As both a potential employer and interviewee, I look in amazement (although not surprise) at the types of positions that are available. Even with an economy of over 9% employment and mixed indicators of growth, the number of open positions in the technology arena are tremendous. And every time I talk with recruiters, I hear the same story: it is difficult to find engineering talent. One even mentioned that he feared that we’ll starting seeing the crazy incentives of Porsches and the like being offered as sign-on bonuses that we say in the late 1990s.
The obvious paradox of high unemployment and lots of job openings is a well known and studied topic; in any economic shift, the labor pool that is unemployed lacks the skills needed to fill the needs of employers. But given that technology sector has been growing for the past 15 years, why has the labor force not adjusted?
By my observations, the real answer lies not in 2011, but, instead in 2004. During that year, two things happened. First, students who were graduating college had entered school in the dot-com bubble burst, where technology companies looked unstable and uncertain at their prospects of longevity. Students were graduating in areas other than computer science and engineering, with the lowest graduation rates of these disciplines seen in decades. The focus was more on business (real estate, finance, consulting) and the biological sciences.
Second, by that time, most companies had ridden the initial wave of digitization, giving access to every person and moving much of their operations into the digital space. Investment in technology improvements had declined dramatically. Productivity had sored and companies were riding on their successes not just four years earlier.
Then, why, during one of the most difficult economic times the economy has seen, is there another resurgence in technological investment requiring a workforce like anything I’ve ever seen? Companies have realized that their installed systems are now, after 10 years, reaching the end of their life expectancy. Also, the move away from installed systems and into more web/cloud-based computing paradigms, all of these applications are being redeveloped from the ground up.
Good news for technologist? And for students entering college who are starting down the path of studying technology? Even as late as the 1980s and 1990s, business philosophy looked at some investment was a more long-term focused strategy: Xerox-PARC, IBM Research, Â Los Alamos, etc. Â Now, however, I fear that with the much shorter-term focus on investment is going to get us caught in a difficult cycle of mismatching labor needs and labor skills. Colleges and universities are now, not five years later, seeing the highest enrollment in technology fields they have ever seen. But it remains to be seen if the jobs they yearn for and are available now, will be there when they graduate in four years. Companies may well be done with this wave of technology investment and find that they have enticed the labor pool to move into careers they will no longer need.
“Social networking” is all the rage. No surprise, right? It’s more than likely even how you found this article, actually.
But for all the hype, buzz and hoopla ((bustling excitement or activity; commotion; hullabaloÂ full definition)), being social and networking with people isn’t anything new.Â Social networking just found a way to tap into basic, human (or animal) desires and emotions that, I believe, we’ve been cultivating for millions of years:
- Feeling connected. Most (if not all) animals have the need to feel connected. So much so that we’ve given names to those communities in both the animal kingdom (gaggle of geese, school of fish, etc.) and within the human race (family, extended family, fraternity, clique, etc). Humans need to have a sense of belonging and showing their identification (e.g. religious groups, nations, gangs, alumni organizations). And with facebook (or LinkedIn or etc.), I know where I belong because I’ve signed up to be a fan, watch a page, tell the world where I belong.
- Show and Tell. Although we have to be taught to share in kindergarten, there are very few kids who don’t have the inate desire for showing their friends, teachers, parents or sometimes even strangers on the street a picture that they’ve drawn. And now, we can share with the world by uploading pictures, thoughts, comments and commentary.Â Share with the world instantaneously (without the cookies & milk or naps on little pieces of carpet, unfortunately).
- Competition. Even the earliest societies have formed games and teams to see who’s the best. Mayans, romans, greeks are main examples. But this instinct, I believe, is more primal and probably stems from our earliest animal instincts to be survival of the fittest. Instead of lions fighting over a gazelle like lions on the African plain or tigers in the jungle urinating on their territory, we can mark out our social environment by showing the world how many connections we’ve made or friends who’ve accepted our requests. Look everyone, who’s Mr. or Ms. Popular now.
- Nostalgia. This is an area that sets us apart from most other animals. Humans love history. We dwell in the past, we study the past, we try to learn from the past… and we try to relive it.Â Understanding where we come from (whether you look to evolution for explanation or look to religion for guidance) is something that humans have focused on for a long time.Â Now, we can reconnect with friends and remember all the good times without leaving our home. Our memories are stored and instead of just being in photo albums on a dusty shelf, we can build a collective historical record of our lives.
We’ve been naturally trying to do all of these things for a long, long time; they’re innate to being human.Â Technology has enabled us to express them now in a way that is conscise, consolidated and requires much lower effort than before.
And as companies jump on the bandwagon, trying to figure out how they can leverage to make profit directly from a website or indirectly help get their product or service known to more people, I’m puzzled. If a company is just waking up to the fact that they need to address their customer’s needs and values in this way, isn’t that concerning?
I often hear these two words interchangeably. Â And, for the most part, there is quite a bit of overlap, since many great leaders are good managers and vice-versa. But I think it’s important we differentiate the two as in the overlap can be conflicting interests.
In the simplest of definitions, leadership is the art of motivating a group of people in order to accomplish a goal. While management is the art of organizing and coordinating a group of people around a common purpose.