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Dec. 18th, 2007

Either some people whose blogs I read must be reading my mind, or there's something unsettling folks here in the SFBA. (Maybe it has something to do with the poor performance of the tech-laden NASDAQ lately.) Lynne Jolitz recently posted an article on the Silicon Valley middle class dilemma that touches on some things I've written about recently as well. I find it most interesting that she notes the risks people out here over 40 have getting a job that pays as well as previous jobs (if they're lucky enough to get a job). There are exceptions, of course, but she's a fairly influential and connected figure in BSD Unix computing circles; most likely many others are thinking what she is thinking.

So this is one reason why I don't fault anyone who decides to do something else besides science or engineering (especially software engineering). Even if it isn't always, or mostly true, that people over 40 are in danger of being forced out of the profession, the perception is enough to make people think twice about entering the profession in the first place.

I also found it interesting that her seventh-grade daughter is taking classes at Ohlone College now. Yet another example of an informed parent who knows what kind of education her child needs and where to get it if it's not offered through the standard channels.

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( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
firecat
Dec. 18th, 2007 09:12 am (UTC)
Inneresting article.
fauxklore
Dec. 18th, 2007 10:29 am (UTC)
I doubt any 18 year old decides what to study in college based on the risk of not being able to find well-paying work after 40.

The insurance issue she brings up is interesting and a good argument that we need reform in that industry.

The struggles to handle debt load are, I think, nothing new. Andrew Tobias wrote a very enlightening piece titled "Getting By on $100,000 a Year" some 20 years ago.

jessiehl
Dec. 18th, 2007 01:46 pm (UTC)
Yeah, but their parents make their college tuition conditional on a major that the parents think is employable and will provide job security. And college tuition is expensive enough these days that it's difficult to work your way through if you want to go to the sort of school whose name will get you a boost in the job market.

What gets me are the weird differences in parental opinion. I've known people whose parental financial support was conditional on their majoring in computer science, and people for whom it was conditional on their not majoring in computer science.
fauxklore
Dec. 19th, 2007 12:26 am (UTC)
Conditional parental support is, generally, a bad thing. I guess I'm lucky, in that respect. My brother got pressured into majoring into business instead of math because it was "more practical." It backfired as he hated it. He did eventually get his degree - in agricultural economics - and scrapes by doing a bit of bookkeeping to allow him to spend most of his time on music.

My father told me to study anything but engineering, but it wasn't an actual condition. I also played the game some by pointing out that all of the people from MIT's ME program who had applied to med school the previous 2 years had gotten in, keeping the hopes of "my daughter, the doctor" alive.

The danger of choosing something by what is employable is that engineering has always been cyclical. The hot major of my undergrad days was chemical engineering and a lot of folks scrambled to find other things to do when the oil industry collapsed in the early 1980's.
gregbo
Dec. 19th, 2007 07:14 am (UTC)
I wish I could find an article I read awhile back about kids who have stressed-out parents in tech. The kids decide the stress isn't worth it and pursue other careers.

Regarding debt load, I think there is a tendency here in the SFBA for people to buy homes or condos based on their projections of either what they will be worth when their stock options vest or a career of nondecreasing income. They don't take into account the likelihood of under- or unemployment, and if it happens, they're caught with huge debt. It's worse if they're carrying debt to begin with such as an expensive student loan.

I remember back in 1999 or so, someone from my chorus was selling their condo and wanted me to buy it. I declined, stating my reluctance to go into debt because I felt we were in a bubble that was about to burst, and I didn't want to have huge debt load in case I lost my job. Some people seemed to think that I was worrying too much, but look how things turned out.
jessiehl
Dec. 18th, 2007 01:42 pm (UTC)
Rather than making me regret my field, this article mainly adds to my perception that going out to California is overrated and that I probably don't want to live in Silicon Valley.

The perceptions right now about engineering in general, and software engineering in particular (judging by comments on College Confidential) are bordering on hysterical in some quarters. I'm kind of amazed at the contrast between what people believe and the actual experiences of my friends. Not to mention the entire thread on College Confidential about how engineering is insufficiently prestigious or well-paid...sometimes I wonder if I'm on a completely different planet than some of the speakers.
gregbo
Dec. 19th, 2007 07:24 am (UTC)
If you like moderate weather for most of the year; easy access to scenic areas (mountains, lakes, the ocean); a relatively liberal, ethnically diverse, educated populace; and so forth, the SFBA can be a great place to live. (Of course you have that in the Boston area, except the weather.) It's too bad the SFBA economy is so volatile.

I took a look at CC and saw some of your posts. I would read and post to it more often, but I don't have time. Thanks for at least warning people that it's a good idea to have a backup career plan.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )