D'Arcy from Winnipeg
Solution Architecture, Business & Entrepreneurship, Microsoft, and Adoption

The Failing of Technical Education–Too Much Tech

Sunday, February 19, 2012 9:41 AM

Our Universities and Colleges haven’t gotten it yet, and its producing a disservice to the technical industry and trickling down to every other industry that relies on technical people (read: All of them).

I’m talking about the lack of soft-skills, leadership, interpersonal, and professional training that organizations are demanding from their IT professionals. Gone are the days of the stereotypical programmer that sits in a dark room lit only by a computer monitor, with food and requirements slid under the door. Gone are the days when your network technician, DBA, or server administrator never talked to anyone outside of their office and only through email, trouble ticket, or help-desk call.

The technology industry has moved on. It’s realized, as have the organizations that rely on it, that technology professionals are just that: Professionals, whose knowledge and opinion are just as important as finance, HR, sales, operations, and other key departments. The stereotypes are shattered, and technologists are seen as people first, who work with others to attain goals.

And yet for some reason, universities and colleges continue to ignore that graduating with a degree or diploma in the technology field requires knowledge and understanding of how to work within a team, an organization, with other people; how to effectively communicate, how to see beyond their immediate surroundings and care about things at a broader level; being open to different points of view and not succumb to the religiosity that is so prevalent within the technology industry (we are still very much an industry driven by vendors and individuals loyalty to those vendors).

I mourn for our industry at times. So many brilliant, talented people who could solve generations worth of problems through technology – yet so much energy spent on defending frivolous stances on which platform is better, or which approach is right, or why vendor x is evil and stupid.

As I write this, I realize that education can only go so far. That teaching students what the industry needs is different than seeing a cultural change in a global community. Still…even if it just plants the seeds, maybe the new growth will overtake the weeds we seem to be struggling in now.


# re: The Failing of Technical Education–Too Much Tech

It's been a while since I read any blog post, but this one actually hits close to things I have said many times. The tech skills are definitely taught by the universities; soft skills, not so much.

I did not complete my degree here in Manitoba - I actually headed south to Grand Forks to finish my degree. The accreditation process in the US system when it comes to an industry like ours makes so much sense! All universities, to be accredited, are required to have a flexible technical curriculum including theory and practical work.

In addition, at least at UND, the accreditation process they have to follow requires all graduating students to have a fairly broad education:
- Several mathematics courses
- 4 science courses, 2 of which must be a 2-part (chem, physics, etc.) with lab
- 2 writing courses in the English department (one of which is technical writing)
- Public speaking

Yes, public speaking. Mandatory for ANY undergraduate degree at UND. This is where many in our field fall short - the ability to present themselves as a professional, the ability to speak and be listened to, and the ability to concisely put together your thoughts into a coherent beginning, middle and end.

When I first started presenting I dug out all my materials from this course and it made a significant difference. If anything, this soft skill is what every tech program requires as - sooner or later - you are going to have to present to SOMEONE, even if it's just to your boss so you can get that promotion you want. 3/26/2012 1:59 PM | Kelly Cassidy

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