Thursday, March 22, 2007

I've so wanted to not blog about this, but I can delay no longer.
This morning I climbed into some print server configuration and then emailed several application vendor support people and then actually left a voicemail for a user . . . all in an attempt to stall on what I think, for me, may be a depressing post.
A recent survey of I.T. people who have been in I.T. for a decade or more contained several interesting bits of information. According to this survey, if given the choice for a do-over, well over half of these veteran (seasoned) I.T. people would choose a different career path.
Not 51%, not 54%, but almost 70%.
Additionally, Computer Science majors are switching to other majors (finance, business) at an alarming rate.
This last bit has little personal relevance, since I was never a Computer Science major, but it does show a trend of fewer new people hitting the market.
So, with no influx of new people and all the old geeks longing to open T-Shirt shops on the beach somewhere, it is (unfortunately) easy to see why off-shoring is becoming increasingly attractive to business.
Some people say that the mass exodus is due to a fear of this outsourcing and the employment instability that goes with it, but the outsourcing itself is a result of the commoditization of I.T.
I.T. has become a utility, like water or power, and people pay as little as possible for those things.
These seasoned I.T. people love to tell stories about the "old days", when the colas were free and the facilities were state-of-the-art. This was true outside Silicon Valley.
In the early days, we were solving problems. We helped people do their jobs more efficiently and our toys were productivity engines fueled by creativity.
Now, we pay for caffeine and toil at process, fighting fires and methodically screen-shotting everything "in case we get hit by a bus" -- the bus being driven by an off-shore I.T. worker working for 1/3 of what we need to survive.
Business can fix this by learning to rely not only on the experience of their I.T. staff, but their creativity as well. Sure, we have developed fire-fighting skills, but experience has given us the ability to prevent future fires completely if our ideas are given weight.
The draw for I.T. is no longer the giant pay checks and stock options, so it needs to be in the day-to-day mitigation of problems. Most geeks like the celebrity feeling that comes not only from our smart-assed remarks in meetings but from being technically competent profit centers for our employers.
If I had it to do over, would I choose a different career path?
I've given this a lot of thought. At this point, I'm not sure what other marketable skills I have. If we are talking about a decade-long do-over, I'd probably be doing something else.
Right now I intend to voice my opinions. If something is wrong, I will offer a solution. If there is a new technology which fits a business need, I will call attention to it.
And, if there is a fire, I will continue to suppress it.
Maybe every time I zone out, picturing myself selling those bootlegged T-Shirts out of a battered conversion van on the beach, I can bring myself back to reality via the notched Foosball table in the break room next to the white board full of awesome ideas.
If only they existed.

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