Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
The Almighty Buck

Even Programmers Get the Job Search Blues 324

Andrew Leonard writes "Seems to me that Slashdotters might be interested in Salon's cover story today about the tightening job market for programmers. DISCLAIMER: I edited and assigned this story, so I am not an impartial advocate. But I still think it's pretty good." Andrew's right - it is a good story. Things are changing right now - but I'd still rather be a programmer then most other jobs right now.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Even Programmers Get the Job Search Blues

Comments Filter:
  • There's another side to the equation: even if you are good at what you do, be prepared for the unexpected.

    I came back to work after New Years' to find that the VP of R&D was fired from his position. It didn't take long after this for the company to reorganize things. Several programmers were let go, including myself.

    "Well," I thought, "this should be no biggie...I'm a Java developer, with solid SQL and HTML skills. I should find a job in no time."

    It took me two months to find new work.

    Why? Because the major employer in my area (Intel) is not hiring, and a whole bunch of start-ups are laying off programmers. As a result, Java people with 5 years of experience are having to settle for jobs that they are vastly overqualified for, or to relocate to the Bay Area. Having had only two years' Java experience, and only academic experience in other languages (C++ and C), I was stuck facing a very difficult market indeed.

    What saved me was persistence (I really wanted this job and I kept bugging the HR person until I got an interview), a strong math background, and enthusiasm for the technology that this particular company is working with.

    This experience has taught me never to rely on what I learn from my job again. If I'm doing Java development, I should be programming open source software in C++. If I'm doing C++ development, I should be practising my Java skills (and maybe contributing new libraries to the language). If I'm doing web development, I should be doing documentation on the side. Etc. Even if you're good at what you do, be ready to do something else very quickly. Java could be passing fad; Linux someday a bad memory for the Microsofties. Or Windows could go the way of the dodo bird, and many MCSEs will find themselves screwed. You just don't know. There are no sure things in this sector.

    ObJectBridge [] (GPL'd Java ODMG) needs volunteers.

  • But unlike them I'm qualified. :)

    I agree with others on here...good qualified people are finding work. I did, and am happy. It just took a bit longer than usual this time.
  • A frequent gripe on Slashdot concerns the fact that "entry level" coders are often deprived of the respect they're deserved. There have always been young people with extra skill and ambition and in the age of Open Source, they now have access to "real" systems as well. The "hobby" project some kid worked on last summer may be running on your corporate server right now. Given this, 20-something hackers are asking to be granted some credit.

    Well, fuck 'em. I'm not interviewing anyone under 25.

    My company does not have a foosball table. We do not give everyone a state-of-the-art laptop and a top-of-the-line desktop machine. We don't have frequent scheduled "team building" junkets. And finally, we will not pay you what Viant paid you for six months before they laid you off. I'm not wasting my time interviewing another "bright kid" only to find them shocked and dismayed that we aren't throwing cash and prizes at them.

    We do offer the opportunity to work in Perl and Java coding next-generation telecommunications products. We are open-source friendly, if not a bit zealous. We value ingenuity and innovation, not buzzwords and technopolitics. We are only one or two quarters away from being the first company to be profitable in our market space, so our stock options will actually be worth something when they vest. Unfortunately, anyone who wasn't in the job market before 1998 doesn't understand that not all jobs are cool and doesn't believe that stock options will ever make them money.

    I'm all about living in castles in the sky; I just know you have to build them first. If you're still looking for VCs to buy one for you, then get the fuck out of my resume inbox.

  • One engineer I work with was fed up with his law firm not letting him work on technology cases like he wanted, so he became an engineer. With a bit more school, I have no doubt I could do the reverse.

    That's exactly what I'm doing; taking my still-damp BS in Comp. Sci, and going to law school. And I get some really funny looks, everytime someone hears about it....
  • "You seemed to say that simply because you were older, you had the above attributes."

    Yikes! Definitely not. I would say, however, that because I'm older, I've had more time to develop those attributes if I have the ability and desire in the first place. Big if there, no doubt!

    I'd agree that not hiring under 25 is extreme. I suspect that if you interivewed with the original poster, he'd be fairly quick to hire you if you're as you say. (which I can certainly believe)

    But every shit-hot young programmer thinks he deserves to be senior systems programmer and get paid appropriately. Maybe one percent of them are good enough _overall_ for the position, and even they should have to prove it, by starting in a position appropriate to their professional experience.

  • Woah! Perl Entry level? Where in the world did you see that at ANY pay level? I'm serious!

  • by mholve ( 1101 )
    grep "lotsamoney" jobs
  • If you read the article the gist of it is you can't know vbscript/javascript and expect to get a good job. It takes skills to pay the bills, The days of everybody and their mom getting a programming job because they could run frontpage and read are over....
  • Ebay is running on what again? e_w=on& []

    That link is current as of right now.

  • by Skyshadow ( 508 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @04:16PM (#365519) Homepage
    Isn't it nice when someone comes out and proves your point, like mine about what arrogant pricks we can be, right after you make it?

    It's a fact of life that people get pushed into bankrupcy -- they might lose their job, have a kid unexpectedly, have a spouse die, get injured and miss work, or a thousand other possibilities unrelated to just overextending themselves.

    The new bill on just passed by the House puts credit card companies at the front of the line -- right after child support (although that's an amendment, originally child support was second) -- in a bankrupcy. People will lose their homes, their primary modes of transportation, health care, and even *go hungry* because the credit companies will, by law, have to come first; before paying the heating bill, before buying groceries.

    These huge credit companies do just fine, and they have existing ways to protect themselves -- credit reports and credit ratings, reposessions, and they *do* get some reimbusement in the case of a bankrupcy. They make huge profits now, and this will just make those profits even bigger and do so at the expense of hurting real live people.

    I can't decide if you're a troll, an inexperienced kid whose never known someone fallen on hard times, or just some asshole who thinks that MBNA and Citibank need additional protection at the cost of human misery. Whichever you are, you make me sick.


  • I think it was rather nice of Salon to let one of the unemployed Techies they interviewed make use of their office computers so he could print out his resume.
  • by yulek ( 202118 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @05:01PM (#365524) Homepage Journal
    no offense mate, but there are MILLIONS of people who code Java, SQL, and HTML. i'm an engineering director and i immediately 86 any resume that doesn't have anything beyond Java, SQL, or HTML. why? because most Java only programmers don't really understand computers all that well, they don't understand memory management, file management, load issues, etc. note, i didn't say ALL. but most. i hire software engineers not java programmers. i hire folks who can code in any language because they understand what's going on. i hire folks that understand computer science theory and software hackery.

    my team currently codes in perl, C, java, SQL, HTML, Javascript, i.e. whatever is needed for the tasks at hand.
  • What the heck did a math degree every [sic] have to do with programming?

    Math has a lot to do with programming, especially if you analyze algorithms and optimize them. This is how you discover that, for large arrays of values, Quicksort is way faster than insertion sort, which is faster than bubble sort, and why. (Check out this site [] for a demo.) This is how you find really clever ways to speed up multiplying really huge matrices, and when the payoff is big enough to warrant using the "clever" algorithm.

    Granted, you don't need the piece of paper (i.e., the degree) to have the mathematical knowledge. But the degree is a credential that lets other people know that you know what you're talking about, to some extent. It's a yardstick, however flawed it might be. This is why many employers in my area are now eschewing self-taught programmers for those with real Comp Sci (or related) degrees.

    On a personal note, I have noticed that many self-taught programmers feel they are somehow superior to those who actually busted their chops learning things like compiler theory. They often sneer at those of us who wasted our time getting that piece of paper. But you know what? Those of us from theory land often have this knack for finding better ways of doing things, and we even (gasp!) have some very nice skills at creating good abstraction frameworks. The down side is, we sometimes don't follow-through issues to their logical conclusion. After all, in academia, as long as something works, you've proven that it's doable in theory. No sense wasting time making it better, when you could be pursuing your next big problem to solve.

    To speak to the original point, I think there will always be room in this world for the highly skilled programmer, someone who has both a theoretical foundation and the industry experience to make it practical.

  • Buildings don't crash to the ground a lot. For some reason, programs do, and we don't understand why.

    The laws of statics don't change over time; technology does. If gravity's pull doubled every 18 months, you'd have a lot of "legacy" buildings crashing to the ground.

  • You sir, I'm sorry to say it, sound like a purebred redneck... Pick whichever you want, the Florida riviera type, the Georgia peachy type, or maybe the inbred Tennessee type, whichever it is, I hope you dont think you can code too much "next generation" telco in Perl :), or discard anyone under 25... Dumbfuck....


  • As a college student expecting to graduate with a bachelors in computer science this May, I'm rather worried about the tightening job market. Sure, experienced geeks may be able to ride this out, but I'm finding that companies that would previously hire almost anyone are getting really picky now when they recruit at universities. I've had some real difficulties and I'm worried that I may remain unemployed after I graduate.

    Any ideas on scaring up more job opportunities?

  • by swordgeek ( 112599 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @05:59PM (#365541) Journal
    I love agreeing with flamebait. :-)

    I'm fairly late into the computing market. I got a degree and several years of experience in an unrelated science field before drifting into Unix. Now I find that I'm in incredible demand when I go for interviews. Why? Because I've got the maturity and social skills to back my technical skills, and some seriously broad-based troubleshooting skills. When people are looking for "experience," it generally means the experience of successfully dealing with the unexpected, unpredictable, and annoying; AND all under a deadline without ripping the head off of a stupid client.

    There are better and younger programmers out there. There are damned few younger programmers who are worth more than entry-level wages, no matter how good their code.

  • FORTH - the Yoda of computer languages
  • by llywrch ( 9023 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @05:10PM (#365545) Homepage Journal
    > Um, how could you go bankrupt and expect to keep your home?

    There are two kinds of bankrupcy, speaking generally: in one case, you turn over all of your assets to a trustee (sometimes with an exception made for clothing, sentimental goods, & other items of negligble value -- this depends on the state or local jurisdiction), who thens sells everything off, pays the debts, & turns any cash left over back to you; in the other, you find a trustee who legally shelters you from debt collectors, arranges a payment schedule, & you get to keep your home, your car, yor computer & the other stuff you need to live your life.

    Credit companies don't like the second arrangement because it means they usually have to forego much of the interest the creditor owes on the principal. Even if the creditor is injured, loses her or his job in a down economy, or otherwise had to declare bankrupcy due to no fault of her/his own -- & is a responsible borrower.

    I guess they'd rather fatten their bottom line, & save the responsible corporate citizen image for commercials.

  • Yeah, let's blow up the Equifax and Visa Buildings!
  • We value ingenuity and innovation, not buzzwords and technopolitics.

    Wow. That's the funniest thing I read today.

  • Hey, I remember, back in the 80's, seeing a bunch of ads in the L.A. Times for "The Last Program You'll Ever Buy". It claimed that you just had to tell it in simple steps what you wanted, and it would do it for you. A couple people I know even expressed worry about me being able to continue making a living as a software engineer.

    I never got to see this product, but I imagine telling one of these things: "I'd like a word-processor. And it's got to handle footnotes. It better be able to import .png's too, or you'll be heading out /dev/null!"

  • If things are getting easier, then why does it seem that code is getting worse and more bugs are turning up? Things are still hard to do. As we figure out how to do one thing easily, another problem comes along. Saying that computer science is easier due to advancements is like saying any other science is easier. Physics has come a long way in 50 years but is it easier? Some would say it's a lot harder.
    Someday, sentient computer intelligences may be able to write their own code. Someday humans may be able to do the same with genetics. Those days are far off, though so until then programming will be tricky, pointers will be a pain, and schools will have far less graduating CS majors than freshmen ones.

  • that, IIRC, it is illegal to call yourself any kind of "engineer" unless that profession has been officially recognized as such, has a test to take, has an across-the-board group of people to decide what the qualifications are, has a code of conduct, etc.

    Sort of like the various Professional Engineer exams, the Society's code of ethics with the stainless steel ring, etc, here in America. Except that there, if you don't go through that and call yourself an engineer, you're on the wrong side of the law.

    Actually, I think the steel pinky ring thing came from Canada in the first place.

  • not that I do, but it was nice to think that I could;)

  • If one examines the history of computer programmes, one can see that the languages they are coded in have become ever more high level. We started of with machine code, moved into assembler, then to Fortran, then C, C++, and so forth. We have become ever more removed from the realities of the machine, and computer programming has become progressivley easier over the years.
    While I would tentatively agree that languages are becomming higher level and in some ways easier to program in that's not the full story. You need to consider the development platform and also the context of the project. Languages like Java may be comparatively simple but their associated platforms are not. Look at the size of the Java class libraries - thousands of classes. And projects are getting more complex. Rather than "lowering the barrier", high level languages give us the ability to manage larger projects.
  • Most of the grunt work associated with running web sites and e-commerce operations can potentially be automated, and now that things are settling down, probably will be. Writing HTML by hand has been on the way out for a while now. You can buy back-end systems for most common functions. So the entry-level people will be replaced by software, if they haven't been already. That stuff just isn't that hard.

    About the only raw HTML I still write is in these Slashdot input boxes.

    When a machine learns your job, what are you going to do? - a popular 1970s bus poster.

  • by verbatim ( 18390 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @02:58PM (#365580) Homepage
    Someone came out a year or two ago and said "all hail the wonderous Internet." Many companies become overnight succeeses without actually doing much other than contributing to the hype bandwagon. Now everyone has seen these companies for what they are, they are pulling the funding. What was so hot is now back to normal and progressing as it was before it got hyped like mad.

    I say wait a month or two and let these companies recede from the net. They were never really wanted anyway and they never did much either.

    How does this affect employment? Once the companies that were in it for the cash are gone, better jobs will be available as other sectors realize what the Internet can do for them. P2P is opening up new horizons already and there is no telling what will come next. Computers and Networks are still in their infancy. Getting rid of the crap companies is one step closer to maturing the online world.

    With better companies doing business online we'll have better job opportinities that are (1) more challenging and (2) more rewarding to the people in the positions. More money? maybe. I think we'll start seeing those level out to average (or moderatly high) income levels - and not the absurd levels they have been in the past.

    Or something like that.
    a=b;a^2=ab;a^2-b^2=ab-b^2;(a-b)(a+b)=b(a-b);a+b=b; 2b=b;2=1
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @08:00PM (#365583)
    Call these guys:

    Although it doesn't talk about it on their website, they provide sponorships for people who find their own jobs. You will have to work as a contractor where MyBizOffice is your employer of record, but doesn't actually provide you with a job, you still have to find it yourself. But, one of the many benefits that mybizoffice provides is that even when you change who you are actually doing work for, you keep the same visa sponorship as well as benefits like health insurance and retirement.

    I use them myself, but not for visa sponorship because I don't need it.
  • by alewando ( 854 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @02:58PM (#365584)
    If you're good at what you do, then you don't have to worry about getting fired. If you're good at doing what you do, then you don't have to worry about being rehired. I'm good at what I do, so I'm not worried. It's not like I'm living under the sea.

    Tight markets come and go. The fellows in charge decide they want it one way, and tomorrow they'll want it some other way. Yesterday, the craze was growing your workforce as fast as possible: just look at Yahoo and Today, it's downsizing again. Tomorrow, it'll be back to growing the workforce. It's the circle of life.

    If you're worried, then put your mind at ease. That is, if you're one of the few qualified employees. You have to be willing to put in long hours for not a lot of glory, and you have to be quick on your toes. If you want, my company is hiring. Be our guest.

    And don't overlook training. Skills are important; they're what separates you from the rest of the pool. Learn that extra language. Study up on that extra system. You never know when you'll need it for the next great job. You never know when you'll run into that next great employer tomorrow. It's a small world after all.
  • I remember seeing ads for that app in good old Creative Computing. The magazine ads had a woman in a flowing white dress standing on a bridge over a creek, all shot in soft focus (actually, blurry focus). It was called The Last One [] after the fact that it was supposed to be the last program ever written by a human. (And you thought there was hubris in the dot-com world now!)

    There's a consulting group [] in the UK that still does something Last One-related, but AFAIK, the program is merely just a footnote in history (and a couple of links in Google).

  • by bluesninja ( 192161 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @03:00PM (#365590) Homepage

    ...and that's a good thing.

    The technology boom created a massive industry filled with people with little or no programming experience being thrown into large-scale projects. The (predictable) results are just now beginning to be discovered -- witness the recent SlashDot article about e-commerce sites that get price info on the client side.

    Unfortunately for a lot of people, a maturing industry makes jobs obsolete pretty fast. HTML skills are no longer in as much demand because software is now available that does a pretty fair job of markup. The "soft" technology industry is being rendered obsolete by maturing technology (e.g., XML for markup)

    Hopefully, this will act increase the standards of the programming field.

    Not that it doesn't seriously suck to be unemployed, but that's capitalism for you. Ya pays yer money, ya takes yer chances.


  • I work for a VB house, and now, MAYBE, we can hire some good programmers - maybe.

    Yep, I've seen those 1 year of VB guys too, and we wouldn't hire them either.

    GOOD work CAN be done in any language, and the basics are the same in all of them. ALL the Sr guys in our group can do C and or C++ and HAVE, we all do at least some SQL work, and some are full fleged DBAs in their own right.

    There were too many programmers out there (and I'll admit, way to many of them we "VB Programmers") who thought they could program because they could write "Hello, World", and had taken the shrink wrap off the box.

    With 10+ years of various experience (DOS Basic, DOS C, MASM, VB,C++, T-SQL, XML etc) including design from the ground up of some "Non-trivial" systems, I'm not TOO worried. I'm being a bit cautious in buying a new house, but that's about it
  • by BlueLines ( 24753 ) <slashdot&divisionbyzero,com> on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @03:04PM (#365593) Homepage

    i saw the article yesterday and laughed as i read it.

    i mean, the bay area gold rush is over. you're not going to get those $150/hr html consulting gigs anymore. The job market is tight. but not too tight. a quick search on [] shows a ton of job openings. and even though craigslist [] doesn't have hundreds of postings a day in the prgrammer / sysadmin area, they ususally have 4 or 5 new ones every day. i have more friends at companies that are doing well than i have friends who have been layed off, and everyone i know has at least one "backup" job in case their current employer folds. and the people in the article are web designers (of which there are too many period) and asp/vb programmers? give me a break. if you've got a few years of c/c++ experience, you'll land something really quick. the people that are having the worst time are the corporate/middle management folks, who have no tech skills whatsoever, and the "i studied cs in college but i've never done any practical coding before" types.

  • by AndrewNelson ( 171986 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @03:04PM (#365594) Journal
    It's not that bad, actually. If you know C/C++, or have decent Unix admin skills, you can get a job in about 2 days in New England.

    It does mean that you can't read "Learn VB in 24 hours" and expect to be making 150k tommorow. I do build and release work, as I love pain a great deal, so I know *I'm* never going to be out of work for too long...

    What it boils down to in the end is the same thing it always has; make some contacts in the industry, don't screw up your first job TOO badly, and you're probably ok.

    I still laugh at a person who interviewed for a junior programmer slot at one of my old companies (this was during the dot-com frenzy) with about a year of VB and a 6 week C++ class, claiming they needed 100k to even consider the offer. Those kind of people are out of work these days, and thank the gods for that. I just wish the welfare system had a "maximum hubris" limit...

    But again, technology isn't going anywhere, so if you actually have "The skills to pay the bills", you don't have anything to worry about.
  • by rark ( 15224 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @05:28PM (#365596)
    You know, it's people like you that keep me from putting my birthdate (or my graduation date) on my resume. Yes, I'm under twenty-five. I also work for a bit under market for my skill set, and, guess what, I have no kids, no family, I'm still young enough and healthy enough that I can work a few 80 hour weeks (okay, not the whole year of 80 hour weeks I worked two years ago, but I still do pretty good). You're sick of whiny 20 somethings? I'm sick of being told that I'm 'too young' for a job I do as well as most others, and better than some. I'm sick of adults who raised the current generation to be the way they are, including the minority of slackers, and then bitch and whine and complain about them now -- and act as if no one under the age of 30 has a lick of responsibility. I'm sick of finding that some of the people who will hire me will get pissed because I won't go out with their sons, or are shocked that I"m offended when they tell me that I'm the 'wrong color' to live in a particular neighborhood. Or think I'm overreacting because I don't like it when my boss calls me 'dear' and pats me on the ass. Not all people over 30 are like this, just like not all people under 25 are slackers who want respect and money without responsibility. But people like you give older adults a bad name.

  • by rark ( 15224 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @05:30PM (#365598)
    >If PacMan had affected us as kids we'd be running
    > around in dark rooms, munching pills and
    > listening to electronic music

    You know, that makes my life make a lot more sense.

  • by CharlieG ( 34950 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @05:34PM (#365605) Homepage
    There is a partial answer to that credit card problem - Don't use them! Yep, I have one credit card, BUT, it's balance is paid off, IN FULL, every month, and has been, even when I was an electronics tech, back in the days when the "electronics" downturn hit.

    Yeah, I may not have as many "toys" as the next guy, but guess what? Except for my mortgage, I don't have any debt, and haven't had any in years.

    I remember my parents stories about the Depression, and have always taken them to heart.

    "Neither a borrower nor a lender be.."
  • Writing HTML by hand has been on the way out for a while now.

    I've seen this stated so many times, yet I have yet to see QUALITY HTML markup that is machine generated. By quality, I mean something that is written under DOCTYPE Strict, and will validate on, except for a very few special accomodations to Netscape 4.x.

    MOVE 'ZIG'.
  • I think you couldn't be more wrong, absolutely wrong.

    I code everyday, lots and lots of code, some for fun and some for work and some for world domination. I am starting to get heavily into cross platform ANSI C (ISAPI extensions, Heavy-Duty CGI-programming, etc etc). But something that I do often is write programs that are useful for one or two narrow things.

    For those types of apps, do I use C/C++? No, I don't. I use VB. Why? Well for one, I grew up on C64 Basic, but beyond that, its so easy to make a simple app.

    And by simple, I mean doing one thing and doing it well. Example: My grandma has a computer now. It came with all kinds of crap (Windows ME, MS Outlook 2000, etc etc). Its all a pain in the ass, because for (82 yrs old) the learning curve is very high. What she wants is: e-mail, web, messaging, and the ability to re-work the family tree. Thats it.

    I wiped that computer clean, and have supplied her with programs that I wrote, in VB, each in less than an 8 hr work day. For example, I wrote a mail program - all it does download/send POP3/SMTP mail. No fancy shit. Easy interface. ( if you want it). I used a few *ready-built* components and it was practically done. Just like that. This is program is extremely useful. The code behind it took perhaps 2-3 hrs to write, then an 1-2 hrs to polish, and 1-2 hrs to find an interface that I liked.

    Yes, VB is bad for big programs. After a few dozen forms, it becomes cumbersome. But in fact, I wrote a handy small app that is *useful* in minimal time.

    As for your comment about useful VB apps, I just find it funny that you discount small/simple apps as useful. In my UNIX alter-ego, I use all kinds of tiny utils/scripts to get things done.

    As far as the proto-typing abilities, they are very useful lots of times. I cant' count the number of times that VB's simplicity has saved me or won me a contract/job. Providing a solid app in 24-hours from pre-built components is smart and efficent.

    Final story:

    I was competing for a contract to build binary clients for a custom web management system. The app had to exchange data back and forth using XML and standard HTTP transfers. The client had a meeting (joint, very tense meeting) with all the prospective clients on a Friday. He gave us an information packet, and passwords to the beta-development server. We were supposed to come back Monday with a detailed proposal. Come Monday, my competition showed up with proposals and we each had to present ours (in front of all of the competition). The proposals ranged from sensible to foolish - one guy proposed writing a mini browser and embedding it in a Java client, another guy suggested a five man team working 40-hrs a week for 6 months, another guy using an intermediary server in a hairbrained attempt at cross platform development.

    For my presentation I have the guy a completed a CD, with the client, documentation, and source code on it. I wrote the whole damn "earth-shattering" program in about 30 hrs. I knocked 5k off the lowest previous bid, and told him to take it or leave it. I demostrated the program running in Windows, it worked, was polished, and then showed him how it run on RH under Wine. He looked over the code and brought the in-house IT to verify its quality and completeness.

    I got a check that day, and the competition went home to their flow charts, line-by-line programming, and lame execuses.

    My point? VB doesn't blow. VB is excellent for what it is - a way of quickly assembling apps from reusable components, solving problems with solid methods, and reducing (in my case from thousands of man hours to about 30) effort expended on projects.
  • by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Wednesday March 14, 2001 @02:11AM (#365618)
    I don't care if I've got a P4 1.4 GHz machine or a 486DX 66 sitting on my desk

    You will, when it's 10pm on the day before the deadline and you're waiting for something to compile... :-)


  • Andrew Leonard may be the one needed job hunting advice soon...
  • Many people who ARE good at what they do could be equally good at other things. One engineer I work with was fed up with his law firm not letting him work on technology cases like he wanted, so he became an engineer. With a bit more school, I have no doubt I could do the reverse. Or move into a different tech niche than I'm in. If you know how to learn, and care enough to do it, you can move where the tides take you.

    Actually, I'm a little glad the market is getting less frenzied. I was starting to get a bit annoyed that people who thought GRE used port 47 were making 6 figures.
  • I agree with your point about languages getting more high level, but I don't think your point about teenagers programming is valid. I believe that this is because computers are cheaper and more available then they were say 25 years ago (when things were programmed in assembler). Back when that was the case, computers were very expensive, and getting time on them required more clearance than carrying the nuclear football.

    One more thing: We still need to learn to program as well as we build buildings. Buildings don't crash to the ground a lot. For some reason, programs do, and we don't understand why. Until we reach a level in programming where we truly understand the architecture of systems, we won't have your average joe programming.

    Just my two cents.
  • I think that things can only become worse - there is a great reallignment happening in the world of programming, as it becomes more of a blue collar environment, and sheds it's elitist image.


    I think that the increasing franchise of programming, which is at last being grasped by the common man, can only be a good thing.

    So what is it? Good or bad?


    UID over 47? Beware.

    Yes, as a matter of fact - my UID is greater by a factor of roughly 300. Sorry if this offends your senior status...


  • Been unemployed for 3 weeks. Nothing on the horizon. Planning to go back to school for a PhD.

    Software is more a matter of getting used to the idea of working only 9 months a year and programming is just too easy for people to do.

    But you should think about EE instead of CS just the same. With PC's sitting on shelves gathering dust and mobile appliances flying off the shelves you need to focus on designing hardware.
  • Well, according to existing law, yes. However, the credit companies have big, big sticks they can hit you with. Bad debt NEVER goes away. It gets bought by the credit reporting agencies, and they dutifully report the debt as delinquent FOREVER. So you can't ever get credit again unless you declare bankruptcy, and if this bill goes through, not even then.

    Of course there will be some abuse. But the cost of preventing that abuse is going to be tragic.

    IMO the abuse cost us far less.
  • I'd sue.

    You would lose. You can discriminate all you want against anyone under 40 on the basis of age. The ADA only protects people over 40.

    MOVE 'ZIG'.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @03:18PM (#365633)
    "...and computer programming has become progressivley easier over the years."

    Wrong, totally wrong. I've been programming since 1980 (FORTRAN, punch cards, yeah, I'm an old fart aren't I?)

    Programs today are far more complex than they ever have been, and that trend will continue. Anyone who thinks that programmers need fewer skills and less experience than they did is living in la-la land.
  • Actually credit can make a lot of sense. If you are borrowing money to CREATE something instead of COMSUME something, it is healthy and viable and creates a lot of economic growth.

    But if you just waste it by buying dog food or what have you, then it's almost purely bad. In that instance I would agree with your comments.
  • Well, you're wrong :). Being a "web programmer" professionally for 4+ years, I can say that yes, it's technically easier than JAVA, and moreso C/C++. But, technical syntax is only 20% of the puzzle. I know a lot of BSCS folks who've built lot's of code (mainly PHP and Perl) and the architecture is horrible, Yet, they've coded some very nice menu systems for Gnome! A good web programmer is more of a web architect. They understand Systems, Networking, RDBMS's, Middle Tier Applications (ASP/PHP/CFML/etc), AND html/JS/WML/etc.

    Web development is not software development, and visa versa. They are different, and require different skillsets. The problem is the barrier of entry is lower on the web development front. This accounts for many of the amazingly gross network and web architectures found in companies today, but does not necessarily mean that web development is a "thin" career move. Personally, I'd rather focus on technologies that require less syntactical knowledge, as I learn things on a more creative and cognative level. After all, we are not made for the machine, rather, the machine is made for us.
  • Online investing accounts for a very small amount of total money invested in all stocks. Most money comes from corprate investing houses (Merril Lynch, Payne Webber, etc...).. The only real effect online investers have is attitude of the market. Their descions impact others in feeling only not the direct price of the stock.

    --- My Karma is bigger than your...
    ------ This sentence no verb
  • The invention of the printing press didn't turn every man into an author, and VB doesn't turn PHBs into engineers.

    Thank you! Yes, most anyone can learn HTML, Cold Fusion, or even ASP, but that doesn't make them good web developers!
  • Weren't the "engineers" -- thinking of McDonnell-Douglas here -- largely beaurocrats who grew fat on government military-industrial largesse, then were crestfallen to find that they really *weren't* engineers?

    -grendel drago
  • A frequent gripe on Slashdot concerns the fact that "entry level" coders are often deprived of the respect they're deserved. There have always been young people with extra skill and ambition and in the age of Open Source, they now have access to "real" systems as well. The "hobby" project some kid worked on last summer may be running on your corporate server right now. Given this, 20-something hackers are asking to be granted some credit.
  • ditto that. I was reading it in 10th grade (I'm now a college sophomore). I got an account because I liked being able to set preferences and stuff I guess. I was always choosing certain display options (I guess it would have been threaded since nested hadn't come yet) so I made those the default.


  • by Mr. Barky ( 152560 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @03:18PM (#365648)

    The end result id natural language programming. You literally tell the computer what you want it to do, and its amazing compiler will produce perfect code.

    This is a LOOOOOONG way off, if it ever happens. Natural language isn't good enough to precisely express many problems. (That's why mathematicians and scientists have their own languages!) There are way too many ambiguities.

    And even if it does come about, the skills programmers use (primarily thinking logically about a problem) will still be necessary for more advanced uses of computers. Programmers of some sort will always be in demand.

  • You used to need a mathematics degree and be a top flight academic to be a programmer, back in the beginning. Now, high school kids can enter the programming world, and get jobs."

    In many ways, I think programming these days is a lot like graphic design in the late '80s, early '90s. Graphic designers were freaked out when commoners got Macs and started putting their LaserWriters to use building fliers, magazines, and so on.

    But the designers soon realized that no set of digital tools could replicate the trained eye, the native skill of a good designer. The same is true of programming. Look at the tools out there that supposedly automate web site development. They're a joke - they hamstring you and don't let you do anything out of the box at all.

    For the same reason the average Microsoft Publisher-using John Q. Public isn't going to usurp a trained designer who uses Illustrator and knows how to squeeze the most out of it, no connect-the-dots programming tool will force skilled programmers out of their jobs.

    No matter how far the technology advances, you have to be able to think a certain way in order to effectively program a computer. Sure, every Tom, Dick and Harry will someday be able to program their home to detect intruders, fire up the oven, and monitor the baby, but by then professional programmers will be busy making software that tells nanites how to scrub out a cancer patient's body.

  • This is /. so some people will probably cringe, but if you're as good as you say you are then try Microsoft. Seriously.

    Great place to work and they're always looking for smart, competent people. When you're fresh out of college I don't think they look for skills in specific technologies (beyond stuff like C++). The important things are your problem solving skills and your ability to learn quickly. For example, most interviewers don't care whether you code a solution in C, C++, or Java.

    You sound like a good fit as a Software Design Engineer. Sponsorship shouldn't be a problem. You should interview, even if it's just for kicks.

    Even if you don't heed my advice, look into some real companies and not some inane IT shops. If the interviewers aren't interested in your checkers and chess programs I'd consider that a bad sign.
  • It's interesting reading the responses so far - they seem to indicate that only the weak (unskilled) tech folks will be hurt by layoffs and well, since they aren't as smart as we all are, that's fine.

    Sometimes it feels like an awfully cold world we live in.
  • A frequent gripe on Slashdot concerns the fact that "entry level" coders are often deprived of the respect they're deserved. There have always been young people with extra skill and ambition and in the age of Open Source, they now have access to "real" systems as well. The "hobby" project some kid worked on last summer may be running on your corporate server right now. Given this, 20-something hackers are asking to be granted some credit.
  • by Kynes23 ( 38777 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @03:20PM (#365658) Homepage
    I don't think so. To a degree, languages have gotten "higher-level," but the real development languages seem to have stopped around the level of C/C++. After all, those languages are, what, 20 years old?

    Languages like Visual Basic, decidedly more "high-level," have failed to catch on for serious development. The reason, of course, is that "natural language compilers" will always fail as long as a computer can't intelligently optimize code itself. No computer today can do this, and I think it's a long, long way off.

    Software engineering will never be a "blue-collar" environment, and certainly not because of natural language compilers. The invention of the printing press didn't turn every man into an author, and VB doesn't turn PHBs into engineers.

    Ian Samuel

  • by Malor ( 3658 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @03:22PM (#365661) Journal
    Great article -- thanks for the pointer.

    In the 1970s, engineers were the same hot property that programmers were last year. During the grinding 1970s recession, times got very tough for them. Many of them lost their homes. Nobody but engineers could afford the payments, and there wasn't much work for engineers. Many of them ended up simply defaulting on their debts, walking away from houses where they owed more (sometimes a lot more) than what they could sell the house for.

    It is no coincidence that the big financial companies are pushing through the bankruptcy legislation now. Their stories of abuse are foolish, but people are buying it. ("bankruptcy frauds" now joins "deadbeat dads" and "welfare moms" in the Archive for Scary Stories About Bad People and How We Shouldn't Let Those Bastards Get Away With It.)

    They are not pushing through this legislation because of existing abuses. It is because the lenders have been irresponsible and want to make sure that We the People pay for their mistakes. It's a good step along the path back to debtor's prisons. (And if that doesn't scare you, go study your history books. See: "American Revolution, Causes Of.")

    If you are a techie, don't set yourself up to rely on the extraordinary incomes of the last few years. Some of us will do fine and will continue to make good money, but many of us will not. Really good performers will always tend to do well -- but there are a lot of marginal people that have been brought into the industry by the 'gold rush' and it's going to take quite awhile to weed them out. Eventually they will go back to jobs which fit their talent levels better, but that's a ways off yet. There will probably be four or five years of tech oversupply.

    Could be longer if industry keeps whining about the H1-Bs (aka indentured servants. See: "American Revolution, Causes Of.")
  • The ring is a great way to spot canuck engineers when they're over the border - most americans don't wear them, IIRC it's not as big a deal as it is here.

    "Engineer" is protected by law here, like a legal or medical designation, and you can get in big doo-doo if you use the word anywhere w/o being a P.Eng. MCSE's aren't allowed to spell out what those letters mean, even, on business cards / course offerings here in New Brunswick.

  • by Wansu ( 846 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @07:05PM (#365671)
    Me and my engineering buddies were laughing our asses off over this article. I like the 36 year old "programmer" who listed his skills as c, java, xml, cgi, js, fortran, basic. That sentence is like a giant red flag

    Agreed. Jack of all trades, master of none ...

    36 years old and only making 110k a year?

    You'd be surprised at how many good system programmers over 40 make less than $100k a year. It depends on what part of the country too. $100k isn't that high a figure in California but it is in North Carolina.

    By 36, a programmer should have his shit together in a big way or he should be in management.

    Perhaps, assuming this person started at age 23. Suppose someone starts at age 36 and gets 5 years of solid systems programming. They might be promotable to senior level developer but probably not a manager unless they were in there previous career say as a mechanical engineer. Arguably, they should at least have their shit together in a fairly substantial pile.

    We've all been waiting for the other shoe to drop so we could laugh at these poseurs.

    I understand the resentment toward html editors using M$ playtoys calling themselves programmers but I wouldn't be so smug. I've worked through the last 3 major recessions. This one came on alot faster than the others. The layoff news stories are coming at a much more rapid clip this time. The trend looks very ugly.

    Regardless what your race is, using the "N" word is ill advised, particularly in mixed company.

  • Your statement is just plain discriminatory. Insert blacks into that statement and you'd be flame'd to hell.

    People assume that "kids" can't program, and aren't up to date with their technology or buzz word compliance. People who makes statements like yours make me sick sometimes. I've been in places where I was blantly discriminated against and harassed because of my age, and you sound like the type of individual to propagate this type of attitude. I've endured pizza-face jokes, "past-your bed time jokes" and numerous other slanderous comments. It takes me months longer than it should for me to earn the respect I deserve.

    The answer to your question is a bunch: I am currently working on my 4th such project, and I am not alone. (my 20th birthday will be in april).

    In one recent job, I was the head of a team of programmers moving a legacy codebase into a robust n-tier application using cross-platform ANSI C, DCOM with CORBRA support modules, including support for advanced load-balancing and fail-over capabilities by using preliminary XML-RPC and XML messaging distributed amoung a number of machines with varying hardware and software configurations. We finished exactly on time, and vastly under budget. My whole team got huge cash bonuses and great recognition in the eyes of management.

    That job was the worst experience of my life, because I was in an authority position over five 40-something developers who had serious ego issues with being managed by a teenager. The upper management almost canned me not because of the project goals, not because of technical reasons, but because my co-workers couldn't handle the fact that I had the skills and they didnt. I was working a 60-hr work week and holding down a 19-credit hour college schedule. When crunch time came, three of my coders couldnt commit to me even 5 extra hours in the last week of the project. From Monday morning till Thursday afternoon I worked, non-stop, literally 100 straight hours, to finish the project, 50% under budget, and precisely to specification.

    My co-workers hated me, and for the main reason that they couldn't handle the fact that the big boss chose me to head the project. They resented me. Even though I had numerous similiar projects completed, was willing to work the hours they weren't, and had previously proven my management skills.

    You may think it is funny. I don't. When that contract expired they tried to get me for another few months I told them to screw off. I am experienced (I have been working with distributed applications and XML since thier modern adoption, I have never met anyone who has worked with DCOM & XML enviornments longer), confident, extremely hard working, come packed with stellar references and well developed design, coding and management skills. My biggest problem seems to be that time after time people resent me because I am young. Co-workers hassle me because they're 19 yr old son is working at Wendy's. Fifty-year old secrataries are pissed off because they heard a rumor that I make more than people who have been with the company for 20 years. Management looks three or four times at me, and even literally questions me under hot lights because they think I must be too good to be true.

    Open your mind. Look hard, and help a developing programmer, regardless of age. In my life I try to respect all people and judge their skills first. I don't care much about the details. I've worked with 65-yr old coders, 40-yr old coders, and 15-yr old coders. Its all the same to me. Do the job. Do it right. Do it fast. Do that, and you have my respect.

    Final word. Someday your generation will be older, barely able to find work because of antiquated skills, higher cost of benefits, and general age discrimination. About that time I may be running my own development outfit, or perhaps running an engineering group.
  • by vinnythenose ( 214595 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @03:24PM (#365676)
    It looks like to me that most of the people having troubles are the die-hard HTML, ASP, CGI, etc etc. A trend perhaps? It always seemed to me that this whole web programming thing seemed kind of thin as a career move. To me it looks more along the lines of say, doing art or music. For a while the demand could be there for your talents but then wish, market downturn and it's not a required skill anymore.

    Also, it has seemed like that sort of thing (web programming) is something almost anyone can pick up on their own or in a one or two year program. The demand as the article said, is still out there for engineers, thing 4-5 years for a bachelors. With that much training you're more marketable.

    Getting a job on little or no degree (diploma's included) seem to me as a starting point. Get the job, get working, save money, get a bachelor's in something, otherwise you're expendable.

    But that's just my humble inexperienced position. Two more years and real world hear I come, then I get to learn how wrong I really am about everything :)

  • The end result id natural language programming. You literally tell the computer what you want it to do, and its amazing compiler will produce perfect code.

    And you base this theory on what? The perfect understanding that people have when communicating using natural languages? Give me a break.

    Artificial programming languages are never going to go away, because they are clear (to the computer) exactly what you mean. The evolution you are talking about in programming languages is making the languages clear to the people who use the computers. But there still needs to be a good mapping between the high level language used for programming and the low-level language the high level language is morphed into. This is why understanding pointers is important for Java programmers, even if you can't directly manipulate them in Java. I don't see English or Russian or even Esperanto being able to provide the same sort of mathematical mapping.

    I do think you are right, though. Programmers are going to be the assembly line workers of the 21st century.


  • by geomcbay ( 263540 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @03:28PM (#365684)
    For the record, I dislike Ayn Rand (on an intellectual, not personal level..alas I did not know her).

    While the responses are somewhat cold, they do carry a valid message. Despite the ominous headlines here and on Salon's original article, the people they are talking about (if you read the article very carefully) aren't hardcore programmers, they are more like sysadmins with some level of web-ish scripting skills.

    Now... while it sucks that people are losing their jobs, I think the point other people are trying to make is that for 'real' programmers (I'm sure to get flamed for this, but oh well) -- those who know (or can easily learn) many different languages (including at least a few that would be considered 'system' level and not all high level scripting) -- things are still peachy. There's not nearly the gloom and doom hanging over us that these articles suggest.

    I get cold called by recruiters who somehow have seen my resume from 1+ years ago multiple times a week, and I'm not even looking for a job (and I'm not bragging, I'm sure this is par for the course for all similiar experienced programmer types).

  • I agree that increasing the popularity of programming is a good thing, but I don't even know where to start explaining what's wrong with your method.

    First of all, natural language at what level? Clearly I can't just say to the computer "Hey, create me a report." It's going to need to know source data, selection criteria, subtotaling, etc.

    Second of all, there are many many details that go into a "solution". Natural languages skate over these because we generally don't need to specify them. Not, I hasten to add, because everybody already knows about it (in which case just tell the computer and then it would know too). Natural language just isn't all that precise about some things. "I gave the boys two balls." How many boys? Two balls each or two balls total? Gave as a gift or just handed to them?

    Programming languages aren't just regular languages with a lot of extra punctuation. Each "word" in a programming language has an exactly specified meaning and function. But natural languages have fluid meanings--even the parts of speech don't stand still! "You can verb any English noun" my friend used to say.

    That precise, technical quality serves two functions. The one that's obvious to every programmer is that computers don't understand anything else. The other function is: algorithms themselves often (always?) need precise definitions. Sure, the computer can create a precise algorithm from a fuzzy natural language input--but is it the one meant?

    This would all be obvious if you thought about what you were saying: You want a device that can take a natural language specification and output a working program, right? We already have that device--it's called a programmer. And how often does the programmer have to come back with questions? Pretty damn often. And how many people can successfully talk to a programmer such that the programmer outputs a program that the user wanted? Not very many--that's why we have "analysts" (and humor sites about stupid users).

    It all boils down to this: At least 50% of people don't know what they want. At at least 50% of the people who do, don't know how to ask for it.
  • I think it will help make computer science (and other similar) degrees more important. It will also increase the value of experience. Companies will now be a lot more carefull on who they hire. They are going to want to see more proof that the prospective developer can get the job done well. Things like college GPA (especially in you major) and performance at previous jobs will matter. Interviews will become more technical.
    In the end it will probably be better for people that are good at what they do. The industry will see them as more important, find that they are rare, and be willing to pay even more for them. Although companies are going out of business, there are new opportunities elsewhere. DotComs may be dying off but all software development isn't. Code doesn't write itself and it will not for a long, long time. There are still problems that people want solved that require someone getting some kind of computer hardware to do things it wouldn't do all on its own.
  • Agreed.

    As a lab assistant in my college days (back shortly pre-'Internet Time', in 93) I had the dubious honour of hand holding first year students through basic pascal programming assignments. You could tell from day one who was going to make it. The way you did it was say, "OK, tell me, in english how you would accomplish this task..." and outline an analouge of the program they were required to write. The ones who would score A eventually would describe the process in detail using words like "while" and "for" natually. The ones who would score Bs eventually would describe it in fuzzier language, but still get the point across. When you got to the C level, the answers would get closer to "I would just sort them."

    In every case I can remember my predictions bore out. I cannot imagine a natural language that would cope well with "Just sort them." as a program. :)

    What it will do is allow people who may have poor rote memories and other LDs but have solidly logical minds (there are lots of them out there) play in the same field as programmers (I've since moved to Sys/Network admin/Team leader/manager jobs myself). More power to them. I still seriously doubt that there will be no demand for people who know lower level languages. I mean there's still a demand for good assembly language programmers, especially since they are usually the best C,C++ programmers since they understand the basics so well.

    Remove the rocks to send email
  • I agree. I'm not even sure consumer credit should be legal. It is not a rational business transaction - rather it's akin to drug peddling. Traditionally it was called usury and prohibited. People who want to borrow money at high interest rates in order to buy luxuries are people with poor understanding of finances. And people who accomodate them are predators.
    Paradoxically, I favor drug legalization. So maybe banning usury wouldn't be much of a panacea - we'd shift from MasterCard/VISA to street corner loansharks. The Usury Enforcement Agency would keep demanding more helicopters, automatic weapons and wiretaps.
    I do resent the deep integration of the credit system with American commerce. Even when you pay cash, you're subsidizing this highly objectionable system.
  • Of course, this is far off, but we can see the effects of the easyness of programming in the modern age even now. You used to need a mathematics degree and be a top flight academic to be a programmer, back in the beginning.

    What the heck did a math degree every have to do with programming? How this post got rate "Interesting" I have no idea. Back in the old days it was not a matter of high level degrees, but access, because the computers were so expensive only a few could use them.

    Today almost everyone who wants access can have a computer orders of magnitude faster than the original clunkers which were once solely the purvey of your "top flight academics". Thus it is a heck of a lot easier to learn how to program.

    Granted, programming languages are getting simpler to use, but building a complex app in any language is still a very difficult endeavor. Languages like Java make it easy for novices to build simple apps, but writing a solid program with any thing over a few thousands lines of code and integrating your work with the work of others is still just about as hard in Java as it is an any other language.

    So yes, the unwashed massed of 'programmers' whose expertise stops at the point of an applet or scripting single web pages are going to have a hard time find jobs in a tight economy, because there are so many of them - but those with the skills to engineer large, complex systems will always have a job.


  • I work in embedded systems (firmware, device drivers, etc.). This world is almost unaffected by the DotCom cruch. I think it is for exactly the reasons you state. This area requires a real engineering background. Experience in it is not easy to come by in the begining and people don't always stick with it. This keeps the pool of workers small, while the demand remains as high as ever. Sometimes, the lower level you go, the better you do. Nothing worth doing is easy and nothing easy is worth paying a lot for.
  • If you're good at what you do, then you don't have to worry about getting fired. If you're good at doing what you do, then you don't have to worry about being rehired. I'm good at what I do, so I'm not worried. It's not like I'm living under the sea.

    If only it were that simple... Maybe you got your current job from a college career center that avoided alot of the interview process... maybe you're layed off not because you aren't qualified, but the company tanked and no one keeps there job... whatever region you're working in is so strapped, that there are NO open jobs in your field. It doesn't matter how qualified you are if you aren't in control of a zillion other factors. But do your best and you might be able to squeek on through.

    We don't live in some utopian meritocracy. Sometimes even the most qualified people get screwed. But think of unemployment as a chance to develop yourself outside of your work. Do overlook training. Read a classic, learn to paint, spend time with your kids.


    And yes. I still have my job, and my company's fairing alright. But you can still listed to what I have to say.
  • by sleeper0 ( 319432 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @03:35PM (#365714)
    "HTML engineer" was the biggest myth of the last two years. Suddenly, if you had the attention span to read a book on HTML, you could get an $80k+ job inside the engineering department no problem. Here in san francisco, that was absolutely because there were hundreds of hopefully ecommerce shops run by MBA's with 0 technical knowledge. They would pile on the "engineers", who often with little experience would flounder... none of these companies were working very efficiently. Fast forward a year, and yeah, it's a lot harder to get that kind of job. People won't kiss your ass for having read a book and having designed your own homepage. You don't get a six figure signing bonus for knowing how to place images in tables. I know it's been said before, but good riddence. San Francisco had been torn apart by new money. $3000/mo 500 sq ft. flats. Overheard party circuit conversations about feeling sorry for the poor people "but honestly what do they expect". More mercedes benz automobiles than hondas. Honestly, you couldn't have lived in the bay area for the last three years and not been overwhelmed by it, even if you were part of the problem. I think what the salon article meant to say was "Tech Job Hunting returns to normal: Tough but fair". It may mean that with 2 years of experience you'll be struggling to sell yourself to a potential client. It may mean that what you got used to as a standard of living wasn't real. But as for a programmer with real experience and modern skills, there is most certainly work out there. I am both an engineering consultant and a staff member in an engineering consulting firm. While there is no doubt that demand has waned, My own services have stayed very much in demand and pricing hasn't dropped much from my peak of $250-$300/hr. I have found that those that we worked with with at least five years of coding are similarly in demand. We have also had some success placing other, but these rates have dropped significantly. At one point we were able to charge $110-$125 for QA, $125-$150 for design and $150-$200 for mid level programmers. These rates are now more like $40-$50 for QA, $50-$60 for design and $60-$90 for contract programming. I actually think $120k/year + overtime for doing HTML design is DAMN GOOD PAY. It'll just take a while before folks can swallow the bitter pill they have been handed. But when they do, they'll do just fine. Perhaps they won't be eatingf lunch at aqua anymore. Sleeper
  • It's always a sure sign a company is going down, though, when they start by laying off their marketing folks. I can think of at least three friends who worked at marketing positions who've been laid off in the past 6 months. I know what companies I'm not investing in!
  • The end result id natural language programming. You literally tell the computer what you want it to do, and its amazing compiler will produce perfect code.

    Yup. Exactly. When you (or anyone else) get good, like really good, at C++ or Java or whatever you will eventually get to a state where writing the code is just not difficult. Like, as easy as speaking. Pretty well all the software engineers I've worked with have got to this state. Then all that remains is to explain to the machine exactly what it is you want it to do. Like, exactly. This is almost immeasurably hard and is the chief cause of failure in software projects. Arguably the only cause of failure.

    Natural language programming will, kinda obviosly (IMHO) not get around this fact.

  • <rant type="self-pitying">
    I'm out of work right now (right out of college - doh) and I've been applying to every job that looks interesting for weeks. I may not be Alan Cox, but I'm not a neophyte who just picked up "Perl for Dummies". In fact I'm damn good at Perl, PHP, C, C++, and hell, I could probably pick up Ada or Smalltalk again if I had to. But no one will even call me back. Jobs that are listed on Monster, Dice, even companies' web sites turn out to be "on hold." What the hell am I doing wrong, or do I just need to quit being picky and go apply for those "experience in Microsoft Internet technology preferred" jobs? This is driving me nuts.
  • Natural language isn't good enough to precisely express many problems.

    Being a better way to express what I said. And shorter. And ironically proving the point in the process, kinda.

    Hmmm, time for the blue pills obviously.

    Dave :)
  • .. but am employed now. The pay rates were slighly over inflated, just 6 months ago. Just last year you 'd be able to, as the article suggests, get a job in 2 weeks. That has changed. Employers are being more picky. They are also paying less. Perl programmers should not expect large 70k+ salaries for Jr or entry level. Expect 45k to 55k or even less. Not all but most. Many companies realize that there have been so many people laid off that are tech skilled and they are taking advantage of that. I to am like "Mike of the article" Skilled in C/C++, Java Perl, etc, but unles you are skilled at the Sr or better level you are still hurting.

    This is a good article, but the downturn started in December. That was when it started to get more difficult. I have friends that think that they can make those same salaries that they used to make and they are still unemployed. I klooked for a lower salary and got a job. I am even making a little more than I was before I got laid off.

    Of course normally when you leave a job an dgo to a new job you get a 20% pay increase, I only got about 3%. I am happy to be employed, but it took 6 weeks.

    I don't want a lot, I just want it all!
    Flame away, I have a hose!

  • by cube farmer ( 240151 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @03:37PM (#365723) Homepage

    Damn. I've been watching too many Disney flicks with my kids:

    I'm not worried

    It's not like I'm living under the sea.

    It's the circle of life.

    Be our guest.

    It's a small world after all.

    Coincidence? Or Vast Media Conspiracy []?

  • I agree, in that I also believe that we will see continuing improvements in end-user programming environments.

    OTOH, I don't buy the magic self-programming computer. This sort of prognostication is much like the now-laughable predictions in the early 1950's by an MIT professor that "I think that within five years we will have computers that can think."

    That is, the problem of "programming" the computer via natural language is so vast as to be nearly equivalent to the (now somewhat discredited) goal of "classic" AI to put a brain in a box (or rather, create a non-embodied AI). Why? Because "natural language" lacks precision and information. Anyone who's had to reconcile marketing "requirements" with engineering reality will realize the incredible disjoint here. In its most general form, you are creating a programmer AI who:

    1. Must be able to productively negotiate with the human client to determine the actual problem to be solved. ** This is one of the top skills of good lead-level programmers.
    2. Must be able to analyze and understand the problem domain at least partially independently of the human client's input. In the real world, this often means consulting with a variety of humans involved with the problem, doing research, and relying on a staggering amount of world knowledge from having been a human being in the world for a few decades.

    No, I believe that highly skilled humans will always remain a part of the "programming" process even in the distant future (unless/until the very notion of "human" itself is challenged, ala some Brin short stories in Otherness.) As knowledge and technology improve, the capabilities of end-users will increase... as will the capabilities of the highly skilled software creators. Such "programmers" will be empowered by ever more sophisticated knowledge of software architecture, HCI, algorithmics, and lessons of history... along with some powerful software tools. But in the end, it will be humans using tools to craft things that have value to the human experience.

  • Okay, I understand that. I thought you were bashing VB simply for the fact that it is a RAD tool. RAD tools are useful. We just disagree on the choice of tools (btw, I do have a certain place in my heart for Delphi, and when the Linux version is truly ready, I will find myself working with that more.

  • Unemployment in many countries (including the US) is at or near all-time low. It's never been easier to find a job (except maybe a year ago, which is irrelevant since that was an aberration).
    Now you are being silly and confusing aggregate statistics with what it's like for an individual to get a job. The unemployment rate acts as one of a number of factors that help you judge the state of a regional economy, but it doesn't effect your job prospects much.

    Statistics are the aggregate of what it's like for all the individuals to find jobs, so yes, they're quite informative.

    Unemployment is near an all-time low. I guarantee you that all these jobs are not for steamship coal-shovelers, or barrelwrights, or phrenology assistants. Rather, a disproportionate number of open positions are in high tech.

    Unemployment is in fact lowest in the areas with the most high-tech work. So, the more programmers around you, the easier it is for you (as a programmer, after all the topic of this post) to find a job.

    I am sure you can come up with someone in Moonpie, Alaska who got laid off from the only dot-com in town and who is now having trouble finding JavaScript work. But that has nothing to do with anything except for one lone loser who isn't matching his skills with his choice of location. The same could be said for a forest ranger in Brooklyn; doesn't mean it's hard for forest rangers in general to find jobs.

  • If less is charged for software, less money is made on software; less money exists to pay people working with it.

    Ah, I see the problem here.

    You don't work in the software industry; you just make stuff up about it.

    In point of fact, almost all programmers do not work on producing software for sale or distribution. They work or consult for organizations that are producing or maintaining custom software for specific purposes.

    So yes, the spread of open-source tools and baseband software infrastructure means these people can be more productive for less money and therefore increase the rate of return per $$ spent on hiring them, and therefore economically rational employers will hire more of them and pay them more money.

  • The tech boom definitely shifted the balance of power towards programmers, and that's a good thing. I hope it lasts through the recession, if any. The perks you cite, PC's, foosball and 'team-building' are just frills. Cheap for the employer and unimportant for the employee.
    What's really important is freedom. That means:
    • Controlling your own workstation. Running whatever OS you want, as long as it interoperates with company systems.
    • Working your own schedule. (Not short hours, but flexible hours.)
    • Controlling your immediate physical space - no flourescent lights or motivational posters.
    • Fast, uncensored internet access.

    Those things have become far more prevalent, fortunately. Let me have them, and you can keep the foosball, sushi, massages, whatever.
  • Just after I resigned an engineering job. When it gets up to a few days, I'll start to worry.

    The real answer is to keep up and stay profitable. Businesses love profitable. Don't think of them as employers, think of them as folks who will let you use their capital and resources to make both of you money. Everybody works for themselves, and always has. The business has needs and resources. You have needs and resources. These resources may interlock (you need money, they need code...)

  • by susano_otter ( 123650 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @03:44PM (#365748) Homepage

    So let me get this straight: This guy is getting paid ~$60k/year, and all he can do is complain that he's not being paid an over-inflated $110k/year?

    Oh, wait: he has to put a little effort into finding a job, now. It might take him a whole week of trying to get in touch with potential employers to find a job. Boo fucking hoo.

    And what kind of idiot leeches Salon's office equipment because they want to "avoid a trip to Kinko's"? Didn't he just come off two years of $100/hour contracts and $100/year salaries? What an ass.

  • We started of with machine code, moved into assembler, then to Fortran, then C, C++, and so *FORTH*.
    Indeed, so FORTH, so FORTH...

    Forth like you if honk then


  • by iso ( 87585 ) <`ofni.orezpraw' `ta' `hsals'> on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @03:46PM (#365753) Homepage

    this is why i work in marketing: there's always a need for more bullshitters!

    - j

  • by Anonymous Coward
    i guess this isnt any different from cnet's consistent scaremongering or flame-baiting as news, but seriously. is there anyone here who think that c/c++ coders cant get jobs?!

    it all depends on who you consider to be programmers. are you one of those guys who puts "5 years of HTML programming experience" on your resume?! if so, maybe youre in trouble...

  • This shouldn't be a big surprise. Just as any sector in the stock market has done in the past. It shouldn't be a shock that there are less jobs, the technology sector is just correcting itself after an over-expansion.
  • My .com I went searching about a month or so ago. I'm a skilled admin. I have 8 years experience with several good senior level consulting and engineering jobs behind me, so I'm not new to this. I work with NT (a lot), Linux (good bit), and Solaris (Some), as well as most network hardware. Over the last several years I've always had a huge response to putting out my resume.

    Not this time. I got calls, some goood, some bad, but not nearly in the volume I had seen before. With everyone saying "recession" the market is really on hold for a while. Companies just aren't hiring right now.

    I just took a contract position at a good company. I'm not doing as much UNIX or security work as I like but the pay is good and hopefully it will get me through this market downturn.

    The people I feel bad for are those in lower level positions. I'm sure they will be hit the hardest when out there looking.

  • by DHartung ( 13689 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @11:30PM (#365767) Homepage
    Wansu wrote:
    > 36 years old and only making 110k a year?

    You'd be surprised at how many good system programmers over 40 make less than $100k a year. It depends on what part of the country too. $100k isn't that high a figure in California but it is in North Carolina.

    Indeed, since cost of living differs a lot. The Salary Calculator [] shows that a $110K salary in San Jose is the equivalent of a mere $67K in Durham, whereas a $110K job in Durham would have to become a whopping $170K job in San Jose to meet the same quality of life.

    And a lot of people living in North Carolina would probably argue that you couldn't pay them twice that because the quality of life measured in non-dollar terms is much higher there. Never underestimate the nontangibles, like a nice home, more time with family, and so forth.

    Another factor to consider is that with a slightly lower salary, often, comes a considerably greater sense of job security. If you're just earning for yourself, hey, go for the gold. But if you have a family, you prefer the steady work, the health insurance, the 401(k) that come with a settled job. Those, too, can be worth a lot more than their simple dollar value.

    Anyway, I'm opposed to any snot snidely and snarkily commenting on 36-year-olds who "don't have their shit together", whatever that means. Not everybody follows the same path, and what should matter is how applicable your particular technical skills are. I couldn't stand helping end-users once I got past 30, so I boosted my skills. But this industry is full of round pegs and square holes [cubicles]. If he hasn't learned that by now ....
  • I disagree that the market is flooded. I just think it's flooded with crappy people. The company I work for is a solutions center (Oakscape []) attached to a recruiting firm (CMC []). CMC, has the developers in the solutions center do the technical interviews for the people they place, so I do quite a few interviews of "J2EE developers". They are given grades (A-F) in their apptitude in Object Oriented Concepts, Swing, JSP, Servlets, EJB, and SQL. These are then put together as a final letter grade.

    The questions I ask aren't hard, they are just supposed to show me that the person really has worked with the technology enough. But most people really do poorly, even though they have experience. They can't list a couple classes from the javax.servlet.http package. They don't know what a RequestDispatcher does. They don't know how to pass informatin from a Servlet to a JSP that you dispatch to, they don't know what web.xml is, they don't know anything about tag libs. They have no understanding of EJBs beyond the fact that there are two main types (Session and Entity).

    They are often okay with SQL, which is good, although I did have a certified Oracle DBA who was unable to do a two table join.

    It's okay to know know every one of these things. You won't get a perfect grade, but you can miss a couple of these and still get a B- in overall J2EE (minimum to be hired in the solutions center, but for recruiting it depends on what the hiring company wants). But every candidate I've had will maybe get one out of the above correct, and those are just the easy questions. I can't even move on to the harder ones, because it's obvious they don't have the basis.

    • If I were an otherwise qualified 24 year old...

    The qualifications start with "college degree (or equivalent experience)" and "5 years industry experience."

    If you have that by 24, you're hired.

    But no foosball table!

  • by Curro Lopez ( 253680 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @03:49PM (#365771)
    I was the best programmer in my university (acording to performance in contests). I am also a good mathematician. I am very flexible, can learn a new programming language in one week and I speak three languages.

    I spent a year working in the USA and then my company ran out of money. I have been looking for another job for six weeks now, and I haven't had any interviews yet. I am getting tired and I am probably coming back to Europe.

    What I see in the requirements of job openings is:
    - Object Oriented Stuff.
    - Experience with Sybase.
    - Lots of experience with C++.
    - Lots of experience with Perl.
    - 5 years IT experience.

    If what they are really looking for is good programmers, they are asking for all the wrong things. Why do they need experience specifically with Sybase? Doesn't it use SQL? Why is everybody mad about object oriented crap? What if you are not a U.S. Citizen?

    Since 1993, I've made a master level checkers program and a master level chess program in my spare time. But they don't consider that programming experience.

    As I said before, I will probably come back to Europe. I thought this country was good at attracting great brains, but that was some time ago.

  • by Skyshadow ( 508 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2001 @04:03PM (#365799) Homepage
    Hey, if we allow these Evil Debt-Carrying Slugs to get away with, say, paying child support before paying back the credit companies, how can Honest Good Corporate Citizens hope to pursue their God Given Right to Unnecessarily Huge Profit Margins at the Expense of Little People? How can they continue to blatently buy off politicians with huge campaign donations (MBNA gave the single largest campaign contribution to George W. and raised my interest rate the same week)?

    Damn; maybe this downturn will be a good thing. The second people see the economy going south and threatening them, we'll finally see them paying attention to some of the more outragous abuses by large corporations -- maybe we'll even see an end to the arrogence that we see around (including, and especially, here) that says poor people deserve it for being lazy, or any of the other BS that's easy to say 'cause you don't know anyone in a bad spot.


"To take a significant step forward, you must make a series of finite improvements." -- Donald J. Atwood, General Motors