Software Development Jobs – Broken Pipeline of Future Talent

Thu, 05-Feb-2015

I have been observing two trends in the tech industry for some time:

1. Outsourcing of so-called “low value” positions has eliminated entry-level positions that used to be a staging ground for future software developers.
2. The heavy use of “contractors” in the industry has created a situation where employers invest much less in skill development, if they spend anything at all.

These two forces combine to create a situation where demand remains strong for software developers and administrators (tech workers), but a huge barrier to entry has been created. Software Development is both a science and a craft, and while learning the science is relatively easy and can be picked up from a class or a book, the craft takes time to develop in a person. This time is an investment that used to mean you were hired to work on maintenance projects, which taught you about the business, the software, and exposed you to the code developed by senior developers.

In today’s paradigm, many large employers have outsourced their maintenance work to a tech services company, and divorced their software development from their business. Even if they have not outsourced their work, they are not hiring permanent employees. I don’t have any specific numbers, but from what I’ve seen at least 50% of tech employees are working as “contractors”, which is the tech industry’s version of a “temp” worker. Employers typically do not provide training or education to contractors because there is no incentive to, and contractor’s have no incentive to stick around after receiving expensive training or gaining experience working with a hot technology.

This trend has resulted in a situation that is good for experienced tech workers (programmers, architects, project managers) because they are able to find work fairly quickly, but also bad because they have no job security and benefits vary widely depending on the company they are working through to get the contract. Employers benefit because they can grow and shrink their workforce quickly without having to report layoffs. On paper this looks good to investors and shareholders, but there is a hidden cost that nobody is speaking about… the Leadership Pipeline.

In the old paradigm of tech worker employees, some employees eventually become senior developers. Some of these senior developers became architects or business analysts, and some of these tech leaders eventually became business leaders, who had a deep understanding of how technology supports their business. Many of these “old paradigm” tech leaders still exist within companies, but they are getting old fast and many have already retired.

In the new paradigm of tech worker contractors, individuals have no allegiance to an employer. They have a perverse incentive to only do exactly what they are asked to do, without an incentive to make sure what they are doing is good for the employer in the long term. Moreover, there is no incentive to succeed or complete a project because that often means the end of their contract. Under this paradigm, leaders who understand business and technology are increasingly rare and in most cases they must be hired from outside the company. Outside hires must spend time to create networks within the company, which old paradigm tech workers would already have.

This brings me back to my response to this article from Tech Republic. It is hard to get started in the tech industry largely because companies are only “hiring” contractors, who must already have experience in a given technology. How do you get the experience you need in a system that has broken the pipeline that trains future tech workers? How does a company develop its future tech leaders? When did loyalty and commitment become so devalued?

Apple Swift – New Programming Language

Mon, 02-Jun-2014

Wow! Watching the WWDC 2014 keynote demo of Apple’s new Swift programming language. This looks like a total candy language, meaning that writing code and developing apps for OS X and iOS is going to get as easy as writing VB was for Windows.

I wonder how it will tie in to enterprise data sources (i.e. Oracle Call Interface, ODBC, etc) and data visualisation.

I can’t wait to get my hands on the new OSX and XCode to start playing with this. Nice job Apple!

DRM Failure — This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Thu, 15-May-2014

The past 12 hours have been very enlightening (and frustrating) as we see the limits of DRM technology demonstrated all too well. It seems that the Adobe Digital Rights Management (DRM) servers are down or have some issue that prevents their own tool, Adobe Digital Editions, from being able to sign in.

The result has been frustrating, and I am simply unable to read any of my DRM-locked books on my computer. Basically, the books that I’ve paid for are locked and I cannot open them (on my computer). I cannot think of a better argument against DRM except Sony’s one-device movie lock-down for movies bought from their PS3 store, but that’s another post entirely.

Update, 12:20 PDT: Adobe has confirmed there is a sign-in outage via the @AdobeCares twitter account:

@AdobeCares Twitter Account Admits Sign-in Outage

Well this is embarrassing!

The message seems to indicate that this outage affects users of Adobe’s Creative Suite as well as those unlucky DRM users like your favourite author of tales of woe impacting technology consumers.


Adobe DRM Web Site Error Message

Adobe DRM Web Site Error Message

Adobe Digital Editions DRM Error Dialogue

Adobe Digital Editions DRM Error Dialogue

Are You Still Sending Your Email Without Encryption?

Tue, 04-Mar-2014

One of the easiest things you can do to protect your privacy is to encrypt your email using the Secure MIME (S/MIME) feature built into your desktop and mobile email applications.

Nothing you can do is 100% secure, but if you’re smart, you can at least make it difficult for hackers and unnamed government agencies from easily snooping on your email.

Read the rest of this entry »

Optimizing AIX 6.1 performance tuning

Wed, 05-Feb-2014

I found a great page on IBM developerWorks for tuning AIX OS settings. Take a look

Just when you thought you understood performance tuning on AIX® Version 5.3, here comes AIX 6.1 on its heels to throw you a curveball. In this article, get up-to-date information on the recent changes to performance monitoring and tuning in AIX 6.1, including CPU, virtual memory, and I/O disk and network. Many of the changes are really less about kernel innovations and more about ancillary changes, such as improving default parameters to more accurately reflect real-world data processing. Other enhancements include unique tunable documentation, restricted tunables, and various other improvements to certain subsystems. You’ll learn more about a performance tuning methodology, which needs to be a part of any tuning strategy.

via Optimizing AIX 6.1 performance tuning.

Comcast HSI Speeds Are Great, Availability Lags

Fri, 29-Nov-2013

Comcast HSI Speeds Are Great, Availability Lags

Comcast’s cable modem internet is pretty good, and the recent x2 speed bump makes it even better. One area where they fall short is reliability. Maybe that is the tradeoff for better speed is regular midnight outages (as many as 4 -6/month). This week, however, we also had a a daytime outage that hit during business hours. There is room for improvement.

An Enterprise IT Geek’s Thoughts on Desktop and Server OS Tech

Thu, 21-Nov-2013

Five years ago I wouldn’t have imagined it, but three years ago I discovered a project within IBM called the Open Client for Linux. The OC is a Linux workstation and repository layer for RHEL and Debian based Linux distros. Today, IBM Open Client for Linux is my full-time, production OS.

I used the OC for a couple years as my host OS, but still preferred my own Mac because it was faster and had more of the productivity software I liked to use. This year I have been able to work exclusively on my ThinkPad running OC with KVM for Windows virtualisation when needed.

This is a big deal. Getting my ThinkPad with a quad-core i7 and 12GB RAM was the deal maker. Until I’m able to get a new MacBook with comparable hardware, there’s just no comparison in functionality. I love the writing and graphics software on my Mac (MS Word, OmniGraffle, Curio, OmniPlan) but the enterprise software on my ThinkPad (Data Studio is a big one), along with the capacity difference, mean that my ThinkPad is the clear winner for now.

I have to say that KVM virtualisation on top of a Linux host feels like “bare metal”. USB and Display issues still exist, but they get smaller every day. Audio on Linux still has some issues, but I think if I were using the latest Fedora or CentOS distro even this would not be a real problem.

Windows? I don’t use it much. Occasionally I use Windows so I can use MS Office, but otherwise Windows just doesn’t have the juice. I will give Windows Server 2008 props for being an easy server OS, but that “easy” comes with a low skill barrier to entry, which always makes me a little nervous in the enterprise

I’m still scratching my head at Windows 8… Was there really a good reason to abandon the Windows XP interface?

These are good days to be in Enterprise IT, with lots of choices and a continuing push toward open standards. Take your pick of word processing, image editing, shell, and Desktop. Integration is still full of opportunities for improvement, but that’s what keeps Enterprise IT Geeks excited about our work even when the daily grind of ITSM operations leaves you feeling like you live in the space between the hammer and the anvil.


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