Corporate social responsibility is not what it used to be, especially with respect to taking responsibility for employees and their career growth. Meanwhile, the pace of technological change seems to have only quickened. Together these raise the question as to how one navigates a lasting engineering career. This all came to mind on a recent Sunday, when I found myself quickly glancing over the Boston Globe's front page story, "Tech Hiring is Tough On Veteran Workers
". The article didn't initially grab me as the first person profiled had just the background that you might anticipate -- after 35 years in the mainframe industry, his skills were no longer relevant when his company recently transitioned to new servers using current programming languages. I almost skipped to the sports section when my eyes caught the next engineer's story: "(He) found plenty of job openings for Java programmers, but very few that matched his older C++ skills. After 10 months of looking, he recently landed a position at one of the dwindling number of companies that still uses C++."
C++?!? I could almost hear a turntable stylus screeching across a record (which apparently even dates me further). I'm sure, as even the engineer himself conceded, that the rumors about C++'s death are premature, especially in the embedded space. But, this article, and its mere mention of C++, brought home to me, more directly than any before it, how the market's tastes in engineering skill sets can quickly change and dislocate people in the process.
So, what's coming down the pipe? Though software languages have proliferated and their commercial use evolved quickly, the challenges of targeting concurrent environments will likely require even more change soon
. Just a couple weeks ago at the Intel Developer Forum, Intel released Parallel JS targeted at helping developers target multicore processors
. And Intel chief technology officer Justin Rattner provided his view on the direction software languages will take: "Functional programming looks to be one of the foundations for parallel programming going forward with higher levels of abstraction and more automation of parallelism."
What are the most important characteristics to a lasting engineering career? Deep domain knowledge and expertise? A breadth of skills and a strong facility for adaptation? Or, a commitment to lifelong learning along with an eye on the road ahead, instead of in the rear view mirror?George Harper
is vice president of marketing at Bluespec, Inc
., where they are extending the boundaries of synthesizable high-level design to include models, test benches & all types of implementations and enabling early emulation for modeling, verification & software development.