A dangerous number of South African IT professionals are leaving

Nicodeamus

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My father told me this after getting his Engineering Degree and ended up being appointed to a position where he was eventually hiring engineers for the department.

Getting a degree is like getting an education on how a ship is built, why it was built that way, what to use to build a ship and how everything works together. However, the knowledge does not equate to skill in sailing the ship, even though the degree'd person has all the requisite knowledge.

The trademan who goes into the profession from school (or earlier) and likely follow in some kind of mentorship (father, uncle, brother etc). This person will be highly skilled in running the ship and have certain intuitive understandings about running the ship that an engineer will not have.

Pound for pound, a newbie artisan who has worked for the numbers of years the engineer has studied, is far more value out of the blocks than a university graduate. They have an eagerness to learn, a humility that comes with being a student all the time and often come up with solutions that work that don't fit within the framework of education.

That's not to say a degree is not valuable, because after a certain amount of time, a good engineer who unlearns certain aspects of education, removes the "ego" of having a degree, will eventually become the master of the tradesman because of the superior background of knowledge.
However, a Tradesman given the drive of continuous learning can equal a qualified engineer of equal years in most cases.

A good quote from "The Resident" - "Doctor schools are great at teaching you many ways how to save a patient, what they don't teach you is how many ways there are to harm one"
I find this to be true of most education.

It is good that what works for your company, works. Doesn't mean it's a monosolution that will work always.


I have heard this nonsense throughout my career. There is simply no way that you can learn in depth theoretical knowledge of structures and nuclear science (which is my field) on the job.

Have a job skill is good, but very often your intuition is wrong. This is why we have graduate that go through years of rigorous training.

I have heard this excuse a lot from people who are constantly making excuses for not wanting to studying anything and therefore feels undermined themselves.

There are very few people you can build up a solid theoretical baisis on the job and in certain fields it is simply impossible.
 
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Nicodeamus

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Managers in my company are fully qualified engineers with additional business qualifications. I don't think that is an outdated model, but rather a better approach.

Engineers are also paid based on their demand. The top level engineers on our team command salaries of 7 figures.


In France the top technical engineers get paid more than the managers. The reason being that a 20 years of in depth training is very difficult, if not impossible to replace. Specialization is welcome here. The idea that everyone should be a manager is ridiculous.
 

DMNknight

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I have heard this nonsense throughout my career. There is simply no way that you can learn in depth theoretical knowledge of structures and nuclear science (which is my field) on the job.

Have a job skill is good, but very often your intuition is wrong. This is why we have graduate that go through years of rigorous training.

I have heard this excuse a lot from people who are constantly making excuses for not wanting to studying anything and therefore feels undermined themselves.

There are very few people you can build up a solid theoretical ineptness on the job and in certain fields it is simply impossible.

I didn't say it applied to all education/engineers/tradesmen :rolleyes:
It's not like we have a generational career path in Nuclear Engineering, where Dad was one and his daughter got vocational training to be one.

There are a lot of qualified engineers who have had a lifetime of experience being Tradesmen (civil,electrical,mechanical), who were then qualified engineers after submitting their many years of work to a University and getting their degree at age 50 or 60, but have a lifetime of work on par with other engineers.

Yes, the excuses exists, but you will find those people also don't succeed at their careers. It comes down to attitude and willingness to learn continuously. That's not something everyone has, including university graduates.

As I said quite specifically, this was my fathers experiences and that's all I relayed. Not a universal solution to life the universe and everything. ;)
 

DMNknight

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In France the top technical engineers get paid more than the managers. The reason being that a 20 years of in depth training is very difficult, if not impossible to replace. Specialization is welcome here. The idea that everyone should be a manager is ridiculous.

In France they also don't have BBBEEE which is racism packaged to sound nice. They also have a much more mature corporate culture where specialists are appreciated for their technical skills without feeling the need to make them managers.
South Africa has a really archaic belief that managers should always be paid more than the people they manage. So the only way for a technical person to truly excel is to leave the country where the corporate culture is more mature.
 

Nicodeamus

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I didn't say it applied to all education/engineers/tradesmen :rolleyes:
It's not like we have a generational career path in Nuclear Engineering, where Dad was one and his daughter got vocational training to be one.

There are a lot of qualified engineers who have had a lifetime of experience being Tradesmen (civil,electrical,mechanical), who were then qualified engineers after submitting their many years of work to a University and getting their degree at age 50 or 60, but have a lifetime of work on par with other engineers.

Yes, the excuses exists, but you will find those people also don't succeed at their careers. It comes down to attitude and willingness to learn continuously. That's not something everyone has, including university graduates.

As I said quite specifically, this was my fathers experiences and that's all I relayed. Not a universal solution to life the universe and everything. ;)

The point is that they only qualify after going through the theoretical concepts. The reason in the case of civil engineering is that we require a certain amount of in-depth theoretical knowledge to be trusted with public safety. Structural analysis is complicated and an on-site experience is simply not going to cut it.
 

cguy

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My father told me this after getting his Engineering Degree and ended up being appointed to a position where he was eventually hiring engineers for the department.

Getting a degree is like getting an education on how a ship is built, why it was built that way, what to use to build a ship and how everything works together. However, the knowledge does not equate to skill in sailing the ship, even though the degree'd person has all the requisite knowledge.

The trademan who goes into the profession from school (or earlier) and likely follow in some kind of mentorship (father, uncle, brother etc). This person will be highly skilled in running the ship and have certain intuitive understandings about running the ship that an engineer will not have.

Pound for pound, a newbie artisan who has worked for the numbers of years the engineer has studied, is far more value out of the blocks than a university graduate. They have an eagerness to learn, a humility that comes with being a student all the time and often come up with solutions that work that don't fit within the framework of education.

Apparently you need a degree to sail a ship (as a Captiain - or at least it is highly recommended). It also typically takes many years to get to the requisite seniority level to become a captain. If you are talking about a lower level position, then sure, a trained artisan would be pretty capable, but it will be a relatively low level job.
https://www.cruiseaway.com.au/blog/cruise-news/cruise-ship-captain/
https://study.com/become_a_ship_captain.html

I do get your point here, but the type of work a degreed worker does is typically different to the type of work a non-degreed worker does. It's just a different education for different professions. In some areas of some professions (e.g., definitely some parts of IT and engineering), training can replace a degree qualification, but generally this is not the case. In unregulated fields (e..g, parts of IT), of course anyone with enough drive can cover the requisite coursework themselves, but then they may as well do a degree (which is specifically designed to convey and test this).

That's not to say a degree is not valuable, because after a certain amount of time, a good engineer who unlearns certain aspects of education, removes the "ego" of having a degree, will eventually become the master of the tradesman because of the superior background of knowledge.
However, a Tradesman given the drive of continuous learning can equal a qualified engineer of equal years in most cases.

The "ego" of having a degree? I don't think this is something that is degree specific, but rather person specific. I see a similar situation from some people who don't know what they don't know from those without degrees (and still some with the degrees). I found doing a PhD to be a great exercise in finally discovering how much one doesn't know.

A good quote from "The Resident" - "Medical schools are great at teaching you many ways how to save a patient, what they don't teach you is how many ways there are to harm one"
I find this to be true of most education.

I'm pretty sure the doctors would be harming more people without education. ;)
 
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cguy

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There are a lot of qualified engineers who have had a lifetime of experience being Tradesmen (civil,electrical,mechanical), who were then qualified engineers after submitting their many years of work to a University and getting their degree at age 50 or 60, but have a lifetime of work on par with other engineers.

Any links to this? I have never met anyone who has gotten their engineering degree this way.
 

cguy

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South Africa has a really archaic belief that managers should always be paid more than the people they manage. So the only way for a technical person to truly excel is to leave the country where the corporate culture is more mature.

I agree with this sentiment. This is a huge issue in SA, where not only is it typical for the manager of a given team to always be paid the most, but often all managers earn more than all individual contributors within a company. In the US, it is typical to have teams with senior engineers who earn more than their managers, as well as engineers who report up the ladder, and earn many times more than most managers.
 

Hamster

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No, finding IT workers is easy. Finding good ones....that is difficult. We have been recruiting since end last year to form a new team and it's been tough going.

Yeah, we went through a hiring drive. Saw a lot of people and turned down even more CVs. Eventually we found a couple of good guys through OfferZen.

Interesting though - good developers are hard to find but those we made an offer either accepted or let us know they're already advanced talks with other companies.

Sys admins though - I've never seen so many guys waste our time just to go get a counter offer and not being ashamed of it. One guy was made an offer and the next morning he let us know that he accepted a counter.

Now I'm not saying that people like this should develop a golf ball sized kidney stone but I'm not exactly going to not be happy if they do.
 

DMNknight

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The "ego" of having a degree? I don't think this is something that is degree specific, but rather person specific. I see a similar situation from some people who don't know what they don't know from those without degrees (and still some with the degrees). I found doing a PhD to be a great exercise in finally discovering how much one doesn't know.

So a lot of engineers my dad hired, or whose CV's came across his desk, had almost god complexes believing they could design and implement a pumping station from Day 1 and spoke poorly to colleagues who had their "tech" diploma's.
That's the ego I am talking about (and yes, my dad had the same)

A lot of people who come out of university believe they can do a lot more than reality will allow... There are certain "practical" aspects to implementing knowledge that you don't get taught.

Any links to this? I have never met anyone who has gotten their engineering degree this way.
I only got to know about this while spending time in hospital with an elderly gent who had a plethora of documentation he was working through. It was all the "work" he'd done during his lifetime and this was his final presentation to a board of engineers at some university (wits?) to get his mech eng.

It's also the first I heard of it, never got any links or anything and have since come across civil, mech and elec engineers who did similar. Best I could fathom, was the work counted towards credits or points. *shrug*

I don't know if its done anymore either, so it is anecdotal.

I'm pretty sure the doctors would be harming more people without education.
Fair point but that was not the point I was making ;)
University degrees give you a lot of knowledge and very little grounding in the realities of applying your knowledge. Perhaps things have changed... After all it's been quite a few years since I've been of University age.
 

Nicodeamus

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Any links to this? I have never met anyone who has gotten their engineering degree this way.
They are at best able to register as techologists, but not proffesional engineers. That requires a deeper knowledge.
 

cguy

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So a lot of engineers my dad hired, or whose CV's came across his desk, had almost god complexes believing they could design and implement a pumping station from Day 1 and spoke poorly to colleagues who had their "tech" diploma's.
That's the ego I am talking about (and yes, my dad had the same)

A lot of people who come out of university believe they can do a lot more than reality will allow... There are certain "practical" aspects to implementing knowledge that you don't get taught.

While, I am sure that this happens sometimes, in my experience most engineers are smart enough to grasp the difference in complexity between their toy practical problems and enormous real world projects. I would say, that if this isn't the case, they have missed out a pretty big component of their degree.

I only got to know about this while spending time in hospital with an elderly gent who had a plethora of documentation he was working through. It was all the "work" he'd done during his lifetime and this was his final presentation to a board of engineers at some university (wits?) to get his mech eng.

It's also the first I heard of it, never got any links or anything and have since come across civil, mech and elec engineers who did similar. Best I could fathom, was the work counted towards credits or points. *shrug*

I don't know if its done anymore either, so it is anecdotal.

Several universities seem to give credit via RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning) programs. All this allows is the bypassing of qualification requirements to start certain degree programs, e.g., an M.Eng. Although as @Nicodeamus said, if you go this route, you still won't be able to become a PE.

Fair point but that was not the point I was making ;)
University degrees give you a lot of knowledge and very little grounding in the realities of applying your knowledge. Perhaps things have changed... After all it's been quite a few years since I've been of University age.

Universities try to give the useful knowledge and skills to people that won't be easily picked up on the job, and that are prerequisite to certain jobs. The best way to pick up the latter skills is via internships, articles, residency, or a few years as a "junior", etc. So I'm not specifically, disagreeing with you here, but university education is an orthogonal issue - it's not meant to replace real world experience, and real world experience won't generally replace a degree either.
 

GoB

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Universities try to give the useful knowledge and skills to people that won't be easily picked up on the job, and that are prerequisite to certain jobs. The best way to pick up the latter skills is via internships, articles, residency, or a few years as a "junior", etc. So I'm not specifically, disagreeing with you here, but university education is an orthogonal issue - it's not meant to replace real world experience, and real world experience won't generally replace a degree either.

What is your opinion on the proportion of effort going towards writing a thesis when compared to the effort in obtaining knowledge and reasoning?

To me it seems that the academic writing makes up the larger portion in postgraduate studies.

This is what puts me off studying further... even during my undergraduate studies there was a lot of time spent on fillers rather than researching topics in greater depth.

Edit - and the reason this is related is that I prioritized preparing for emigration (a lot to sort out) and obtaining a Masters would not negate the points lost in Visa application due to increased age.
 

Gnome

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One thing I can say for sure is that SA has a lot of weak skills. I've interviewed more than a 200 people now (our system tracks how many we've done) and SA by far has been the saddest of the bunch. And most of my interviews are with people from 3rd world countries. (a lot were in SA)

Also "local" companies here pay pathetic salaries. R1m per year is expensive to a lot of local companies but US companies in SA pay more than that (and by more I mean a lot more). I've worked for 2 of them now and for sure the salary gap is significant (and no I didn't need to move abroad at the time to earn those better salaries).

Similarly European countries don't have VISA restrictions like the US. I applied for a role in Germany, did the interview, got the offer and the offer comes with a permanent residency card. I don't need to jump through hoops to get it, it just happens. I can stay as long as I want and apply for citizenship after some years.

When I applied for a company in the USA? They applied on my behalf for an H1B (80k per year cap, world wide). Didn't get it, ok, no problem, work in SA/Europe for 1 year and transfer on inter company transfer of critical skills L1 VISA (practically unlimited number of those).

Point is, if you are sticking around in SA, you either
1) Want to be here/Comfortable here
2) Don't realize yet how easy it is to move
3) Don't have the skills you think you do, don't get offers after interviewing and you are stuck here (can be improved by working on it, so no excuse, just swallow your pride)

Or some combination of the above.

TL;DR
The salary cap has not gone up and it won't. The local economy can't support it. The local companies don't operate at a scale that needs the skills that you pay that much for. How much evidence do we need the local IT space is a joke? ie. Takealot goes down all the time on their "sale" days. Capitec goes down for hours, etc.

If you work in a company that has that attitude, you aren't in the kind of environment where you are going to become a good engineer. Best move somewhere else or you'll become that engineer that doesn't have skills to move anymore.

#JustSaying
 
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cguy

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What is your opinion on the proportion of effort going towards writing a thesis when compared to the effort in obtaining knowledge and reasoning?

To me it seems that the academic writing makes up the larger portion in postgraduate studies.

This is what puts me off studying further... even during my undergraduate studies there was a lot of time spent on fillers rather than researching topics in greater depth.

Edit - and the reason this is related is that I prioritized preparing for emigration (a lot to sort out) and obtaining a Masters would not negate the points lost in Visa application due to increased age.

I would say that improving your academic writing is obtaining knowledge and reasoning.

Typical activities of a grad student:
1) Reading papers/theses. The knowledge gained from the ~100-200 papers you will read in an MSc or 500-1000 in your PhD will make you an expert in your field. More importantly, the eventual skill of being able to read, grok and critique said papers will be a skill that should take your career to the next level.
2) The implementation of advanced techniques (that typically require an undergraduate degree, and a deep knowledge of your field). This is also a skill that is incredibly beneficial - many undergraduates graduate, and then go into a job that doesn't require more than a few pieces of things learned in their 1st or 2nd year of university. Being able to build something of size, and of graduate level complexity is an incredibly enlightening experience, that opens up a different level of career opportunities.
3) Experimentation and analysis of results. Being able to do this robustly, and have it pass the scrutiny of your peers, supervisor, examiners and ideally a peer reviewed conference or journal committee, is a skill in itself. The feedback you get, and the experience of doing the work will allow you to be more critical and see experimental or logical flaws in other papers or experimental methods.
4) Writing. This covers writing clearly and convincingly. The ability to express your arguments and criticisms robustly. The ability to turn experimental results into an argument. The ability to contextualize your contributions in the wider field. You will write papers that will get torn apart by the most critical minds out there - you will learn to anticipate criticisms, and address holes in your argument, before they are found.
5) Social. You (hopefully) get to work with an expert in their field as your supervisor. You will collaborate on research and papers with bright peers and other university staff. You may participate in exchange programs, where you work with people in research labs around the world. You will attend conferences where you will meet other experts who share your interests. You can then collaborate with them on research.
6) Creativity. For a masters degree, you typically want to find some new spin or application on existing techniques. For a PhD, you will want to contribute something new to the field. Finding this is extremely rewarding, and those who do this consistently are well recognized in their academic fields and industry.
7) Future interesting and lucrative work. You ideally aren't going to do a MSc, PhD, or perhaps even Post-doc in say Applied Maths or Computer Science, and do a job that someone with 6 months experience post-matric can do better. The type of work you will be qualified for is typically more challenging, more fun, better paid and more internationally in demand.

I can't say whether or not the age point loss will make a significant difference to your applicatio, but a postgraduate education can definitely make a difference in the type and level of work that you eventually do wherever you land up.
 

GoB

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Thanks cguy... your points frame the outcomes of studying further and expectations to set well.

I do prefer weighing effort towards research and experimentation and skimp on the academic process, so the process will never be fun for me.
I've met people with a slightly different personality type who actually enjoy formal studying.

I think your most important point is the last. Unless you start your own company or start off like John Carmack, the type of work you end up doing may not be ideal without the PhD.
 

me_

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South Africa has a really archaic belief that managers should always be paid more than the people they manage. So the only way for a technical person to truly excel is to leave the country where the corporate culture is more mature.
I agree with this sentiment. This is a huge issue in SA, where not only is it typical for the manager of a given team to always be paid the most, but often all managers earn more than all individual contributors within a company. In the US, it is typical to have teams with senior engineers who earn more than their managers, as well as engineers who report up the ladder, and earn many times more than most managers.

I'm surprised to hear so many organisations are still paying managers more. Most organisations I know have moved away from this practice in the last 5 - 10 years. Market salaries for Senior Devs are higher than for management so I find it odd that companies are able to operate while not being market aligned.

> 5 years ago, our company had that mentality so we ended up with some strange reporting lines. I was in a team, but since my salary was higher than the manager and I was effectively more senior than him, from a line manager I reported directly into our senior manager, but for day to day work, I would report into him.

The main driver for change was that we used to have company defined roles that were difficult to quantify in the market so hiring was a pain. We decided to redefine all our roles to be more common market related roles and then use market rates for those roles as a guideline for setting the salary bands. That revealed that the senior tech specialists were largely being underpaid and the managers were largely being overpaid so there was a salary correction that took place over the next few years. This organically lead to managers managing people who are paid more than them.
 

cguy

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I'm surprised to hear so many organisations are still paying managers more. Most organisations I know have moved away from this practice in the last 5 - 10 years. Market salaries for Senior Devs are higher than for management so I find it odd that companies are able to operate while not being market aligned..

How do you know that the market salaries for devs are higher than managers? Asking because I haven’t actually seen any survey results either way.

My direct experience as an SA employee is outdated, but I’ve been pinged throughout the years about various positions and the managerial numbers (some for the same company) are always 20% higher than the “very” senior dev numbers I’ve been given.

Also, somewhat anecdotal, but having to move to management to break their ceiling is a constant complaint from most of my SA colleagues.
 
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