Being in the ISP world, our business is really specialized. Of course you have to have the necessary technical knowledge if you want to succeed, and specialities to become outstanding. But what about the basics?
There are people that know exactly what to do when the system gives an error. And they know the procedures to fix the problem. But when you ask what the fix is and why they are doing things that way, they do not know. They just know what Google – or their course on office automation – says they have to do.
Computer Science students these days learn a specific part of the trade extremely well. I’ve noticed that when I gave lectures at the University of Applied Sciences in Amsterdam. But it seems like courses in universities are not covering the basics anymore. If a student decides to become a programmer, she will never learn what DNS is or how switches work. But she should. Because she will work with DNS and switches in her career. At the very least she needs to know how it works. The only way she can learn, is by working at an ISP and make mistakes.
Luckily there are some new initiatives to start training courses for those who want to pursue a career with an Internet Service Provider. Some members in the ISP Connect and NLNOG communities are willing to invest in courses where the basics are being covered. For now at (this is specifically Dutch) MBO level, but later also at HBO and university level.
We need to get back to the basics. Show students how the basic things work and then let them specialize, just like we did. Because the good ones from today are going to be retired soon. They need to be replaced by people who, like them, first and foremost have a broad overview of how things fit together – plus maybe a specialty or two.