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Plenty of Software Work to Go Around!

Does anybody sense the job market for developers is picking up?  Seems that way to me.  Lots more interesting postings on employment boards.  I've even gotten a couple of calls from headhunters.  From the gloom & doom threads here at JOS, I thought we'd all be out of jobs already, but it doesn't seem that way to me at all.

My theory:  Yes, programming jobs are heading to Eastern Europe and India at a phenomenal rate, but nobody seems to take into account that the increase in the amount of software that will need to be coded in the future will far outstrip the availability of coders on the whole planet.  Every stupid article in "Pointy-Haired-CIO" magazine makes the assumption that the demand for software will remain fixed!  For crying out loud, in ten years, everything we buy will have code in it.  (Even the cereal boxes!  Did you see Minority Report?)  Seriously, it seems fairly obvious to me that there will be enough work for us all and much, much more.

bob
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Yep things are definately beginning to pick up a little.  There have been 5 programmer postings in my region in the last month, which is a good amount considering I'm in Southern Appalachia.

I hope it continues.

Steve Barbour
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Bob - yes, I've definitely had that feeling for about 3-4 months. I also think that companies are starting to shake loose IT funding, since needs are going unmet.

Let's not also forget that there's a whole new Department in DC, and it's sucking up US developers with a vacuum cleaner...

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

I joined the vast army of unemployed software engineers at the end of June.  In asking around I found a few other people who got laid off at the same time, but no jobs.  So far no responses to the resumes that I have sent out, but I haven't made a big effort yet.

There is one area where there seems to be a lot of jobs available: DOD work.  This is work that requires a security clearance.  Most places seem to require an active TS clearance.  That is, these are jobs for people who already have a job working in a secure environment.  They are advertizing on the radio, they send out postcards announcing job open houses and they put ads in the papers.  But this is good only for a small fraction of developers.

Speculation about the future of software development is just that: speculation.  There will be software development jobs available for quite a few years, but whether the number of jobs increases, decreases or just stays at some fixed level is impossible to tell.

mackinac
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

> require an active TS clearance.

So how hard is it to get clearance?

If they are advertising on the radio, then they obviously have a weak supply.

Is this a chicken or egg problem??

--
ee

eclectic_echidna
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

have seen more ads, for sure.


Wednesday, July 30, 2003

pretty much the only way to get a clearance is to work in a job that requires it.  the company has to sponsor you to get clearance, kinda like a work visa.

nathan
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

It isn't necessarily hard to get a security clearance.  It just takes a while, even when they rush it.  Problem with the DOD and many contracting agencies, is there isn't a lot for people awaiting a clearance to do, so they mostly sit around vegetating.

Presently there aren't enough software people w/ clearances to fulfill the demand.  So, yes, it is a chicken or the egg problem.  They need more, but are unwilling to pay for and wait for the clearances to process.

As far as the quantity of jobs being created by the DOD, there was an interesting article in the Washington Post on June 20, 2003.  Unfortunately it has been archived so I can't post a link.  None the less, it was entitled:

A Beltway Bubble About To Burst?
by: Steven Pearlstein   

A very interesting read, and sitting on the inside, it hits all to close to home.

VegetatingContracter
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Security clearances suck.

You can and will be denied a security clearance for things like having distant relatives who are not US citizens, national origin from a country we're not currently on good terms with, etc.  Or if one of your former associates says that you are not patriotic enough or something like that.

Flamebait Sr.
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

"You can and will be denied a security clearance for things like having distant relatives who are not US citizens"

Wrong - I did it. But I'll grant that strange things can prevent or delay a clearance, esp. TS or some of the strange flavors of special access...

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

"> require an active TS clearance.

So how hard is it to get clearance?"

[sigh]

As of twelve months ago, it was impossible. I've heard that lately it's loosening up a bit. The problem is that you cannot obtain a clearance unless you are working in or applying for a job that requires a clearance - you can't just get one like a certification. However, once in the job that requires the clearance, you can't *do* anything until you have a clearance. From uncleared to TS can take two years. From Secret to TS can take 3-6 months.

Add in the 9/11 paranoia, and you get stupid edicts like "nobody working on provisional clearances" - a provisional clearance can be issued fairly quickly, provided no negative information to date and an ongoing investigation. You can also get things like "only hire people with existing clearances" (they were gone really fast).

Net result - all the people with clearances who want to do cleared work have jobs, and there's nobody left. So you end up with the gov't paying far more for talent than they should, due to their own silly rules.

As an aside - my personal philosophy is that this is all a waste of time. our greatest spies passed incredibly rigorous background checks, and could've passed *any* background check, since there was nothing in their background to find - they were recruited or decided to commit espionage somewhat out of the blue. The failure was in not monitoring the personnel once they were working. And *that* shores up my belief that trying to preemptively stop fraud is a waste of resources - the catching is in the auditing.

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Woah, that is a total non-sequitir.  Because the best spies can pass background checks, we ought not to have background checks and just wait until after the deed has been done.

The security system may be imperfect, or preposterous... but of course there should be some sort of checking to begin with, if only to deter people with shady backgrounds from trying.  That's better than nothing.

Andy
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Sorry, that came across wrong - I should've said "I think people are placing too much faith in the system."

I don't think that background checks are worthless; the issue is that every time there's a security lapse, the knee-jerk reaction is to make the background checks more stringent, when there's rarely any indication that the background check was the issue...

More on this in another topic...

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

To get back to the original topic, I am trying to be optimistic but so far don't see much of an upturn in hiring yet (except for the DOD work previously mentioned).

One problem that might be slowing down the job market is a sort of hidden unemployment.  By this I mean people who are paid employees, but aren't applied to a chargable project ("on the bench" as some places call it).  There are companies that try to maintain their technical staff even during downturns in the economy. My last employer was one of these, but finally gave up when it looked like they might do bankrupt in a few months.  This place had a large number of developers who hadn't been applied to a chargable project for as much as a year.  I suspect there are a substantial number in that position and there won't be much hiring until all of them are doing productive work.

mackinac
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Excellent point, mackinac!

Israel Orange
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

You can get to that Pearlman article here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A14701-2003Jun19&notFound=true

(I googled for it and then followed that link).

R343L
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

"For one thing, when things go wrong it results in big-time screw-ups, like EDS's costly nightmare trying to network the Navy"

WOOHOO!!! I got an offer for a job on that contract, turned it down. That's where the project manager, who had a SQL Server farm in production, told me he was going to migrate to Oracle "because of Microsoft's security issues" (in other words, "we're going to dump a lot of money into changing our platform because Microsoft is evil")

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

I have an internship this summer at Honeywell's Kansas City Plant (www.kcp.com).  The KCP manufactured non-nuclear parts for nuclear weapons.  The process for getting DoE "Q", or top-secret clearance was a process that took eight months.  In the meantime all my neighbors were interviewed by federal agents, and I had to fill out a forty-two page application listing nearly everything about me.  My employment this summer was contingent on me getting cleared so for a couple weeks at the beginning of the summer I was just sitting around for a couple weeks in the uncleared area.  But working in a secure environment has been very cool, its not often you are watched by armed guards during an interview :P.  I enjoy every minute of it.

Brian Carlson
Wednesday, July 30, 2003

>>As an aside - my personal philosophy is that this is all a waste of time.

Philo my friend, you right a lot of good stuff on these boards but you've missed the plot on this one.

According to your 'philsophy' I guess we should all leave our front doors open when we're out. Why? Well the best criminals have no problem entering a house, even with good security - so there's no point locking those doors. Genius.

Yanwoo
Thursday, July 31, 2003

Maybe Philo didn't hit the nail squarely on the head, but he makes a good point.  It's not that the government is keeping the door unlocked, it's more like they built a fence around their yard.  Granted it's a tall fence, but once inside, they've left the front door and all the windows open.  They've turned off the video cameras and the security system.  Once in the yard, you're more or less free to move about the house and the yard unchecked. 

I realize this is a gross oversimplification of reality, but the point attempting to be made is that there needs to be a better interal system of checks and balances to make sure you're not violating your privledge.

As it stands now, once cleared, you go through an update once every five years.  This update consists of three questions asked on the polygraph, and I beleive a brief inquiry of some of your contacts.  It is hardly thorough, and happens infrequently.

Elephant
Thursday, July 31, 2003

That's why the DOD (and others) have counter-intelligence assets...  to catch people that are committing espionage.  And yes, auditing is a much better way of enforcing the continued security of certain materials and such.  That's the way that most of the DOD security community works.

Mainly the reinvestigations are to look for factors that will flag a person as a prospective intelligence leak / target.  Things like: excessive debt / gambling addiction, living above your means, etc.

And yes, I had a TS-level clearance with special access back in the day... :)

Brandon
Thursday, July 31, 2003

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