Wednesday 23 January 2019

Why snobbish parents are missing out by ignoring tech

Tech isn't a fad: it's your middle-class future
Tech isn't a fad: it's your middle-class future
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

For snobbish middle-class parents, the chickens are coming home to roost. After years spent toiling to get their children to become a doctor, lawyer or accountant, other work choices are now overtaking them.

The latest Central Statistics Office figures show that average tech employees are about to overtake barristers, doctors and financial sector types as the highest paid workers in Ireland. The Irish tech worker's average €65,146 (up 11pc year on year), is now up with the financial sector's average €66,806.

That means that the kid you limply congratulated on his DIT degree seven years ago is closer to outbidding your son - a BCom graduate who wears 'good' suits - on that townhouse in Dartry. And he doesn't have to splash out on an Audi or leatherette iPhone flap case to fit in beforehand, either.

And even though the tech worker remains ever-so-slightly below his financial counterpart in compensation, he probably now gets invited to better parties, meets richer potential life partners (that one may really smart for bourgeois parents) and gets to relocate to Manhattan or San Francisco instead of just London.

It's this latter element - the 'class' associated with technical careers - that may discombobulate middle-class Irish parents most.

Over the last 20 years, class lines have clearly influenced parents' guidance on children's college applications. Aspirational families sent kids to universities to 'read' law, study medicine or get a commerce degree. Aside from the bet that one of these careers would yield a higher income than other pursuits, there was always the idea that if not, it remained a congregation of the right sort of people.

But it turns out that many of the smartest, most civilised people have emerged from other areas. And it's not just that they're now earning more: they're becoming powerful and influential in shaping our overall culture. Barristers and politicians may pontificate on injunctions and the control of information. But technologists make them irrelevant.

Even the physical areas that tech types are developing in our capital cities are becoming the nicer places to go for a coffee or get a job.

Anyone who walks around Dublin will see that some of the most desirable places to work - and now among the top-performing Dublin office rents too - are around the shiny new headquarters of the Silicon Docks or the refurbished buildings colonised by start-ups in other parts of the city.

By comparison, financial districts or business parks, with their serviced offices and inhabitants' non-stop flapping of leatherette iPhone cases, feel a little dull.

This may all still have yet to properly sink in to captains' night conversations in our golf clubs. But it has happened. And the CSO figures are just the latest indication of a hierarchical transformation that has been clearly flagged for the last decade.

What does this mean for how Middle Ireland regards tech college courses? Will any of this persuade the O'Donnell-Murphys or the O'Byrne-Connollys that tech is now the 'right' kind of course for their young son or daughter to aspire to?

Looking at CAO points, it appears that this is still a way off. This gives smart parents further opportunity to get ahead of their confused counterparts. For example, Waterford Institute of Technology last week introduced an interesting new bachelor degree specifically focusing on the 'Internet of Things'. Tuned-in parents will immediately understand that this covers the same industrial area that last week wielded a $4bn IPO (initial public offering) for 'wearable' health tracker company, Fitbit.

Those who go into computer science degrees or other 'deep-tech' pursuits have equally good prospects. There is a queue of companies looking for top-tier engineers and computer scientists.

Even tech generalists face a decent life prospectus in some of the bigger firms.

Last week, Dell announced that it will achieve a 50pc home-working target in the next five years. And while marketing and sales jobs have often been the fare of tech multinationals here, they're now shifting to core tech pursuits.

So if you want the best career prospects for your kids - including wages - you may want to reconsider pushing them toward law, medicine or finance.

Tech isn't a fad: it's your middle-class future.

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