[EDUCATION] Booting up experienced technical talent who have dated skills

As you may know, I’ve been working on launching Bootup Academy, which will offer applied computer science or engineering programs to college students who want to supplement their studies with an intensive 10 week summer program. That’s why you may have seen more posts here labeled [EDUCATION].

We’re now adding an additional focus, Booting Up experienced technical folks who have never put together a web or mobile application, have not worked in an agile environment, and so may not have the right check boxes on their resume.

We think they may be interested in rapidly bring themselves up to speed, develop skills, knowledge, contacts, and importantly, a portfolio of designs and code, and actual working products. We think that with that they will be invigorated and more easily make the move into a new startup or innovative company. And they will stay in Boston!

In the New York Times today is an article: “A Sea of Job-Seekers, but Some Companies Aren’t Getting Any Bites”:

“Case in point: Gabriel Shaoolian, chief executive of Blue Fountain Media, a Web design and marketing company with 85 employees in New York, said he had 10 openings right now because his company could not find enough highly qualified people with technical backgrounds. “If you’re a professional developer, Web designer or online marketing specialist, you can pick the company you work for,” Mr. Shaoolian said. “There is a shortage where demand severely outstrips supply.” (from The New York Times)

New York Times Grammar and Style

Listen, I love the New York Times. I read it cover to cover (or pixel to pixel) every day and have it delivered in dead-tree format to my doorstep each morning.

But so often I come across an awkward sentence which I have to read and re-read several times to understand.

I’ve been noticing this for a long time now and it makes me wonder whether it’s a stylistic thing or a that they have had to lay off their best editors.

At any rate, I don’t have the same impression when I read he Wall Street Journal (which I admire but don’t love.)

Here’s a recent example:

“LAGOS, Nigeria — In a quarter-century, at the rate Nigeria is growing, 300 million people — a population about as big as that of the present-day United States — will live in a country roughly the size of Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada.” (from NYT)

What do you say, am I crazy?

Is this article a joke? “When Truisms are true”

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I saw this article in the Sunday New York Times today which starts promising but then becomes a bit ridiculous and makes a mockery of serious research, in my humble opinion.

It starts with a claim that sounds plausible:

“Recent advances in understanding what psychologists call “embodied cognition” indicate a surprisingly direct link between mind and body. It turns out that people draw on their bodily experiences in constructing their social reality.

Studies show, for example, that someone holding a warm cup of coffee tends to perceive a stranger as having a “warmer”€ personality. Likewise when holding something heavy, people see things as more serious and important – more –€ œweighty” (from When Truisms are True)

But then as they go into the studies they are doing to demonstrate some of their ideas. Just casually I think of many simpler explanations than the far out conclusions they seem to be coming to:

“For example, we asked 102 undergraduates at New York University to complete a task designed to measure innovative thinking. The task required them to generate a word (“tape,” for example) that related to each of three presented clue words (“measure,” “worm” and “video”). Some students were randomly assigned to do this while sitting inside a 125-cubic-foot box that we made of plastic pipe and cardboard. The rest got to sit and think outside (and next to) the box.

During the task we tracked the number of correct responses suggested by the students. We found that those thinking outside the box were significantly more creative: compared with those thinking inside the box, they came up with over 20 percent more creative solutions.” (from When Truisms are True)

and

“Then we asked them to think of original uses for the objects, either while walking along a fixed rectangular path indicated by duct tape on the floor (marking out an area of about 48 square feet) or by walking freely as they wished. The differences were striking: students who walked freely were better at generating creative uses for the objects — coming up with over 25 percent more original ideas. Such creativity was assessed in terms of fluency (the number of ideas generated), flexibility (the number of unique categories that described the generated ideas) and originality (as judged by independent raters).” (from When Truisms are True)

Really? It was at this point that I looked back at the article’s start to check if this was Humor or Satire.

Doing exercise makes you smarter. Finally!

From the New York Times, How Exercise Benefits the Brain:

“For some time, scientists have believed that BDNF helps explain why mental functioning appears to improve with exercise. However, they haven’t fully understood which parts of the brain are affected or how those effects influence thinking. The Irish study suggests that the increases in BDNF prompted by exercise may play a particular role in improving memory and recall.” (from NYT)

Getting the best deals… Check out decide.com

A useful article in the New York Times today, just in time for the holidays. A new site that tries to forecast the best time to buy that item you really want. It seems to draw a graph showing how the price of, for example, a Nikon 50-300mm Zoom Lens has varied over the last 3 months and whether I should buy it today or wait till next month. It’s a very nicely done site and if it works, it could be very useful. The site is decide.com.

“Oren Etzioni writes articles about artificial intelligence for scholarly journals, is a renowned expert on data mining and gained fame when Microsoft paid $115 million for Farecast, an airline-ticket price predictor he founded.

Now, Professor Etzioni, who teaches computer science at the University of Washington, has directed his considerable intellect at the American ritual of shopping for bargains on Black Friday. After examining billions of prices of consumer electronics, he has decided to spend the busiest shopping day of the year scuba-diving in Bali.” (from The New York Times)

Oh, the site is decide.com.

What they teach in lawschool

This article gives a fascinating perspective on the disconnect between what they teach in law school and what knowledge is required to actually be an effective lawyer. Some great facts from the article:

“Last year, a survey by American Lawyer found that 47 percent of law firms had a client say, in effect, “We don’t want to see the names of first- or second-year associates on our bills.” Other clients are demanding that law firms charge flat fees.”

…and …

““Law school has a kind of intellectual inferiority complex, and it’s built into the idea of law school itself,” says W. Bradley Wendel of the Cornell University Law School, a professor who has written about landing a law school teaching job. “People who teach at law school are part of a profession and part of a university. So we’re always worried that other parts of the academy are going to look down on us and say: ‘You’re just a trade school, like those schools that advertise on late-night TV. You don’t write dissertations. You don’t write articles that nobody reads.’ And the response of law school professors is to say: ‘That’s not true. We do all of that. We’re scholars, just like you.’ “

…and…

“In fact, many of these [law review] articles are not of much apparent help to anyone. A 2005 law review article found that around 40 percent of law review articles in the LexisNexis database had never been cited in cases or in other law review articles.

All these quotes are from the New York Times article: “After Law School, Associates Learn to be Lawyers”

Preparation needed

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what kind of preparation college students need as they graduate to pursue their futures. Thomas Friedman writes an excellent column in the New York Times where he says:

“Look at the news these days from the most dynamic sector of the U.S. economy — Silicon Valley. Facebook is now valued near $100 billion, Twitter at $8 billion, Groupon at $30 billion, Zynga at $20 billion and LinkedIn at $8 billion. These are the fastest-growing Internet/social networking companies in the world, and here’s what’s scary: You could easily fit all their employees together into the 20,000 seats in Madison Square Garden, and still have room for grandma. They just don’t employ a lot of people, relative to their valuations, and while they’re all hiring today, they are largely looking for talented engineers.

Indeed, what is most striking when you talk to employers today is how many of them have used the pressure of the recession to become even more productive by deploying more automation technologies, software, outsourcing, robotics — anything they can use to make better products with reduced head count and health care and pension liabilities. That is not going to change. And while many of them are hiring, they are increasingly picky. They are all looking for the same kind of people — people who not only have the critical thinking skills to do the value-adding jobs that technology can’t, but also people who can invent, adapt and reinvent their jobs every day, in a market that changes faster than ever.” (From The New York Times: The Start-Up of You)

This is really true. If your life’s ambition is to pursue an advanced degree then often a college degree is great preparation. For many though, their life’s passion is to join or create a startup and have a really big impact on the world.

David Brooks: The Mother of All No-Brainers

Another on the mark article by David Brooks: the mother of all no brainers.

I can’t help it but I am riveted by this debt ceiling debacle. Like many I want them to stop bickering and reach and agreement. I know there will be parts of it that I hate, but I know that overall I will be thrilled that this particular soap opera/drama/crisis is over, and that our leaders have stopped acting like children:

The struggles of the next few weeks are about what sort of party the G.O.P. is — a normal conservative party or an odd protest movement that has separated itself from normal governance, the normal rules of evidence and the ancient habits of our nation.

 

If the debt ceiling talks fail, independent voters will see that Democrats were willing to compromise but Republicans were not. If responsible Republicans don’t take control, independents will conclude that Republican fanaticism caused this default. They will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern.

And they will be right.

 

Losing Our Way

This New York Times Op-Ed piece by Bob Herbert really hits home:

“The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.” (from Losing Our Way)

It’s called  “Losing Our Way”. You should read it.