Bri Manning

Technology Careers, or Why Some People Don’t Understand Their Developers

August 22, 2011

I recently read an article about the hiring practices of technology companies that got me a little fired up because of how utterly wrong I felt that it was. Notably there was a section near the end of the second page that read: “Companies tend to hire people with IT engineering degrees, use those skills for five years, and then they want a new crop, says Cappelli.”

I don’t think he could be more wrong. Technology isn’t obsolete in 5 years – it’s obsolete in 1-2. It’s very fad-intensive, with quick iterations. People don’t drop out because they’re not trained in the new things coming out – it’s because they’ve burnt out trying to work while learning new things, couldn’t keep up with learning these new things or they plod along without learning new things and fall to the wayside. “Training” doesn’t happen – learning by getting thrown into the deep end does.

Also, I love how the first comment lauds Cappelli’s comment, yet is one of the things I couldn’t disagree with more in the article. The reason that there are young developers, and why companies want young, smart, driven developers is because they drive them into the ground in 5-10 years or the developers become so disillusioned by what they often feel is the stupidity or inefficiencies around them that they want to get out. Sometimes hearing, “it’s a business rule,” isn’t the most calming experience.

While personally, I do like learning new skills, techniques and adding to my knowledge base, what really excites me is being able to do something quickly, to accomplish something faster than I would have been able to before. That’s what a lot of the newer technologies that come out do for you – something that would take 10 hours now takes 1, etc. That’s why people will pay so much for developers at the cutting edge. If you can do things 10 times as efficiently, it’s a deal to pay you twice, three times or eight times as much as the guy sitting next to you.

This thinking reminds me of a recent video where Matt Damon discusses teachers, their compensation and the fiery issues that are currently surrounding that sector. The comment by that professor is coming from an MBA-type analysis which loses a lot of truths by measuring only concrete facts. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but people need to acknowledge that it loses a lot of the emotional and immeasurable part of the picture in the meantime.