“The Globe & Mail” covered Bill Gates’ “recruiting” trip to Canada last week.
- Bill Gates At risk: innovation globeandmail.com: (Was iN OP/ED section)
- globeandmail.com: Gates strokes Canada’s tech talent
Being an engineer myself my first reaction to his (and others) statement that “We need more math, science, & engineering in USA & Canada to remain competitive” is “good point”. But later, upon reflection, I’m always a bit skeptical of this commentary. I don’t have my “feelings” organized but here are data-points that confound me.
- In past 5 years UBC has added 50% more spots in most engineering faculties. (most professors I speak to lament lower standards and difficulty in finding jobs for these students)
- Most EE’s still prefer to study hardware because there is a perception that software is all done in India. ( No one tells them that the software is >75% of the engineering effort to build a system and this ratio is getting bigger over time.)
- University is a tournament ( like those described in Freakonomics ) Companies like MSFT only hire the “creme de la creme”. ( top 5% or better ) Where do the remainder of the students go?
- Gates says that he is competing with “hedge funds” for kids. So why is he losing? Pay? Lifestyle? What is it?
- In my experience — Kids have no idea that engineering can pay well or even what it is that engineers do. For example, In a recent Junior Achievement seminar I attended none of the kids in the “computer immersion class” knew who Larry Page or Sergei Brin were. They didn’t even know who the YouTube founders were ❗ Also, this computer immersion program is just a “how to use a PC program” not “a how is a PC built program”. They love their MSN, but don’t have a clue how it works or who makes it 😦
- Many kids in my JA class knew the “how much & what do they do” for “doctor”, “lawyer”, “CA”, and “General Contractor”.
- Most of the high-profile & $successful engineers that I know left “engineering” for the corporate office. Most kids don’t see that this is a “required” step in technology companies. ( shows my bias … I think it would be better to work a Google than Yahoo )
- On pay .. in my anecdotal experience Engineering has the highest variance. In my university circle of friends – the highest paid guys have been engineers (tech companies EE & Chemical ) and the lowest were engineers. The lawyers, doctors, and financial guys all do very well, but no home runs. Many doctors have bailed on being doctors and taken jobs with pharmaceutical companies. Bottom line — you can hit home runs in “products”.
- This Dilbert Cartoon – “The Knack” is humourous in engineering circles, but is too frequently the “real” perception.