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back to article 'Young people don't want to become like us', say IT pros

A third of IT professionals say their jobs appear geeky and boring, according to a study into why tech careers are not particularly popular with da yoof. Employment site CWJobs polled 576 working IT pros on fresh talent entering the industry and quizzed them on why young people weren't applying for techie positions despite …

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Happy

When at a party some pretty girlie asks you

'so what do you do?' to which you respond

'I'm an IT pro, you know work in IT'

Sort of kills the conversation at that point.

Better to lie and say stunt man, extreme sportsman or garage attendant.

That way you'll have more chance of copping off.

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You could say

I travel round the world, alternately taking myself round thousands of miles of rugged coastline or staying in luxury resorts in faraway places. Oh you mean how do I pay for it? Yeah, inbetween times I have to work on IT systems. Pays the bill you know?

You can try and explain how well-constructed algorithms are are like poetry or how a distributed system working in harmony is more beautiful to you than the finest ballet ever performed... but unless you're preaching to the already-converted it's not going to work.

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Devil

Re: You could say

Bingo David, I was going to say the same.

Work is _NOT_ life. Work is a source of income so you can _HAVE_ a life. Outside work you know. My wife has no clue what I do at work. Neither do my kids and that is exactly the way I want it. Neither do any of my friends who do not happen to be colleagues as well. No shop talk at the table, no shop talk in the bar.

That is probably one of the reasons why the IT profession on the continent is not so much of a a nerd central (especially in Eastern Europe).

They draw the work/life line in considerably more clear terms there. You do not need to explain to an Eastern European such basic concepts like "work != жизнь" for any values of жизнь, regardless of the amount of motivational posters, cosy happy color cushions, fruit bowl feeders in the kitchenette and socialist motivational slogans plastered on the office wall.

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You're right...

Yep, you're right. I used to say "I'm a software genius". My best friend and Best Man from my wedding would say "I fly fighter jets." He wasn't lying. Guess who got lucky more often?

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Anonymous Coward

Yeeesss

Or you could tell the truth and y'know, find someone who wants you for who you are?

If someone doesn't want to know you because of your job, it's the wrong person.

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Anonymous Coward

@Voland's right hand

Spot on post and I feel exactly the same way. Work is a means to an end. When I get home, the last thing I want to think about is work. Saps the soul no end. I don't talk about work at home or to friends as it's exceedingly dull.

Have lots of thumbs up from me.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yeeesss

That only works if there are enough people who do want you for who you are.

If you work in IT, it's probably there ain't. Fact of life :(

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Anonymous Coward

It's not so much the topic of the conversation, it's the, cliched but unfortunately real, appalling social skills that often to come with it. In reality it's easy to tell the truth about your occupation in IT but how you stress the relative importance of this compared to other factors are critical.

For example, in response to the "so what do you do?" question you could either respond:

"I'm an IT pro, you know I work with computers"

or

"I work at XYZ company in the IT department; It's a nice company to work for and the people are friendly. What do you do?"

In the first you're killing the conversation yourself and making it appear that you value computers over people or the work place and almost being condescending about the intelligence of the other party - they'll know what computers are, the chances are they suffer with using them as well. It's always best to treat the other party as if they are at least as intelligent as you are.

In the second you're being honest that you work in the IT department but stressing that it's just one part of a company with other people and showing that you have a life beyond cursing the latest Microsoft monthly update. You're also giving the other party an opportunity to ask more about where you work and the people there and responding positively by trying to engage them in the next step of the conversation.

These examples may seem frivolous but they're just simple examples of where it's easy to go wrong.

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@AC 12:53

You are Dominic Connor, and I claim my five pounds

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Anonymous Coward

@AC: 12:53: Or you could say "I work at XYZ company in the IT department. It's a nice company to work for but everyone just shouts at me and blames everything that goes wrong on the IT guy. I basically get called a cnut every day of my working life. The business users all look down on me." Wouldn't want to lie would you?

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Boffin

Todays youth are the "E-Generation". E of course stands for Entitlement

Most of the kids today don't know what work is. They want to play and be entertained all the time. I know of two boys that play games most of the day and have mentioned more than once about being a game programmer. Yet both boys are barely passing school and seem headed towards a life of manual work and a lifetime of dependence on their parents. With the new US health bill allowing children up to 26 to remain on the parents healthcare....seems the US government just doesn't understand the idea of children growing up and being self-sufficient. Children want to be given jobs that they like and don't understand the reality of how life really is. The kids just want to have stuff done for them...since most mothers still treat their children like babies. I know, because I was married to a woman who was more interested in pleasing the boys every whim over being a responsible parent/adult and focus on raising a future responsible citizen. There's a time and place for work and play. Kids today don't get that...yet.

I consider today's youth the "E-generation". E of course stands for Entitlement

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Theatre plays are like real time software

I would agree it's all about presentation and context. I was in a lovely theatre play a few years back and if I wanted to put an "interesting" (define that!) spin on computing (if it ever needed it), I would describe a theatre play as having things in common with real time software:

Multiple-threads of execution - multiple actors doing different things

Real time nature - things HAVE to happen at certain times

Synchronisation - some things have to happen in sync with others

Testing - rehearsals

Debugging - removing/modifying troublesome parts of a script (actor's lines or sequence)

Scripts!

Version Control - we all had to edit our scripts in the same way at the same time to be sure we knew what we were supposed to be doing

Subsystems - different parts of the the Theatre's Company (different roles)

Can you think of any more?

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Anonymous Coward

@AC 18:03

Still don't lie - it's not worth it except for a one nighter!

Tackling the blame culture of IT staff can be hard to achieve but like most things in the world it's critical to understand that it's a people business. Unfortunately a lot of IT staff either don't understand this or don't know how (or perhaps the experience) to relate positively with non-technical staff or those that aren't colleagues. There are plenty of things you can do to help this but the most important is to relate to those that you work with as if they are human; Learn their names, learn to recognise them and remember something about them so next time you meet them, ideally when they don't have a computer problem, you can engage with them meaningfully. Just sitting down and listening to their problems, demonstrating sympathy and empathy makes a world of difference - if they feel that you understand their problem and would like to resolve it as much as they would like it resolved then you will be given a lot more leeway and understanding in return. Remembering something about them other than their computer problems will make them feel more valued as a person and not as a source of problems. If you find it hard remembering things about them, other than repeated practice, you can always apply the time old salesman trick of making notes about them and looking them up before you next meet - just don't let them know this is how you remember them. Don't be ashamed or awkward about doing this as It's not really cheating, it's an aid to memory, and before too long you will start to genuinely remember things about people.

All this is in fact quite easy, but won't feel it when you are run so ragged that you don't have the time but try it whenever possible even then. It does take practice but it is very rewarding and can open up some unexpected opportunities and can lead to a happier and more fulfilling working environment.

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JC_
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FAIL

@GotThumbs

With the new US health bill allowing children up to 26 to remain on the parents healthcare....seems the US government just doesn't understand the idea of children growing up and being self-sufficient. Children want to be given jobs that they like and don't understand the reality of how life really is. The kids just want to have stuff done for them...

What utter bollocks! The US government (actually the Democrats) understand that not having healthcare is a disaster waiting to happen, as well as economically inefficient. This is one small way that the ACA ('Obamacare') increases coverage*.

Really, what is it with IT that attracts all the Ayn Randians? You guys know she signed up for Social Security & Medicare, right?

(* single-payer universal coverage would be best, but not politically-feasible, hence the ACA having to include a lot of alternatives such as allowing children to remain on their parent's plans for longer.)

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Pint

Welll...

Most IT jobs -are- boring. There's nothing exciting or glamourous about changing printer cartridges and rebooting Windows laptops all day. There are some interesting roles, but the industry as a whole doesn't present the most appealing image.

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Jad
Thumb Up

Re: Welll...

We had a student with us on placement and we gave him a nice project to play with.

after spending weeks researching and learning and designing and coding and testing and re-coding he looked at me with a beaming smile on his face and said "Done it ... what shall I do now?"

I replied "Roughly the same thing for the rest of your life!"

The smile left his face ... I might have been being cynical, but I guess he realised something at that point because he left us and went off to become a teacher :)

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Unhappy

Re: "...the same thing for the rest of your life!"

A good example of how IT pros themselves can be some of the worst ambassadors for the career path you could ever come across. Like the ones who insists kids shouldn't be given saps like SCRATCH and BASIC and should get stuck in to C++ from the start - completely ignoring the way their own education was built up layer-by-layer and the professionalism of the teachers and authors they relied on along the way. Railing on someone's enthusiasm like that is simply apalling.

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Pint

Re: Welll...

The truth is that most jobs are boring, unless you can really enjoy the everyday detail. Here are some others. Car salesman. Estate agent. Hairdresser. Accountant. Garbage operative supervisor. Bus driver. Solicitor. Hotel manager. Starting to get the picture? Prefer any of those to IT? (the whole job, not just the over-inflated salary that some of them command).

The thing that's sick with society is celebrity culture, the whole idea that everyone should ape the glamourous, the rich and famous, the fashionable. Mostly what it breeds is dissatisfaction, unhappiness, low self-esteem, and a failure to realise that the reward of helping other people is not solely that it gets you a paid at the end of the month.

I've found a job that lets me spend a good part of my day solving puzzles (something I enjoy). It could be a lot worse. Also it's my job ... not my life.

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Re: Welll...

"The thing that's sick with society is celebrity culture" - Exactly Nigel. Spot on.

Many kids I meet are under the impression that they will all become famous and sing songs and act in movies. All these "talent" and celebrity shows have created a completely false impression of what life is likely to hold. Only a vanishingly small number of people will ever make a real living out of "begin famous".

We once interviewed one girl and asked her the classic "where do you see self in the future?" - the answer - "I want to be famous".

Most of the world does a job which is probably repetative and generally dull. The enjoyment comes from the people, the culture and the occasional challange, but most of the days will not constant excitement. The quickest route to misery is constantly dreaming of what can never be!

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Anonymous Coward

Garbage operative supervisor?

What the hell is that? You must work in IT.

Perhaps you just meant, "dustman".

This inanity is one of the worst things about working in Informatics, sorry, information technology, to use more syllables and make it sound cleverer than it is.

Actually, it is boring and frustrating and highly stressful for no good reason. It used to be almost fun. Now it is just windows interfaces to badly written systems written by somebody who never, intellectually, got past Janet and John or Noddy and Big Ears. Hours, days, years wasted getting around poorly implemented responses to badly designed solutions to misunderstood, wrong specifications for pointless or dodgy requirements.

The clever, interesting stuff is a minority sport, a small and lucky minority. The rest work for banks, "retail", finance and who knows what, battling through reams of dreadful documents, security, audit, control systems, management systems, nearly all in place to try to overcome the sheer idiocy and irresponsibility of know-all "IT specialists".

I and most other people in this line of work whom I know all advice our children to avoid IT at all costs. Actually, most are reasonably bright and have worked that out for themselves.

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"...kids needed to be taught early on about the joy of an IT department"

Yep, in History lessons. It was fun in the 70s and early 80s, but it's been downhill consistently from then. There may be exceptions, but generally management culture has all but killed the joy of SW/HW development.

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Re: "...kids needed to be taught early on about the joy of an IT department"

You don't say? The RBS arse-covering back-stabbing brown-nosing article on office politics is to turn anyone from from IT - at least in a corporate environment. Or maybe females would actually enjoy the excitement of that kind of soap opera...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "...kids needed to be taught early on about the joy of an IT department"

it's the way you say "females" that gives it away...

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Re: "...kids needed to be taught early on about the joy of an IT department"

What would prefer instead of 'females' - 'hot totty' perhaps?

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Unhappy

Re: "...kids needed to be taught early on about the joy of an IT department"

http://search.dilbert.com/comic/Project%20Approval

Says it all really.

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FAIL

Re: "...kids needed to be taught early on about the joy of an IT department"

"women"

Fucking hell. No wonder you "males" struggle to form relationships.

:(

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "...kids needed to be taught early on about the joy of an IT department"

Spreadsheet mouse-jigglers. OK an exception I am sure, but I used to know one who did this to impress everyone with her mad skillz. TBH she was surrounded by dopey male managerial types who probably thought it was coding.

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xyz
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Unhappy

I've got apprentices...

...and the problem is this. In ye olden days, you got an apprentice so you could train him up to bang out widgets like what Jethro has been doing for the last 40 years, so when Jethro coughs you had a new one to replace him. My idea, instead of giving them crap to do (sorry train them up from the bottom rung) is to give them all the future stuff (Mongo, HTML5, mobile/tablets etc) that I and the rest of the seasoned pros don't know, then in 5 years they can be my boss and I can retrain in all the stuff they don't know. This goes down badly with everyone who is not an apprentice due to something called "human nature."

Anyhoo, my point is that in a computer driven world you cannot expect new blood to be given old crap to do which is what happens to any "kid" who lands up in an IT dept because IT depts are full of old men from the 1990s who want to protect the status quo (i.e. their asses) and don't want flashy sods running about the place with new ideas and causing "chaos," so they only want to embrace the geek anyway. Lastly, who in their teens or twenties wants to look like M&S man?

Rant over.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I've got apprentices...

There is never an excuse for 'anyhoo'. Please don't do it.

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Payback

> instead of giving them crap... give them all the future stuff... then in 5 years they can be my boss

And the first they'll do is kick you into touch and bring in new, younger (than them) replacements as you won't have any relevant technical skills left.

Your first (some would say only) allegiance is to yourself, not to some newbie trainee. As such it's your responsibility to keep yourself current, in technical terms. Bringing in a subordinate is the ideal - possibly the only - way to free up enough of your time to learn a new language, or technique. It also helps the young 'un by giving them background in the stuff the operation is currently running on. Better; they have someone there to ask about things they don't understand, rather then being dropped in head-first if they'd simply been recruited as your replacement.

Sadly, nobody coming into IT these days has any sort of career path expectation. So it's unlikely that you'll be able to give your apprentoid a (manly) hug and say "someday, my son, all this will be yours" as in all likelihood it'll be shipped off to the far-east within a few years and both you and your protoges will be plodding the streets, wondering where it all went wrong. Yhat's the reason young people don't go into IT - lack of prospects, not because of dull work.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Payback

Agreed, young folks are perfectly capable of spotting all the news articles mentioning X thousand jobs shipped offshore. And they'ļl notice it's NEVER done because of skills or quality requirements. And I am sure they will notice hat most of the big IT/accounting consultancies have consistently dreadful reputations but ALWAYS get chosen for big IT contracts.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I've got apprentices...

"...old men from the 1990s who want to protect the status quo (i.e. their asses) and don't want flashy sods running about the place with new ideas and causing "chaos,"..."

You've really got a lot to learn. People who were working in the 1990s tend to be in their 30s/40s, hardly old. Also, if you haven't worked out that people with more experience than you, know more than you, you shouldn't be accusing them of stifling new ideas. I seem to be the person that you're speaking about, I'm 38 and have spent a long time in financial services IT, when people have flashy ideas that aren't properly thought through, stuff goes wrong. Usually your 30/40 year old guy can take one look at an idea and tell you if it's a goer or not.

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Devil

Re: I've got apprentices...

<rant> yeah right, and the young old men (and women) are mostly vicious, self absorbed narcissists in management, completely unaware of the coal faces of their "business" because they have evolved the idea it is clever to be ignorant, causing them to avoid the grease monkeys. I discourage anyone from pursuing IT as a career now. It used to be fun and challenging sometimes, like many jobs. Customers needs are now irrelevant to IT as practiced in big companies. Rant to be continued.

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National Service

All these young scallywags need is a six month spell as conscripts to the Army. A spell of cold showers at 6a.m. and parade square bashing under a Drill Sergeant Major will soon buck up their ideas. IT not a good career? Harrumph, they just want life on easy street.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: National Service

And when I were a lad, we spent 29 hours a day down t'mill, etc.

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Anonymous Coward

The injuns

Why would anyone want to spend five or more years picking up skills only to be told the injuns can do the same job for a "penny to the pound". BT, Netwest and various other businesses have offshored work and in both my examples there have been CUFU's however the cost advantages of the injuns wins out over piffle such as wrecked billing or reporting systems.

For me, Canada is looking very nice just about now.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The injuns

Agreed, anywhere that is slightly out of the US-UK orbit is better, especially if their primary language isn't English. Because that keeps out the riff-raff.

Don't' bother with any "new" countries though, they'ŗe usually predictably dismal ethnocracies.

These countries *all* think they are God's Own People, and are quite happy to invent "unique" culture and history to prove it. In reality they'd be better getting the Chinese in to run things properly ;)

These are ones with gigantic unofficial emigration %, so they'ŗe easy to spot.

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Re: The injuns

With all the IT jobs being farmed out to the cheapest country possible, why would anybody want to get into IT now. I certainly couldn't recommend it as a secure career path.

Where I work I, and many others, can see a problem looming on the horizon. We are constantly told that only the low level jobs are being offshored, and that they will always need experienced 'SMEs' onshore. But... How does anybody new become experienced if they aren't any low level jobs for them to start in.

Additionally, you don't get 'lifers' anymore. That guy in your office with 40 years experience of a system, knowing it inside and out. Good luck replacing them, You'll never get someone doing that now, at the very best you get people job hopping ever few years as most companies don't promote anymore, if you want to progress you have to find another job at a higher grade. On a similar note, a lot of places have no techie career progression, once you reach a certain grade it's management or stay where you are.

It's no wonder IT isn't attracting new people

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Re: The injuns

On the money AC. With outsourcing and offshoring only really happening to IT workers - the business can contain complete muppets that will never be replaced or moved - I'll make sure my kids are IT literate but I'll do my damnedest to steer them into something more lasting than the pigeon-holing of a career that IT is.

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"There seems to be a disconnect between what young people perceive a career in IT to be and an acknowledgement of how this translates into the gadgets, smartphones and consoles they use on a daily basis."

hmmm do we really want people who can't join the dots together in something so simple :)

I'm not sure I want IT to be considered a cool industry, I preferred it when it was considered an elite industry and only the dedicated/actually interested wanted to do it. You know, back when it paid better before every man and their dog was an 'IT professional' :)

On an unrelated (and pre coffee) note when the hell did they drop the qualification that to be an IT architect you had to have a big beard and actually know something about the bare metal systems :/

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Anonymous Coward

it is indeed very boring

sitting writing documents about an Active Directory installation or an Exchange installation is one of the most mind-numbing experiences you could wish for (apart from watching TV).

IT used to be fun but then we turned everything into a commodity and then to top it all we handed control to the accountants.

Programming can still be fun but I cant see anyone getting excited about sysadmin or infrastructure design - I know I don't.

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Boffin

Re: it is indeed very boring

>sitting writing documents about an Active Directory installation or an Exchange installation is one of the most mind-numbing experiences you could wish for (apart from watching TV).

Or else it scares the crap out of you. We've been researching multi-tenancy recently. The fact that Microsoft acknowledge its existence but don't really support it tells you a lot. That and the fact there's at least three different ways of achieving it that we have to support :-/

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Happy

Re: it is indeed very boring

"Programming can still be fun but I cant see anyone getting excited about sysadmin or infrastructure design - I know I don't."

Actually, I do get excited over sysadmin, myself. But where I see excitement over development as akin to pulling out the lego sets and putting blocks together (with the inevitable interoperable blocks as small frustrations), I see sysadmin work with the same excitement that comes from helping my grilfriend home after she's had some drinks at the club(s): pride and joy that she trusts me with something so important as her personal safety, and the satisfaction of knowing that I'm making her life easier because she doesn't have to worry about how to get home safely. Of course, sometimes she throws up on me and I get PO'd at her stupid antics, but such frustrations come with the territory. I imagine it would also be similiar to when you take care of your child, though I have none so I can't really say for sure. Same with sysadmin: that feeling I get when I stop and think about the fact that my entire company and millions of customers are counting on me to keep the system running smoothly and trust me with some of their most personal details (SSNs, addresses, etc)...thinking about that sends a shiver of excitement up my spine.

Granted, both forms of excitement are different feelings - one child-like, the other more paternal - but they are both excitement none the less.

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WTF?

Social Networking as a Profession?

> the most attractive areas to youngsters are social networking (39 per cent reckon so) then mobile (21 per cent) and gaming (17 per cent).

I don't think the kids (or the pollsters) understand the question. Coding for an social networking app or website is going to just as boring (or as exciting!) as coding some payroll job or intranet site in an IT dept. Same or similar skill-set, slightly different problem domain and/or scaling. Software is software.

Good luck to the kids if they plan to avoid learning software engineering in order to hone their skills in actually doing the social networking, mobile and/or gaming. More job choice for me!

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WTF?

Re: Social Networking as a Profession?

Er… Coding for a social networking site is as boring as coding a payroll job? Having done both, I have to say I disagree, but YMMV…

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Social Networking as a Profession?

Yeah, plus the social networks usually have this rather horrifying lack of what is known as "income", "profit" or "long-term-prospects" ... whilst spending rather a lot of investor's dough... I suppose you might manage to get a few paycheques out of them before the inevitable happens, but not sure if it's a "career".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Social Networking as a Profession?

Social networking as a profession? Isn't that what they call "Marketing" these days?

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Anonymous Coward

I'm and Oracle DBA/Unix SA so when I have to tell other people what I do I simply say, "IT , it would bore you to death if I told you what my job actually involved!".

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Anonymous Coward

Oh no

When I tell chicks that I'm an IT PRO they love it! Usually score as a result.

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Re: Oh no

Have you tried taking your clothes off and putting them back on again?

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