90's Nerd = New Cool Geek

Cool-geekIn a recent article from the BBC titled Coding-the new Latin, Rory Cellan-Jones mentions that the current rate of students studying Information and Computer Science and related areas in the UK has been increasing in recent years, but that it’s still not enough to come back to the rates that he was seeing at the end of the nineties. The situation is pretty much the same in the rest of the world except in some specific countries like India or China, as they have kept a steady increase in the number of graduates in related IT areas during the last decade. It was reported that in 2009, more than three hundred thousand people, in China alone, received an IT-related degree while approximately two hundred thousand received it in India. The rest of the world is way behind these numbers.


Why did this happen? For China and India, it was the creation of a strategic vision by the government aligned with public policies and fiscal incentives. This helped to bring a new set of jobs to people that did not previously have the chance, shifting the paradigm of IT into an opportunity. For the rest of the world, the problem was that we sat and saw how India and China developed the IT market. More importantly, however, there was the common belief that Computer Science and IT in general is boring and nerdy— basically, “not cool” sending the numbers of students enrolling into IT to the ground. I still remember that when I graduated in 1999, all graduates were called one Saturday to be in the official picture and there were around a thousand people that day on Campus for the event. Sadly, when the Computer Science graduates were called for the picture, there were only 30 of us for IT (3%), while other areas like Finance, Administration or Economics all together made up more than 70% of the graduates. 

Fifteen years ago, IT companies were seen as something obscure and complex. By working at one of them, or within an IT department, by default one was classified as a nerd or the guy doing the TPS reports. A management position in any IT company seemed practically inexistent or impossible to reach. I still remember when a professor told us at school, “IT Engineers will never be CEO’s; it’s not in their DNA.” With all of this, it’s easier to understand why so few people wanted to enroll in IT-related programs in the past.

MP900448715[1]Yet good news seems to be on the horizon for the industry thanks to the penetration of the internet in all the aspects of our life. The commoditization of technology has made a change in the perception of technology and of the people that develop it. One of the most amazing examples is the one of Thomas Suarez, a 12 years old boy that developed two iOS applications and is now running a development club in his school since he noticed that some of his classmates and friends were interested in learning how to create apps. Being able to create something that can run in our hands has changed the way the community sees the IT community.

The questions now are: how can IT companies take advantage of this? How can we have more Thomas’s so they can help us to transform the industry? And most importantly, what will be the changes on strategies that the service providers need to make in order to take advantage of this new wave of young and savvy “cool” professionals?