Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Future

I attended the 2008 Intel Science Talent Search Awards gala as Intel’s guest last evening (see the STS page, here ). I can’t begin to describe what an inspiring event this was. These are America’s brightest high school seniors. All but a few of their projects were beyond a layman’s comprehension (that includes me.) Nonetheless, I had the sense that this was very creative work and these were very bright minds. I was lucky enough to sit next to one of the honorees who I understood (mostly.) She studied the effects of public and private funding for small town libraries and confirmed that donors follow the crowd behavior that Professor John F. Nash discovered and for which he won the Nobel prize. (See his 1998 biography, A Beautiful Mind, by Silvia Nasar and the 2001 movie by the same name, starring Russell Crowe.) I asked the student for a copy of her paper so that I could inspire my 14 year-old who is also a budding mathematician looking to push the limits.

The student who won the Glenn T. Seaborg Award addressed the audience with a speech that was articulate, witty and wise. He quoted Einstein, one of my heroes, as saying “If A equals success, then the formula is: A = X + Y + Z, X is work. Y is play. Z is keep your mouth shut.” (See a list of Einstein quotes, here: ). I love that play is a part of success. And shutting the mouth means opening the eyes and ears. It also means humility; to discover what is and be open to have your hypotheses proved wrong.[1]

I tell this story for two reasons: first, the need to encourage students to pursue studies and projects in the fields of science, math and technology; second, to make the point that student are our future indicators for technology.

There is a widening gap between the growing demand for IT workers and the pool of qualified candidates. Estimates put unfilled IT positions at about 190,000. The Office of Technology Policy concludes that evidence “suggests that job growth in information technology fields now exceeds the production of talent.”
[2] Anecdotal comments about business school students’ interest in IT Management suggests the same gap.

I believe part of the issue is that the off-shoring phenomenon in IT in the last decade was largely misunderstood by students as an indicator that IT was not a career growth sector. No one looked at which IT jobs were going off-shore. These were typically the more commodity IT positions like telephone-based IT support desks. Higher skilled positions, like network engineers are listed by the U.S. Department of Labor as a high growth area for the next decade.
[3] In fact, Network Systems positions are expected to grow 53.4% from 2006 to 2016, the highest growth of any of the categories singled out by the Labor Dept.

My conclusion is that we need to do far more to encourage students to pursue careers in technology--hence, one of the strong motivators for me spending a term at Tuck/Dartmouth.

As for students as the future indicators for technology, tune in next time for thoughts on this.

[1] I was also reminded of Steve Jobs quote of The Whole Earth Catalog during his Stanford University commencement address” “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.,” here:
[2] See the “America’s New Deficit: The Shortage of Information Technology Workers” report at
[3] The Bureau of Labor Statistics table of occupations with the largest job growth forecast, at


David Isaak said...

Hi Ed. Your mention of the Glenn T. Seaborg award evoked a memory for me. As a lad of eight years of age in 1960 I was enthused about space travel, atomic energy and other space-age thoughts. I had written a letter to the Atomic Energy Commission attaching a crude drawing of my concept of a light weight atomic powered ray gun. Imagine my surprise when I received a few weeks later a box (not an envelope with a hand typed letter signed by Mr. Seaborg. He thanked me for my enthusiasm of things atomic and critically reviewed my design. I recall that he noted it was a “good” design in concept, yet it would prove to be unwieldy due to the required weight of lead shielding required to keep the ray gun user from becoming slowly fried. As I removed the contents of the box, I found that it was filled with a wide assortment of brochures, white papers, conference briefs and a myriad of articles on domestic atomic energy topics. I read every item. I cannot say that I pursued a career in atomic energy, nor did I ever have the opportunity to leave this earth (yet!) in space travel. But I do leave the ground for considerable travels on behalf of Save the Children.

One never knows where a bit of time and a personal communication might stir a young person to a future career...

Jesse said...


As a network engineer, I can say 100% that finding good talent is very very hard. Also because the network engineering field is so demanding, and requires constant relearning you tend to have a relatively high burn rate.