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This was my initial impression from the WDC's Software Skills Panel Forum. If you attended what were our thoughts? I am looking forward to the resulting reports and any actionable items. We need to make sure forums like this don't end with reports but keep moving the agenda forward.

http://bytemarks.org/software-skills-panel-forum/

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You are spot on. IT jobs for line of business apps and commodity infrastructure (email, doc management, etc.) have about as much to do with software development for new products / SaaS offerings as turnips and pennies. That was definitely an issue with the discussions but, that being said, a lot of good ideas came out of the committees. It was, as you said, a good first step.

A friend of mine went to the event and had the same thoughts as you (Burt), especially the point about the IT vs. development positions. And I don't believe he went to Dan's piece as I think he was put off by the initial discussion and what he perceived as an audience that really was too broad to understand some of the issues.

 

Sadly, in my experiences working here, there is a lack of understanding of what the difference is from the business side. So unless you're working for a company like Ikayzo (software shop), the thought is IT = all technology. And people like me (jack of all trades, master of none) end up being seen in a consultative position and having to try and do both sides.

 

I'd like to believe that if we have an advocate pushing for the bullet points outlined in Dan's post ( http://www.techhui.com/profiles/blogs/developing-a-viable-software) that things would smooth out. But we've had advocacy and Dan has been a good (unofficial) spokesperson for tech in Hawaii... and this is still taking a long time to sink in (or I'm just impatient). My hope is that we all do what we can to push forward and that Dan continues being a success in both business and promoting tech in Hawaii.

I was trying to get my group at the event interested in continuing the discussion online after the forum, but didn't find much interest in doing so. I would like to know where all the efforts in providing the reports go. Hopefully a group like this one and perhaps some follow up with organizers such as HTDC will provide a path to build on.
Interesting. What are the next steps? Is someone working on a report and recommendations to be presented to the Governor and / or legislature?

The group I was in at first focused on education.  The statistics were alarming.  80-90% of all High School graduates upon entry in to college had to take a remedial math class.  60% had to take a remedial English class just to get started with college. 

Next there is the general cultural resistance to new technology and automation.  One guy in our group used the analogy of the garbage still being picked up by 3 men and a garbage truck.  Not automated.  Even the smallest of cities on the mainland have 1 man garbage trucks that robotically pick the can up.

There are still places in Hawaii where broadband is not available or spotty at best.  I know if you have ever listened to these guys -> http://kuokoa.com/.  They will combine renewable energy with broadband for everyone.

Right out of college developers can get more money and sexier IT work on the mainland.  Maybe that isn't such a bad idea if they would come back to Hawaii after their 2 or 3 years on the mainland.

Last but not least was the man who said they had 400 students with declared majors in Computer Science.  He said they only graduated 40 people.  FORTY.  That is not very many graduates.

It was interesting to me how all four groups came back with basically the same issues although they were in separate rooms.

I prepared to talk about education but Yuka switched me to the senior developers committee to, presumably, keep me on my toes (and probably also to punish me for missing the planning meeting :-)) Many of the people on our committee also came prepared to talk about education. It took some effort to keep on point with the discussion of developing junior developers into senior developers, retaining senior developers and attracting senior developers.

Our poorly performing K-12 public schools cause problems for two reasons. The first, as Linda points out, is that most Hawaii public high school students graduate with no STEM skills (or interest, which could be the subject of another lengthy discussion.) The second is that its nearly impossible to recruit developers from the mainland who have kids unless they are independently wealthy. If they have young children they are looking at $20K X child count by the time they are in high school, and employers can't afford to pay $60K more for a developer with three kids in private school.

Linda Rawson: Last but not least was the man who said they had 400 students with declared majors in Computer Science.  He said they only graduated 40 people.  FORTY.  That is not very many graduates.

That was Professor Philip Johnson. That number is bad, but not quite as bad as it sounds. Most of those students change majors but still graduate. Its very common for students to declare an ICS major because they want to develop games. Most change their mind once they realize C++ is hard :-) I don't know how UH's 10% ICS retention compares to other schools but I remember USC's computer science programming also having many people transfer to other majors after the first year. Philip is self deprecating but he is actually an excellent educator. He is one of the islands of excellence at UH of which I spoke. I've found that the community colleges also have many islands of excellence. I've been consistently impressed by a number of educators at UH Mānoa, UH Hilo and KCC.

I was invited, not sure for what group, she said something like large developers, but I view myself more akin w/ experienced ones.  I wrote the following:

 

Aloha Ms. Park,

 

  I must apologize for canceling at this late date, but I find that with my work and life circumstances it really doesn't make sense for me to spend a day on this right now.
  That said, I'd like to offer my thoughts on what I believe is needed for Hawaii / Maui to successfully foster Software Development.
  First off, it's important to have skilled developers available to be hired.   While ideally this would come from graduates of University of Hawaii, there is no reason that most of these skills couldn't be taught at the High School level.
Minimum Developer Qualifications
Technology
A scripting language like Python, Ruby, Perl, or PHP.
A true programming languages like C++, Objective-C, or Java
At least one Framework like: Django, Rails, iOS, MacOS, .Net
HTML/CSS/JavaScript knowledge
SQL knowledge (MySQL, etc.)
Science
Absolutely must know something about algorithms and data structures 
specifically: Bubble Sort, QuickSort, Binary Trees, Hashing, Binary Search, Queues, Linked Lists
Experience
A developer should have completed at least one semi-independent project, such as a contribution to an Open Source project, an App of some kind, or an application, computerized art project, some simple robotic actions.
 (By semi-independent, I mean the developer should have coded a substantial part of the work).
The developer should have created a smart website.  (Ie. one that uses a database to capture and display information)
The above list is by no means exhaustive.  If you Google "Computer Science Curriculum" you'll get quite a bit more items that are very nice to have, such as probability & game theory, physics, matrix algebra, etc.  It is, however, a list that could easily be included in a high school curricula and produce intern's at a level that could be useful for most companies.
Specific needs for targets
Large software companies like to hire very smart folks with the best educations.  They know who their customers are and how to get them.
Large companies that aren't software companies tend to prefer credentials & certifications.  They want to know they are hiring someone who can do the job with minimal oversight.  They usually hire to support a core business mission or support functions.
Small / Startup Companies - Are usually hiring someone who can do a specific job, usually in the area of the core business, has some experience in the area that needs doing, and has a history of being able to take things to completion with minimal guidance, and a history of being able to learn quickly to address things that might not have been understood at the time of hiring.
Small software companies will need to have ideally, local customers to help guide the software creation process, even if the target market is mostly somewhere else.  Without having local users, it's very difficult for a small developer to get appropriate feedback to properly develop a good product.  Though the internet does help a bit, you usually have a difficult time getting feedback in a pre-alpha stage when it's most helpful.
Experienced Developers - They need to find customers, partners, financing, and more.
New Developers - Usually have some subject matter expertise, but no idea how to approach a problem other than they need some development help.  They often don't even understand the life cycle cost requirements of software to budget properly.  I have a friend who started an iPhone Apps company, she successfully created three applications, that even were featured in the App Store.  However, she wasn't able to keep the company running as software development costs kept running after the product was created.  There was a need to always update to support new hardware and software.
 In fact, as you create more applications, the maintenance costs expand, not contract.  The only way to deal with this is to have a programmer as a partner, not as an expense.  If she'd had asked, I'd have been willing to explain it to her, but she didn't.  I've seen this with many new developers.  They just don't know what they need, and if they did, they'd run, so it's better, in a way that they don't understand what they are getting into.
Suggestions
1) Create a CS degree program at each UH campus.  Much of the lectures could be videos with someone with experience helping out on labs.
2) Add some software development electives to each high school.
3) Encourage the creation of one or more Hacker Spaces on each island.  (similar to Noisebridge https://www.noisebridge.net/ )  The idea space is open 24/7, has space for rent, some equipment, desks, chairs, networking, conferencing, and a lounge / restaurant where folks can congregate and share ideas, problems, etc.  It should also foster technology meetings / play.  The Maui tech park came close, but it didn't have a restaurant for a very long time, the building wasn't open so that developers can interact.
4) The software development eco-system is fairly complex.  While you may only see developers, you also need sales, marketing, PR, graphics, music, specialists, IT, translators, writers, web designers, and a lot more.  You'll want to encourage all of it.
5) Specialized websites for technology just aren't doing the job.  I would suggest that 3 times a year for a few years, the state do a major all-island PR push about technology/software in Hawaii, what's available and how to find out more.  Something so that businesses dont' need to look elsewhere to get there needs met.
I'm sure I'm leaving something out, perhaps some brilliant inspiration that I'd get if I was at the meeting, but things are changing quite rapidly for me right now, and I need to focus.
Thank you for understanding,
Les

 



Linda Rawson said:

Next there is the general cultural resistance to new technology and automation.  One guy in our group used the analogy of the garbage still being picked up by 3 men and a garbage truck.  Not automated.  Even the smallest of cities on the mainland have 1 man garbage trucks that robotically pick the can up.


I look at that and wonder as well. Efficiency is desired by all of us, but sometimes more employment is a better societal choice. I think we fool ourselves when we think that efficiency above all else is a good idea.


Right out of college developers can get more money and sexier IT work on the mainland.  Maybe that isn't such a bad idea if they would come back to Hawaii after their 2 or 3 years on the mainland.


It depends on where they work. Silicon valley pays inexcess of 2x-3x what Hawaii pays. If they get used to that, they won't like it here.

I was thinking about Burt's notes.   SxSW is quite an event, besides the Nerd aspect, there's the music festival and the movie previews.  Both Maui and Oahu have good size film festivals each year, it might be easy to piggyback onto one of those.

So I have been thinking more about the competition for high school students.  One similarity is Mock Trial that involves students participating in every aspect of a trial from witnesses to lawyers.  I actually participated in high school and was a witness.  It was really fun and I remember the experience well even though that was a few years ago. 

 

But a competition for software development could be a lot more difficult but here are my initial thoughts.

 

Web application for something like the well known pet store demo.

 

The following team members would be needed:

Business Analyst, Web Designer, Database Architect, Programmers, Quality Assurance (Tester), Technical Writer, and a Marketing Person.

 

The following outputs would be judged:

Requirement Specification, Wireframe, Database Design (Entity Relationship Chart), Actual Application, Reports, User / Help Manual, Test Plan, Marketing PowerPoint Presentation

 

This may be too complex and too much work but if the prize were grand enough the students would participate.

 

Thoughts?

 

We have spaces now on both Maui and Oahu (maui Makers and HiCapacity) with interest on Kauai.  I haven't heard from Big Island yet.

 

I would add to Les' list of dev talents - some hardware experience.  Robotics is a big help here and Hawaii has a very good program going under USFIRST. However, such systems tend to use packaged solutions (eg VEX, NatInstr, etc) that shield the developers from details.  My suggestion is to provide some basic electronics education using Arduino for the microcontroller aspect.  This can teach basic Ohm's law, servo controls, etc.  Such embedded devices are far more prevalent than any other computer application.

 

Teaching and using these and FabLab style 21st century fabrication techniques is a core of hackerspaces. I believe the fab tech is also very important to developing hawaii as a sustainable economy.


Les Vogel said:

 

3) Encourage the creation of one or more Hacker Spaces on each island. 

@Linda Those are all good ideas for the contest and I don't think they would be too difficult to pull off. I've seen high schools pull off projects that are more involved such as Leilehua High's Culinary Arts Academy's restaurant.

@Jerry I was very happy to see we were competitive in the robotics contest. We should definitely support and expand involvement with robotics at the junior high and high school level.

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