Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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7/20/2005
11:23 AM
David  DeJean
David DeJean
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Bill Gates Wants You -- Maybe

Bill Gates wonders why more students don't go into computer science. Salaries and job openings are on the rise, he says. Why heck, Microsoft can't hire as many people as it needs, he says. Yesterday Hewlett Packard said it would lay off 14,500 people. Maybe that should give him a clue. Out here in the real world, computer jobs are still hard to come by, and really good computer jobs have just about become extinct since the Internet bu

Bill Gates wonders why more students don't go into computer science. Salaries and job openings are on the rise, he says. Why heck, Microsoft can't hire as many people as it needs, he says.

Yesterday Hewlett Packard said it would lay off 14,500 people. Maybe that should give him a clue. Out here in the real world, computer jobs are still hard to come by, and really good computer jobs have just about become extinct since the Internet bubble burst in 2001.

Gates was speaking at Microsoft's Research Faculty Summit event in Redmond. Also on the podium was Maria Klawe, Princeton University's dean of engineering and applied science. Klaw said students she talks are afraid of computer science jobs -- afraid they would doom them to isolating workdays fraught with boredom -- nothing but writing reams of code.I think it's even worse than that. In the real world, computer jobs have lost prestige, and respect, and even worse, dependability. Corporate managements, which never really understood the value of information technology, have decided they spent way too much for IT in the past, so they're punishing IT for their own ignorance. Most IT departments have enjoyed big cuts in manpower, which leaves fewer people doing more work while being constantly reminded how useless they are.

How many companies that held sales meetings in fancy resorts last year also held IT meetings in fancy resorts? Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying salespeople don't deserve a junket now and again. But the perks tell the tale. My guess is the perks of most IT departments rank just slightly above the perks of the janitorial staff in the same building.

IT departments have become the assembly lines of the New Economy, and computer jobs, which once were actually stimulating, have by and large become only slightly more interesting than bolting fenders on Fords.

Of course, Gates was talking about computer scientists, not quality-assurance engineers. Maybe a Ph.D. in Computer Science would be a good thing to get. But with tuition being what it is these days, the cost of an advanced degree from a good school that might make you look interesting to HR in Redmond is approximately equal to what Harding spent on his presidential campaign.

Maybe Microsoft would find it easier to hire computer geeks if it devoted some thought and effort to doing things that made computer careers more attractive. Memo to Bill: No. 1 item to leave off the list -- announcements that Microsoft is shifting more jobs to low-wage countries.

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