Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Why they're all short term jobs now..

I now work for a successful local company that has made it's way to the top of a discrete manufacturing niche. Over the past several years they've started down the software path. They developed one software/hardware system and are in the process of developing another. There's one problem: lack of local talent who can do the software work.

Hiring has been slow despite the best efforts of the company. They go through a lot of trouble to convince people that this is a good place to live/work. But they can't control the fact that there are not a lot of high tech jobs in the area. And that's the problem. Software people tend to move from job to job every once in a while. While in manufacturing you might hire an employee for the long haul, in software employees need other job options in the area before they'll work for you. It's not that we're flaky (although, we are), it's because the technology evolves so fast. In 5 to 10 years this company might still be manufacturing its hardware in pretty much the same way it's doing so today. But in 5 to 10 years the software systems we're developing will be completely different. We may need a completely different set of skills from our developers. During all that change, people will move on. It's a fluid environment.

I was reminded of all of this by this article about using large arrays of small antennas to talk to spacecraft. When I worked at JPL for a few years, I had a chance to work with some of the folks on the Deep Space Network (DSN) and marvel at the giant antenna they used to talk to their deep space craft. Certainly the laws of physics aren't going to change enough to obsolete these huge antenna? Well, times change..

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