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Narcissistic College Graduates In the Workplace? 1316 1316

SpuriousLogic writes "I work as a senior software engineer, and a fair amount of my time is spent interviewing new developers. I have seen a growing trend of what I would call 'TV reality' college graduates — kids who graduated school in the last few years and seem to have a view of the workplace that is very much fashioned by TV programs, where 22-year-olds lead billion-dollar corporate mergers in Paris and jet around the world. Several years ago I worked at a company that did customization for the software they sold. It was not full-on consultant work, but some aspects of it were 'consulting light,' and did involve travel, some overseas. Almost every college graduate I interviewed fully expected to be sent overseas on their first assignment. They were very disappointed when told they were most likely to end up in places like Decater, IL and Cedar Rapids, IA, as only the most senior people fly overseas, because of the cost. Additionally, I see people in this age bracket expecting almost constant rewards. One new hire told me that he thought he had a good chance at an award because he had taught himself Enterprise Java Beans. When told that learning new tech is an expected part of being a developer, he argued that he had learned it by himself, and that made it different. So today I see an article about the growing narcissism of students, and I want to ask this community: are you seeing the sorts of 'crashing down to Earth' expectations of college grads described here? Is working with this age bracket more challenging than others? Do they produce work that is above or below your expectations of a recent college grad?" We discussed a similar question from the point of view of the young employees a few months back.
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Narcissistic College Graduates In the Workplace?

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  • by JustShootMe (122551) * <> on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:01PM (#27202637) Homepage Journal

    ... until the bosses have the same mindset, at which point we're all screwed.

  • by Talgrath (1061686) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:06PM (#27202673)

    Perhaps I'm just more realistic than the average college graduate, but I'd really a job. I knew, coming in, that whatever I learned in college was just the tip of the iceberg; if getting a BS in Computer Science really prepared you for everything you might see in the "real world" then why are there Masters and Doctorate programs? I will admit that a lot of my fellow college students thought that they are geniuses for one reason or another, but I'm under no such delusions. Hell, in this economy, I'd just like a steady IT job; but it has been remarkably hard to find one with the market flooded with more experienced individuals.

  • by spiffmastercow (1001386) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:08PM (#27202677)
    I graduated with a CS bachelors a few years ago thinking I would have a good shot at doing some compiler design or maybe kernel hacking.. despite the fact that I had only done these kind of things in a sterile learning environment that did not at all simulate the level of complexity involved in modern languages and operating systems.. So when I got out of school, I found out that, rather being able to get a job doing these kinds of things, I was lucky to get a web app programming job.

    I'm not bitter. I should have realized this from the beginning. But I really wish someone would have pointed out to me that this was what the job market was actually like, so that I could have gone the EE route instead.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:09PM (#27202687)

    A big part of life is seeing your options narrow as you grow older. There was a time when it was a (very remote) possibility that I could make the Olympic team. Now, I'm simply too old. On the plus, I now have a wonderful wife and daughter so I now know I'm not going to spend my entire life alone (there was a time when that was also a possibility).

    So, some guy fresh out of college thinks he might be the next Bill Gates? Maybe he will be. Who are you to say that he won't? It does happen. A few years down the road, when this guy's options have narrowed, you and he might both agree that it's just not going to happen.

    But why the need to stomp on some guy's dreams right this second? Particularly when, as you describe it, that dream involves something as simple as not wanting to live in Decater, IL or Cedar Rapids, IA. There are an awful lot of people who do manage to "live the dream" of not having to live in the Midwest. And, if all your new employees really want to live in Los Angeles, why not open a branch office in Los Angeles?

    But the real issue here seems to be seniority based pay. The article linked by the summary mentions college graduates wanting more than "entry level" pay. Well, I've seen an awful lot of situations where two guys are doing exactly the same job but one guy is getting paid a whole lot more because of "seniority". That really doesn't seem fair to me (it also doesn't seem fair that management pays itself so much more than the people doing the actual work, but that's another topic).

    Anyway, it may be overwhelmingly naive but it's hardly narcissistic to expect the same pay for the same job - and, reading between the lines, that seems to be the real issue here. "How dare those young whippersnappers expect to be paid as much as me - the 'senior' developer?" Maybe they're up to the job and maybe they aren't - but is that really any different than some old guy thinking he has what it takes to be a "senior" developer when he really doesn't?

  • by rwa2 (4391) * on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:10PM (#27202699) Homepage Journal

    I think it's more of a cultural thing. I've seen people of all ages kinda expect primadonna treatment for some reason or another.

    I'd also go so far to say that other cultures such as asians (of which I am also part of and have lived in for several years) are brought up to expect to work hard first and reap benefits sometime after they've proven their worth. It's actually quite confusing for us when we work for an organization that is anything other than a meritocracy.

  • by TheMeuge (645043) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:14PM (#27202747)

    So today I see an article about the growing narcissism of students

    Might as well replace "students" with "people". The whole concept that this is somehow limited to graduates of whatever reeks of the "dirty intellectuals" cultural revolution mentality.

    It's not graduates that are getting narcissistic, it's much of our society that's changing this way, of which they are but a subset. If you think that the people who don't finish high school and suckle on the NYC welfare tit for much of their life are any less narcissistic, you've got a dose of reality coming...

    Our society has removed a system of intrinsic rewards that involve satisfaction from doing one's job well, and providing for one's family, and replaced it with a money-grabbing race for being buried with the most stuff. But make no mistake about it - this phenomenon has far less to do with education, and far more to do with the destruction of family as a concept.

  • by Nursie (632944) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:15PM (#27202753)

    Ur doin it wrong!

    Well, if international travel is a goal anyway. I'm a uk based software engineer and in my 9 years I've been sent on assignments to France and Sweden, knowledge transfer operations to San Francisco for a month at time, conferences in Florida and four months of secondment to Dallas, TX. I'm hoping to get out to Malaysia at some point soon.

    All depends on your priorities, and who you work for (and how much they trust you to be the face of their tech organisation).

    Still, I had three years experience before any of that happened.

  • Every Generation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by perlhacker14 (1056902) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:16PM (#27202777)

    Every new generation is bound to feel superior to the previous, being fresh and inexperienced and self-confident in their sparkling new standards. Every previous generation will feel that the new children are annoying little pests wearing too-big boots. This is to be expected, and the attitudes usually fade over time as the new generation gets hit with reality and the older ones come to stand them.
    Of course, this really is the one of the first times that it comes up in the software fields, as the field is relatively new.

  • by thule (9041) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:20PM (#27202819) Homepage

    ... and schools. Parents don't teach their kids that some things are just simply part of life. You have to do it whether you like it or not. You have to do it even if you don't get an allowance or a gold star. Some things are worth doing even if you don't feel good about doing it.

    Schools affirm this by removing competition and focus on making sure kids feel good about themselves. This is reflected in a recent survey where US kids scored lower on things like math, but felt that had done well on the test. Non-US students felt that they had not done well on the test, but scored higher. In other words, stupid US kids feel really good about themselves. Heck, they've been rewarded not for getting things right, but for trying! Why wouldn't they expect to get constant affirmation in the professional world?

    Bring back competition. Bring back winning and loosing. Bring back hard work. Dump the ego-centric psychology.

  • Non traditional Grad (Score:2, Interesting)

    by theredshoes (1308621) <> on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:25PM (#27202869)
    I recently graduated after going back to school in my thirties. Yes, my expectation was at least to get a job making more than I did before I was downsized and went back to college. I do however work at a tech company now and I would have taken any position available. I had to make some hard decisions about that too. You have to take the good and the bad, that is just the way it is with the economy now. I just took a job that I am overqualified for, the salary is not that great, but I can live comfortably on it because I have other sources of income and investments because I am older and did prepare for the future. And the only reason I have that is because I had to make some seriously hard decisions, like selling the house my husband and I lived in when he was alive, cars etc. The good part is that the company is growing, it is a ten minute commute and the work is interesting, so far. I figure give it a year, if it doesn't get any better or I do not get a promotion, I will go to grad school at night and work there until something better comes along or I find something better once the economy gets a little better. I actually feel very lucky and happy about my new job! Honestly, the people are very nice there and seem to have good bosses so far. I really did not have any pie in the sky or rose colored glasses scenarios in my mind when I got out, probably because I was already screwed over a few times money wise by other companies because I didn't have the degree, they were not forking over the cash even though I should have been making at least 10K more, LOL At least now with the degree, I have the leverage to go somewhere else and make more money. :)
  • by Swizec (978239) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:26PM (#27202875) Homepage
    What about those of us who were never told by our parents we were good at anything, rather below average than precious snowflakes. Where do we get our sense of exelence and whatever else makes us think we should be paid huge amounts of moneys?

    Oh that's right, it's that wherever you look in this day and age 90% of the populace are clueless idiots who rarely, if ever, look at anythign outside shcool curriculum. Hell, I've seen worse job applications from college graduates than I used to send out when I was in my senior high school year. Actual knowledge is also on about the same level.
  • by Logic Worshiper (1480539) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:32PM (#27202955)
    I know people from CMU and community college, and the CMU people do tend to have their heads up their butts. The community college people have much lower expectations. If you hire the people with the highest grades from the best schools, yes they're going think like that. Try hiring students from non-ivy league schools (yes that includes new Ivy) and see if they have a more down to earth attitude. Or maybe even give people who have real life experience (working as a dishwasher) credit for that on their job applications. Talk to their former employers and see what there attitude is like. Maybe you're hiring the wrong employees because you're analysing job applications wrong.
  • Obligatory (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Blakey Rat (99501) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:34PM (#27202981)

    "I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words... When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint"
    - Hesiod, 8th century BC

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:38PM (#27203023) Homepage

    ...are you seeing the sorts of 'crashing down to Earth' expectations of college grads described here?

    I see a little of that 20-something narcissism here and there, but it's not universal. What I see more of is what I would call intellectual stubbornness. Every so often I'll interview someone I think has potential and, even if they don't get hired for that job, I'll keep them on a short list for future openings. Along with that give them some suggestions for areas of focus that would give them an edge on the next interview. Do this, this and this and the next time we have an opening I don't have to advertise it, just hire out of the pool. Saves me sorting through the resume slush pile.

    At first I was subtle about the suggestions, but very few would pick up on them. Even when I would contact them quarterly to see how they were doing, trying to show them they really were on the short list. I finally had to quit being subtle and just give them the right answers. But even when I did that, it's amazing how few would give me that answer back. One I suggested they get familiar with a non-MSFT development framework. Any one. Zend, Cake, Rails...anything. They didn't have to develop an app, just learn about one. An hour of reading. And the next time we talked they were in another .NET class. Then acted surprised when they didn't get that job, either. ????

    That I do see that a lot in young people. They're convinced they have the right answers and won't budge or take a suggestion. There's no curiosity or willingness to explore. they seem really regimented in their thinking. Something I found profoundly saddening personally and, as hiring authority, really freaking annoying.

  • Nothing new (Score:3, Interesting)

    by S-4'N3 (1232394) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:43PM (#27203083)
    The arrogance of educated workers isn't anything particularly new however it is something that seems to drift from field to field along with educational trends. A couple of years ago I read an article on how something like over 60% of CEO's would not hire anyone with an MBA on account of how disastrous former employees had been. At the time, and as a generality (no I'm not talking about you, Mr. MBA who happens to read slashdot) MBA graduates tended to assume that because of their diploma, they knew how to run a department or company better than people without the equivalence in education, but many years of experience. Now this trend is starting to apply to programmers. They expect that with their degrees and certifications, they will be better workers, and thus given better opportunities than people many years their senior. Now I'm not saying we are all supposed to LIKE Bill Gates, or anything, but his high school diploma has certainly gotten him far. No amount of education will ever replace work experience. Learning new or even old out-dated languages is part of any intense IT job, and only with experience will you be good at troubleshooting and reverse engineering the kind of poorly documented stuff that you will be expected to do. Personally, I have the same level of education as Bill Gates and have dropped out of college twice, but that hasn't prevented glamourous opportunities from coming my way. On account of my skill, experience, and knowledge of my companies products, I've been flown to Edmonton (okay... it's really not THAT glamourous), while some of my colleagues have been to Vancouver several times. Now I'm not saying higher education won't get me farther in life, but not having higher education has certainly not prevented hard work and experience from contributing to an interesting career. Any college graduate should know that your education will get you nowhere without hard work and level headedness, and that an inflated ego will only hold you back. I don't think it's necessarily fair to entirely blame the baby-boomers for this scourge of arrogant graduates, but as a trend, I certainly suspect they didn't help. The boomers did grow up in a time where education guaranteed a more exciting career and life. Then 'everybody' went to school and we wound up with Generation X. You'd somehow hope that this younger generation (of which I am pretty much a part) would have caught on. Let's just blame videogames and short-attention span TV instead.
  • by FishWithAHammer (957772) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:44PM (#27203091)

    This is so many kinds of true.

    I'm a college CS junior. I am in the top 5% in my class in ability (grades are another matter, busywork annoys me). Whenever there's a group project, people are beelining to work with me, because I have demonstrated programming skills, project management ability, and the ability to break down problems to be easily understood by others.

    I don't mean to brag when I say this, but rather explore a perspective. I heard this a lot: "man, I wish I could work like you do."

    And I ask--why the fuck can't they?

    I'm nothing special, I've just been using computers and programming for a long time. I learned BASIC when I was 7. Not to just print "HELLO WORLD" on the screen, but to do stuff. I figured out Hello World and how to generate random numbers - let's make a slot machine program! That works? What about graphics, turning it from ASCII to some 16-color awesomeness? That works? What about adding sound? And I was doing it on my own. I didn't have any teachers. My dad's a network engineer, but he doesn't know how to program--I was writing small processing apps for him in Java and Visual Basic when I was 11. Identify the problem, find a solution, implement the solution. And since I have that body of experience, today in college I can get away with paying only half a mind to my studies. I've been doing it so long that it's innate. I don't have to think about it, I just do it, and the process of adding more tools to my toolbox via academic study just happens naturally. (These days I spend my spare time learning new things that aren't necessarily programming-related. I picked up a MIDI keyboard and a bass guitar four months ago and started making electronic music. I can afford to branch out because I know my core stuff so thoroughly.)

    But what about the other students I mentioned? Most aren't programming in their spare time. Most came to school having had one or two high school programming classes and thought that was enough. They weren't learning outside of class. They still don't. Do the bare minimum of the homework, forget how all of it worked as soon as you finish the exam on the material. (A guy today asked me how to do string matching in Java. He's a senior graduating this semester. He's had four classes where Java was the assigned language.)

    And it shows. No drive, no attention to detail. Some of them get internships as a company's PHP monkey or whatever, and they brag about it.

    Me? I do their jobs in 2-3 weeks as a consultant and leave the client with something they don't need a webmaster for. I've done Google Summer of Code twice, with two very different groups, and am looking at doing it again--not really for the money, but just to broaden my horizons, to get into new fields of development and to learn more about my craft. I'm starting my own software-service company in May, with an estimated customer base of 60-80 clients already (thanks to networking, getting out and meeting people, not being a goddamn mushroom in a basement) and an estimated first-month after-tax profit of $8,800--which doesn't sound like a lot until you realize it's being run out of my apartment, on a sliding margin, without a dime of my own money invested in the enterprise, while living in a state where the median income is $25,000 per capita.

    My generation is afflicted entitlement mentalities and an aversion to actually doing anything to better themselves. It's sad.

  • by JustShootMe (122551) * <> on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:44PM (#27203093) Homepage Journal

    Maybe I'm just cynical, but does it really matter? If they want to sit there on their asses and bitch and moan about how bad their lives are, that's their problem - and it makes it just that much easier for people like you and I to make something of ourselves.

    I'm not saying I wish it on them, really... but I'm not responsible for them, I'm responsible for me. You see what I'm saying? You can lead a horse to water...

    It only becomes my problem when they expect me to support them...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:47PM (#27203117)

    Your comment sounds like someone who's been in the 'corporate' world a long time. And by corporate, I exclude Google, Facebook, Slide, Twitter, Amazon, Ning, etc.

    As a fairly recent grad (5 years ago), I'm enormously unimpressed with companies posting positions for people with 10+ years of [x] development. The notion that having done something for a long time makes you a better person to be doing it seems fundamentally flawed, at least in the case of most software engineering.

    I could see it not necessarily being true for, say, piloting fighter jets or performing brain surgery, but I'd challenge any 'experienced' engineer to build a 'better' Facebook than the narcissistic 20 year-olds did.

    When it comes to office politics, client-interaction or one's general interpersonal conduct, sure, maybe the 30+ crowd has a hand-up.. But thinking that just because they've been developing, say, routing logic for the last ten years doesn't mean their approach hasn't become narrow-minded, bitter, and generally disingenuous.

    New engineers want to write cool, new stuff for the same reason you want to write cool, new stuff, and there's no reason why they won't be just as good at it. The notion that the need to somehow 'prove' themselves by writing test code for a few years, or by supporting web apps is simply the kind of ageism that will cause any decent young engineer to avoid your company at all costs.

    An unrelated, but illustrative, example would probably be most of the North American auto industry. Impose a strict, age-experience based hierarchy, and it becomes clear why we haven't produced a good car for a very, very long time.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:47PM (#27203121)
    I will always remember the smack down that a young programmer in our office received at the hands of a senior programmer. The young programmer was talking to the rest of us about how certain network environments work, making a rather loud argument about one particular aspect. The senior programmer, who was well respected by the rest of us, overheard the conversation and offered a quiet opinion... "that's not how it works". The young programmer spoke up quickly, saying he had managed a network of this type for 2 years and that he knew it worked this way. At this point the senior programmer grins and says... "Well, that's not how I wrote the specification". He then gave a 20 minute lecture on how it actually works.
  • by h4rm0ny (722443) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:48PM (#27203143) Journal

    I'm dealing with a manager who exhibits a high degree of narcissistic personality traits. In filling a recent vacancy for a software developer he interviewed two candidates. One a highly friendly and right noise-making guy and one a very professional, modest and highly competent person with a lot of direct experience in exactly the technology we use. It was no surprise to anyone when he appointed the one that threatened his sense of superiority least, i.e. the less capable one.

    A month after appointing this person, he's shown little work ethic - bugging me with useless chatter repeatedly and not engaging with the simple orientation tasks he's been give and when after a month to work on this task he presents his work, he crumbles at the simplest baby questions. He's been hired to work on your standard PHP / MySQL combo. When asked to write a basic query to select a row from a single table, he couldn't do it. He didn't even understand the principle of a foreign key after it was explained to him multiple times. I later asked him to update the contents of a row and he couldn't even come close to that. And I find it even more dumbfounding that he tries to bullshit his way out of this.

    The manager's reaction? He finds it hillarious. He's little focused on the actual success of the team and mainly focused on his relationships with people. I'm currently training this new developer in the basics of SQL and database design (we reached JOINs last week) but I might decide to kill him in the hopes of getting a replacement that can code.
  • Re:Yes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MoonBuggy (611105) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:50PM (#27203157) Journal

    Almost everybody I knew in college didn't know the value of hard work

    Look at the world around you and show me where 'hard work' is getting the best results for the worker.

    The best ways to a life of comfort and excitement are luck, corruption, parental privilege, or a combination of all three. Good ideas might also get you somewhere, but only with a dose of luck attached. Sometimes, but certainly not always, these might need to be coupled with a workload that's maybe equivalent to that of a nurse or a teacher. Notice how said nurse and teacher are putting in equally hard work for a relative pittance?

    The way monetary value is measured has become almost completely abstract, so it's unsurprising that those growing up in this system have different ideas to the older generation.

  • by BrainInAJar (584756) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:50PM (#27203161)
    I get sent internationally once a year or so.

    The trick is to work for a company that's gigantic, and has a workforce all over the place. Then get yourself inserted in to the most international team you can find there. Some team that works on a disproportionately foreign open-source project for instance ( like KDE, or for that matter just Linux ). Then you need to do a bit of extra work to warrant your being sent places ( write papers for conferences, etc )

    Technical marketing is another mostly-technical field that involves a lot of international travel ( though you'll find you spend an inordinate amount of time in SFBay ) since you need to keep your ear on the buzz of the industry and make sure your company has a showing at various trade shows.

    If international travel is high on your list of job satisfaction goals, you can achieve it. You may need to do extra work or take a bit of a salary cut to get it, but you can do it.
  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:57PM (#27203225) Journal

    >>>If I value your skills more than I value X dollars per year, then that's what I'll be willing to pay you. If they won't work for less than X + 10000 dollars per year, we don't have a deal and I'll keep my money.

    Given the current economy I was considering standing at the local interstate on-ramp with this sign:

    "Engineer - Will work for food or minimum wage."

    Ironically this is the technique our local politicians use to get elected - "Smith for State Senate". ;-) - I visited my alma mater recently, and I was stuck by how much changed in just ten years time. The students are doing "cool" projects that I can only dream of doing in the real world. (Example - Programming a robot to swim across a lake and collect trash.) It makes me wonder if they will be disappointed with their first jobs, which will mostly consist of sitting at a cubicle all day and writing documents.

    In the effort to "sell school" I think some engineering programs are giving students the wrong impression of what the engineering career is really like.

  • Self-teaching (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:57PM (#27203229)

    Self-teaching is a necessity for computing. There are so many obscure software packages that they can't have a diploma for everyone of them. Employers now demand you're familiar with CompanyX ProductY VersionZ. The only way to learn it is to get the manual and code away, simply because there's no alternative.

    On the other hand if you were a surgeon and you taught yourself how to do vascular surgery you'd be a damned idiot given the alternatives available to you. This is probably why people in other fields are amazed.

    A few tips
    + and many others offer video tutes - these are a good way to learn.
    + Get a proper education - self-teaching there's a lot you miss - and also learn on the job. You learn far more and you get a better sense of priorities. I'd take someone with 2 years industry experience over someone with a 4 year degree.

  • Re:What the hell? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by vlm (69642) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @05:58PM (#27203237)

    Or are the other people I'm being judged against too fucking retarded to teach themselves?

    They're too busy watching American Idol. Look on the bright side, it makes folks like us, stacks of money, at least in comparison to them. Besides, we know its more fun than what they do.

  • by aurispector (530273) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @06:05PM (#27203299)

    Perhaps an economy where merely having a job, any job is valued as being preferable to starvation and homelessness? I can't overvalue the importance of taking responsibility for yourself and not finding excuses.

    There's an entire branch of Psychology called cognitive therapy in which the goal is, basically, to teach the patient to stop bullshitting himself. Stop allowing yourself to be defeated by perceived obstacles and start looking for ways to achieve your goals. And stop whining because it's fucking annoying.

  • Re:Obligatory (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Knutsi (959723) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @06:10PM (#27203347)
    Perhaps its cyclical? (:
  • Re:Every Generation (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 15, 2009 @06:14PM (#27203389)

    My employer has not hired 'recent' graduates for at least four years

    My employer no longer hires CS graduates, experienced or otherwise.

    Perhaps the CS degree should be returned to the math department as a specialty graduate degree; and most programming be done by that more reasonable group of people that have received an engineering education.

  • Re:Actually... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @06:24PM (#27203503) Journal

    That's interesting. When I graduated college (97) I had the exact opposite opinion. In fact I said to my 7-year-long JCPenney boss, "I'm worried about my new job at Lockheed." "Why?" "I don't think I'm good enough." He told me if I fail, I'm always welcome to come back. And then laughed. ;-)

    As it turned-out I was ready for the Lockheed job, but I certainly didn't feel I was "the shit" going into the working world. My first project was designing a CCA with a budget of only $10,000 (plus labor costs), and I was definitely not in charge. That responsibility fell to a guy 60-something years old who monitored my every move.

    I don't understand today's grads who think they will just automatically be given million-dollar projects and travel expense budgets.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 15, 2009 @06:24PM (#27203513)

    There are Doctorate programs to prepare people to do serious research and be Professors.
    There are Masters programs to prepare people to do Doctorates and TA labs and classes.

    There are Bachelor degrees to prepare people to not be idiots. You seem to have failed yours. you're not learning everything you might see in the real world, you're supposed to be learning how to think and learn. If you want to learn how to do things you'll see in the real world, do vocational training. In the real world, you will most likely never have to code your own hashtable implementation.

  • by RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) <taiki.cox@net> on Sunday March 15, 2009 @06:25PM (#27203523)

    I like working.

    I hate the obligation to work though.

  • by MoonBuggy (611105) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @06:27PM (#27203543) Journal

    Our society has removed a system of intrinsic rewards that involve satisfaction from doing one's job well, and providing for one's family, and replaced it with a money-grabbing race for being buried with the most stuff. But make no mistake about it - this phenomenon has far less to do with education, and far more to do with the destruction of family as a concept.

    You can use money for much more interesting things than 'stuff'. I guess you could still quite accurately describe me as a narcissist, and perhaps the rest of my post is just serving to prove your point, but I dislike the superior attitude that so many people show when it comes to talking about wealth, as if we should be 'higher' people with loftier goals than that distasteful pursuit of money, the assumption being that those who want it are after money simply for the sake of a bank balance with a big number.

    To put it bluntly, I would like to be rich. If I succeed in this it will mean I can travel to interesting places, learn new skills, and generally do things that I enjoy. All of this requires money for a multitude of reasons - the ability to take time off work, the acquisition of relevant information/permits/whatever, the equipment needed, and so on. I consider the goals of visiting every country on earth, or learning aerobatic flight, or skydiving, or juggling, or whatever else, to be perfectly valid and interesting things to wish for in my life. Perhaps you disagree? I don't know, although I would be surprised if you do. Sure, a shiny house filled with shiny things would be somewhat fun, but certainly not worth devoting myself to - that's the impression most people seem to push when they talk about money.

    Yes, they're also entirely self-centred goals, but if you were to offer most people the choice of that life or of a 9 to 5 at a stable and moderately well-paid job I think I know which they would choose. I'm also well aware of the fact that most of those with serious wealth in the world got there working about as hard as those in the 9 to 5s, maybe a bit more so, maybe a bit less so. What good reason is there to devote myself to trying to have a 'normal' life when there's some chance I can have a life much more interesting than that?

  • Re:This just in! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 15, 2009 @06:41PM (#27203729)

    Completely agree.

    I don't think narcissism has anything to do with this. It's just a classic case of big fish/small pond.

    Couple that with some of the more unrealistic hype that made IT the latest get-rich-quick profession, and it's not surprising that college grads enter the workforce with unrealistic expectations.

    But this isn't anything NEW. And neither is the previous generation's disapproval of its successors.

    Everyone loves to say that "these kids don't know the value of a dollar!"

    Or maybe "Back in my day, bread used to cost ____"

    And guess what? Ten years from now, when these new grads are mid-thirties and still haven't made their fortune, they'll probably turn around and look at all the new hires and exclaim over how ungrateful and self-centered they are.

  • by fm6 (162816) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @06:58PM (#27203879) Homepage Journal

    Nobody watched much TV before 1950 or so. The NTSC format used by U.S. broadcasters wasn't standardized until 1941, and then the war ended production of TV sets, so there were about 5,000 sets in the whole country. Add a few years for the price of the technology to drop (and for Great Depression era nervousness about buying stuff to wear off) and you really don't have any TV viewers to speak of until the mid 50s.

    I grew up in the 50s and 60s, and I recall TV addiction being an issue for me and my friends even then. But I don't think it got to be really bad until the 80s, when cable became widely available, latchkey kids became the norm, and TV was the easiest way for most kids to distract themselves.

    Another factor: more and more people living in "edge cities" as mass transit withered and car ownership became common. That really limits the social life of children too young to drive, especially once parents started getting nervous about letting their kids do stuff without supervision.

  • by bugnuts (94678) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @07:02PM (#27203917) Journal

    After being in the work world for a couple decades, I've observed the same thing. But ... nothing has changed! New graduates remind me of myself and my friends, many years ago. New graduates are not any worse than they were two decades ago, only that now I'm old enough to recognize the folly that we all once had.

    What is missing is the same thing missing from most people newly joining the work force. They have little to no investment in the company. They are entering a field where they have little knowledge of what goes on, and where funding comes from. They enter, thinking there's an everflowing pot of money and they just want a share of it. They view management as top-heavy, who do little and skim money from everything. I would guess that most new graduates take a job with the thought, "This will look good on my resume" and rarely "This will be a great career."

    After working for a while and possibly being forced to help write grants, they start to see just why managers exist. They start to realize that if they want to do well, they must help the company do well, too. And they're usually happy they get to program instead of hunt down funding like managers generally have to do.

    It's very rare to have someone new in the workforce that has any investment in the company hiring him. And in hindsight, this certainly looks like a form of narcissism, but it's just inexperience of how the flow of money moves around.

  • by FishWithAHammer (957772) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @07:03PM (#27203929)

    Yes, I was writing batch scripts and other crap. It's not hard. I've taught my little brother how to write the equivalents in Python. What's your point?

  • Re:Yes, but... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 15, 2009 @07:14PM (#27204043)

    Going through a Ph.D. program when you are in your 20s isn't working hard. Mining coal for forty years is hard. Which is why you opted out of that lifestyle. Don't kid yourself, wanker.

  • Re:This just in! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 15, 2009 @07:23PM (#27204111)

    This post is right on. It's been ten years now - but I went to a little engineering college in California where 90% of the entering class were merit scholars. On the first day, during an orientation lunch, I still remember the President giving a speech, and explaining to all of us that we were all in the top 1 or 2% of our graduating high school classes... and that now, going forward, half of us would be in the bottom half of the class... that certainly put things in perspective quick.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 15, 2009 @07:40PM (#27204237)

    It is disappointing. In college, I was really big on operating systems programming. I graduated into the dot com bust, and landed a job where they wrote device drivers for data acquisition boards. It wasn't that the job was awful (it was in my mind at the time, though), it was just that I lost so much freedom to innovate when the manager came around and basically said "this is the way it is, this is the way we code, and you get to write code using other people's libraries -- and that's that."

    For a while, I entertained myself by designing my own drivers to compete with the same drivers I had to write using the corporate infrastructure. Eventually, I just got bored of it and said f it and changed industries altogether.

    College projects are 100x more interesting than what they give at work. I went back to graduate school a few years later. The graduate stuff is great, but the catch in grad school is that one has more research and reading in more intense classes and less time to do cool projects.

    Now, we have a down economy and are supposedly in a depression. I'm going to be depressed in a depression.

    I will say one thing, though. Open Source has changed everything about software. There's so much out there to entertain your mind with if the corporate world doesn't take your code.

  • by FishWithAHammer (957772) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @07:54PM (#27204373)

    Excellent post, and I agree 100%. Most really good programmers I know don't really spend a lot of time interacting with people, either on projects or off. It's not my own strong suit, by nature. But I learned pretty early on that it was what you had to do, so I made up my mind to consciously attempt to improve that skill. You may not follow what they say, but you should always listen to it.

    The willingness to talk and discuss a problem is something that's been cited as something that one of my clients (a repeat customer) likes. I don't try to tell them what they need and how to go about it, I let them elaborate on what they need, asking the questions that will lead me to a firm grasp of the problem, and then I tailor a solution to the problem rather than having a solution already in mind from the start.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 15, 2009 @07:58PM (#27204407)
    I have been fighting ADD for years and finally began managing it following my failure to fulfill an independent contract and Google Summer of Code project ( I start after the breakdown that followed the failures...). While job hunting afterwards, I walked into an ecommerce company based in my home town and dropped off my resume, remembering that they were hiring (though I couldn't remember if I was even interested in/qualified for the position). The man I interviewed with later that day (whom I now call "boss") said he was looking for someone that loved programming and thought that simply my entering into GSOC displayed that. A week later, he called me and we both relayed our own personal tales about CS grads coming out of the local university. I explained to him I had no expectations of pay/benefits aside from a bit above minimum wage and that I was more interested in having a job that paid the bills that I enjoyed.

    I have not yet graduated from college and yet I was able to get a full-time position that I wasn't necessarily qualified for (I've never done e-commerce or used many of the technologies I've since learned; Truth-be-told, this is the first time in 10-15 years I've really used HTML) and that other CS graduates with more applicable experience applied for. The difference: because they "paid their dues in college" the other candidates either wouldn't be willing to do non-programming stuff (grunt work, IT support, etc.) or wouldn't accept pay below 60-70k for an entry-level position.

    To answer the original question, no, you are not alone in your experiences. And the issue doesn't just apply to Computer Science, but almost all fields. I've heard the same complaints from managers in different locations, fields, and company sizes I've spoken to in the past few years. Many grads today feel their degree isn't just enough to get them in the door, but into a well-paid, cushy job that requires nothing more than sitting on their asses.

    The reasons are easy enough to understand, though, and it's got nothing to do with precious snowflakes being pampered and told they were special. That's a red herring that I think tends to stem from people that weren't told that being jealous they missed out on that kind of praise. I think the breakdown goes a little like this:
    • The purpose of the degree has gotten lost. Many students attend college to get the degree for the sake of getting a job, not for the sake of learning. And since most schools (K-12 AND university) don't have an education system that requires learning to pass/graduate, our childrens isn't learning to do math/science/reading, but simply learning to pass exams/projects.
    • Because the purpose of the degree shifted to getting jobs/money, there's a huge increase in graduates that are not passionate about their fields.
    • The lack of passion results in another hit on learning the curriculum. So now, not only is the student not focusing on learning because they're more focused on simply getting that piece of paper at the end of the trail, but they're also disinterested.
    • Since the purpose of the degree shifted to getting jobs/money, the fields hit hardest by this are the ones that offer the best pay for the least amount of (perceived) manual labor.

    End result? Engineers, computer scientists, medical workers, etc. that aren't very knowledgeable/capable in their field, that expect large sums of money and feel that small accomplishments are deserving of praise since they probably worked REALLY hard to complete said accomplishments, even though it's really easy for a competent member of the same field to do.

  • by benjamindees (441808) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @08:09PM (#27204493) Homepage

    I assumed that if he really wanted to work on compilers or kernels, then it must be a personal interest.

    And that's a horrible assumption. He wants to work on compilers and kernels because he spent a lot of time and money being taught to work on compilers and kernels in college and he has also been taught that a college degree is a requirement for a job in the software field. So, naturally, he assumes that his time was not wasted and he might be required to put some of those skills to use in the real world.

    Unfortunately, he likely won't ever get to even *look* at the code for a compiler, let alone write any in his career. In fact, he might not even be asked for a college degree. College is a waste of time and money for most people because they spend a lot of effort teaching things that are of little value in the real world.

    It has nothing to do with "working for the man". It has to do with the fact that it doesn't take thousands of CS graduates per year to maintain the handful of compilers and kernels in widespread use in the world.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @08:20PM (#27204571) Journal

    >>>I see it as a tragedy if a company some time to explore cool stuff because it's worried about micro-efficiency

    Colleges and companies work on a vastly different schedule. In college every semester is an opportunity to do something new. In a company, a project often drags-on for years. I haven't been in a lab since January 2006 when we finished the design of a PowerPC-based GPS board. Since that time it's just been documentation and ongoing customer support.

    >>>You work really hard to accumulate all this knowledge only to be placed in management and never use it again

    Your friend has a point. I haven't used anything higher in difficulty than sophomore-year electronics (V=IR, et cetera). I did learn one new thing on the job - VHDL and Verilog coding, so it hasn't all been a bust. Oh and I got to crawl inside a tank in Summer 2008 so I could measure and modify a cable. Woo. ;-)

  • by aamcf (651492) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @08:22PM (#27204585) Homepage

    Heh, I'm already there, kind of.

    A big chunk of my job involves writing perl scripts that produce reference documentation by parsing the C and C++ code the developers write. And, or reasons of irony, I almost always fail to document those scripts.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 15, 2009 @08:34PM (#27204661)

    I've never observed Gen Y to be unusually spoiled, but maybe b/c I've lotsa time in war zones. Sex and the City more than Friends is more to blame for what you describe.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 15, 2009 @08:39PM (#27204719)

    You have to pay your dues like everyone else.

    You don't understand Narcissistic people at all

    1. They don't have any self-esteem at all, they are self-loathing, they always present an artificial grandiose public face to garner external-esteem.
    2. They will only want to work on the flashiest projects to reinforce their grandiose image
    3. Any contribution they make will be worth ten times any equivalent contribution by someone else.
    4. They are habitual liars and exaggerators, the only person they will lie to more than you is themselves.
    5. If you buy into their grandiose public image, they know you believed the lie and you have earned their disdain for being gullible.
    6. Narcissism is very probably incurable, but it can be managed through reward and punishment, the only effective reward is praise and attention, the only effective punishment is unemotional in-attention; the cost will probably be not worth the effort.
    7. Narcissitic people don't care what you think about them as long as you allways think about them.

    Only common people pay their dues, treating a Narcissist as common would be seen as a personal attack by them.

    As a clinically diagnosed narcissist, I find this list to be pretty inaccurate.

    1. Wrong. Narcissists do have high self esteem but it is built on an extremely fragile foundation of other people's opinions.

    2. I certainly don't do this. In fact I tend to lean toward projects that are less flash because I feel like I can "knock them out of the park" with ease and thereby garner greater praise. It has to be just hard enough not to be easy, but not so hard that I'd actually have to try.

    3. This is mostly true, but maybe the factor of ten is a little high ;)

    4. True except that this implies that outright falsehoods are the norm. I tend to speak in half-truths to try an manipulate people's opinions rather than simply lie to them. I'm finding that not nearly as good at this as I believe I am.

    5. No this isn't true. You have to remember that the narcissist believes the lie too. He relishes any support for his warped view of the world but that view happens to include being better than you and everyone else.

    6. I'll have to report back on this as I'm in the process of working on it.

    7. NO NO NO NO NO! Narcissistic people believe THAT you are always thinking about them and as such, they put every ounce of effort they have into making you think well of them.

    See, I know more about this than you do.

  • by mdda (462765) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @08:43PM (#27204753) Homepage

    But Wall Street didn't get the approx 1 Trillion $ in bailout money into their pockets. They got big bonuses, granted, but the reason that there's a financial black hole is that the Trillion $ was previously lent to buy houses for people who can't repay.

    And now the housing bubble is deflating, the money is evaporating. The pay to Wall St represented (like) 2% of the problem. The real problem is that the housing market is larger than the US government.

    But the 'winners' (if you can call people who are/were living in over-expensive houses) are distributed widely.

    Suppose there were 10Million people each overpaying 50k for a house (both under-estimates) - that's 500Billion right there. No Wall St firm made that 500B, it was lent by banks into structures (which were completely mis-rated by the rating agencies), and now the money is just GONE.

  • by INT_QRK (1043164) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @08:44PM (#27204767)
    Look, people always find it diverting to swap war stories from the left-hand side of that old Bell Curve. Truth be told, what I see more often than not are bright earnest youngsters filled with great angst over whether college has prepared them enough for the "real world." So, they try hard to learn the job and fit in with the team, especially when the team meets them anywhere near half way. It's been my experience that with even the most modest efforts towards applying basic leadership skills, you get a full up round in no time. My recommendation is to avoid hiring the obvious jerks, and treat the ones who get through with decency and respect, while both challenging them and mentoring them to the challenge (not as hard as you think), and you'll get more than your money's worth.
  • by JoeMerchant (803320) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @09:35PM (#27205287)

    you end up spending so much time actually working that I got very little time to actually go look at the historic European city I was sent to.

    If at all possible, schedule a week, or even just a few days, of personal time off during your travel. If you're lucky, you can schedule your trip to include a weekend, but if you're getting sent to Europe for the first time in 15 years, I'd really look into the possibility of scheduling several days off to enjoy the place before packing up to come home.

  • by Spazmania (174582) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @09:47PM (#27205397) Homepage

    the fact that they point out problems which you have become immune to is something to capitalize upon.

    Without a doubt. I didn't hire you to warm a chair, I hired you for your brain and I fully intend to pick it.

    But let's face it: until you've learned how and why the system was built the way it was, especially the "why" part, that lack of knowledge will both impair your ability to successfully redesign it and eliminate any chance of accurately estimating the costs.

    Take the newbie where I work who wants to dump accurev in favor of subversion. He's a smart guy and in the long run, he may be right. In the short run, half his reasons reflect a lack of training on accurev. He hasn't estimated the cost of running another SCM, especially the interim cost in which both systems need to run in parallel. He hasn't considered the security implications. Or how to back it up. Or the degree to which his recollection of subversion's functionality is really a memory of Tortoise which isn't applicable in our Linux environment.

    Or whether there's work he could be doing which adds more value than futzing with the SCM.

    Now, I'm glad he's shown initiative. That impresses me. Six months from now after he's learned accurev, implemented some of his ideas in accurev and really gotten up to speed on the project overall, if he still thinks we'd see a significant net gain with Subversion, I'll want to hear all about it. But today I'd prefer he focus on learning the existing methods and solving problems for which we don't already have a working solution.

  • by DerekLyons (302214) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {retawriaf}> on Sunday March 15, 2009 @10:06PM (#27205617) Homepage

    I visited my alma mater recently, and I was stuck by how much changed in just ten years time. The students are doing "cool" projects that I can only dream of doing in the real world. (Example - Programming a robot to swim across a lake and collect trash.) It makes me wonder if they will be disappointed with their first jobs, which will mostly consist of sitting at a cubicle all day and writing documents.

    I don't consider myself a narcissistic student, but I wonder, what's the point of going through years of education, if not to use it?

    How is sitting in a cubicle and writing documentation in your field not using your education? Like the guy upthread who envisioned himself in R&D, you don't seem to realize that even the coolest of jobs entail 10% cool and 90% uncool.
    Even if you are in R&D - you'll spend a lot of time doing uncool drone work. You've got to plan what you are going to do and how, and then document what did happen after you do it. "Cool" projects, like those discussed by the OP (as well as the increasing trend toward edutainment in primary education), give the student a seriously warped view of what the real world is like. And leads straight towards the narcissistic attitude that spawned this discussion.

    Education is dumb because you work really hard to accumulate all this knowledge only to be placed in management and never use it again.

    If you're the kind of manager that doesn't use the experience and education you've accumulated - you're the kind of clueless manager that leads other engineers to pin Dilbert cartoons up in their cubicles.

  • by Spazmania (174582) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @10:10PM (#27205663) Homepage

    Often it's hard to "find another office"

    Bull. Finding another office is just a matter of ordering modular office furniture that goes all the way to the ceiling instead of stopping at 5 feet and allocating 100 square feet to the employee instead of 64.

    if you're in an office there might be less communication, etc.

    If you're an introvert doing an introvert's work (like writing software) that will noticeably improve your productivity. It isn't about how much you communicate; it's about how well you communicate.

  • by Trepidity (597) <> on Sunday March 15, 2009 @11:16PM (#27206177)

    I know plenty of people who didn't really give up the mixture of idealism, narcissism, and aversion to being a cog in someone else's machine, even after graduating and entering the "real world". The trick, though, is that you can only really do it in an uncompromising way if you always have an out, so the moment you don't want to be that cog, you really have an alternative and can leave.

    I may have a rather warped view of this, since a disproportionate number of my friends and acquaintances are Silicon Valley techies. It's not a free pass by any means--- the easiest way to pull in a good salary is still to work for some large tech company. But it's surprisingly easy to make enough off ad revenue to support a modest lifestyle without bosses or a "real job".

  • Whiny Ranters (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ironpoint (463916) on Sunday March 15, 2009 @11:36PM (#27206337)

    These type of rants are ALWAYS from whiny insecure non-degreed programmers who have maxed out their career potential. It's obvious that programmers without degrees would desire to mitigate the value of their competitors CS degrees. If put into a hiring position, they will be reluctant to hire someone more qualified than themselves. Non-degreed programmers effectively try to "unionize" against degreed programmers through hiring practices and propaganda such as this topic.

  • by dcollins (135727) on Monday March 16, 2009 @12:06AM (#27206515) Homepage

    That's why as part of the interview team you need to set up some programming tests that constitute basic pass or fail. Like: do basic CRUD in a pseudo language of your choice. Reverse a string of characters in a pseudo code.

    Personal anecdote: Make sure the guy doing the interview can understand the solution. I was at a job interview and asked to convert an ASCII digit string to its decimal equivalent integer. So I said "easy" and just threw down the standard solution from my numerical analysis textbook (basically: int total; for i = 0 to strlen(s) {total = total*10 + s[i]-'0';}, which is the most efficient way to do it, as is done in java.lang.Integer or any other standard library). Guy says "no, that's wrong, you have to start from the back", and (amazed) I have to start stepping him through the more efficient, standard solution.

    I did not get the job, bugged the hell out of me ever since -- to this day I don't think he actually understood the solution.

  • by khellendros1984 (792761) on Monday March 16, 2009 @12:47AM (#27206779) Journal
    I suppose that's how I got my job. My grades themselves...not stellar. But my manager realized that I actually *got* the ideas and gave a damn about using them as well as learning new ones. So now under a year later, I'm implementing some of the main functionality for our next software release. My education gave me ideas. I got hired for taking the ideas from class and running with them to me own ends.
  • by syousef (465911) on Monday March 16, 2009 @02:43AM (#27207269) Journal

    Our school systems tell our kids that they all have the potential for greatness. Not just being good at something, but great at something......We don't all shine on. Very few of us do. Unfortunately, too many teachers preach Lennon's line at students. You don't want to discourage students from trying to reach higher, but you also want them to be realistic about the world.

    You misunderstand. Shining is not about being great in other people's eyes or achieving fame and fortune. It's about being happy with the things you have and doing what you do as well as you can.

    What people don't understand is life under the spotlight is a pain in the neck. Very few of us would actually want to be there. You can still achieve great things in your own life. They just don't have significance to others, and THAT is alright.

    Teaching kids they're all mundane will make even the great ones mundane, and will leave them all depressed. Self esteem needs to be based on reality. Actually assess them on the work they do and give them praise for what they actually do achieve when it is clear they are trying their best or clsoe to it, but don't make them feel bad for not achieving higher. In other words, tell little johnny that 2 + 2 = 5 is wrong and grade him accordingly, but don't make him feel bad for not doing even better when he does get the answer right. Part of building self esteem is learning to deal with criticism and understanding the difference between getting it right and screwing up, and learning to cope with both. The school system doesn't recognise that and sees any time the child feels bad as some sort of damage. I feel sorry for kids who make it out into the workforce and suddenly have to cope with learning that their boss doesn't pat them on the back when they bollox things up. It's not the new generation's fault. It's the educators that need a reality check.

  • by n dot l (1099033) on Monday March 16, 2009 @04:45AM (#27207733)

    The GP is serious.

    And it's not just high-school level bullshit. There's also the trend of students are getting into classes without mastering the prerequisites, and they're allowed to pass without really meeting the requirements. Not to the same level you see in secondary schools, but to a large extent it's there. A few of the profs I've talked to about it chalk it up to dealing with the reality of failing high schools, but quite a few identify their institution's administration as pushing it in order to increase enrollment (and thus total tuition fees collected).

    Actually, about a month ago, I had lunch with one of the music profs at the University of Alberta. He told me it was common to get students in his first year classes who were practically illiterate, or had no musical instinct or experience whatsoever. He has to fight to have the students that won't learn removed from the class. The administration won't help him at all. They either threaten him with enrollment figures and budgets, or they hide behind irate parents defending their helpless 20 year old snowflake from the nasty man with the difficult music. His friends at other universities (in Canada and the USA) complain of the same thing. It was really sad when he exclaimed, "A Calculus prof wouldn't have to deal with students that don't know how to multiply, but I'm expected to teach the most basic fundamentals at a university?!" and I told him about some of the students in my first year calculus courses.

    But the music prof made an interesting observation, he said (paraphrasing), "Well, given that they don't understand the basics, you can practically expect them to misbehave. Without knowing the basic terms they can't even understand what I'm saying when I lecture. They don't know what to listen for when I play. It's all just going over their heads. Of course they're going to get bored... I only wish I could more easily send them back to a regular music teacher, or to another program altogether."

    I'd honestly like to say that it surprises me - but after seeing it myself when I was a student, and hearing about it from my profs and other college and university teachers I know, it's pretty much to be expected. At least most of that gets filtered out after first year...

  • by xenocide2 (231786) on Monday March 16, 2009 @04:48AM (#27207749) Homepage

    It's called school. You actually pay people to train you, so you can work for someone else. What a bunch of suckers, right? If you want to do systems work today, you'll need some grad level work in order to contribute. At the very least, the mandatory undergrad OS courses don't qualify you to write an OS, for the simple fact you can't learn everything you need in 4 months.

  • by Dhalka226 (559740) on Monday March 16, 2009 @04:50AM (#27207759)

    I think students are simply putting off growing up, and I am regularly dealing with high-school crap in, for example, sophomore-level science classes (courses in the students' major even!) which I simply never had to deal with before.

    I don't think this is representative of a trend in generational maturity; rather, I think it's a trend in students.

    It used to be, not long ago, that university really was higher education. A relatively small percentage of people attended, and those who did usually ended up with the highest-paying, most secure and generally best jobs. This is as we expect.

    Somewhere along the lines though, college changed from a choice for those truly interested in furthering their education; it became an expectation. Nowadays much higher percentages of students are attending colleges. They don't particularly want to further their education or learn, they want to end up with the highest-paying, most secure and generally best jobs. It's nothing but a means to an end, and the vast majority of these students who wouldn't have been in college at all a decade or so ago are the exact people who are utterly unconcerned with whether or not they deserve it. These are the students who will pass notes and watch YouTube in class and then run crying to the dean when a professor suggests they may have to earn their way in this world with hard work and results. College == $$$, that's all they need to know, and they're damn well going to protect that. So they trog along for 5-6 years in college until they eventually earn some degree in African Dance Studies or some such, and run off into the real world, blindsided by its lack of concern for their expectations.

    Colleges don't get off free either. In their rush to accommodate these new students (students == $$$ in their heads), they didn't bother to ask themselves if those students should be there at all. Compare what college courses are today to what your parents and grandparents and teachers told you college would be like as you grew up. College isn't college, it's a continuation of high school, in both curriculum and presentation. All this does, from the student perspective, is to postpone that blindsiding by a few years and tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt. They emerge from college roughly as smart (or stupid) as they entered. Most won't have a particularly strong grasp even on subject matter within their own majors, but they will have a piece of paper that says they deserve lots of money.

    The net result is a lower quality of college graduate. Already we're seeing the value of a college degree slipping; we're essentially at the point where high-school-only graduates are held in essentially the same vein and have the same earning potential today as not-even-high-school graduates did years ago, and college graduates of today taking the place of high school graduates of yesteryear. I recall my barber telling a story a few years ago about his daughter looking for a job as a secretary, and most of these places requiring a college education. Really? To be a secretary? (It's not relevant to the story, but for completeness' sake I think she actually did have a degree--which didn't lessen the shock of such a thing being required.)

    Soon--even today--master's degrees will be the differentiator. Colleges and universities will be ecstatic, since it means an ever-increasing revenue stream for them. Students will be even more sure of their own worth and even more determined that they will--need to--jump into the workforce and make all of that money they just spent back. They have a master's degree, dammit! They deserve it! More and more students will pour into even-higher-education, and we'll just repeat the cycle. Higher education was a differentiator because it was a differentiator. If college degrees are commoditized, they lose much of the value they used to hold--particularly when the system itself is bent down to help make that commoditi

  • by Khue (625846) on Monday March 16, 2009 @08:47AM (#27208847)
    A large part of this narcissistic group of individuals are a result of the unrealistic musings of college professors telling kids what they want to hear. I heard, throughout all of college, about how I would be making an excess of 40-60k a year when I got out into the job market. The reality of it, is that NO ONE, in their right mind is going to pay a 21 year old that type of money who has little to no experience besides what he or she has learned from a text book. I worked all throughout college, and I had been in the IT field since I was 17 going from a phone jockey to a Network/Systems Engineer. I knew the realities of what the industry was like and I chose to keep my mouth shut when professors were advertising their competency. The professors have their livelihoods to watch out for and their jobs are directly related to the interest in their field of study. They are pressured/obligated/motivated to do anything they can to generate interest. The resultant is that A students, which lets be honest, if you don't have a job in college and you are not an A student you're doing something wrong, come out of universities with a HUGE unchecked sense of entitlement. Just my 2 cents.
  • by Jane_Dozey (759010) on Monday March 16, 2009 @09:55AM (#27209425)

    Colleges and companies work on a vastly different schedule. In college every semester is an opportunity to do something new. In a company, a project often drags-on for years. I haven't been in a lab since January 2006 when we finished the design of a PowerPC-based GPS board. Since that time it's just been documentation and ongoing customer support.

    Yes! As a fairly recent graduate this is the biggest difference I've found. The project itself is broken up into lots of different parts so it doesn't feel too much like it's just dragging on but I expect that the project as a whole is going to last at least another 18 months before we can claim to have finished the first proper release. After this it'll be improvements and extensions. This is one of the more challenging things that I've found since getting into a proper job since I'm used to just hacking something together, handing it in, getting a grade and then moving on.

    Your friend has a point. I haven't used anything higher in difficulty than sophomore-year electronics (V=IR, et cetera). I did learn one new thing on the job - VHDL and Verilog coding, so it hasn't all been a bust. Oh and I got to crawl inside a tank in Summer 2008 so I could measure and modify a cable. Woo. ;-)

    Now here's where we differ. I've learned a great deal and used a whole lot of what I learned. Things like compiler engineering and complexity theory, which I didn't think I'd ever really use have actually come in very handy. I've also had to sit and learn a ton of new technologies, programming techniques and the odd new (programming) language to get on with my job. It's actually a lot of fun and makes me glad I ran into this particular job (I can get away with learning anything I fancy as long as it's semi-relevant to the project).

  • by neersign (956437) on Monday March 16, 2009 @11:19AM (#27210677)

    It's funny that people don't think of this, or don't want to do this. I was sent to Europe for a two week engineering conference and took an extra weekend to explore a little on my own. Out of the 7 americans on the trip, only one other did the same thing.

    We had another engineering conference in Colorado and I was amazed that only two other people wanted to go out early and hit the slopes. The company payed the airfare so all I had to do was pay the extra nights stay and lift no brainer to me. I'm sure everyone has their reasons one way or the other, but opportunities like these don't pop up everyday so it's hard for me to understand why everyone doesn't make the most out of them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 16, 2009 @05:36PM (#27217353)

    Consulting is only one type of business. You are ignoring the fact that if you produce something (other than billable hours or eqiuvalent) and sell it there is (can be) a multiplier effect on any engineers productivity. 150 per hour is not some sort of hard and fast limit on the value of a senior engineer to a company regardless that that is what they are willing to pay a consultancy. The 150 is not a measure of productivity it's a tradeoff vs hassle of hiring a salaried employee. You can get an external approved in 20 minutes, and he'll be here on monday. A hiring process can take weeks just to get a go ahead to begin advertising a position.

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