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Programming and Millennals? Why are they so apart?

 
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WARNING: This may qualify as a rant but I am interested in hearing people's thoughts on this topic.

I'm 26 and I'd like to think I've never been raised like most people my age. I had my moments but my parents never let the 90's/00's culture really define me too much. My Dad and Mom killed themselves and their pensions to put me through private school. They raised me to work hard and never think " things would work out" if I sat idly.

After getting a degree in business and supply chain management, I've probably spent the first few years of my career learning Java, database design, and C# (especially the former). Sometimes I spent 80-100 hours a week deeply learning advanced topics like concurrency, functional programming, and reactive programming. Although it was hard and took up a few years of my life, it has been very rewarding. I'm even publishing an O'Reilly book in January next year.

I'm puzzled when I look at my generation though, and I get disturbed the more I observe. Many people think millennials are tech-savvy, but the wiser of us know better. We are experts in consuming technology, not using it to solve problems other than our own. I can safely say most millennials are EXTREMELY technically illiterate. We know everything about posting on Facebook and Twitter but hardly know the difference between Javascript and SQL.

I volunteer at an organization that helps unemployed/underemployed business professionals get back on their feet and I teach SQL there. I primarily encounter people in their late 30's/40's/50's but rarely have twenty-somethings come to me for help. When I encourage (or beg them) to spend 5-10 hours to learn SQL, many millennials either say *meh* or as one guy put it "that just sounds like too much commitment". People 30-50 years old are all over it though, and I've helped many in that demographic get jobs and reboot their careers.

It is deeply frustrating and discouraging because I want to help others my age who are struggling. But I feel like a voice in the desert most of the time. I'd even describe it as professionally lonely. Misconceptions and intimidation are keeping the most technologically engaged generation from even understanding the technology in their hands. I know some make a dated argument that India has taken all the IT jobs, but I know for a fact a moderately talented programmer could easily get a job here in the U.S.

Has anybody else encountered this? Inside Silicon Valley? Outside Silicon Valley? (which is my case) Why is programming so shunned by them?
 
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Interesting. My own view has mostly been that there is so much work to be done in IT, that they will give a job to any idiot who can find the spacebar on a keyboard. There simply isn't really that much incentive to learn all the concepts properly.
 
Tom Nielson
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Stephan van Hulst wrote:Interesting. My own view has mostly been that there is so much work to be done in IT, that they will give a job to any idiot who can find the spacebar on a keyboard. There simply isn't really that much incentive to learn all the concepts properly.


Haha exactly. This is especially the case in IT departments for non-tech companies. I keep telling others "just learn a stupid SELECT statement and people will think you're a genius. Learn Python or Java and they will think you walk on water." You seriously don't have to learn much to impress, and yet I encounter so many people in their 20's who are not even the least bit curious to gain some technical knowledge, even to help get a job. At least that's how it feels here in the U.S.
 
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Tom,
In many generations, there is a "knowing how to do" vs "knowing how to think" difference. A lot of people are able to do what they are told but not figure it out. The Millennals have a different aspect of this. It's the first generation that primarily learned how to do research online rather than at a library. Research is a thinking skill. And I mean actually knowing that to look up and not just typing the first thing one things of into Google. It's also the first generation to be able to look up all sorts of facts at any moment which has advantages too.

We know everything about posting on Facebook and Twitter but hardly know the difference between Javascript and SQL.


So? Everyone doesn't need to know what SQL is.

I think you are operating with a slanted sample though. An organization that helps unemployed/underemployed people sounds like it wouldn't attract the people who are really into programming. There's also a maturity thing for meh guy. I'm in my 30's and ten years ago, it was the same thing. It takes time to learn the big picture. With any learning thing, why should they learn it. Younger people tend to need it spelled out.

For the professionally lonely, talk to people who do think like you. Who are passionate about what they are doing. I feel full of energy when I'm around people like that whether it is here at CodeRanch or at a local user group or even at work.
 
Tom Nielson
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Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:Tom,
In many generations, there is a "knowing how to do" vs "knowing how to think" difference. A lot of people are able to do what they are told but not figure it out. The Millennals have a different aspect of this. It's the first generation that primarily learned how to do research online rather than at a library. Research is a thinking skill. And I mean actually knowing that to look up and not just typing the first thing one things of into Google. It's also the first generation to be able to look up all sorts of facts at any moment which has advantages too.

We know everything about posting on Facebook and Twitter but hardly know the difference between Javascript and SQL.


So? Everyone doesn't need to know what SQL is.

I think you are operating with a slanted sample though. An organization that helps unemployed/underemployed people sounds like it wouldn't attract the people who are really into programming. There's also a maturity thing for meh guy. I'm in my 30's and ten years ago, it was the same thing. It takes time to learn the big picture. With any learning thing, why should they learn it. Younger people tend to need it spelled out.

For the professionally lonely, talk to people who do think like you. Who are passionate about what they are doing. I feel full of energy when I'm around people like that whether it is here at CodeRanch or at a local user group or even at work.



Yeah, I suppose you're right. I guess my biases and observations on what is important are limited to my own experiences. I also work outside the tech industry, and that probably slants my sample as well.

Sometimes people have to work out their own life narrative, and it takes time to figure it all out.

I do GitHub and have a network of people all over the world I collaborate with on open-source projects, which helps me a ton professionally. But for me, I think my fear is there seems to be less and less STEM professionals. Although I like the job security of being one of the few, I hardly want to live in a world where I have no help. And sincerely, I really do want to help people in turn.

That is an interesting thought though about Millennials and their ability to research like never before. It will be interesting to see its impact on critical thinking and problem-solving in the coming decades. It certainly has changed how I solve problems!
 
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I spend a lot of time with people who are very into tech. One of my hobbies is mentoring the programmers on a robotics team. They are plenty interested in STEM. But that's a self selecting sample too; at the other end.
 
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Tom Nielson wrote:Why is programming so shunned by them?



For the same reason nearly everyone shuns programming: it's hard work.
As for millennials in particular, They aren't as tech savvy as one would think. My personal experience in the workplace has been nuanced. We hired one guy fresh out of college in 2014. He was extremely intelligent and quick to pick up new tech, but had absolutely no interest in maintaining old code (who can blame him!) and felt stifled by having to have a business justification for doing research or implementing new features. I mean, I love shiny new things just as much as him, but when it comes to enterprise code, sometimes, dull and reliable is better. I'd love to CODE ALL THE THINGS, but we have to prioritize our efforts by what is most important to our users. He left us after 8 months and we have a bunch of things that he spearheaded but never followed through on and we've had to pick and choose which of those initiatives we can keep moving forward.
On the other hand, we had a college aged intern over the summer who gladly did her share of the grunt work while also doing independent research and bringing new ideas to the team. She also seemed more cognizant of the impact, costs and rationale of making changes to production systems. Of course, since she was at a much lower level than our previous hire, her cautious nature may be a feature of her lack of experience.
So I guess, like with every other generation, it depends on the individual.
 
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There are 2 things that I think may be contributing factors.

One is the "All You Have To Do Is..." syndrome. It's not new, but it's still very prevalent. It's the idea that you can wave a magic wand it it's "Done!" Computers are stupid. What's obvious to humans requires careful instruction to computers. When people - users, managers, or programmers even - conceive a project, the amount of work they mentally allot is based on what it would take to get another human to do it, when it's actually closer to 2-3 times as long. But since Fast and Cheap is the modern watchword, any attempt to correct these estimates gets vigorous pushback.

What makes it so insidious these days is the prevalence of application development systems that are front-loaded. Meaning that you can get fancy web pages displayed in a hurry, but - in accordance with the law of Computer Karma - you have given up things like type-safety to achieve that and as a result are going to be doing more backend work in bug repair, performance enhancement and security. The GUI "silver bullets" are beloved by managers, because a visible product can be achieved rapidly, as opposed to having a bunch of folks BS'ing and typing for weeks before something can actually be shown that non-technical people (e.g. the CEO) can perceive as "productive work".

Somewhat related to this is Mashup Syndrome. Why do something originally creative when you can simply take the results of other people's works, wad them all together and become as celebrated - or more so - than the original authors?

We still value the tradition Western mindset that honors Productivity, but we're losing the idea that hard work should be required. Because we have tools that appear to be more productive than they really are. And because everything MUST happen in Internet Time, which means not merely ASAP, but sooner. No allowances for nights and weekends, no time for extensive vetting and testing. Just "Git 'R Dun!" and go on. If you didn't draw up your Exit Strategy as one of the first stages of the project, you're doing it wrong.

It's all very well to blame kids, but they're still running off the same basic DNA set as their medieval forebears, just like us. They're getting their cues from their elders, and that means that ultimately we must accept some of the blame.
 
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