Comparing two stories… Dope Smoking STEM

Comey: FBI ‘Grappling’ With Hiring Policy Concerning Marijuana

“James B. Comey said Monday that if the FBI hopes to continue to keep pace with cyber criminals, the organization may have to loosen up its no-tolerance policy for hiring those who like to smoke marijuana.”

” A lot of the nation’s top computer programmers and hacking gurus are also fond of marijuana.”

The Myth of the Science and Engineering Shortage

“The truth is that there is little credible evidence of the claimed widespread shortages in the U.S. science and engineering workforce.”

“No one has been able to find any evidence indicating current widespread labor market shortages or hiring difficulties in science and engineering occupations that require bachelors degrees or higher, although some are forecasting high growth in occupations that require post-high school training but not a bachelors degree.”

“All have concluded that U.S. higher education produces far more science and engineering graduates annually than there are S&E job openings—the only disagreement is whether it is 100 percent or 200 percent more. “

“It is true that high-skilled professional occupations almost always experience unemployment rates far lower than those for the rest of the U.S. workforce, but unemployment among scientists and engineers is higher than in other professions such as physicians, dentists, lawyers, and registered nurses, and surprisingly high unemployment ratesprevail for recent graduates even in fields with alleged serious “shortages” such as engineering (7.0 percent), computer science (7.8 percent) and information systems (11.7 percent). “

“Employer demand is far higher in a few hothouse metropolitan areas than in the rest of the country, especially during boom periods. Moreover recruitment of domestic professionals to these regions may be more difficult than in others when would-be hires discover that the remuneration employers are offering does not come close to compensating for far higher housing and other costs.”

“Far from offering expanding attractive career opportunities, it seems that many, but not all, science and engineering careers are headed in the opposite direction: unstable careers, slow-growing wages, and high risk of jobs moving offshore or being filled by temporary workers from abroad. “


On the one hand you have pundits, politicians, and corporate leaders saying one thing. The talking points around S&E go something like this.

  1. We can’t get enough hackers, crackers, VCR fixing, teen agers, smoking dope (Hiring rules are too strict)
  2. We need easier, less onerous hiring authorities to grow specific S&E lines (a tiny bit)
  3. Reduce VISA and various foreign worker restrictions (Americans cost to much)
  4. Universities are not turning out enough students in X so use certifications instead of education for hiring (8570.01-m gives you a Snowden)

Let me tell you a story. There is a person with 20 years of software development experience. That person has worked on every major release of a software development environment since it was created. This person was called out by dignitaries of the software creation world as being the “boss” of certain technologies. Single handedly this person changed the direction of a major companies software development practices. This person embedded secure coding in the practices of said major corporations software processes using evidence based techniques from the insurance industry. This individual has a bachelors degree in anthropology (knows how humans work) a masters degree in history (knows what humans have done) a masters degree in computer science (knows how computers think) and is ABD on a PhD dissertation in Computer Forensics looking at open source tools. This particular person worked at The Harvard University Medical School as a research assistant creating scientific instrumentation and protocols in CPM (thats a long way back), and went on to various industry gigs.

Nobody would hire this person because she is female with kids. Unwilling to work 90 hour work weeks or prioritize the job over her family she is not cyber worthy. She got her current job as an Army civilian because her name happens to be similar to a guys name. It wasn’t until the interview that the hiring authority realized she was female (similar pattern to previous jobs too). Having watched this process a few times if it had been a company she would never have gotten the job.

Another part of this is what I call the spoiler effect. Women are asked to be candidates and there is lots of patronizing efforts to “get x percent of women in to technology.” The reality is that it is a form of ghettoization. In the case of our previous woman software engineer she watched as single, male, younger candidates were snatched up because they were more recently out of school, or had some non-job-description skill that was decided to be necessary. Honestly for her it was not worth fighting as who wants to fight for a job in a company when they don’t want you? As a spoiler your job is to show up in the candidate pool so they can show diversity of applicants. If they detect you are a woman they will HOUND YOU to get the diversity paper work turned in ASAP. If they don’t detect you are a woman then they pretty much ignore that until a hiring a decision has been made.

The fact is that if you analyze the “cyber” workforce it is male, young, and perpetually churning through people as it burns them up on 90 hour work weeks. The game development industry has had numerous studies done on work factor, effort, and career longevity that likely apply to “cyber”. If you have kids your career days are done even as a guy. Women are marginalized and if you look at the tech titans that are female they are either in education, user interface designers, or project managers (in a recent story they placed recruiters in the category). There are very few women engineers. Supply or demand? I suggest culture. I suggest there is a patronizing and patriarchal component to this as you see in the FBI directors comments. At most of the many hacker cons I attend they are primarily male. In fact since my digital forensics program at Purdue is nearly 50% female I in some cases have been responsible for bringing EVERY female to some tech sessions at hacker cons. Do you think I can get a grant to pay for that because I pay for it out of my tiny academic salary currently?

For the FBI I think there is another component. I’ve been through Army basic training, Marine Corps boot camp, police officer academy, various schools, nearly 30 years in digital forensics and information security, I have two bachelors degrees, a masters degree and PhD in Digital Forensics. I have NEVER done drugs, smoked marijuana, engaged in criminal behavior and have dozens of life style polygraphs to prove it. Contrary to what most people would think from my Twitter feed I rarely drink. I currently hold a DoD security clearance. There is no possible way to plug somebody with my credentials into the FBI as a special agent.

I’m too old.

It’s not just the FBI. I recently on a lark applied for a GS14 position running the US Army Digital Crime laboratory in Virginia (I currently run a lab here at Purdue that does real world cases). I’ve held a GS15 level position in DoD, and this is a “non-strenuous” law enforcement job. I was eligible but not among the best candidates. Of course, part of the problem is they see I’m a professor and they apply “those who can do, and those who can’t teach” and ignore what I actually do. As a counter point, I recently turned down a very senior position for family reasons running a cyber research organization. I would have loved that job, but my kids have informed me if they have to live in DC again they’ll divorce me. I’m realizing that I’m good enough to do the fundamental research on the problem but not good enough to actually do the tasking.

Government and industry are ignoring over half the population (women need not apply), and then they are ignoring most anybody over the age of 40. I’m looking at my Twitter feed and the entire concept of who the FBI, government in general, and corporations are looking for is silly. The stereotypical hacker wearing black, hyped on Mt. Dew, sitting in the dark, greasy hair, unkempt clothing, no girl friend, and somewhere high up on the autism scale is simply a fantasy. I’m looking at my Twitter feed of hackers/crackers filled with Iron Man triathletes, marathon runners, multiple martial arts black belts, vegans, health nuts, and not seeing very many socially awkward crazy people.

Somebody on my Twitter feed said, “The want the son of Krypton but I’m not available.” That is true. Super girl and Jor-El need not apply.

I’m really getting sick of the STEM shortage myth. One commentor was sure I was going to have a heart attack, but at my advanced age I’m training for another marathon so I’m good to go.

This TL;DR brought to you by the drug C8H10N4O2

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