It seems like many of the issues in this article and those like it can be attributed to the absurdly low barrier to entry for software companies. If you have no money, no likely revenue, and nothing holding you accountable, are you a company or a club? Bio-tech startups certainly don’t work this way.
Tangentially related: I don’t remember ever hearing anyone say “How can we get more people into chemical engineering?” or seen any Learn-to-play-with-deadly-chemicals-in-12-weeks “engineering” courses.
The article’s critique was anchored specifically on the comments of the founders of Paypal, Facebook and 42Floors. “No money, no likely revenue, and nothing holding you accountable” doesn’t really seem to apply.
Bio-tech startups would seem to have diversity problems that mirror those of software startups fairly closely.
“You can’t underdress to a Bio-tech interview”
He was failing the come-over-for-dungeons-and-dragons test and he didn’t even know it…
Bio-tech startups certainly don’t work this way.
Are you sure?
I know of bio-tech startups that behave very similarly to this. Perhaps not in the clubby, hipster way, but in a manner that suggests a similar lack of professionalism in social aspects.
I don’t remember ever hearing anyone say
There are certainly efforts in other fields to encourage more people to get into them.
But, and maybe this is just personal bias, chemical engineering does not underlie so much of modern socio/political/economic power in the way that software does. Software is eating the world, and without some kind of base literacy, it’s increasingly hard to understand what’s going on around us. That’s why I think more people should have at least a tiny understanding of how computing works.
I would maybe argue that this is personal bias. Understanding chemistry is the basis of petroleum engineering, pharmaceuticals, materials science, and a bunch of other really important stuff (generating and storing electrical energy efficiently, fertilizers/pesticides, etc.). Between them those things underlie a vastly larger fraction of socio/political/economic power in the world than software.
I think it’s easy to get an inflated idea of the importance of something (e.g. software) when you live and breathe it every day.
If I had to guess why there’s such an outsize effort to get people into software I would probably say it’s just because there happens to be a labor shortage at the moment, but I don’t really know ¯_(ツ)_/¯.
Replying to both you and your sibling, computing is what ends up controlling all those important things, however. And communication is a greater power than any particular physical good, and that’s all computerized at this point.
I do think all fields are important, regardless.
Supporting @steveklabnik’s point, from the original Software is Eating the World essay:
Oil and gas companies were early innovators in supercomputing and data visualization and analysis, which are crucial to today’s oil and gas exploration efforts. Agriculture is increasingly powered by software as well, including satellite analysis of soils linked to per-acre seed selection software algorithms
Fair point, although you can’t communicate on any modern medium without oil and electricity to power it (nor can you even make a computer!); there’s sort of a chicken and egg thing here :P
I guess I don’t really see the argument that computing is a more reasonable thing for everyone to understand the basics of than chemistry or physics or biology or what have you; all of it is important and runs the the world in some way. Maybe we should encourage people to learn a bit of everything :)
you can’t communicate on any modern medium without oil and electricity to power it
This is absolutely true, and something I worry about way more than I should, probably.
Maybe we should encourage people to learn a bit of everything :)
Yes, very much this. This over-focus on STEM is incredibly harmful :(
From here it looks like most jobs over the next century will require skills we currently think of as software skills. In the same way that most jobs today require some kind of “functional computer literacy”, and most jobs last century required ordinary literacy. The skills of programming seem generally applicable, in a way that something like materials science (while fascinating, and underlying lots of recent engineering advances) isn’t. Will knowing chemistry/physics/biology make you a better accountant/architect/artist? Maybe, but the connection seems more direct and obvious for computing.
I’d tend to agree, which is what I posited in my OP: the push for people to learn computing is more about the labor market than anything else.
I think that’s totally personal bias. Oil has more power than computing could ever dream of and no one is saying “teach all our kids petroleum engineering.”
I think that the importance of software lies on the fact that it works as a tool to enhance people’s capabilities. While other fields may be directly involved in the production of good and services that are fundamental to support our modern lifestyle, software not only has an impact on these fields but in almost everything else we do, be it big or small. Because of this, its reach is, at least, much larger than any other field I know of.
Although this lots of interesting points in this article, there’s one that is near and dear to me–how are these companies filled with very young people supposed to get better an real interviews? Based on my observations of both big companies like Google and MS, and small startups, there seems to be a theme that interview “training” involves watching someone else interview 2-3 times, and then you’re good to go! Or maybe just wing it!
This doesn’t foster continual improvement or skills sharing–where have you seen a good model of interview training?
I think a lot of these companies are one motivated lawyer away from writing some large settlement checks. It doesn’t sound like the people there are even aware that there are questions that are simply illegal to ask in an interview (see: http://www.mtu.edu/equity/pdfs/whatyoucanandcantasklongversion8-12-04.pdf).
In the large corporations I previously worked in the interviewers were also required to keep a written record of why every candidate was selected or rejected. The meticulous documentation is the only effective way to ward off people who are simply after a quick buck.