Business Technology: When Change Is Inevitable, Embrace It
There are signs that this extraordinary profession, which in 35 years has mutated in profound ways at breathtaking speeds, is simply in the midst of another massive overhaul, Bob Evans says.
Large-company CIOs are the most optimistic about adding new IT workers with the primary objective being the need to drive business growth, says a survey from Robert Half. Businesses in the following states were found to be the most likely to add staff: Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Three-quarters of all respondents said they need Windows NT/2000/XP administrators, followed by Cisco network administrators and Check Point firewall admins and SQL Server managers. The point: The sky isn't falling; it might have rained pretty darn hard, but the sky is still up there.
A growing number of universities and colleges are realizing they need to revise their thinking about computer-science requirements to give their students broader, more well-rounded educations: Ohio State's Stuart Zweben, chair of the computer and information-science department, says there needs to be a greater emphasis on how computers affect businesses operations, as well as on communication and collaboration. When it comes to imparting that wider perspective, "I don't think most schools do that great of a job," Zweben says. "We don't do it here." Others insist that broader view must not be limited exclusively to business, but rather the impact of technology on all types of organizations, from helping researchers find new drugs, or designers make sleeker cars, or police solve a crime. "The one thing that's more important now than before is having an understanding of the application's domain," says Gerald Engel, a University of Connecticut computer-science professor.
And at Carnegie-Mellon University, "We're teaching our students the ability to work in teams, helping them develop communications and interpersonal skills, so they can communicate with those who aren't necessarily as tech-savvy," says assistant dean of undergraduate education Mark Stehlik. My colleague Eric Chabrow put it this way: "This interdisciplinary approach might be the salvation for computer science and could eventually attract a different breed of student than from an earlier generation. 'The students who come in want to do more than just hack,' Stehlik says. 'Some students have political designs; they're interested in greater issues that confront society: security, privacy. We're seeing students who are extending the notion of computer science.' "
That, I think, is the proper perspective. IT isn't dying; it's evolving, growing, and becoming more ubiquitous. And as it changes--which it has always done and will always do, no matter how much we wish it might just level off--so will the worlds of business, medical, and scientific research, music, movies (think about the origin of that word and what it will mean to young children as they grow up and ask, "Why do they call it a 'movie'? Did there used to be 'stand-stillies'?"), education, communication, and every other facet of our lives.
Change is indeed constant, and we would all do well to embrace it.
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