with the stake holders to really hone in on a core feature-set, since the reqs at that stage will change as they work to attract more stake holders. Instead, ODesk and their ilk think I am merely a shit shoveler who's time is merely spent writing code, good or bad.

Employers want disposable labor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46812921)

As long as employers see employees as an infinite source of cheap disposable labor that can be swapped out like a widget, then a un creative cog in a machine is exactly want they are going to get. Only when employers put effort into professional development, and actual career paths will they get creative and talented employees.

Its a general issue for education itself (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 6 months ago | (#46812925)

The issue is that so many of the students are so far behind that you can't bother with critical thinking if you want to prepare them for college.

Which means the only way to give them a proper education is to accept that some kids are not college material.

Do that and the whole system falls into order.

Stop trying to turn kids that have a hard time reading at age 15 into astrophysicists, lawyers, and surgeons. Its a wasted effort.

Rather, get those kids something that will actually be useful in their life. Some job skills that will let them support themselves. And maybe THEIR kids will be college material. But anyone that can't read at age 15 needs to be put on a more realistic career path.

What I've just said is politically incorrect. We're supposed to believe that people that can't read at age 25 can become president or something if just try. Well, no. It isn't happening. Get over it.

They want contradictory things (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 6 months ago | (#46813001)

HR often focuses on the technology first, not the organization's industry. If they value company knowledge they'd pay more to keep existing staff. But, they instead often want to dump the older people for those allegedly knowledgeable in the shiny new thing of the month.

Hey you damn kids get off m'root directory! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46813013)

When I was young, I went down to the IBM store with a knot in my handkerchief (which was the style at the time) and

No, wait, the other thing.

People are no lazier/stupider/etc than before. You're just older.

More military (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46813021)

Things would be much better off if we took more money from education and spent it on the military and wars. We could create thousands more jobs for people majoring in canon fodder.

Technical interviews (1)

dougg76 (1078049) | about 6 months ago | (#46813025)

Maybe we would see more people in IT with problem solving skills / critical thinking if we stopped scaring them off with so many amature rote memory based technical interviews. It's ridiculous! IT professionals need to hire people based on their prior work and references and just quit all the sillyness. Who cares if Joe cant remember how to do a bubble sort by hand during an interview, the guy has been professionally coding fo 10+ years etc. To even think that anything significant can be ascertained via technical interviews shows a lack of understanding of how the human mind works; all you will get with most of these silly test are people that are good at taking silly test.
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