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Great Software is made in a Technocracy

(This is a followup post for Why be an Expert in Singapore? Seriously. As with all blog entries, I speak for myself and not any organization I may be affiliated with.) 

On my latest trip back to Singapore, talking to friends in the IT sector here and looking through job listings, it becomes abundantly clear to me that, in Singapore, the software engineer, or programmer, is regarded as the entry-level, don't-think-just-do, job.

Managerial skills are highly valued in Singapore, and permeates throughout most sectors, even the IT sector. I believe this can be partially attributed to the top-down management style of all Singapore government organizations. (And remember, government jobs in Singapore are well-paying and -respected relative to many other countries.) For example, the CEO of the main government scientific research agency is an ex-armed forces chief, the CEO of the main IT regulatory and advisory agency is headed by an ex-navy chief, and the CEO of the media development agency held senior positions in the Singapore Police Force, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and the Ministry of Manpower. 

These individuals, while clearly having been trained with high level executive skills, do not necessarily have the technical background or expertise in the organization that they lead. This is pervasive throughout the organizational structure - mid level managers do not need to be technical, but are often "scholars" who won government scholarships after high school, have been earmarked to reach high level government positions, and are seen as being trained to hold senior appointments

The manager is viewed as the essential cog in the system. They make the decisions, manage the risks and ultimately are the main reason for the success or failure of projects. The underlying sector is practically irrelevant - be it waste management, education, foreign affairs, or IT. We have specialists for those nitty gritty details.

"What? Google is engineering-driven? You actually let engineers make decisions?"

  • Paraphrased quote from Singapore government officer on a visit to my workplace

And, hey, software can be written from a top-down manner. But not all top-down hierarchies are made equal. Tech companies like Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Google are more alike to each other in their management structure than to the Singapore government management structure; (successful) tech companies have a culture of technocracy.

Technocracy is a form of government in which science would be in control of all decision making.
Scientists, engineers and technologists who have knowledge, expertise or skills would compose
the governing body, instead of politicians, businessmen and economists. In a technocracy,
decision makers would be selected based upon how knowledgeable and skillful they are in their

This dawned on me (and this occurred while I was talking to a bureaucrat who had no business managing a technical project) that I am disillusioned not with the manager being in charge (well, someone has to be), but with the complete inability for non-technical people to grasp the complexities and subtleties of a technical project. 

Maybe then... I don't have to explain why you need people who are smart and get things done. And before you start your berate, I am not saying that having a PhD means that a person is a great software engineer. It's just a signal to use when making a hiring decision.

"If i can pay a diploma holder to write a computer software, why should i pay a PhD?"

References (1)

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    Great Software is made in a Technocracy - Blog - Yew Jin Blogs (sometimes)

Reader Comments (1)

Hi. There is even more to the Technocracy technate idea than Wikipedia has room for. Energy accounting was a part of the original idea also. Google Technocracy technate for more information on the original science designed program.
Biophysical economics is the basis and that idea came from the 1930's Technocracy movement.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjack

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