Opinion

Can you really motivate the channel with boot camps?

There’s been an outbreak of boot camps in the IT industry. This week a batch of new recruits started their basic training, in some secret location, at the Science to Data Science (S2DS) training programme.

The raw recruits begin the course as PhD students, but after five weeks of hell, they will emerge as battle hardened data scientists. They’ll have that familiar thousand yard stare, which enables them to look at a silo of data and pick out the insights that nobody else could see. Four weeks from this Friday, at the passing out parade, company groupies will be all over them, asking them to find out why nobody likes them.

From the hundreds of applicants out of 24 countries, 85 have been handpicked – whose previous interests included astronomy, physics, maths, computer science and chemistry – will have been converted into data analysts (or silo starers) who will become the eyes and ears of massive corporations such as KPMG and the Royal Mail. (They’re just two of the companies who will be at the recruiting fair at the ‘passing out parade’.)

Let’s hope these courses don’t have the same drop out rate that most military style basic training (AKA Boot Camps) suffer. I wonder if there’s a documentary team on hand to capture all the drama, as – with one eye on the camera - drill sergeants invade the recruits’ dormitory at five in the morning, inspect their kit and throw all their possessions around the room. Experiences like that make you wonder why you want to be a Royal Mail Data Science Commando, and wear the coveted Red Beret.

Still, if they don’t get in, the candidates could always sign up for one of the less gruelling three day OpenStack boot camps run by Mirantis.

Then you can join the corps of the OpenStack engineers, which is a highly prestigious brigade of freedom fighters. These are the troops that will help the open source army to fight back against the growing colonization of the cloud by Amazon and Microsoft Azure. Both are known to have taken hundreds of thousands of business systems hostage, holding them captive in their data center and preventing them from leaving with their devious binding systems, known respectively as EC2 APIs and Hyper V.   

An alliance of vendors (including HP, Dell and even Microsoft) is rallying round the OpenStack flag and aiming to take them on. But the Amazon and Azure armies are far better organised and outgun them. So it’s not going to be easy.

Still, as Lee Xie, Mirantis’s head of training says, the cloud market is expected to grow at four times the rate of the overall worldwide Information Technology market.

Call me old fashioned, but does every channel incentive programme have to be repackaged to resemble whatever’s trending on Twitter at the moment? Boot camps are trending because a rash of TV documentaries have brought military training to the public eye and people into fitness sign up to be shouted at by military types. But do people in the channel really need this silly packaging in order to get training?

Why not give them the facts. Apparently, the demand for data scientists is growing at 1005% and big companies like Rackspace are desperate to find them. So with demand massively outstripping supply, wages are being driven up and the money is likely to be unbelievable. And the job, by the sound of it, is fairly easy. I’ve yet to be impressed by a big data ‘insight’ that wasn’t something blindingly obvious.

Money, a safe job and an easy life. Surely, that’s environment you need to put in place, to give people their motivation. The arguments for Boot Camps are all over – bar the shouting.

This was first published in August 2014

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