The state of the portuguese engineering student (from where I stand)

I have a really hard time getting to know people who like to do some programming and electronics hacks in my university (see hackaday for an example of what I’m talking about). Admittedly, I don’t spend much time searching but one gets a feeling for the environment when there’s not a single hint of someone building things for fun.

What I don’t have a hard time finding is people to whom computers still work by magic. Who think that “hackers” plant viruses in other people’s computers by mashing the keyboard for long enough, that malware is this magical creature we need to remove because it roams the interwebs hiding behind rocks and that you need an anti-malware knight to come and swipe them from the land. Oh and they’ve read half of that “deep web” article on some technology blog which was a bit too long. These guys know about technology because they installed Windows on a machine once, and use Chrome or Mozilla Firefox rather than Internet Explorer. Besides, they know all the memes, they’re so into computers, bro.

Flocking to “entrepreneurial” talks and being part of every student association who might look good on a resume is their bread and butter. They know the “importance of people skills in the workplace”, how “critical it is to work well in a group of people” and how to “brainstorm”. They’re proactive, dynamic and a bunch of other cool adjectives too. They’re also the guys that can’t even explain what it means to cast a variable, that never built anything from source. And PHP is that language that lets you use a database in the cloud, right?

Long before even finishing their engineering degree they already can’t wait to get an MBA. They’re on to big stuff, they’ll be managing teams, supervising outsourced projects, never having to touch code or solve an equation and you know what? They’ll be total engineers! They’ll even remember those hardcore days when they saw GNU/Linux running on a box somewhere and tell their coworkers with management backgrounds how they used to solve hard problems, but not anymore that they’ve grown out of it, it’s beneath them now. After all, management is clearly the next step for a programmer.

And since nobody likes programming and learning about cool projects, libraries and frameworks we’ll just teach entrepreneurship to students and organize another workshop about awesome business plans when nobody even has a fucking clue on how to actually build things. Then we pray to the magic fairies of startups to turn one of them into a Bill Gates of sorts and solve all our economic problems!

And so we wonder about an economy which doesn’t export and doesn’t innovate, with services being the most prevalent sector, importing goods, energy and technology, and exporting the few good people that could actually help solving this mess.