Recently, Inside Higher Ed had an article about humanities majors being hired into IT positions. The comment section was immediately contentious, but this is the internet, after all. The argument was between two factions: IT professionals complaining it demeans them, and humanities people claiming the IT people are snobs.
I’ve been thinking about this for awhile. My parents are both computer programmers, with my mom having worked as a manager for many years. She’s one of the few among IT professionals her age who actually majored in computer science. Most of her coworkers are English majors, or history majors, who made a career change at some point. Why not have that point be very early?
The other issue I have with the commenters is that not all IT jobs are the same. Yes, I want the person setting up my database to have a strong technical background. But systems and software change constantly. Even if you majored in a technical field, the odds are very good that 90% of what you learned in college will be obsolete within ten years. Communication skills, on the other hand, never go out of fashion.
At a company the size of ConAgra, there are most likely several different groups that fall under the wing of IT. There are the database specialists, system administrators, the network security specialist, the hardware specialists and the support specialists (I’m sure this is not a complete list). For the first three groups, yes, their technical skills are probably the most important part of their job. But support specialist need to be able to communicate effectively with people who may not be very good with computers. And often, people who had to work to learn something are better at explaining to others. They are less likely to assume that the person they are helping knows to try quick fixes before calling the help desk. Why not hire someone specifically trained in communication for these positions?
How do you feel about hiring humanities majors for technical positions?