IT is boring - so say graduates

We wrote a story earlier this week about IT being a boring career and a real turn off for graduates. It has been picked up on “news for nerds” site Slashdot and has got over 680 comments, with the thread asking the question?

“Despite good job prospects, graduates think that a job in IT would be boring. Is this because of the fact that Bill Gates has made the whole industry look nerdy?

There’s been quite a long running theory that IT has an image problem and hence its problem recruiting the right calibre of graduates into the industry.

I met up with the BCS earlier this week and this issue was a big concern for them. They made the point that children need to be excited about a career in IT before they reach secondary school and the fact that many primary schools didn’t have qualified maths teachers wasn’t helping attract pupils into the sciences. So perhaps its not solely an image problem and surely as more kids grow up with computers a career in IT will seem more within their reach.

A few mischevious comments on Slashdot have agreed that the unattractiveness of IT as a career is all to do with poor old Bill Gates, who retires next week and has been single-handedly blamed for giving the industry a geeky, nerdy image. A touch harsh and affair, I think. My position is backed up by this comment, which makes a lot of the point that being  successful is an attractive quality that people generally try to emulate.

Are you really trying to blame this on Bill Gates?
“I mean really? The man is the poster child for why you SHOULD get into IT… I don’t think anyone looks at Bill Gates, with his billions of dollars, happy family, and from an outsider’s point of view “good life,” and says “Nope… don’t want to be a nerd like that!”

People think it’s boring because, generally speaking, it can get VERY monotonous. If you don’t like programming (regardless of how you define the word), you won’t like IT. If you don’t like long hours trying to figure out why something isn’t working on 1 out of 1000 machines, you probably won’t like IT either. I’m not going to get into a “You might be a redneck if…” stream here, but I think you get my point.

If the corporate world is honestly having problems finding IT people, they should either (A) Outsource to a reliable partner, or (B) offer more money. Long story short, IT is like any other job on the planet, if you offer people enough money, they’ll gladly do it.

 

However, I don’t think it is all money rated as I think IT is perceived as a reasonably rewarded industry, so perhaps it has more to do with the job functions and requirements of IT departments. See this comment below

“Perhaps it’s a sign that the IT industry is growing up. Writing software isbecoming much more like engineering and a lot less like pioneering.

Engineering in all its facets (from civil engineering to mechanicalengineering to chemical engineering) is sometimes considered “boring” too…………

With software development there simply is a lot of (to me elegant andbeautiful, to others dead and boring) scientific background knowledge you shouldhave (algorithms, data-structures, compiler design, finite automata, complexitytheory, concurrency theory, discrete mathematics, and numerical mathematics)supplemented by more applied knowledge like the principles of softwareengineering, in-depth knowledge of at least three programming languages (C, C++,Java), some experience with the object hierarchy underlying modern GUIs, andprobably a lot I forgot.

And when you’ve done all that and appear for your first job, you may findyou’ll be on some project team and entrusted with responsibility for buildingcomponent X of subsystem Y according to specifications someone will give you.You write your code, construct your test-cases, and verify correctness, documentyour functions, check in your code, and rush off to the next specificationyou’ll implement because you’ve got to meet productivity standards or you’reout.

For what it’s worth, I think it is more about enthusing younsters about a career in IT – and for some that may mean finding out at a early age that they are actually very good at mathmatics and that applying this in computer sciences could provide them with a very succcessful and lucrative career. This may be a simplistic answer to what is a huge debate and one in which Computer Weekly will continue to be involved, because IT matters to businesses and to the economic health of this country.

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A major problem with IT being seen as boring is an educational one. I think it comes down to bad curricula design. A level Computing and ICT curricula are incredibly out-of-date and uninspiring. See my BCS article at: http://www.bcs.org/server.php?show=ConWebDoc.19144
Some of the blame should be laid at the door or curriculum developers who are unprepared to innovate.


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Yours is an excellent point. I believe that the industry must campaign and force the curriculum developers to innovate and produce a curriculum that will enthuse students rather than turn them off. If it produces graduates that are more suitable for business at the same time, then we might be getting somewhere.
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