2007/04/23

another year, another cycle

It's funny how every year the issue of training and knowledge transfer seems to crop up around this time. Must be something in the change of weather? :-)

Anyways, over the last few weeks a lot of folks have commented on the need to re-examine the training of new DBAs and more in general, the issue of training people for future IT positions.

Because there is a very definite fall in enrollment numbers in the traditional education channels, when it comes to IT. At last someone has started to pay attention to it, it's been very obvious since even before the dot.com burst...

A lot has been said already about that burst and its consequences. Rather than repeat tired arguments, I'm going back a bit more and re-visit the late 70s-early 80s, when we suffered a similar drop in numbers of IT people.

Back then, the problem was very definitely that the traditional education channels - the university and the CS course - were completely out of tune with the reality of IT. The curriculum of most courses was hopelessly behind the times and not relevant at all to the then current IT environment and its needs.

The vast majority of jobs in IT had no need for skills in building CPUs: what we needed then was more C programmers, more people capable of taking a spec and transform it into a running program. We therefore had a major drop in CS enrollments and a consequent lack of "trained" folks in the workforce. Well, what we had was folks trained in the wrong skills, but the end result was the same.


I'm of the view that what we are seeing now is a repeat of similar circumstances! I am not suggesting that CS courses are teaching out of date skills, no. But that they are not teaching what the IT industry needs. And as a result, enrollments dwindle. Just like they did in the 80s. And of course, we have less "trained" folks around.

Yes, IT has changed and anyone who refuses to accept that is in cloud nine. And of course, with that change has come a change in needs. We no longer need heaps of folks out there trained in the subtleties of writing C, or Java, or any other language for that matter!

What IT needs is folks that can analyze a situation and/or problem, find a viable solution and then follow it through implementation by building on existing blocks and re-linking them into a working solution.

The time when folks sat down at a desk and wrote incredibly long reams of code per day is long gone. If and when that is needed, we can always offshore/outsource it to where it is more cost-effective to do so. But the number of times that is required is ridiculously low, in the normal run-of-the-mill IT site nowadays.

Sure: there is still a need for programmers. For companies that *do* write software, to sell. But that is NOT - by any stretch of the imagination - the vast majority of IT work out there.

Perhaps we should ask then: what is IT nowadays?

In my neck of the woods, it's very simple: it's the setting up of an infra-structure that can reliably execute the modules necessary to solve business requirements and needs.

A lot of hot air to mean just this: being involved in selecting adequate execution environments that are flexible and performant enough to run the commercial packages that the company's business requires.

And interconnect them in a fashion that makes the whole bigger than the sum of the parts: for example, no longer is it enough to stash away all facts in a DW, one has to be able to come up with a working design that is able to efficiently and effectively offload some of that data into other areas for further analysis/processing.

The days of the "data centre" as the raison d'être of the IT department are gone: what we have now is a resource that must be flexible enough to provide input to other areas of the business, in a reliable and consistent fashion.

And no: that does NOT involve writing "interface" programs. The tools are already there, we just have to use them to build the required links. Rather than "re-invent the wheel".

And yes: this involves being able to provide flat files for folks to play with, in their spreadsheets/analysis tools!



Now, where does the current curriculum of CS courses fit into this? It doesn't, does it? Ergo, no interest.



So maybe, just maybe mind you, we should re-examine our own training turf rather than blame economic changes on the lack of interest in IT training or IT itself as a career?





Anyways: on a lighter note...



"I've got an itch riiiiiight theeeeere!"

Stunning birds, these ones: huge, yet very graceful. They remind me of 747 aircraft, in a way.


Now, this one reminded me of something else:



No, really? Got any well positioned dungeons with a nice view? :-)


And here is that crazy SQLPuss again, looking at ghosts:




catchyalata, folks

2007/04/06

early start...

Very early start, this morning! 3am.

Mobile - cell phone, for the Murricans - goes off and wakes me up. Half asleep I try to figure out what a heavy Indian accent is telling me.

External link to our DC was out at 2am. Someone from Telstra has just replaced the hardware and it's back. They need me to check that everything is fine with the db servers.

So I go into my usual routine: vpn to office, check our mail.

Why mail?

Well, we have GC tapping the dbs and listeners on the shoulder every 15 minutes. Anything abnormal and it sends us email if we're in the office normal hours or an sms if we aren't.

Except at the wee hours of the morning: we like to sleep, so alarms go to mail then. If there is a catastrophe, we get called like this morning anyway, so to have sms pester us as well is redundant.

Normally I wake up at 5:30 and check mails then: it's a routine I got into during my days at 24/7Realmedia and worldwide support. It's not likely that folks arriving at the office at 9am will find dbs down without me or the other senior dba knowing beforehand.

Anyways: everything was fine. The fallback comms line kicked in so GC didn't get a chance to meow. Once the main line came back, all went back to normal without even a peep.

Man, I love modern comms systems! This sort of outage would have been a major headache a decade ago. Now it's just a glitch, barely registering!

Anyways, crawled back to bed and a troubled sleep until 5:30 to do the usual checks, then a bit more shuteye until 7:30, gotta compensate for this early start.

No go.

I can't really go back to sleep in full after waking up in the middle of the night. When the kids were younger, it was easy: back then I'd fall deeply asleep on my feet if needed!

Not anymore. If I wake up for any reason in the middle of the night, that's no more shuteye for the rest of it...
So it was a hard slog of a day. And after work had to pick up my son from the soccer training.

Got home and it took me about 30 seconds after tea to doze off. The result is that I'm now sleepless, around midnight!

Can't win!

Thankfully, it's the Easter break now and I don't have to wake up early tomorrow morning. Might get this bio-clock back into gear after all...


Anyways, on a lighter note:


;-) The area where I work now is not very safe!
This sort of thing happens often, if one is silly enough to secure a bike like this! Definitely a major annoyance for the owner...

And this was right behind it:



¦D Scary, eh? I'd think twice about getting a room in a place like this... But I guess there is a market for everything!

Catchyalata, folks.