Sunday, May 23, 2010

Software Human Capital in DoD. Four year degrees not recommended. StartUp Visa Act.

The May/2010 issue of CrossTalk, the journal of Defense Software Engineering, just out, is all about "Software Human Capital". Articles cover Software Competencies, Software Practitioner Recruiting, and one on distinguishing between software professionals and "amateurs", among several others.

The overall theme of the issue is that the DoD can not find enough knowledgeable people to create and maintain the software and firmware of today's complex modern weapon systems.

The article on professionals vs. "amateurs" is the one I find of most interest. How many of us have seen the job ads that say "Must have knowledge of X" but never tells us what actually needed to be done?:

"On the topic of hiring competent staff, professionals must be dismayed at the high proportion of job advertisements, over a substantial period, focused on low-caliber skills. For instance, experiences with a specific programming language or a particular requirements management or design tool are often cited as essential skills. With regard to requirements, the major skill is always in the specification: Tool proficiency can inject quality into requirements management, not the specification thereof. A skilled engineer will be trained to specify atomic, consistent, structured, and testable requirements..."

I do fall in the 'dismayed' category myself.

Characteristics of Software Professionals versus Amateurs:

Professional Amateurs
Views the overall task as an engineering discipline. Describes the overall task as an art or carft.
Promotes a holistic, life cycle view. Holds an implementation, coding bias.
Places emphasis on the application or problem domain, and presents architectural solutions. Places emphasis on the technical details of the solution domain to the detriment of the customer or user.
Learns principally from published engineering literature. Learns principally by emulating colleagues.[All depends on the colleagues in my view.]
Encourages compliance with industry standards. Prefers improvised, local procedures.
Employs quality criteria to manage projects. Manages projects via schedule alone.
Conveys an outward, discipline focus. Conveys an inward, project focus.
Exhibits a balanced approach to risk. Adopts a naive approach to risk. [Always go with the lowest price, no mater the costs.]

The legacies of Adam Smith and Robert Owen are an important reminder to us that people are at the heart of commercial and social success. In our rapidly changing technological world, it is worth considering their centuries-old wisdom. Perhaps there is an opportunity for our organizations to look again at the value, rather than the cost, of their people assets. When people are viewed truly as vital assets, then investment in them is sure to deliver a mutually beneficial corporate future. This will, in turn, lead to greater customer satisfaction.

To present opposing view points to professionals education, as Cass Sunstein: Internet Mandates, Spread the Link Love wants to force us bloggers to do, here are a couple differing views on our education system:

On this hand we have College for all? Experts say not necessarily: This graduation season, some experts challenge whether four-year degree is path to success:

"The notion that a four-year degree is essential for real success is being challenged by a growing number of economists, policy analysts and academics. They say more Americans should consider other options such as technical training or two-year schools, which have been embraced in Europe for decades [Isn't Europe's economy about to go under from massive debt? Seems like a poor reason to copy them.] ..."Our national system is, 'Do you have a degree or not?'" - John Reynolds, a Florida State sociology professor said. "That doesn't really measure if you have skills."

All the job ads I see always start or end with "must have BS degree". HR has no interest in finding out if you can really do the work or not if you don't have the BS. Does that make us professionals or amateurs?

On the other hand we have StartUp Visa Act of 2010 (Introduced in Senate) S 3029 IS, that says we don't have enough smart entrepreneurs in the US, that we have to bribe them to come here to start small businesses. "To establish an employment-based immigrant visa for alien entrepreneurs who have received significant capital from investors to establish a business in the United States."

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