Thanks to those of you who turned up, good chat about becoming a STEM ambassador for Computer Science (see http://www.stemnet.org.uk/content/ambassadors/whoareambassadors for details) and about the stereotypes that put people off IT.
Is programming too hard or too boring? Are programmers are socially awkward anti-establishment hackers? Or are we all boring middle-aged men in suits?
That’s the perception outside the field, whereas we all know programmers are cool, interesting, social people. The question is, how do we make the next generation see it so they can join us, and help build whatever will follow the Internet?
The best answers we came up with all involved reaching out, whether that’s visiting schools or providing child-friendly events, and finding ways to get kids interested without bumping up against the stereotypes. Should we have hackday events? Do we need a Young Programmer of the Year competition where we can find and inspire teams to develop software and win a prize, take some regional heats and a national final? Or do we do things on a smaller scale?
So, do we tell people it’s problem solving? That’s ultimately the job, after all. Talk to people, understand their problems, and then build a solution. We use computers to do it, but the interest and complexity of the job is as much about the people and the processes we’re solving for as the tools we are using to do it. And if it’s problem solving, do we just need to find interesting problems to solve, whether it’s maze finding, or controlling robots, because robots are cool.
How much duty do we, as a community, and as a profession, have to find and nurture the next generation of developers and computer engineers?