Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Flow reversal

Very important anecdotal article (the only kind of article this particular publication uses) regarding incentives of U.S. students. The "brain drain" that flowed from top engineering and mathematics universities is now reversing. Economic incentives create innovation. this is good news.

Engineering: Suddenly Sexy for College Grads
As the financial crisis deepens, science and math grads who once flocked to investment banking are now considering jobs in engineering

By Vivek Wadhwa

Early in his college career, Tyler Bosmeny assumed that after graduating, he would do what hundreds of other self-respecting Harvard University engineering, math, and science students do: take a job on Wall Street. "I had done a summer internship in investment banking, and part of me always figured that I'd be working in finance after Harvard," says Bosmeny, an applied mathematics major. But on graduation in June 2009, Bosmeny will work instead for an Internet startup he founded with five undergraduates from top schools who, like him, were on student newspapers. Called PaperG, the startup sells online advertising to local businesses.

Only three years ago Bosmeny could have written his ticket for an entry-level job in the financial sector with a starting salary north of six figures. Those days are over, at least for now. The global market crash and the contraction of the financial sector has dramatically changed the decision matrix for tens of thousands of promising math, science, and engineering graduates such as Tyler. Students who in years past would have flocked to Wall Street are considering careers in engineering and technology. Suddenly, science is sexy.

Ranjitha Kurra, a student at the Masters of Engineering Management program at Duke University, says she interned as a business analyst at Barclays Capital (BARC) this summer and had an offer for a full-time job. But following Barclays' recent acquisition of Lehman Brothers, Kurra was told she may not have a job when she graduates in December. She worries that even if Barclays were to meet its commitment, she might be laid off within months. She doesn't want to return to her home in India yet, so she is looking for a job in engineering, an area she thinks will be safer than anything in financial services.

Sure, the tech sector is shaky, too. Witness Intel's (INTC) Nov. 12 announcement that fourth-quarter sales will fall short of previous forecasts (BusinessWeek.com, 11/13/08) and Cisco's recent disclosure that sales in the period that ends in January will decline. But few expect Silicon Valley to undergo the carnage suffered by Wall Street.

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