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Comment: Good, this needs to happen (Score 1) 131 131

One of the problems with the for-profit college market is that they prey on unsophisticated people. Corinthian Colleges was just forced to shut down by the Dept. of Education because their graduation and employment rates were so abysmal. Unfortunately, they know non-traditional students often see education as the only way out of a bad situation, and know exactly how to take advantage of that.

A lot of people say it's the fault of the student loan program, but the reality is that these institutions are simply selling an unsophisticated person a dream, and cashing their student loan checks that could have easily gone to a community college or state university for a better result. They also take advantage of former military people separating from service, since they earned partial payment of their education expenses by serving.

I have never seen anyone with a University of Phoenix degree who I would consider "college educated" simply because the programs they offer don't actually do that. There's plenty of Internet stories about what actually passes for coursework and former instructors talking about how they can't fail anyone and are forced to try to retain students so those loan checks keep coming in.

Comment: She's lucky to be able to jump back in! (Score 2) 238 238

I guess things really are different in Europe with respect to employment. I understand Spain is having economic troubles now, but you are very lucky your wife has the choice. In the US, most women who take time off to take care of children are branded unemployable, and often treated worse than a non-mother with a long-term gap in their employment.

It's a legitimate concern for my wife and I. She has a good job that pays well, but is very inflexible and involves a long commute. My oldest kid is going to be entering school next year, and the younger one is only 2 years behind that. I would love for her to have the choice to stay home and work a more flexible job or just take care of the kids. The problem is, once she pulls that trigger and decides to leave, getting comparable employment again is extremely hard. We could get by on one income, but frankly having the financial cushion allows us to actually save, and enjoy life at the same time. Without that second income, there would be some pretty deep cuts since we live in an expensive area and have other high fixed costs. So yes, we've definitely talked about it and are both coming to the same conclusion -- that leaving is a one-way choice and it would severely reduce our retirement savings, etc. Not that she won't eventually do it...the sad thing is that it's a permanent reduction in income.

Whether she wants to go back to coding, or do something different, she should be happy she has this choice. If she doesn't like development, a systems analyst or PM would be a good choice. An analyst with half a clue on how some of the stuff she's specifying works is a huge plus.

Comment: Look before you leap. (Score 1) 124 124

Unfortunately this most likely won't get seen because the news feed has moved on, but here goes...

The pressure in most companies is for more experienced workers to move into management. However, think about the last awful boss you had. Unless they were an MBA (the corporate equivalent of a commissioned officer, who didn't actually do the job before and was just appointed fresh out of business school,) that person most likely was an individual contributor. People who are great workers often get promoted, and that's where the problem begins for a lot of them.

The skills that make a successful tech worker absolutely do not translate to management. It's a completely different job. You go from making machines and code do what you want to politics and constantly begging people to do things. This is similar to project management - it also boggles my mind why a techie would want to be a project manager. There, you get secretary duty that also involves all the politics and begging with no authority. Unfortunately, most large companies' HR frameworks aren't set up to reward techies with a career progression that doesn't involve management. I work in one that does, but you are still expected to have some supervisory duties as you get further up the chain.

I currently have a "senior lead" position in a very small team, and I have made it very clear to my boss that I have no desire to go any further into management. Corporate politics is toxic, and personally for me it is a very hard shift from doing my best and getting my own work done to being judged by the quality of others' work. People are not predictable, and any attempts to control their actions will brand you for life as the "evil boss." And to dispel one myth, yes, there are horrible bosses who do nothing, but that person who sits around all day and does meetings instead of work is usually shielding you from everyone else's crap so you can get work done...at least that's how I work, and I have to do part of our team's work in addition.

Personally, I'd recommend making yourself as technically valuable a possible, getting a huge broad skill set, and becoming a consultant if you have no desire to work with people. You'll save a lot of people headaches who would have to work with you as a manager. If you hate your job, it will translate over to your personal life and you will end up miserable even if you make slightly more than a regular worker.

Comment: Re:Additional context for non-frequent flyers (Score 2) 187 187

Yes, it's easy to just grant FQTV miles arbitrarily, but airlines do somewhat treat them like currency. Also, the old-school domestic airlines (AA, UA, DL, hey, are there really only 3 left???) rely heavily on business travelers so it's in their best interest to not water down their programs. But you are right - unless they specifically block out inventory, they won't lose money, especially for a one-off bug bounty payment.

Look at FlyerTalk forums sometime. All those consultants working for the Big 4, or traveling salesmen, or midlevel corporate executives are on there complaining constantly about a perceived slight or loss of benefit. I know a bunch of consultants who easily fly 40+ weeks out of the year. I can definitely see someone being upset about service if they have to endure that much flying, but there are some people who really take it to an extreme. One example would be just missing a status level unless you happen to book an around-the-world trip by the end of the year, and literally sitting on the plane for 48 hours to rack up miles. I guess I'd be a little upset if I did a mileage run and then couldn't get anything for it, but still...

It's even more interesting now with Delta. DL has decided they actually want to sell first class seats to paying customers, so they're reducing the price from, say, 8x economy price to 3x economy price. That really stirred up a s**tstorm with heavy Delta flyers -- suddenly it's a million times harder to get a free upgrade unless you're Platinum Elite. I'm a moderate flyer, never enough to even get the first status level in a FF program, but I always just end up buying tickets over the long run with what I rack up. That seems to work for me....that and hotel points -- taking a family of four on a trip is easier with the occasional free hotel night Marriott throws me.

Comment: Re:Somebody got a visit from the PRC! (Score 1) 45 45

"Rapid growth lets you gloss over lots of nasty systemic problems, but infinite growth is not possible."

We'll see. In the mid to late '80s, Japan was supposed to take over the world. I'm guessing one of the reasons they couldn't make this happen was the population size and relative cultural isolation. (The other part was the financial bubble that made the growth possible, but that's another story.)

I see two different things in China that could make a difference -- a massive population advantage, and a central government willing to do anything to advance the cause of the country. They're pouring money into infrastructure projects to stimulate employment and keep growth running, and it's all being done with no dissent due to their structure. We just can't do that in the US -- any government spending is considered wasteful and socialist these days. China seems to be more willing to play the long game.

The Foxconn thing is interesting though. It really sounds like a central committee member told the CEO to keep his mouth shut about getting rid of his workforce. Massive unemployment can lead to a very unstable population. Even if it's menial factory work, giving everyone something to do and keep them out of trouble is key.

Comment: Re:I'll buy one now (Score 1) 213 213

Most of the traditionalists don't hate Apple products -- I don't, I have an iPhone and a MacBook at home. The problem is that Lenovo just saw Apple as the design leader, when the reality is that they are the design leader _in the market segment they're famous for catering to._ ThinkPads are workhorses, boring solid business laptops that people in that segment like. Turning them into a consumer-focused MacBook clone to chase some kind of hipster cred that is exclusively the domain of Apple made them not appeal to those who liked their boxy solid nature.

It's just interesting that Lenovo is even thinking about walking back their design choices. Their design blog has a post from a few years ago that basically tells people they need to get over the loss of the old keyboard because it's not coming back. They touted the new clicky trackpad as an awesome new thing even when their customers told them it was awful. The fact that they're even thinking about a "ThinkPad Classic" line is a big shift, kind of like Microsoft deciding to walk back at least some of their poor design choices in Windows 10. I just hope they don't decide to charge $4000 for the privilege.

Comment: I'll buy one now (Score 4, Interesting) 213 213

Please Lenovo, take my money. :-)

Seriously, this may end up a very good example of a company finally getting the message and listening to what customers want. I have been a huge ThinkPad fan for ages, even when they were made by IBM and impossible to afford unless your company bought one for you. The last three generations of ThinkPad T-series models have taken away the traditional IBM keyboard (although the replacement is still half-decent), TrackPoint buttons and LED indicators, probably in an attempt to look like a MacBook Pro. The last model (T450/550) restored the buttons on the TrackPoint, but still lacks the lower physical buttons on the touchpad.

All this time, all the traditionalists have bitterly complained and taken their money elsewhere. I'm living with the T540p now, hate the touchpad but I can't find another non-rugged laptop that can take the daily abuse it gets. (Funny note - being a product engineer for our company, I just had a meeting with a bunch of product managers last month. Each one of them had an identical MacBook Air. I hauled out my monster ThinkPad, and they said, "Heh, we need to get you a new laptop.")

It's kind of like Windows 8. Yes, _most_ people like shiny flashy things; that's why Apple products sell well. But there's another market segment that appreciates solid design and functionality. Alienating these people, who have just as much money to spend as the shiny flashy people do, is a good way to lose customers!

Comment: Re:Will universities still teach ugrads in 30 year (Score 3, Interesting) 89 89

Agreed. I graduated in 1997, and I think back then it was still possible to find work that made any degree from any reasonable school worth it. Liberal arts students have always had problems, but at least there were some teaching jobs available and companies were willing to take a chance on someone who wasn't a perfect fit. For example, I got a chemistry degree and used my part time tech support job to land my first "real" IT job. These days, you really have to think about it. Graduating in a field where you can find work is almost always a guaranteed win over not going, or worse not finishing. But, going to a private school and running up massive debts you can't pay back to get a degree that isn't marketable is an even worse decision than it once was, given the vast sums of money involved.

Just like the tech boom we're seeing now, I think the "everyone needs to be in college" boom will calm down somewhat. Tuition can't go up forever, and if people aren't getting an ROI they won't pay for it anymore. Being a state school grad, I've always wondered whether the Ivy League connections network you buy for your $50K+ per year is actually worth it. I know that's where all the investment bankers, big law firm partners and management consultants come from, but are you guaranteed success with a Harvard, Yale or whatever diploma? I don't think that's the case.

An even more extreme example is law school. The Bar Association basically gutted entry level law jobs, allowed offshoring, etc. all while opening new law schools and encouraging people to practice. Now, the only way to make any serious money as a lawyer is to work for a big law firm, and those firms only hire the top 10% of the class from the top 14 law schools in the country. So not only do you need to go to the best schools -- you need to be better than all your peers. Otherwise, you waste $250K+ and three years of your life...literally flushing it down the toilet, no recovery possible, etc. That's the worst ROI in education ever.

Believe it or not, trades are a good idea. They're not outsourceable, and if you live in a state with reasonably strong unions, commercial construction will provide a very stable living. Plus, apprentices get paid while learning. There's going to be a ton of steamfitters, carpenters, welders, etc. retiring, so anyone who isn't cut out for higher education should get in on it. You'll get a stable living...no six figure salaries without massive overtime, but no feast or famine either.

Comment: Another "top-of-the-boom" moment (Score 1) 89 89

News reports like this are reminiscent of 1999-2001. There was a CS boom back then too, as well as a host of pop-up "IT bootcamps" and intensive developer/web design classes. This was to support the initial build-out of the Web and some of the advances in systems work that this drove. Now, it looks like Google is trying to juice CS enrollment further and keep the boom running longer.

One problem with this is that we in the IT and dev fields through the first boom have experienced what happens when people motivated solely by money or the desire to be in on the next big thing get pushed through education. Colleges are seeing it now in other fields too -- Petroleum Engineering majors were getting six figure starting salaries before the bottom fell out of the oil market recently. The hard reality is that supply and demand will even out any temporary spikes fast. In this case, Google, Facebook and a bunch of others are bumping up supply by egging people on to study CS and advocating H1-B cap increases. It's obvious they just want to produce gobs of cheap code monkeys to do basic web'app programming, not the world-changing computer science that makes a lot of these things possible.

I agree that you can't just "do what you love and the money will follow" anymore, and that's a shame. But the worst thing would be to go into a field solely for money, figure out you hate it or aren't good at it, and spend 10+ years BSing your way through. I clearly remember MCSE bootcamp graduates who couldn't do basic tasks, and worse, didn't want to figure it out.

Comment: Re:Why is it always "learn to code" (Score 1) 473 473

"Why not learn to wire a house or install plumbing? Why is every program trying to over-saturate IT?"

Well, if you look at some of the sponsors, and how much lobbying they do to support the reduction of salaries either by increasing supply or allowing cheaper labor, there's one answer.

One of the problems with IT, both development and systems sides, is that is straddles the line between a trade and a profession. No one in the field wants to think they work in a trade -- they wear a collared shirt to work, work indoors in an office, etc. But honestly, the _real_ way to increase skill levels is to set up a guild system and train apprentices. Split the design and operations sides up, make design a professional engineering job, and formalize the career path on the operations side.

Seriously, to use your example, this is how the IBEW and plumbers' unions ensure that they have people who can take over when their current workers retire and maintain a level of skill. Kids out of high school get a union apprentice position, work for a few years at reduced salary and are set up for life. They might have a much less exciting career path without huge meteoric rises in salary, but they can pay their bills and raise a family. In my opinion, that's a lot better than the feast-or-famine mentality we have now. Employers are happy because they pay apprentices less, and it could be a way to reduce the dependence on H-1B labor while growing a talent pool.

I doubt any of this will happen until it's too late. Techies lean very Libertarian and associate unions or guilds with corruption. Hopefully enough examples of employers making life miserable for unprotected workers will change some minds before there's nothing left to save.

Comment: Forget the girl part, the approach is wrong (Score 1) 473 473

Since the aid is targeted at one gender, all the comments so far are complaining about that aspect. However, the bigger problem is _how_ this is being done, not _to whom._

I have about 20 years' experience in what you could loosely classify as "systems" work, so I'm not a developer. I script, I automate stuff, and do development-y things sometimes, but I don't write software. However, I do see the output of developers on a regular basis because most of my job is systems integration these days. Putting someone through a coding bootcamp is not guaranteed to generate good results. At best, you'll usually get someone who is somewhat familiar with the basics of whatever framework/ecosystem they were taught in, and the result produced may run. However, someone with enough experience and interest in the field will produce much better code in the long run. The non-bootcamp person is more likely to question why that library-based database call they made takes a minute of CPU time to run a query, whereas the bootcamp person will just order another CPU core and 48 GB of RAM with their VM.

Remember MCSE bootcamps from the late 90s? There are now adult versions of these "teach girls to code" bootcamps being offered to much the same target audience. They promise 9 weeks or so of intense study will make you a "web developer" or an "app developer." The world doesn't need thousands more people who know a little Objective-C or Ruby on Rails...if we want the profession to succeed, we need to invest in real education.

Trying to get kids interested in being more than content consumers is a good thing, but treating any of this as a fix to the problems we have with skills is disingenuous.

Comment: I guess the new thing is the wheel sensors (Score 1) 142 142

The insurance industry already has a clearinghouse of information on people similar to the credit bureaus. Rates, especially for car insurance, are increasingly determined by a subset of your credit score (the "insurance score.") They already know your history with other insurance companies, which can make it very hard to find another carrier at reasonable rates if you are dropped. Also, every state's DMV has records on every reported accident and theft. So, you're tracked an awful lot when you buy insurance anyway. I don't do the whole data collection thing, simply because I know I drive in heavy traffic with aggressive drivers, and having to stop for them would negate any savings. Having good credit really does help though...insurance is cheap if you can maintain your credit.

Not that I agree with it, but Allstate is smart to take out a patent on "quantifiable self" data for 2 reasons:
- Future customers coming of age now show very little concern about privacy, or at least they prefer the convenience of "free" services and an always-on gadget in their pocket. This means that there will slowly be less resistance to it.
- Let's face it, one day soon self-driving cars will be a thing. With a computer doing the driving, the overwhelming cause of accidents now will be people who continue to manually drive. Those people will probably end up causing a lot more damage because they will get into bigger accidents.

It's only one leap from car insurance to life insurance though -- I'm not sure that will go over well. Since all insurers are basically placing a bet that you won't file a claim, or in the case of life insurance, you'll pay enough in premiums to cover the inevitable, this would really stack the deck in their favor.

Comment: Re:Doubt that will last long. (Score 1) 229 229

" Like me, are you sucking it up, getting along, and and fighting the important fights, or do you give your management the same complaints you voice here?"

Yes, and just like you, I am luckily in a place where I can at least complain and be heard without getting kicked out. Our group just keeps moving along, continuing to turn out good work even if we have to clean up messes. The naive hope is that decision makers will eventually see how much mess cleaning we've been doing (all of which has been reported in a very non-"See, I told you so!" manner.) I'm not totally against outsourcing, but I can't stand when it doesn't work, and when the decision makers aren't smart enough to notice. Our company is easily 5 or 6 years out of phase with current HR trends, so they're just starting to notice problems now that they've gone on a full blown early 2000's style offshoring rampage.

I've worked with a lot of people in the past who just complain bitterly and lose all interest in doing their job when stuff like this happens. That's exactly what you don't want to do. Like you said, fighting about the important stuff rather than biting back on every little thing is the way to stay sane.

My problem isn't with Disney's profits, it's the fact that they don't have to resort to tactics like this, but they do anyway.

Comment: Doubt that will last long. (Score 2) 229 229

I'm guessing this will continue until the public eye is no longer on them all the time. I've posted previously about this - Disney is not a low-margin business with a need to reduce IT spending. Just their theme parks alone must generate millions per day. To use a Disney analogy, they probably store all their free cash in Uncle Scrooge's money bin. They're very similar to the way Apple is right now -- Apple is immune to market forces; they take 30% of every purchase people make with their ultra high margin iPhones, and their margin on laptop and desktop PCs is stratospheric. Disney is immune to market forces simply because they have so many rabid fans.

The fact that companies like this are resorting to H1-Bing their IT departments is very disturbing. Just because they're not doing this particular exercise doesn't mean they're not looking to do it when the heat is off later on. Again, I would expect this from a traditional retailer or similar low-margin business...not Disney.

Unfortunately, I'm dealing with this now - a product manager in charge of one of the medium-margin products I do design/engineering work for has the offshoring, low cost country bug in their head right now. I can't hire anyone to supplement our staff locally, but I can have all the foreign contractors I want because "they're so cheap." I'm sure there's lots of success stories for the outsourcers to cite, but I've never had good luck. Basically, anything we hand over to an offshore team to implement has to be documented as if we were sitting there doing it, and they still come back with questions. The problem is this -- you will never convince an MBA that it's worth it to have a few people making more money than 50 people making 20% of what you're paying the onshore staff.

Comment: Lack of mainframe skills maybe? (Score 1) 96 96

One of the things about banks is that most of their core transaction processing is done on mainframes. There's tons of stuff layered on top of it to do fancier things, but the day to day moving of funds from account to account is usually batched and run after business hours on a mainframe. One of the reasons for this is the sheer amount of business logic tied up in these systems, the massive transaction volume. and the fact that you can't easily swap out a working process with something untested.

The problem is that all the mainframers are starting to retire, and no one is stepping up to fill the spots. So, basic supply and demand kicks in, and mainframe customers have to start paying more for expertise. And we all know what happens when labor rates go up in IT..... You would think younger people would jump at this opportunity -- an environment with a low volume of change that, while important, has safeguards built in that other commodity x86 based things don't. However, there is a persistent "mainframer == old curmudgeon stuck in a dead end job" mentality, so I can see why people might not want this on their resume.

One other site I read a lot is The Register, and they have an interesting UK take on these bank IT failures, including the recent NatWest and other RBS failures, which were pretty big. Their reports indicated that (surprise, surprise) the bank offshored mainframe support and was having quality issues. The banks in question replaced staff with ages of real-world experience on these systems. In my personal experience, these folks know where all the bodies are buried, the stuff that isn't easily laid out in a runbook for a disinterested third party. Root cause for the NatWest failure was someone not knowing how to safely stop CA's batch processing software and dropping tons of messages they thought were backed up, if I recall correctly.

I wonder what it will take for companies to realize that not every IT task is run of the mill, and having some people who know the entire system on staff is a good thing.

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