back to article IT needs more brains, so why is it being such a zombie about getting them?

Knowing when the universe is trying to tell you something is a core competency for many paths through life. You can't pass an exam in that, sadly, but perhaps we should consider what links these three stories: Microsoft moving to open-book exams for certification, ChatGPT passing law and other exams, and people are tearing their …

  1. CowHorseFrog

    Everyday at work i have see the SECOND REAL problem in IT and probably most other jobs - LAZINESS.

    People think theres a prize for doing the bare minimum without a thought whether its done correctly or helpful to others.

    Perfect example... Exceptions without messages or without any context about what was attempted, eg Invalid value, yup thats it... i wont tell you what the value was or what was wrong with it..

    I could go on...and on.. and on...

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      People think theres a prize for doing the bare minimum without a thought whether its done correctly or helpful to others.

      There is; it's called "employment". If you spend all day neatly doing everything that would be nice to do, then you meet "unemployment" as your insufficiently productive doing what the company wants you doing.

      1. martinusher Silver badge

        If you work and do your best

        You'll get the sack just like the rest

        But if you laze and mess about

        You'll live to see the job right out

        The work is hard, the pay is small

        So take your time and sod them all

        'Cos when you're dead you'll be forgot

        So don't try doing the bleeding lot

        Or on your tombstone, neatly laquered

        these three words.....

        "Just Bleeding Knackered"

        In practice there's a fine balance to strike between earning your keep and overdoing it. Overdoing it will likely not earn you any recognition or reward -- its possible but the kudos inevitably gets soaked up by the self promoters.

    2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”

      ― Bill Gates

      1. Caver_Dave Silver badge

        I didn't know that quote, but I tried to espouse that wisdom at my last place and received very blank looks from the room full of mainly managers.

      2. ArrZarr Silver badge

        Okay, you didn't need to call me out like that.

        The interesting half is when it's genuinely worth doing the work properly because the person who has to deal with any mistakes is the person doing the setup in the first place. Amazing how much it motivates me to do it properly in the first place when I know who will have to fix it.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          "Amazing how much it motivates me to do it properly in the first place when I know who will have to fix it."

          It always motivated me to follow up with good documentation for the same reason.

      3. The BigYin

        LOL! After a recent sideways move/promotion I got asked what motivates me. My answer was "Laziness". That took the new boss by surprise. :-D

    3. The BigYin

      Pet hate: Exception messages like "Could not connect".

      Could not connect to what? What was the error code?

      Yes, I know perfectly well that vomiting a stack on to the screen is a security risk and even if you don't want to reveal (potentially internal) URLs to the user - PUT THEM IN THE DAMNED LOGS!

    4. PerlLaghu

      Leading from the code face

      .... and I quote:

      According to Larry Wall, the original author of the Perl programming language, there are three great virtues of a programmer; Laziness, Impatience and Hubris

      Laziness: The quality that makes you go to great effort to reduce overall energy expenditure. It makes you write labor-saving programs that other people will find useful and document what you wrote so you don't have to answer so many questions about it.

      Impatience: The anger you feel when the computer is being lazy. This makes you write programs that don't just react to your needs, but actually anticipate them. Or at least pretend to.

      Hubris: The quality that makes you write (and maintain) programs that other people won't want to say bad things about.

    5. Bbuckley

      Unfortunately I think that particular peculiarity is down to management (who like to be called "leadership team"). If you don't know what I am talking about Google "David Brent the Office".

  2. Pete 2 Silver badge

    My AI's better than your AI

    > If your law school exam can be passed by ChatGPT, your law school exam is broken

    Not really. While a new sucker client may well have their first meeting with a partner or senior partner, most of the actual grunt-work will be done by interns or unqualified staff. Only with someone qualified taking a cursory look for obvious errors once in a while. And using that "oversight" as justification for the multiple-£100's per hour that the senior charges, for all the hours the junior put in.

    [ voice of being that "sucker" speaking here. £200 p.h. when the individual who did the work couldn't even calculate the final award payout]

    If a generative AI can shake up that cosy little arrangement and inject some semblance of value-for-money into the profession, then I'm all for it.

    There are already automated systems that will appeal parking fines - ones that were issued by someone else's computer, so to have one AI contesting the work of another: isn't that how they get trained in the first place?

    1. Robert Grant

      Re: My AI's better than your AI

      I've not experienced that level of law fee pain, but even conveyancing seems like something ripe for disruption. Why do I wait for searches that could be presented as part of an automated house-buying process?

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: My AI's better than your AI

        Why do I wait for searches that could be presented as part of an automated house-buying process?

        Because the official searches are provided by the local council, who have no incentive to make the process any better? Obviously you can pay somebody to go and do the councils job (a personal search) but most people resent paying for somebody else to do the councils job, and some mortgage lenders still don't accept them.

    2. Bbuckley

      Re: My AI's better than your AI

      Somehow I think you have missed the plot. Perhaps read the article again.

  3. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Qualifications are overated in my opinion.

    Show me what you've done. Tell/Show me how you think.

    Unfortunately, these are rather nebulous qualities so HR doesn't like them. (If you can tick boxes 1, 2 & 3 you're hired is all that HR are interested in)

    1. Steve Button Silver badge

      Surely far more valuable than any qualification is real world experience. And the best way to gain that is through actually doing the job, as an apprentice or junior and working your way up. A degree is a good starting point for some, but it often teaches you a great deal of stuff which you'll never again use throughout your career. Likewise certifications like MCSE really only teach you how to pass certifications, and gain a passing familiarity with the way MS like to do things.

      I'd argue this is pretty much the case for ALL qualifications, they teach you how to pass the qualification and you MIGHT pick up some relevant knowledge at the same time. Even more so, since they brought in rankings for schools and universities, which incentivises them to just focus on exam results, at the expense of spending time on learning stuff the the educator has decided is useful for that particular group at that particular time.

      I remember learning about simultaneous quadratic equations about 30 years ago, and kind-of understood them at the time. I definitely don't understand them now because as a developer and sysadmin/DevOps I've literally NEVER had to use them, and so I've forgotten. I could probably re-learn them, but what would be the point? Similar thing with designing / developing different sorting algorithms. Just a couple of examples for me personally. YMMY.

      1. Korev Silver badge

        > I remember learning about simultaneous quadratic equations about 30 years ago, and kind-of understood them at the time.

        I remember doing quadratic equations in maths lessons and thinking they were pointless. A year or so later I started Chemistry A-level and in the textbook were quadratic equations, interestingly because higher level maths at GCSE wasn't a requirement, half of the class didn't have a clue how to deal with them.

        Kind of a teacher icon -->

        1. Steve Button Silver badge

          Right. Like I said Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV), but I think for the vast majority of people these things are completely useless. And I'm not the vast majority of people, as I work in tech as a developer.

          1. eldakka

            > I think for the vast majority of people these things are completely useless.

            Right, but that's the problem of education though, how do you know what will and will not be necessary for these individuals?

            You can't - to do otherwise would be a totalitarian class/caste-based or slave-like society where the government decides what niche you are going to fill when you are 7 years old (e.g. Spartans, you are a 7yo male, off to warrior school for you).

            That's why the 'earlier' in the education stack you are, the more general and wide-based the education, so it oesn't matter which direction you head you've got underlying foundations for it.

            When you are are year 8 (2nd form), the teachers don't know whether you are going to go and do a Maths degree, or compsi, chemistry, physics, history, medicine or a trade (electrician, cabinet-maker), so you are taught foundational skills across a broad variety of disciplines, 90% of which you'll never need again, but the 10% of what you are taught that you do need will be in the 90% of NOT needed to know for 90% of the other people - but at this point in development it's not known which path you need to know most about.

            As you advance to higher levels of learning, you become more and more specialised, so in year 11 (5th form) you may have decided you are going to study history in university, so you can avoid the advanced-maths or physics classes, etc.

            1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

              Whilst I agree with you as far as facts or processes are concerned there is one process that education isn't designed to teach explicitly, and I'm not sure how it can, called thinking. This one thing I pretty much guarantee will be useful for most of a life (unless you end up as a politician!

              1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                Oh thinking can be taught, good language skills can be taught, good interpersonal skills can be taught. There are some brilliant programmes for this. (e.g.. Philosophy for kids) But not while politician and the public deride these things and insist on drone learning, measurable targets etc.

                1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                  "drone learning, measurable targets etc."

                  That's not a bad thing in early education. Kids need a good foundation in the fundamentals such as multiplication tables, grammar, etc. Much of that is going to be learning by rote. As children get older the approach has to change and what's being taught needs much more context. Measurable targets can also pick up on learning problems and some health issues early.

              2. eldakka

                > there is one process that education isn't designed to teach explicitly, and I'm not sure how it can, called thinking.

                That is what university/college is for.

                Primary Schooling and Secondary Schooling (the hint is in the name, 'schooling' and 'primary' and 'secondary') are intended to 'school' one in the general things someone needs to be a productive member of society, how to live and function day-to-day in a post-serf/peasant world, the world that has existed since the industrial revolution.

                University has historically been where one goes to actually learn to think independently. This is why universities are hotbeds for unrest compared to the general populace because of teaching you to actually think - which more restrictive countries (dictatorships, one-party states, etc.) try to clamp down on as this 'free thinking' inevitably leads the students to understand the - and want to change - how the country actually works - it expands their horizons. This is why - until the last two or three decades at least - where for many jobs the mere fact you have a degree, irrespective in what it is in, can be a pre-requisite for getting a job. The fact someone has a degree has historically meant they know how to think, how to conduct research, etc. Various civil-services of many countries have desired a degree - any degree - for employment precisely because of this. This cachet has lost some of its power however as non-university tertiary institutions who taught post-secondary school vocational courses (e.g. trade schools for electricians, plumbers, draftsmen, etc.) have all become universities but still teaching those same vocational courses with the name changed to a 'degree' rather than being a diploma as they used to be, leading to a proliferation of universites that teah many courses that don't fulfill the historic unviersity ideal.

                1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                  "University has historically been where one goes to actually learn to think independently. "

                  In the later years of school, it makes sense to start bringing in the "thinking" parts rather than just radially shifting gears. University is already going to be a big wake up call for many. There's much less prodding from teachers and parents (for some) so students have to motivate themselves and take responsibility for getting something out of their classes. Not everybody is going to go to university so there should be classes in life skills the last few years of school. Some of those life skills are lots of thinking, planning and walking through scenarios to see what the consequences of an action could be.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Having staggered through O level maths i always reckoned I learned O level algebra doing A level physics.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            "Having staggered through O level maths i always reckoned I learned O level algebra doing A level physics."

            Having some context has always made math much easier for me. I volunteer with a group that supports kids with model rockets. That's a hobby that can go from super basic fun to seriously advanced concepts and everything in between. There's a contest every year where groups are given a challenge. They have to launch one or two fresh eggs, to a specific altitude and recover them intact. Every year the criteria changes a bit such as trying to hit an exact time from liftoff to landing or putting limits on motor/parachute size. I really enjoy being a mentor for that.

      2. steviebuk Silver badge

        What we got taught in our IT classes in college in the 90s I don't think I've ever used. Granted, I struggled to get an IT job after but once I did, the way I learned was on the job and video guides that I discovered like Trainsignal etc. Recently on a nostalgia kick, while at work I've been watching/listening (in the background) to Microsoft Windows 95 Traincast on the Blue OS Museum channel on YouTube. I've learned more about deploying Windows 95 and managing it watching that, than we ever got taught in college when they'd upgraded all their kit to Windows 95.

      3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        I use simultaneous equations a few years ago when working out how much wallpaper I needed to balance two different patterns.

      4. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "I could probably re-learn them, but what would be the point?"

        It's good to be exposed to those sorts of things and if you need to go back and learn them again, it should be easier and you'll have more context since there will be a reason to relearn. Anybody doing new work is going to need to spend time figuring out the 'new' parts. If you can do 90% of the job hungover with puffy eyes, you should be a good candidate unless you are always showing up to work in that condition. Companies always seem to want a new hire that is feature complete right from day one and never has to revise or spend time inventing something new. Preferably, the person will be coming from a competitor they are trying to copy and will take a salary 10% lower than market norm.

    2. trindflo Bronze badge

      qualities HR doesn't like

      I agree that qualifications are overrated. I think the HR angle works a little differently.

      If hiring for a technical position is offloaded to HR then HR will usually have limited ability to determine suitability: they will have the qualifications, a mountain of resumes, and if they take the time, how pleasant the person sounds on the phone.

      If your job is to get through a mountain of resumes, the fastest way is to disqualify as much of that mountain as possible. Not having the exact wording of the qualifications is a quick way, so if the qualifications list has a typo that requires experience with fireballs, your experience with firewalls might gift you a trip to the bin. Once the qualifications are repaired, your resume will be listed as already having been sent to the bin; another excuse to send it back there. This is a gross example and most HR people would catch something like that before the job was ever advertised, but get into a very technical field like genetic engineering and there are words that would fool most of us.

      Having said exactly the right things the right way on your resume only gives you good odds of getting to the next step; you can still cough at the right time and get eliminated during the phone interview.

      Then there is social media; HR will sometimes use things said about you by random people to determine your worthiness.

      Add to this that HR will only be criticized for letting the wrong people through. I've never heard of someone being criticized for eliminating someone from the competition in an early stage.

      1. Robert Grant

        Re: qualities HR doesn't like

        First they throw half the applicants in the bin, as they don't want to hire unlucky people.

        1. Bebu Silver badge

          Re: qualities HR doesn't like

          《First they throw half the applicants in the bin, as they don't want to hire unlucky people.》

          Very droll.


        2. Norman Nescio Silver badge

          Re: qualities HR doesn't like

          Sounds like that might be biased against light people.

          While it might be effective (selecting for Teela Brown), I suspect a useful proxy is throwing half the job applications into the bin, not the applicants.

          1. Robert Grant

            Re: qualities HR doesn't like

            Hah. good point :)

      2. ColinPa

        Weird mathemeticians

        I have a friend who worked in a secret area where they had complex data processing. The found the best people for this work was "weird" mathematicians, usually on the autistic spectrum.

        HR got involved in the hiring, and only "well rounded" individuals who fitted into the "corporate ethos" passed HR. My friend said these people were very nice, but they did not know the difference between a theta function and a zeta function.

        My mate tried to give HR some guidance. If they wear odd socks - put their application form on the top of the pile.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Weird Engineers

          We were taken over by a US company who suddenly realised that they couldn't 'encourage/control' the CAD/SW/HW engineering floor as they could every department in the rest of their empire.

          They called in a consultancy to see why their style didn't work.

          The consultancy responded that "2/3rds of them are on the spectrum - some of them, far down the spectrum. So long as they get the work done, leave them alone."

          Best bit of advice I ever came across from a consultancy.

          The US company sold us as fast as they could.

          Anon as I know many of my ex-colleagues read The Reg and the consultants report was not made widely available.

      3. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: qualities HR doesn't like

        Yeah. Successful ( in career) HR types, like surgeons, bury their mistakes. The brilliant technician/teacher/social worker/anyone else who doesn't get the job because they didn't say the right thing at the right time in the right way will mostly just never be known about. That's probably no different from the old fashioned interview panel, to be fair. But it does mean that HR's process can be very inefficient. Safe choices rather than best choices.

      4. eldakka

        Re: qualities HR doesn't like

        > if the qualifications list has a typo that requires experience with fireballs,

        aha! I knew my PnP DnD skills would come in useful oneday!

        I have a lot of experience with fireballs - both on the receiving and delivering end.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: qualities HR doesn't like

          "aha! I knew my PnP DnD skills would come in useful oneday!

          I have a lot of experience with fireballs - both on the receiving and delivering end."

          I'd love to see some numbers on this. There could be a strong correlation between programmers and DnD players. It would be hilarious to see a job questionnaire that asks what color flame your sword has and its level.

      5. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: qualities HR doesn't like

        "This is a gross example and most HR people would catch something like that before the job was ever advertised"

        The trouble is that you aren't showing a gross example. HR doesn't know if there isn't something like a "fireball" in a computer field vs. a "firewall". That's the big problem. They don't know what the job entails nor how to ascertain whether somebody is a good fit. They don't get happy, they don't get sad, they just run programs.

    3. ColinPa

      HR views

      We had someone who did a year with us as a sandwich student. He was great. Next year he came as part of graduate recruitment. Technically he got all the approvals. But HR turned him down - "he was very quiet". They thought he would not fit in!

      My manager "spoke" to HR and they changed their minds.

      He turned into an exceptional technical leader.

      1. Binraider Silver badge

        Re: HR views

        Snap. I sit on interview panels for our grad scheme. The scoring guidance is blatantly rigged towards jacks of all trades, rather than those excellent at any one thing.

        I have a place for both types in my team. Inclusion and diversity, 101. Ten copies of myself would be a pain in the arse to manage.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Agree entirely. Trouble is who do you decide to interview with this approach?

      Experience is king, how do you get relevant experience without magic certificate in first place?

      This is not an easy problem. Believe me I know - my qualifications are less than stellar - yet someone was willing to give me a shot. And now I’m on the other side of the wall interviewing others. It is only right I extend that same opportunity that I were given.

    5. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "Qualifications are overated in my opinion.

      Show me what you've done. Tell/Show me how you think.

      Unfortunately, these are rather nebulous qualities so HR doesn't like them. "

      The problem is HR doesn't know anything about the job they are filling so they can't conduct a subjective interview to test a person's knowledge and approach. If all they have to do it tick (or not tick) boxes, that's about the limit of what they can do.

      Moral of story: Make sure your resume ticks every box in the job description (lie) if you can make heads or tails of the posting.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Plenty of specialists, massive shortist of generalists

    The problem I see is that there isn't a real education for the people who have to integrate the different disciplines into one coherent whole that actually delivers as planned and needed (the two don't always match up).

    Can I get a security specialist? Yes, no problem, that job has enough tickboxes to satisfy HR (you'd think, but the truth is different - the old hacker dictum 'it takes one to know one' still holds true). A network specialist? Yup. Mostly that is Cisco. A systems specialist? Management is happy if the chap 'knows Windows', following the same route as to how it made its way into business: via some CEO nephew who used for gaming but hey, there are tick boxes HR can tick and everyone is happy but saying 'no' for a while will get you free dinners from Redmond.

    Until they discover that shit ain't workin' - because the network chappie (of chappess) can't see why the Windows geek needs the ability to broadcast to all, the security guy wants to shutter everything but that way nothing works and generally you'll find that pretty much the only person who has an overview and thus a path to *some* solution is the project manager - assuming you were intelligent enough to use one. Oh, and that systems architect? Well, he wasn't hired because he didn't tick the right boxes.

    There are very few people left who have grown up with the term interoperability (and even fewer who can pronounce it, but I digress), and those people are the generalists you need to connect component A up to business need B and integrate with a supply chain C so that it all works, and the only way to achieve that is knowing enough of all components to get it to work together. There is no course or degree for that, no boxes to tick, no HR person who can identify those people.

    And I am not the only one of those who is close to retirement :).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Plenty of specialists, massive shortist of generalists

      And how do you put that generalist into a CV in a way that HR will understand?

      I spent 2 years as a solutions guy, called in when the realm experts said that it couldn't be done.

      A charity running vintage Jets didn't want replace them just because RR said the time was up - I invented a side route to measure the starting current, matched with that engine's historic data, to identify when the bearings were wearing.

      Or meeting an aircraft manufacturer (with a couple of hours driving time notice) to design a test system for the air-conditioning units of an aircraft as it sat on the ground.

      Or measuring the battery characteristics of a new train carriage.

      Or automatically measure the ph of Cat urine - (the only way to know if a new food is doing them good.)

      Or automatically tell the Engineer supporting an underground carpark when his fluorescent tubes were about to fail.

      A voice controlled home automation system.

      etc. etc.

      And earlier, the first F1 telemetry system. Radio, electronics and the assembler code.

      And later writing digital filter code for mobile phones in assembler, and writing the MMS interoperability test specification.

      And later, designing hardware and software for regular space missions.

      And now writing certifiable operating systems.

      The point being that these are all disparate, and often very inventive, solutions and so show general knowledge across many realms, but which cannot be codified in a way that is tick box friendly. Add to that, the fact that I do not have a degree, and my problem is getting past the first round of HR filtering.

      Anon as I am British and the above sounds boastful, even though it really is only a small snapshot.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Plenty of specialists, massive shortist of generalists

        I wrote that comment because I recognise the problem - I've had this too.

        I've also been on the recruitment side when HR told me that they 'could not find anyone suitable' despite a decent job spec because (again) they only looked at keywords.

        I got a stack of CVs from them, went through it and found the perfect match, only to be told that the person "would not fit the culture". No, I kid you not, that was the reason for the rejection for a technical position with well defined needs. So they were told to go and eat yoghurt somewhere if they wanted culture, we got the person in and - as expected - they were a perfect fit and were offered the job there and then.

        This leads me to an important question: who decides which people get to work in HR? I have come some more sensible setups but they're rare. Given that they're supposed to source the people that benefit an organisation I'd say getting that wrong could be an expensive mistake for the company..

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Plenty of specialists, massive shortist of generalists

          HR are here to ensure a company meets legal employment obligations. Just as bean counters are there to make sure it meets financial ones.

          The problem seems to arise when they're given guru status and have the control of their respective domains rather than just advising on them. Because neither group has any sight of the organisation as a whole. The tunnel vision leads to narrow decisions.

          1. jmch Silver badge

            Re: Plenty of specialists, massive shortist of generalists

            In most modern large companies the primary function of HR is to protect the company from the employees and make sure everyone fits their nice, neat cookie-cutter model. One of the reasons I like contracting is that often contractors are primarily chosen by the project team, with minimal input from HR, while permanent employees have to be 'pre-approved' by HR before the project team ever gets to see a CV

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Plenty of specialists, massive shortist of generalists

              HR is also there to protect the employees.from the employer.

              Through a colleague, I get to hear some horror stories of senior execs and their (lack ofl) grasp of HR responsibilities.

              Bigger organizations almost certainly do most of the HR right but the power dynamic is weighted towards the company. Smaller organisations may not have a clue but like many small companies legal obligations you only find out when something goes wrong...

              1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                Re: Plenty of specialists, massive shortist of generalists

                "HR is also there to protect the employees.from the employer.

                Through a colleague, I get to hear some horror stories of senior execs and their (lack ofl) grasp of HR responsibilities."

                That's sounds more like the company protecting itself from itself. You want to have somebody around that can remind senior execs that it's a bad idea to 'get your honey where you get your money' and harassment trials are very expensive.

        2. Sanguma

          Re: Plenty of specialists, massive shortist of generalists

          Human Resources is a subset of the scientific discipline of Psychology. You'll see it in University calendars marked as Organizational Psychology. And, to the best of my knowledge, it is the only subset of said Psychology discipline that does not generate a large number of research papers, so I take it that most Psychology professors regard it as a waste of time and money. (Disclaimer, I am not myself a Psychology professor nor have I asked any who I might know, about their opinions on Organizational psychology, but the general theme in the sciences, is that research is what everything's about: Organizational Psychology in that mindset's of the same order as a Mills&Boon to Nobel Prize Literature winner.)

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Plenty of specialists, massive shortist of generalists

            Organisational Psychology when I did my degree in the 70s was about interaction within companies. And often was, or could be, about being manipulative to get the staff to behave how you want them to (effectively work harder for less money). But it didn't have to be.

            When I did a postgrad in education leadership, (pretty much the same as the head teachers' NPQH), around 15 years ago almost all of the organisational "research" was based on narrative Socialogcal research, devoid of any rigour that I could discern and none of which I'd bother using to wipe my.........

            But it was also mostly about getting the plebs to do what you wanted. I had/have the suspicion that Psychology couldn't or wouldn't give them the results they wanted so they resorted to this witchcraft.

            Research is not value free.What gets research grants and is published depends massively on the political climate.

            Before the UK and other governments decided that Phonics was the only way to reach reading I received and read dozens of research papers on literacy teaching methodology and effectiveness of different approaches every year. Once Phonics took a hold all I got was dull comparative studies of phonic acquisition across different populations/languages.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Plenty of specialists, massive shortist of generalists

        And now writing certifiable operating systems.

        I thought that Windows would classify as certifiable.

        No, wait :).

      3. Norman Nescio Silver badge

        Re: Plenty of specialists, massive shortist of generalists

        Clive? Is that you?

        If not, there's more than one of you.

      4. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Plenty of specialists, massive shortist of generalists

        "The point being that these are all disparate, and often very inventive, solutions and so show general knowledge across many realms, but which cannot be codified in a way that is tick box friendly. "

        All of that is fine and dandy, but how good are you with Powerpoint and how much experience do you have with (proprietary in-house) CRM? You'll also need a reference that shows your published work using Adobe Illustrator. Oh, we start everybody on second/third shift and you may be asked to cover people out in offices 200 miles away on short notice. Oh wait, no degree? We're going to go with the kid that's fresh out of Uni with a degree in Diversity Studies as there's a big push on right now for that skill set (if it can be called that).

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Plenty of specialists, massive shortist of generalists

      All of the above. ^^^

    3. Binraider Silver badge

      Re: Plenty of specialists, massive shortist of generalists

      No one person can be that specialised in everything to deal with everything. The whole point in management is to take advantage of diversity and co-ordinate action.

      The old trope that Accountants and Lawyers need only one specific skill rings true. Whereas engineers need maths, physics, law, accountancy, politics etc. to get anything done.

      So why are there armies of the former but never enough of the latter? (And why does the pay-balance usually not favour the more challenging role...)

    4. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Plenty of specialists, massive shortist of generalists

      "And I am not the only one of those who is close to retirement :)."

      No, I've shifted gears into something I like to do more than what I have to do to make enough to pay for things. I still keep my fingers in various things such as product development. I find it much more fun to work with people that have great ideas but need somebody to help them make it go (or show them why it won't every work). When I worked for a company, especially a large company, there's no telling them their idea is unworkable. They've spent a load of money on focus groups and market research and need to bring this perpetual motion machine to market to justistfy all of that expense. At least justify it long enough that those who's head will roll have time to retire or find a position someplace else while they can still get a good reference.

  5. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Exams as a system

    As an educator I have always disliked the exam system. Because it doesn't do what it (implicitly) says on the tin.

    Exams that test the ability to recall scads of information outside of real world context and under time pressure certainly tell us something about that candidate. But don't tell us the main thing. Because the foundation for the test is quick recall rather than thoughtful application of knowledge. i.e. there is a massive bias to candidates with good memory for rote learning. We learn less about whether the candidate can identify what knowledge is needed, and how to synthesise a solution from knowledge they've obtained, because only the ones that have learnt stuff by rote are able to apply it in the exam (and may well even have learnt solutions and explanations by rote too).

    This is not always a bad thing- you certainly need your graduates to be able to remember that the knowledge of something exists,where to find the knowledge and how to apply it. And this is particularly true as the study gets more advanced and specialised. But conversely it is counter-productive at younger and more generalist stages.

    As an analogy- it's better to learn how to use a library than to try to remember the name and location every book that's in it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Exams as a system

      My partner used to be a teacher. Their target, as directed by the school head, was to get kids to pass exams, not to educate them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Exams as a system

        Of course, school exams are high stakes for the school. League tables can make the difference between a successful school and a failing one.

        Note, not the other way round. Because a school with a reputation for success - whether warranted or not- attracts the parents who care and are ambitious for their kids. And a school that has not got that reputation, whether justified or not, gets the parents who don't know or don't care about getting their kids into the supposedly good school. And by and large the kids who are in the desired school will be the ones who'll do well, even if it's not as well as they could. And the kids in the less well desired school will, on the whole, do less well than the desired one- even if they actually do much better than you'd expect given their backgrounds etc.

        A/C because of this bit...both my kids went to the less desired of our two neighbouring primary schools, for various good reasons.. The younger left a Russel group uni last year with a 1st. The elder is a still very young NHS senior therapist.

      2. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Exams as a system

        "Their target, as directed by the school head, was to get kids to pass exams, not to educate them."

        A perfect example of Goodhardt's law ("When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure"). If schools are assessed based on how many kids pass their exams, their target will be to get kids to pass exams, whether they really know their stuff or not. If schools are assessed based on grades, there is pressure on the teachers to give higher grades even if the work does not warrant it. That's why in the last 20+ years, in countries that rely heavily on this sort of grading system (think GPA in the US), the 'official' scores rise but the level of education is the same or worse.

        The best education system in the world, that consistently produces the best results, is Finland. This is known for a couple of decades already, what they do is no secret, but other countries resist adopting a similair approach because it either seems counter-intuitive, or there are political reasons to stop it....

        - School times are shorter, and kids don't get any homework. or maybe 20 minutes a week. There is an acknowledgement that playing and socialising with other kids actually teaches important life skills, and doesn't drain away creativity and motivation. Many places load kids with homework to an extent that their day is basically wake up, school, lunch, more school, homework, dinner and bed. Particularly in places such as India, Japan and Korea, where education is either seen as the way out of poverty for a whole family, or culturally very significant, there is huge pressure from the family for the kid to 'succeed', which is clearly not good for the kids' mental health and future performance.

        - Teaching is a highly respected profession, and that respect is actually tangibly shown in the pay scales. US and UK talk a big talk about the importance of teachers* but insist on paying them peanuts and then act surprised when the kids education is crap.

        - All schools are following the same government standard (I can't remember if private schools are completely not allowed, or they are strictly regulated to the same standards as government ones). Since they are centrally financed, they all have the same level of infrastructure and equipment, and they all have good, motivated teachers. In stark contrast to eg the UK model where the rich send their kids to expensive public schools** and don't really care about the quality of government schools. Or the US model where every district is locally funded, so the rich kids from rich areas get good schools, the kids from the ghettos get to go to schools in run-down old buildings where the only new infrastructure is metal detectors.

        *ditto with nurses (and I'm sure there are a few other professions)

        **For non-Brits: "public school" in UK actually means private school

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Exams as a system

          so the rich kids from rich areas get good schools, the kids from the ghettos get to go to schools in run-down old buildings

          More common in the UK than you think, but just not formalised, often even in the same approximate area.. And often indirect. For a start schools in certain catchments have much more cash to spend on kids who already come from relatively privileged backgrounds. For a number of reasons. 1) Special Needs funding doesn't meet the needs of the kids. Schools that attract more kids with SEN- or get them because their parents aren't pushing to get them in the other school ( or it evades admitting them) cost more to educate. The other school sends the kids on trips and journeys etc that the far more needy kids don't get. 2) The nice little extras that well heeled parents provide, that supplement the school's provision. You'd be shocked at the discrepancies between what two local schools scoop up at a Christmas fair. One small local school gets a couple of thousand. The other is grateful if it doesn't make a loss. 3)The pushy middle class school's parents will be on the phone to their local authority to make sure that leaky roof is repaired at council expense. The less privileged has had buckets to catch the drips for the last three winters.. 4)The privileged school rides its reputation ( see previous AC posting) and is always full with a waiting list. The less privileged neighbour often has vacancies that lose it funding, but it still has to employ the teachers, pay the heating bills etc.and to make that worse there will be kids coming in to fill the spaces during the year, but after the funding is set And so on.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Exams as a system

            "have much more cash to spend on kids who already come from relatively privileged backgrounds. "

            A friend of mine sacrificed a lot to make sure his kids all went to a well regarded private school. Part of the school's approach was to keep the parents active within the school rather than just dropping the kids off and complaining about this and that. All of his kids did exceptionally well. The lowest ranking (his only son) went to trade school instead of uni and now has his own general contracting firm and does very well. The two daughters have great careers and families. It wasn't about turning every waking moment into a "learning experience" but concentrating on important subjects at age-appropriate times. My friend and his wife are both well educated so they were also there to help the kids with their school work.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Exams as a system

          "ditto with nurses (and I'm sure there are a few other professions"

          My mom was a nurse in the US and earned a very good salary. She went on to get her "Registered Nurse Certified" qualification in Labor and Delivery. That's what she liked and the added qualification meant more money.

          There's been a nurse shortage in the US for ages so there are opportunities to make very good money. My mom worked the registry (temps) in addition to her full time position (long days/short weeks) for a period to stack away a healthy down payment on a house. The temp work was 1.5-2.5x her full time salary.

          My aunt taught school and it was very low pay for the amount of work involved. She also taught at a school where the kids often didn't have any language skills in English and were illiterate in Spanish as well with a ghetto vocabulary/usage. She still found the work rewarding for those few students each year that might make it in the real world.

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Exams as a system

      As an educator I have always disliked the exam system. Because it doesn't do what it (implicitly) says on the tin.

      But you're an educator. IT exams are for accountants. I know the Cisco papermill best and that generates huge revenues. People have to pay to be Cisco Certified, employers have to hire X Cisco Certified employees to keep discount levels, or sell some product lines. Some, like the CCDA train you to be non-commission eligible Cisco sales people. So the 'correct' design is one that strangely enough involves a lot more tin, complexity and insecurity than if you designed a network using a mix of transmission components and Cisco tin. Often it can be far, far cheaper to do things at the optical layer, especially with 10Gbps+ services.. But Cisco wants you to buy more BFRs and stonkingly expensive interfaces.

      Exams that test the ability to recall scads of information outside of real world context and under time pressure certainly tell us something about that candidate.

      Yep, some can be practical, ie the CCIE lab exam where it's broken in interesting ways and there's time pressure to fix it. Problem is all the CCIE bootcamps that train people to pass those exams. But I've hired on that basis before, ie tested candidates with scenarios I know CCIE's probably have encountered before. But they will in the real-world, outside of the bootcamps.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Exams as a system

      If exams were simply a test of recall they wouldn't be too bad. But they're also a test of being able to write legibly at speed.

      1. Mark #255

        Re: Exams as a system

        Interestingly (in England), if a student habitually "writes" everything using a laptop in their lessons, they don't even need an official diagnosis of dyslexia to be able to use the same system of working in their exams (GCSE and A-level).

        If the school can demonstrate that extra time is needed in exams (generally by doing a mock exam, and getting the student to switch (pen/font) colour at the end of the standard allotted time), then 25% extra time is available.

        The school's SENCO should be able to help, if anyone's in this situation.

    4. Sanguma

      Re: Exams as a system

      Passing an exam's a skill in itself. To pass an exam indicates two things to me:

      a: You've gained the skill of passing the exam; and

      b: you may have some knowledge of the subject the exam was about.

      Does it indicate anything else? Clever Hans, anybody?

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Exams as a system

        Does it indicate anything else? Clever Hans, anybody?

        I think..

        It demonstrates a level of committment, ie someone's either taken the time & money to certify themselves, or a previous employer might have.

        It might help the paper sift for who gets an interview, especially if there's a practical test.

        Downside is a freshly minted CCxx might have.. unrealistic expectations wrt salary based on their experience. But also one of those catch-22's for candidates. If you don't have the experience, it's harder to get the job. For me, they're less valuable in ops or design roles because that tends to require more creativity, lateral thinking, being good with a razor and plenty of coffee. So those situations when someone asks "Is the Internet down?", it is this time, the pressure is building, and you haven't seen this fault before.

        So noticed a typo in my previous post.. To test ops candidates, we'd create scenarios a CCIE probably won't have seen before, but should hopefully be able to figure out. Mostly those would be transmission or cable related.

        I think it can get a bit harder for design roles, but still much the same. So maybe one where a client wants X and they have 1hr to design a solution. We can do much the same to test for rote learners and look if candidates know a few tricks of the trade, like using subnet zero or /31s on interfaces instead of the usual /30. But that one's a pet hate, ie why do you need 4 IP addresses on a P2P connection? Then things like using a $20 optical Y-cable to make tin on the end of a wavelength of fibre service more resilient instead of 'needing' extra circuits. Or the reverse, and using optical protection instead of router/switch protection. Those tend to be more challenging for candidates who aren't familiar with the things that can be done at the transmission level, but can save huge amounts of money. Candidates can pick up on that stuff, if they read around the subject, ie monitor public NetOps discussions on the 'net.

    5. alisonken1

      Re: Exams as a system


      As an analogy- it's better to learn how to use a library than to try to remember the name and location every book that's in it.

      I had an actual job interview (phone) where I was asked about the linux "ldd" command. I could pretty much give them a step-by-step guide on what it does and how to use it.

      My application was binned because, at the time, I could not for the life of me remember that "ldd" the command was an acronym of the words "linux dynamic dependency" - the part I could not explicitly remember was "dynamic".

    6. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Exams as a system

      " i.e. there is a massive bias to candidates with good memory for rote learning. "

      I'm pretty good at that sort of thing and have a wall of certificates to show for it. It's a skill worth learning if you can since you too can build a wall full of certificates that open doors to the things you are actually good at. I do spend the effort to learn the things that I need and will use on a job. I was going to use a cake/frosting analogy, but it worked out backwards since all the cake is there for is to act as a carrier for the icing in my world.

  6. t245t

    Open-book exams and Open source and diversity

    The only thing such courses teach you is how to pass exams and demonstrate your ability to memorise and regurgitate stuff.

    Open source isn't so good culturally, and it can be an off-putting place if you don't fit in or don't have the confidence to cope with its less nurturing aspects. For a tradition that should be purely meritocratic, it's curiously lacking in diversity. That's a sign of a lot of people not signing up for a sector desperately short of people.

    The only kind of diversity that counts is the ability to write code. I would be more impressed with someone's project on GitHub than any kind of “Open-book exam”.

    1. Binraider Silver badge

      Re: Open-book exams and Open source and diversity

      A-level maths was nightmarish for me. Yet in my current job people look to me for my maths abilities. Why is that? Something to do with exams only being a tiny subset of actual ability. In the real world you do get to look at the textbook, or search engine. Cocking around with factorising equations by (Mostly) trial and error? Not so much.

      Knowing one’s limits and capacity to adapt is more important. Says a lot about the individual if they have a hard time and stick at it.

  7. Howard Sway Silver badge

    What are IT qualifications for in 2023?

    A lazy shortcut for clueless managers and HR departments, that's what they're used for in 2023.

    The article title is right, what IT needs is brains, plus experience. So involve good IT people with brains and experience in the recruitment process if you want to recruit other good IT people. If you want good admins, ask candidates to describe not only what they did, but why they did it, how they automated it, and how they managed it. You find good developers by asking them to supply a complete smallish application they've written as a sample of their work. This will easily show whether they care about design, readability, documentation, good logical thought and efficiency.

    If your technical recruitment gets captured by HR, expect to pay lots of money hiring bullshitters and sycophants, and watch things go to shit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What are IT qualifications for in 2023?

      what IT needs is brains, plus experience

      You're missing something: what it also needs is creativity.

      Yes, you heard that right. Creativity. Not the knowing-how-to-draw-a-picture-or-sculpt-clay variety (and no, I don't consider sticking a shark in a formaldehyde tank 'art'; with or without lasers), but the "let's look at this from another angle" or "how can this be done better" perspective. What is never talked about is that quite a lot of what IT people do is creation: taking building blocks and create something new. Write code that changes perspective, ekes out relationships previously not realised, etc etc.

      Logic does not preclude the ability to create, and it's not just designers who get to shape something.

      Last but not least, it also expresses itself in the nature of the pranks played on others which sometimes happen on the fly..

    2. OhForF' Silver badge

      Re: What are IT qualifications for in 2023?

      >You find good developers by asking them to supply a complete smallish application they've written as a sample of their work<

      Depending on how you ask for that you might although loose talent.

      I'd be happy to deelop a sample application during a probationary period of a contract or when getting otherwise compensated but i do not work for free and i'm not going to waste my time to develop some useless application to impress a prospective employer.

    3. crg the new one

      Re: What are IT qualifications for in 2023?

      > You find good developers by asking them to supply a complete smallish application they've written as a sample of their work.

      No, YOU find good developers that way, but 90% of architects and tech leads who carry those interviews can't read two lines of code.

      And, more and more, lead developers tend to be people who only managed to go through the university but aren't really technically-minded (best example being a buddy of mine who, while being a senior, expert .NET developer, refused to try to fix his blog because it's in PHP, not C# or Java, the stuff he knows), and such people tend to know a single way, their way of doing something, or using something, thus being unable to correctly evaluate how good or bad other developers are. If the candidate doesn't arrange the variables alphabetically, he/she's out.

      (no joke here, I've been working in such organisation)

      Architects nowadays only "design" rectangles and arrows on a board, they can't possibly evaluate code. Tech leads are, usually, developers who weren't good developers so... Then developers themselves: 90% of code reviews I see (in projects done in corporations) are superficial, about naming conventions and spaces between methods, obvious bugs and stupid bad code goes unseen. You can't expect such lame devs to correctly interview, evaluate or hire good devs, they will only hire losers like themselves.

  8. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    hallucination-prone text predictor

    Why did I read that as 'text predator'?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: hallucination-prone text predictor

      ... that's my lawyer

    2. RobLang

      Re: hallucination-prone text predictor

      "Billy! Run to the word processor!"

  9. Caver_Dave Silver badge

    Professional qualififcations

    Become a Chartered IT Professional.

    This shows academic achievement, plus worked experience (in the form of a formal interview) to get initial membership of BCS, IET, (or other body) and then continuing education to maintain that status.

    Or how about measuring yourself against SFIA?

    Unfortunately, HR will have no idea about these.

    1. omz13

      Re: Professional qualififcations

      I was CITP. In all my decades of experience I can count on one finger the number of employers/agencies who expressed any interest in that.

      I’ve worked with a handful of people who were CITP and they pretty much said the same thing.

      Now, this could be due to the weird and obscure circles I’m in, or it could just be that nobody gives one iota about CITP.

      What counted more was the type of projects you’ve worked on and how broad your experience is (which is a better indicator of continuing education than SFIA).

    2. druck Silver badge

      Re: Professional qualififcations

      As far as the IET is concerned it shows the ability to churn through massive amounts of box ticking paperwork.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I find the current crop of vendor exams pretty pointless. I sat a google cloud data engineer exam and all it really taught me was how to do presales for google cloud. They leave you completely unprepared to do useful work on whatever the product is. When I moved into a role using GCP in anger for the first time all I really knew was the product names and high level features.

    I see lots of candidates who sit every single one of the exams going which makes me think they are all pretty easy if you’re good at cramming

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you want to pass any SAP certifications, just buy the questions (with answers) dump from any of the many suppliers.

    Or so I'm told ...

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      I think the professional certification industry is rife with this problem.

      And, to start with, I have a problem with an exam that is supposed to prove my knowledge of a specific domain of programming, and it's a questionnaire of the pick-the-right-answer type. And the questions are the hardest to understand, because those who created the questionnaire did their damndest to make the question obscure and open to interpretation. There's always the obvious wrong answer, then the easy to eliminate answer, and you end up wrestling between two choices that could be acceptable if the question included such-and-such as a given. If you really know your domain, you can pull it off in spite of the odd mistake, but I don't see that such shenanigans prove my competence as a Lotus Notes developer.

      You want to know if I know how to program ? Ask me to write the code to answer a specific problem. Then test the code. If it runs and it answers the problem, then I'm good.

      But of course, that approach eliminates 100% of the certification industry of today.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Going back to the days of Netware 4 IIRC the exams consisted of a combination of multiple choice questions and practical questions - create a user with specific requirements, find and delete an object, etc. - where there were several ways to do it, but it was the end result that mattered. Its probably not easy to implement on a practical level - although (at least) Qwiklabs do GCP training where it checks your progress through the steps of a lab so it is possible.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well there's your problem

    I once saved a large organisation from a major, self inflicted data loss after their highly trained and qualified IT staff made an entriely avoidable mistake with a storage array.

    Took me 14 hours but I recovered everything, got all services back and working.

    At the end of my stint and when they'd confirmed, their head of IT told me I had to send my CV because he wanted to employ me and floated a possible offer that was roughly twice my salary.

    I sent my CV and waited.

    After a week of silence I rang him and asked what he thought, to be told he couldn't possibly hire me as they only hire degree qualified IT staff.

    1. matthewdjb

      Re: Well there's your problem

      Oh, you fixed the Air Traffic Control system!

  13. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    What do you mean by "IT Skills"?

    At the first level, being able to type and put stuff in a spreadsheet is today's equivalent of being able to drag a pen across a sheet of paper and add up in the 19th century. If you can't type, in today's world you are *illiterate* and unemployable.

    At the next level, there's resetting passwords and replacing toner cartidges. What I call "IT labouring". All too many people think this requires you to spend 50 grand on a university degree to be able to do. No. This is the equivalent of the 19th century office manager. You can write, you can add up, *and* you know where the pencils are stored and replace them when needed.

    At the far other end is coding, programming, development. THIS IS *NOT* IT. At hair-tearing-out levels all too many people who think they are entitled to order other people around assert "people need to know IT" is translated into "everybody must code!" NO! Let the enthusiastic automotive engineers be automotive engineers, let other people just learn how to drive.

  14. GraXXoR


    … have traditionally been pretty adept at acquiring brains.

    I’ll get me coat.

    1. Far Gone Ice Hole

      Re: Zombies…

      I don't know they may not be as they are always looking for "more brains"

  15. CardboardBox

    Hacking tests and CTFs to get to the interview stage

    In the world of offensive security (offsec) - the "attack" compliment to infosec's traditional "defense" role - there is always a rigorous take-home test of sorts in order to get to the final round of interviews. These take the form of hacking puzzles, CTFs (capture the flag), source code review, scripting assignments, or other hands-on hacking challenges. And they often require a very detailed written report of how you did what you did to solve the challenges.

    It is a great way to find seasoned professionals and resourceful, driven novices. But in recent years these tests have grown in complexity and size, along with the number of required interviews. The end result is a risky commitment for the candidate; It is entirely possible to go through six lengthy interviews, spend an entire weekend hacking, write a 30 page report, and then end up not getting hired. Consequently, enduring a personally expensive commitment like that, only to hear back that they've "decided to move in a new direction" or some other uninformative euphemism, can make candidates wary of applying to a job opening at all.

    What I've done in the past is to gently pressure the initial HR screener to commit to fewer interview rounds IF I pass their test. But that itself is a risky thing to do: pressuring HR to shorten a process which they may or may not have control over.

    In summary, offsec's hacking challenges are a helpful but very imperfect new addition to the overall problem outlined in this article.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: Hacking tests and CTFs to get to the interview stage

      I have a friend who's a computational chemist, he got called for interview with a company who gave him a task to do. It was obvious that they were just after ideas to pinch, moreover, doing the test effectively meant he was breaking his contract with his then employer as he'd be working for a competitor...

    2. Caver_Dave Silver badge

      Re: Hacking tests and CTFs to get to the interview stage

      Still better than an IQ test?

      I went for a job at the IT department of a global company offering over twice the salary I was on. (I also wanted an easy job for 3 years while I was Deputy President of a National Youth Charity.)

      The first part was an IQ test (the only one I have ever sat).

      The secretary showed me into the room and presented me with the test. She came back after 30 minutes to ask if I wanted a drink. I said no, and gave her the answer sheet.

      She looked dumbfounded and so I confirmed that I had finished it. She answered that no-one had every finished in the 2 hours they had allocated.

      She came back after another 30 minutes having obviously marked the answers and given these to the manager.

      I was shown into him. He didn't even look up as I was told "don't bother sitting down, you will be bored, goodbye", and I was then ushered out of the room by the secretary. She did say that at "172 ... [it was] far in excess of any other score [they] had ever received."

      It took me another 10 years to reach the salary they were offering, but I still can't decide whether it was a lucky escape (from the acrimony of a boss who knew his IQ was much lower), or just a waste of my limited holiday entitlement to attend.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Hacking tests and CTFs to get to the interview stage

        You didn't say what kind of role that was, but did say "easy job". I'm guessing, from having heard a few similar stories and in my youth having briefly done a few jobs that would fit, that the boss in question needed people who were just bright enough to meet some arbitrary HR requirement- but not for any good reason related to the role.That, in fact he needed drones and didn't want anyone who would a) swan off asap or b) start having ideas about improving a function that worked just well enough. There are plenty of departments in plenty of companies that are reliable and just good enough. No one expects anything better of them as long as they stay reliable, and they don't try to provide anything better. They don't want too much staff turnover (because reliability) and they don't want any sudden brainwaves.

  16. trennels

    Experience means nothing today

    US guy here. Over 20 years in the industry - no degree or certifications, just on-the-job learning and doing. I'm about to start a much lower paying customer service job because experience counts for nothing in tech. My last company laid off thousands because they wanted all their techs in India, Costa Rica, and Mexico where workers are cheaper. The field engineers got outsourced a few years ago, so it's mostly administration and sales left in the US.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Experience means nothing today

      Your experience means nothing because no one knows about you. Maintain industrial relationships outside your circle, and people will start finding you. Assuming you are worth anything.

      I haven't had to apply for a job in nearly 20 years because I always maintain relationships with people in the right places including the salespeople that you may just blow off.

  17. fandom

    "For a tiny percent of the world's tech revenues, a new, universal, and frankly fabulous education system could be built and deployed with the help of the finest pedagogues available"

    So many people around the world thinking that extremily complex problems can be easily solved as long as enough money is thrown at them.

    Sweet summer childs.

    And before you reply with the obvious counterpoint, no, I don't think they can be solved without money.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      I simultaneously disagree with you and them. I think you could do something useful by throwing money at the problem, but they act like you can get a person educated in a generic way that's primarily self-directed. You certainly can learn a lot of things, especially IT-related skills, entirely on your own. However, no matter how good the guides and resources are, that mostly works when you have someone motivated to learn a lot of tiny details and creative enough to put them together in a useful way. The benefit of more organized education is the ability to learn from others, both the teachers and the other students. I gained a lot of skills by discussing what I was doing with others who were interested and capable of doing similar and hearing their ideas, and I passed some ideas of my own to my fellows, and I also got some valuable information by talking with professors who had long careers in industry before they turned to teaching. No matter how great the lecture someone records and puts up on YouTube, it won't give you those things. You can do without them, but if you're going to, you don't need to bother with more textbooks as there are plenty of those for free right now which provide the information a self-taught student will need.

  18. Sanguma

    Personal story here: during my first year as a BA (Classics(Latin)) at the Uni of Canterbury (NZ), I was knocked off my bicycle and came to, more or less, almost a full week later with a Traumatic Brain Injury, an Extradural Haematoma they cleaned out an hour or so before I shuffled off the mortal coil. As the information the hospital gave me was decidedly inadequate, I picked up Dr Oliver Sack's The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, discovered that there was a whole heap of material about people in my situation, and promptly ordered some of the books he mentions in it. I later worked out that I'd given myself the equivalent of Third and Fourth Year papers in Neuropsychology, and a paper in the medical science of Neurology (Surgery). The books included Guyton's Basic Neuroscience: Anatomy and Physiology, AR Luria's The Working Brain, Dr Muriel Lezak's Neuropsychological Assessment, and Springer and Deutsch's Left Brain Right Brain. Most neuropsychologists, starting with the neuropsychologist who managed my recovery, have treated me rather as an ungraduated colleague - and you know, the rule is it's when the professionals treat you as one of them, that you're actually one of them. But it means nothing, because although it helped me mightily in conquering the subsequent 5 years of clinical depression - easier to deal with the "personal demons" when you know they are not real - the work I did, didn't involve pieces of paper bearing the title of BA or BSc in Psychology.

    During those five years I did some largely voluntary work computer-cataloguing school libraries. Finding I couldn't get any work in spite of proving I had the attitude to get up and enter the details, I thought I'd learned enough to get and make my own work as a programmer of library systems. To do that, I needed to know a lot more about databases, and the like. So again, I bought simple nightime reading, books like Andrew Tanenbaum's Operating Systems: Design and Implementation, Comer's Operating Systems Design: The Xinu Approach, CJ Date's Database Systems: An Introduction, and Elmasri and Navathe's The Fundamentals of Database Systems. I read but didn't buy, Tanenbaum's Computer Networks. I thought after reading all that, that since the daily rag and the computer press were moaning about computer network skills shortages, that I should do this short course on networks. My bank wouldn't loan unless I had work at the end of it; none of the HR companies would suggest any company who might offer me a part-time job as an assistant network administrator. Etc.

    So that's my life story. It doesn't seem to matter if you actually know the material - and as an ungraduated neuropsychologist, I might have some professional opinions on the meaningfulness of the postgrad Organizational Psychology Diploma ... Clueless seems to be too tame to describe HR policies.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm obviously much older than you and never had access to a local library (unless I wanted to run a mile there after school, for the 30 minutes before it closed, and then walk 4 miles home again, which I did occasionally), and money to buy food was more important than books to our family!

      I would certainly employ you, as, although you do no have much practical experience, you have a proven urge to learn, but unfortunately we are in the opposite hemispheres.

      I have suffered traumatic memory loss on two occasions - no more Rugby for me! But it has given me a new start in life. I cannot remember school life at all, with (I'm told) the daily kicking for being brainy in a mixed ability Comprehensive School and nearly daily caning for pissing off my teachers for doing things like answering the question after the one they were asking when their train of thought was so obvious, or writing thesis that were of the standard of 3 to 4 years older (yes, were really were punished for not conforming!) Welcome to a Labour LEA in the 1970's!

      Your abilities are so sought after, but proven experience will be required unless you find an amenable employer. I would suggest the sort of volunteering opportunities where employers like to send their employees, to show corporate philanthropy. In the UK the STEM Ambassador scheme is an ideal way to interact with similar minded people who, if you impress them, could recommend you to their hiring managers. Of some scheme run by the local council.

      Anon, because I apparently really was a little sh1t at senior school.

  19. Richard Pennington 1

    IT needs brains

    The problem is that a few years ago they pushed out all the older IT staff, and they have been whining about skills shortages ever since. I'm 64, retired and never going back.

    Also, at my age, I don't have a degree in Computer Science. There weren't any. I do have a hatful of STEM degrees up to and including a PhD. But my collection of qualifications is so wildly nonstandard that HR droids would typically throw me out in the first pass, because I don't fit their pattern (or indeed any pattern). And since it was a while since I was pushed out for being "too old", I have no recent experience on my CV.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: IT needs brains

      And nobody will invest in training you because you're 64 and they think they won't get ROI.

      I had a conversation with a recruitment consultant who happily informed me that at 48 I was "over the hill" and none of his clients would want me.

    2. RobLang

      Re: IT needs brains

      BTW - the first degrees in Computer Science were in the 1950s. There were lots of UK universities teaching computer science in the 1970s but they weren't prevalent. They aren't prevalent now either, to be fair!

  20. cantankerous swineherd

    find a job where you don't have to put up with this nonsense. it won't pay much though, your choice.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Or you could be a teacher or well, any other publc service. Get the nonsense and the poor pay.

  21. RobLang

    Exams only really test your ability at doing exams and they cease being useful in the real world. Even long before the internet, if you were under pressure to get something difficult right, it would be rare that you would be so totally isolated from information or other people and if you were then that's a failure of the organisation. Even in the cockpit these days, annual checks are more about teamwork than they are about understanding the nitty gritty of the aircraft's systems.

    I've seen fabulously talented people do terribly in exams. There needs to be another way to assess aptitude.

  22. Binraider Silver badge

    Employers : moan about skill shortages but do nothing.

    Defence outfits : actually get on with it and sponsor kids through university.

    Haven't you heard this debate before? Government is not going to fix the shortfall of STEM graduates for you. Good pay, conditions, fees etc. WILL.

    Considering the first job I did alone saved the company in question about £2bn of capital expenditure, the cost/benefit of paying to develop the next raft of staff should be utter no brainer.

    1. Caver_Dave Silver badge

      Across all sectors

      A medical doctor completing training this year will earn the equivalent of 10 cans of Baked Beans per hour.

      In 1984 that was 26 cans and they had no debt accrued in 10 years of training!

      When bus or train drivers earn many times more, (or even supermarket shelf stackers!), how are people incentivised to do academic or technical jobs?

      1. Binraider Silver badge

        Re: Across all sectors

        I can safely say the FTSE100 outfit that I sit in is fully aware of it's shortfall on STEM resources. The exec routinely make big public statements about it, but what do they tangibly do and change? Local management are on board. But authorities in control of the chequebook? Not so much.

        Where are the job adverts for the 500+ vacancies we have right now in the org chart? Or the 2000+ that we say we need over the next few years?

        As ever, follow the money.

  23. tatatata

    The problem is, that most exams and certifications have become about memorizing specific things. That is not useful.

    When I was young (grandpa speaking...) you learned the basic principles and had an exam about whether or not you were able to apply then. You learned about differential equitations, and on the exam, you proved that you were able to solve a problem. Of course, Chatgpt is able to solve the kind of sums that we had on the exams. That does not prove that the exam is broken. When we learned about computers, we learned about binary calculation, basics of information theory, the basic idea of networking, differences between SNA and TCP/IP and that kind of stuff. And yes, the exams we had could also be done by ChatGPT.

    We learned the principles and how to apply them.

    Nowadays, you do not learn the principles anymore. You learn lists or fixed procedures. And then, an exam is just testing if you learned the lists or are able to apply the fixed procedures. I've done CISSP, and that was the exam: learn a book from beginning to end and you'll pass. MSCE, CCNA, RHCSA: learn the book and you'll pass, even without understanding. Here, we call these exams "American style".

    It's not the exams that are the problem, it is the education for the exams.

  24. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    It's all upside down

    The whole of IT is about problem solving. First finding out what the problem is really is, and then using a methodical way of resolving it. HR don't have clue about that, and neither do most managers.

    Ideally you want someone who not only has those skills, but also enough experience to chose the best way to solve it - the quick fix isn't usually the one.


    An extreme example.

    The network went down every Tuesday morning - that's when the dust cart came round and the vibration rattled a switch that had a bad joint inside.

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