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debate on computer programming careers

Why a career in computer programming sucks, and a rebuttal.

In a followup posting of Half Sigma's, someone wrote a response that resonated with me, especially the part about a lack of people with a middle-ground attitude towards the profession.



Nov. 29th, 2007 11:43 pm (UTC)
I can't speak for aeronautics, but the aerospace industry has a huge issue with skilled workforce. I sit on a couple of Industrial Base boards involving the space side of things and there is continual discussion about:
1) the aging workforce
2) need for development of a cadre of space professionals with appropriate skills
3) how shortages of people with the right skills (including, by the way, software development)) are impacting the industry

One difference is, of course, that importing engineers from outside the U.S. is not a feasible solution, due to security requirements.

However, the fear of losing work to companies overseas does play into space policy decisions. I read enough of the business section of the newspapers to know that there is a lot of concern about keeping Boeing competitive vs. Airbus, say, so it isn't just the space side of things.

No certification in aerospace engineering either. Professional Engineer registration is common for civil engineers, who deal with public works areas, but more controversial in other fields of engineering and I don't know anybody within the aerospace industry who has bothered.

As for required communications skills classes, in my undergrad days in course 2, one or two lab write-ups in each lab class were graded by a prof from the writing program.
Nov. 30th, 2007 01:31 am (UTC)
What do the people on your Industrial Base boards think they should do to encourage people (especially young people) to write software for the aerospace industry?

I don't know much about what kinds of software are written in the aerospace industry. From what I have seen on job postings, some it is real-time control. In commercial software, some people who do this design or develop phone software at places like Palm, Motorola, Apple, and now Google. Others design or develop switches, routers, etc. at places like Cisco or Juniper. I suppose robotics companies like iRobot compete for the labor pool as well.

Other people like cahwyguy do secure systems work. They have to compete with Microsoft, EMC, and the like. cellio's company does a lot of UI work. I suppose they have to compete with Yahoo!, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, and game companies.

Re: communications skills classes, when I took 6.033, one of the design projects and one of the weekly writing assignments were graded by the writing program. The program seems to be a bit more formalized now. But the sort of thing I'm thinking of is where you might have to spend a considerable amount of time explaining what you do to people who have little if any technical background. Not just in writing, but also verbally, and in situations where the company's future might hinge on whether both parties understand each other.
Nov. 30th, 2007 01:44 am (UTC)
Some of our software, particularly in my division, is aerospace stuff, generally for Air Force research projects. The stuff we do includes topics like information processing from airborne sensors, radar system control, target tracking, and multisensor data fusion, more than software control of the vehicles themselves. I'm working on a proposal involving multitarget tracking and fusion algorithms for space radar networks, for example.

I don't know what the aerospace industry is currently doing to encourage young software engineers to join it, but it seems to me that one obvious selling point is that, for national security reasons, your job is highly unlikely to be outsourced.
Nov. 30th, 2007 11:13 pm (UTC)
I'd say that, overall, the types of software written in the aerospace industry probably cover the gamut of software written in other industries. Flight software is somewhat specialized in that rad-hard processors are many generations behind what you or I can buy for our homes and there are often complex timing issues for critical data (particularly for satellites in orbits which give them limited contacts with ground stations). But there is also a lot of software written for ground systems, not to mention business applications (e.g. earned value management). Simulator development is a huge area, too.

The issue is not usually perceived as competition with other industries as an absolute shortage and most of the discussions I've been in are focused on how to get young people to consider math / science careers in general. There is, of course, some competition with the IT world, particularly for more researchy type jobs, but there is some belief that a lot of software types are not willing to work in an environment that requires security clearances.

In terms of solutions, they tend to be things like funding for scholarships. There is also a lot of interest in encouraging more science / math awareness in K-12 as a long term solution.

And, alas, there is a lot of whining and wailing without any action.

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