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Comment: Re:Would this be a good time for a union? (Score 3, Interesting) 211

by kionel (#30724454) Attached to: Half of All Data Centers Understaffed
I've been an advocate for an IT Union ever since my father-in-law and I talked about how the CWA helped his career.

Consider this: The Union forced his major telco management to:

Plan changes well in advance.

Coordinate technical resources to ensure no overloading.

Allowed the technical resources the legal right to push back on after-hours changes, due to labor laws.

Provided hefty compensation bonuses for technical resources forced to work more than forty-five hours per week.


As a result, he couldn't fathom why I was always working fifty hour weeks, was always tired, was always on-call, was always working no-notice changes...you get the idea. When I would tell him about the late-in-the-day drive-by requests, he just didn't understand that we as engineers couldn't say "No!"

Remember, folks, that the businesses we work for cannot exist without the skills and experience that you bring to the table. Even in this economy, businesses stand to lose a lot if they let you go and are forced to replace you with a cheaper resource. You not only have a skillset, you understand the interpersonal relations, the political paths-of-least-resistence, and the office culture that will take a lot of time for a new person to pick up. That's worth a lot.

Remember, you have the right to defend your vested interest in the business arrangement that is a corporate job. The moment you forget that is the moment you allow yourself to become a technosurf.

Comment: Re:No more working for the man (Score 1) 453

by kionel (#30697572) Attached to: IT Job Satisfaction Plummets To All-Time Low
I respect your position, but I'm actually the exact opposite of you. I get far, far more work done in my home office / studio than I do in a corporate work environment.

In my case the reasons are simple:

I dress the way I want.

I have an ergonomic setup tuned for me, and not for "range B - F", as in Corporate America.

I like the food in my home a lot more than the crap available at the office.

I'm managing my time, because I'm an adult, thank you very much.

If I need a break, I don't have to worry about an office snitch looking over my shoulder should I hit slashdot in the middle of the day.

To address the original article directly, I returned to IT last year after a four year break. It only took me six months to sidestep out of it again.

Bear in mind, I was a UNIX admin for thirteen years. The only reason I left the field was sleep issues. Those pushed me into Technical Project Management and 3D Modeling and Animation (no kidding). Ran my own business for over a year, and built up a nice client base. It was terrific.

A family medical emergency forced me to look for steadier work. In a bit of a panic, I remembered the freedom and good paychecks that IT offered. Since I thought I had my sleep issues licked, I headed back into the sysadmin realm in 2009.

I was stunned. Management worked their sysadmins like slaves. 14 - 22 hour days -- yes, days -- were common. Engineers had no push-back, and director's hounded resources literally into the hospital.

This wasn't a small company, mind you. This is a major, successful U.S. firm. (Yes, successful even in the last couple of years. That should be a clue as to what industry it's in.) There was no excuse for the way IT was treated, other than the business just didn't care.

My sleep issues flared up, and my doctors ordered my firm to move me off-call. I ended up as a Technical BA, and things improved for my health. Unfortunately, I don't consider working in such a hostile, sweatshop environment to be either personally or professionally fulfilling. As such I'm already rebuilding my 3D client base, and am looking to move back to running my business full-time.

My point: Things have change in the IT field, and for the worse. The most obvious culprit is that corporations are slapping management grads into IT leadership roles with absolutely no training as to what makes IT unique. The result is a demoralized, harried workforce. Add in the "your-job-can-always-go-to-India" stick waved about (and yes, I actually heard that at my corporate gig), and people work themselves into a sleep-deprived, unhappy puddle.

My recommendation is this: If you have the personality for freelance work, and running a small business, then get out of the corporate race while you can. Just don't be alarmed if it's not a good fit for you. After all, it really isn't for everyone.

Comment: Re:And yet... (Score 1) 782

by kionel (#30661910) Attached to: <em>Avatar</em> Soars Into $1-Billion Territory
[ off topic ]
I've noticed this polarization of communication on the web for the last couple of years, too. Sadly, I've encountered it before.

I've lived in Minnesota as a transplant for about ten years now. In this state, you don't dare express an opinion that differs from another's. If you do -- and, even more troubling, if you're not native to the region -- you'll instantly be judged to be "difficult" and shunned. Facts don't matter. Logic doesn't matter. All that counts is that your opinion -- and thus your worldview -- is different, and must be shunned.

Fortunately, I've left the region for extended periods for business, and as such I've always had my faith in humanity restored. It always reminds me of a couple of simple truths.

1. You don't have to agree with someone.
2. They don't have to agree with you.
3. The only real mistake is to let a falsehood stand unchallenged.

So, go ahead. Express your opinion. Only that way will you know that you did all that you could.

Me? I'm off to deal with a bunch of passive-agressive Minnesotans now. [/ off-topic ]

Comment: Re:Fine, but I want more vacation (Score 2, Insightful) 620

by kionel (#30660290) Attached to: IT Workers To Get Fewer Perks, No Free Coffee

They'd define it as "The Civilization that regularly has the best quarterly statement."

I'm horrified by how abusive Corporate America has become. Their avarice is astonishing. Worst of all, no one seems to have the guts to just say "No!" any longer.

Allow me to explain: I left a fairly good self-employment gig in mid-2009 to rejoin the corporate workforce. (Family medical reasons made me look back to the corporate world.) Even in this crap economy I found myself working for an IT organization within two months of starting to look. Figured I'd got lucky.

Ha!

My firm is a nightmare. The company expects people to live to work. No discussion. No expectations. Your life is your job. It's utterly Dickensian.

There is no hyperbole here. 14 - 16 hour days are common. Co-workers regularly put in 20+ hour days (yes, days) and are expected to be in the next morning. A friend of mine was dragged away from his cancer-stricken father's bedside on Christmas Eve by a Senior Director, despite not being on-call and being on vacation, because the SD demanded he look into a problem.

Here's the weird part: Most of the employees love it here. Oh, they are the most unhealthy co-workers I've ever met (at least a quarter are dealing with chronic health issues), and their productivity stinks, but they all insist through fatigue-glazed eyes that this is "...a great company." Worse, they even go as far as to say "Just look at our stock price."

Sadly, I'm the only one of the group who says wacky things like "You're putting your health at risk working like this!", or "If you continue to do the work of three people -- badly -- the company will never realize that we actually need three people."

It's a wasted effort. The employees have drank deep of the Kool Aid, and don't want to even consider a different world view.

Given that -- and given that Corporate America in the post-Bush years is still too powerful and unchecked -- I'm actually giving real thought to using my dual UK citizenship and heading back across the pond. Sure, I'll miss some things in the states, but not enough to kill myself for a freaking quarterly statement.

Comment: Re:Doom (Score 1) 427

by kionel (#29825183) Attached to: A Look At How Far PC Gaming Has Come
...and all of those years I spent farting around with my CONFIG.SYS & AUTOEXEC.BAT made me confident enough to work with my first Linux distro in 1995.

Years later, I'm a Senior UNIX Admin, and making a good living. Yes, folks, I do attribute this fact to my love of PC games. :)

Oh, and for the record, I'm also a former Amiga 500 owner. My love of nicely integrated hardware and software led me to purchasing a Mac Pro in 2008. Now I can have a stable OS for my real world needs. When I want to play, I boot into Windows, fart around, and remind myself why I learned Linux in the first place. :)

Comment: Re:Cool tech, but... (Score 1) 162

by kionel (#29794561) Attached to: Surfacescapes D&amp;D Demo
I couldn't have said it better myself.

I ended up writing a series on my (now sadly become rather stale) blog called "Why I Hate D20" wherein I discussed being an old-school (think 1979 for my first experience) RPG player grappling with the then new-ish "OMG Isn't It Cool!" D20 rule set. In the end, I just concluded that I was just getting a little too old to be able to waste a weekend around a kitchen table with nothing more than my dice, some friends, and my imagination.

This, of course, is total bunk.

What I ended up doing is re-writing some rules I'd put together when I was -- I shit you not, now -- 13 years old. I cleaned up the design a bit, of course, but the spirit remained the same.

The name? QUIDPERG: The Quick and Dirty Role Playing Game.

Character creation takes no longer than ten minutes.

Scenarios take no longer than ten minutes to create.

Combat? Quick, dirty, and brutal.

Result? It's a blast.

Is it as feature-rich as most of the commercial packages? Of course not. But it's playable, and my group finds it fun.

(Heck, I should just release the damned thing on my Blog.)

I wrote QUIDPERG because I genuinely think that the RPG as a pass time has lost its way. While it's neat to be able to buy pre-painted minis and battle mats for our games, the fact of the matter is that the core mechanic -- the fun -- was lost in the mix. So I'm going back to it.

QUIDPERG is right for my group. Would it work right for others? Who knows? Really, though, that's beside the point. If we GMs find ourselves fighting with ridiculous mechanics (D20), then we have this neat option to just say "No!" Exercise that right, folks. You'll feel better that you did.

Comment: Re:Reality slowly creeps in (Score 1) 364

by kionel (#29267603) Attached to: Woman Fired For Using Uppercase in Email
As a Twin Cities IT guy, I just wanted to point out that everything this poster said is spot on. The dynastic nonsense is absolutely in place here. The only point I wish to make is that, IMHO, it has become much worse. I actually left IT for five years to work as a Tech Writer and Project Manager. Rose-colored glasses (and, honestly, the desire for the old salaries) drove me back. It's been a shock. Along with what the poster wrote, I've been amazed at the utter lack of ethics displayed. System stability is just not as important as hitting a deadline any longer. Given the kind of systems our teams support, it's terrifying. For the record, as soon as I can transition back to leadership and out of the trenches, I will.

Comment: Re:The best revenge.... (Score 1) 703

by kionel (#26963449) Attached to: The Art of The Farewell Email
Always, always be pleasant, professional, and courteous. Yes, even to the idiots who gave you the 2:00 PM drive-bys on Friday afternoons. Yes, even to the marketing people who yanked your chain for as long as you were in the gig. You might detest them, but the only smart professional move is to nod, smile, thank them, and leave.

I say this as a former Senior IT Administrator who changed his career and is now a freelance 3D Artist. Contract work is my life. That means that my work isn't the only thing that speaks to my clients, it's how I carry myself. Talent and technical skill doesn't mean a damned thing if clients find me unpleasant. Result? I'm polite, pleasant, and professional. I don't care how annoying my client might be, I'm always upbeat, and thankful to be bringing in pay from them. Even on the occasions when a contracts end early, usually because I've beat my deadlines, all I say is "Well, it was a great experience. If you ever need this kind of help again, please feel free to drop me a line."

Am I annoyed when I finish early? Sure. But that's part of the game. I just have to roll with it.

Oh, and for the record, I've only had one client not bring me back for new project work. I did great work for them, but I chalk it up to the "You-can't-please-everyone" bin and move on.

Of course, there was this one company I worked for back in 2000. I was hired to lead a UNIX Team. It was a nightmare. One of my two techs was having a flagrant affair with the QA manager, my CIO was verbally abusive, and our developers were clueless and nasty. It was easily the worst workplace of my career...and I'm ex-military.

I tried everything professional to solve the situation. Nothing worked. When I realized that it was never going to get better, I grabbed the first lifeline out of there.

In this case, and this case only, I wrote a blunt good-bye email. It read, essentially "Working with this firm was both professionally unproductive professionally personally repellent. Do not contact me again. Don't ask for a reference from me, ever, and I'll return the favor."

I left and I didn't look back.

Two years later I ran into the team I used to manage. They were at a "We-just-got-fired" luncheon. They'd been merged with another company, and had been told that -- guess what? -- they were all out of work.

I couldn't help but empathize with these folks. The challenge of actually having to produce something in a workforce was something I knew from personal experience that they weren't ready for at all. So I chatted with them for a bit, asking how they were, and generally being pleasant.

I shouldn't have. Within a few minutes they'd all asked if I'd mind writing them a recommendation.

I told them "No." The conversation pretty much stopped at that point. With that, I took y leave and walked away. I never saw any of them ever again.

Years later, I realize how lucky I was that my behavior to them didn't bite me in the butt. Any one of them could have ended up in a position at a firm where I worked. In that one case, though, I felt justified.

A continuing flow of paper is sufficient to continue the flow of paper. -- Dyer

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