We wanted to purchase the Kindle book “None of My Business” by P.J. O’Rourke, but instead, Amazon sold us a vocal version. Huh??!! And we wanted to purchase the Kindle book “Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy Book 1)” but instead Amazon sent us (Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy Book 2)”.
It took us considerable time on the phone with Amazon’s Customer Service to straighten out these messes and get refunds. Shame on Amazon!
Anyone who has opened an account has run the gantlet of questions that are used in the event of entering its password incorrectly. (We deplore the use of passwords so when we are forced to create them we use some variation of “dumb idea” or “dongle” (a dongle is a small device able to be connected to and used with a computer, especially to allow access to wireless broadband or use of protected software).) In our case, we have had to provide the answers to such questions as “Who was your favorite elementary school teacher?”, “What was the model of your first car?”, or “What was your mother’s maiden name?” Most recently we had to provide several answers to such arcane questions that we laughed. Fortunately, this is such a widespread nuisance that it has resulted in some humorous suggestions.
In our earlier days we wrote the software. We, or one or more colleagues, tested it in a variety of ways to make sure that it did what we thought it should do. As time passed the software became more complicated, and the penalties of mistakes increased, so the testing had to become more complicated. In addition, an increasing number of malevolent hackers emerged, necessitating increasingly draconian measures to key them at bay. Even then, the size and complexity of code these days make it very difficult to cover all the possibilities. Fortunately there is a government body, the US National Security Agency, that was doing its mission appropriately.
But apparently it is even worse than that. We heard a couple of days ago about one local company that not only hired a bunch of Indian H1B visa-holders, fired their American staff, and replaced them with these imported folks … after they were trained by the Americans. And this noxious practice has apparently been going on for some time, according to the Stateline folks at The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Three months of coder school is not much training compared with that of the better-trained—often in American universities—and more-experienced visa-holders. But why are these American universities welcoming these foreign students? It’s because those students come bearing big funds for their education. (At state universities, it is simply that the international students must pay the same (higher) prices as out-of-state American students.) We have heard that among some of these students it is said that PhD stands for “Parents have Dough”. Interestingly, those international students are more prone to cheat on their exams. Hmmm … does that mean that their future code will be less trustworthy than that of Americans?
We wonder why the big Silicon Valley tech companies have not done a better job on their own of training software engineers. Couldn’t they be hiring “junior” software engineers from the coder schools and boosting their capabilities with on-the-job training. We suspect one reason is that it is more expensive to do that than to hire foreign help. And more time-consuming. And another reason may be that they didn’t do a good job of forecasting their growth and concomitant demand for those software engineers. Maybe the current visa flap will motivate them.
But it may not be the fault of these companies. Americans may too lazy, or too afraid to be “uncool”, to study STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics) courses so there is not enough local talent to fill the needs of Silicon Valley. Graduates with strong STEM knowledge are polar opposites to “art history majors” , a term used derogatorily to connote enjoyable-but-low-paying jobs.
Assuming that President Trump does not otherwise solve the daunting challenge of employing all of the folks displaced by technology, he (or someone) should send a lot of the unemployed manufacturing people in the rust belt, and their offspring, to “Coding School” so they can write the software to run the robots, drive the gig economy, etc. There are lots of schools in Silicon Valley that teach coding; just search on “silicon valley schools to teach coding” to find ones for kids, for women, whatever. But there are few if you search on “rust belt (or Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, or Pennsylvania or …) schools to teach coding”. In fact there are so many coding schools (often called coding bootcamps) that it has become an industry in its own right, and that industry already has its own parasitic industry analyst, called Course Report, that lists nearly 400 such schools. The schools typically run for 3 months and cost $10,000 or more.
We at TechnologyBloopers are suspicious that a lot of them are sugar-coating the content and their graduates will not be expert enough to get software engineer jobs. And we are not the only ones. Fortunately, according to Douglas Belkin at the Wall Street Journal, some of the more-experienced coding schools have banded together and hired an outside auditor to track the how well their graduates do.
However, according to Christopher Mims at the Wall Street Journal, there is enough demand for people with SOME training, because there are a lot of companies that are computerizing their operations (medical billing seems to be one of the favorites) and are willing to let their existing coding staff spend some time bringing the new recruits up to speed.