Utah High Tech

I just came from an advisory board meeting at Utah Valley State College (my alma mater, soon to be Utah Valley University). There was a very interesting discussion regarding the state of the Computer Science field. For the past couple of years there has been a decline in enrollment in the Computer Science disciplines (nationwide). Of course, this affects Utah specifically, since we have always had a very strong base of software engineers to draw upon. This base is diminishing. With the economic development in the state attracting high tech companies here mainly because of that base, we seem to be accelerating toward a brick wall.

I have recently had a very tough time hiring good developers, mainly because they don’t want to drive the 30 miles north to our Salt Lake offices. Many of my peers are also commenting about how difficult it is to hire good developers these days – both in the Salt Lake valley and Utah County valley areas. The market is definitely tight right now (what a difference two years makes). It seems to me that it is not only the base of young developers, but the overall market for solid development and QA talent that is diminishing.

Add to this the reality that many jobs are being created over seas with the up-tick in outsourcing, and I believe we have a serious problem in front of us. If we are going to continue to have the great base of high-tech companies here, we need to do something to attract young people to the Software Engineering discipline. I believe that part of this is due to parents being concerned that all software jobs will be outsourced so they direct their children to other fields, and also to the mis-perception that software engineers are “geeks”, sitting in a dark room in the back of the office, typing on a keyboard all day. We somehow need to help young people see the cool, artistic, creative, human-interactive side of the high-tech industry. We need to help them understand that technology helps flatten the world, and keeps people in touch with each other, and is not just some bits flowing through the air with geeks pulling the strings behind the scenes.

It has been a very interesting and thought-provoking morning.

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