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Dismantling the Myth of IT Being a Dead-End Career 649

Lam1969 writes "Robert Mitchell says CIOs and other IT managers continue to bemoan what they claim is a shortage of good technologists. He suggests beefing up salaries and convincing young people that IT is a viable long-term career path would help to change this sentiment. Mitchell also says the threat of offshoring is overstated; rather, the problem is industry and the media have been 'complicit in propagating the myth that IT is a dead end.' From the story: 'First, the dot-com crash shattered the illusion that those in high-tech jobs would always emerge from economic turbulence unscathed. Now, students are hearing that a four-year degree in programming or engineering doesn't matter because all of those jobs will eventually go offshore to foreign workers at very low wages. A generation has been dissuaded from pursuing what is in reality a very promising career choice.'"
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Dismantling the Myth of IT Being a Dead-End Career

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  • Re:Age of IT staff (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @05:54AM (#14970340)

    Please stop using this word.

  • by LilGuy ( 150110 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @06:05AM (#14970382)
    I got a pretty decent entry position into a tech company with little formal experience and 1 year of college. I've been trying for years and when I'd pretty much given up opportunity knocked. Now we're hiring 3 more technicians with various backgrounds that don't really relate to what we do, but we need people badly.

    One thing I've learned from my experience here is that I SHOULD be able to get a system/network admin job just about anywhere in Iowa. Many of the people I'm troubleshooting with on a daily basis couldn't tell you the difference between DNS and SNMP, much less what a VPN tunnel is or how e-mail works.

    But there's always that "bachelor's degree required" barrier for those jobs. It's pathetic.
  • by typidemon ( 729497 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @06:42AM (#14970460)
    Good software requires close proximity. I've never seen good software come from offshoring.
  • Payback's a bitch (Score:4, Informative)

    by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @08:05AM (#14970645) Homepage
    I remember not long ago there was a lot of gloom and doom about IT jobs. Many companies, and I experienced this first hand at more than one customer site, had the attitude that you could be replaced by someone in India for 1/3 of the cost and the replacement would labor long hours out of gratitude for the few pennies they were getting. Project managers not liking the price tag, no problem, we'll outsource it. Some of the local staff had to suffer the indignity of training their replacements.

    But it's a different story today. I bill a lot of hours fixing "Bangladore Spaghetti" code, in one case costing more than a clean build would have cost. Even when the work was acceptable, and that was the minority, the language barrier was a constant complaint. While that was going on college students were bailing out of IT programs when the economy was in an expansion mode.

    It's a different story out there today. The bonuses are back, the perks are back. It's not quite as insane as the late 90's but not bad. And the best part to me is that there's a bonus for people who can work in either Linux or Windows environments.

    And to all you project managers who thought you were SO smart outsourcing those expensive projects and the companies that thought they could replace their IT director with a bean counter...NEENER, NEENER, NEENER! LOOOOO-HOO-HOOOOOSSSSERRRRRRS!!!!! (/., raising the level of dialogue in IT)

  • Re:Shhhh!!! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Aceticon ( 140883 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @08:09AM (#14970660)
    oddly enough NOT lowering the average IT wage is precisely why these jobs are being offshored.

    I think you got your causal relation all messed-up:

    Outsourcing happens because companies want to lower costs.

    There are several ways to lower costs, which mostly fall into two groups:
    - Lower the costs of your inputs
    - Increase the efficiency of your productive process

    In the software development process input costs are mostly employee salaries

    Efficiency on the other way can be increased in two ways:
    - Capital investment - beter hardware, beter tools
    - Process optimization - improve the structure and flow of your process so that resources are busy with productive tasks most of their available time (note: in my definition a productive task is one in which a feature of the software is being created/extended - thus bugfixing is NOT a productive task) and maximizing the match between resource-provided skills and task-required skills.

    Most companies have already done the reasonable capital investments (note: giving developers workstations with the latest most powerfull CPUs or whatever instead of the second tier ones is rarelly a reasonable capital investment since the cost is 2+ times as much while the increase in productivity is a low percentage value)

    The process optimization part requires very competent managers which either understand the software development process well enough to do the process optimization or can find the right person to do it for them.

    Finding a competent IT manager and/or someone that can optimize a software development process is neither easy nor cheap.

    Also most companies don't have IT as their core business so investing in process optimization is not a high priority for them.

    So companies go for reducing input costs: employee salaries.

    Guess what happens if a company goes puts adverts out for senior software developers offering 1/5th or 1/10th of the average salary in that geographical area?
    Nobody comes.


    The average salary level for a position in an area is derived from a number of factors:
    - Cost of living.
    - Average salary level in the same area for other ocupations requiring lower levels of expertise.
    - Ratio of open vacanties to job seekers which could take those vacanties.

    Which is why people do not take a salary cut of 80-90% (and get indian level salaries):
    - They can't afford living in that area with that salary
    - Lower qualified jobs pay beter
    - There are open vacancies for similiar or lower qualified jobs paying beter

    To put things in perspective:
    - If somehow all open vacancies for sofware development positions were paying 20% of the average salary, job seekers would just start filling in all open lower expertise positions that pay beter than that, all the way down to flipping burgers.

    The only way to go around it to user workers in geographical areas where:
    - Cost of living is lower
    - All other jobs for lower qualified people pay proportionaly less
    - The ratio of open vacanties to job seekers is not so high that salaries for that type of position are very high.

    In other words: Outsourcing

    To wrap up my argument:
    - Companies outsource because the want to reduce costs while not being willing/able to invest in process improvement. Their input costs are mostly employee salaries and they cannot reduce those salaries locally because in the local market salaries are subjected the market pressures that other companies are offering beter salaries for equally or lower qualified positions and that if the offered salaries do not suffice to cover the cost of living in that area people will move out in search of lower cost of living/beter salaries.

    People won't take lower salaries because they either can't (cost of living) or do not need to (they can find another jobs for more money).
  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <moiraNO@SPAMmodparlor.com> on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @09:35AM (#14970995)
    I'd say it's about time nurses get paid top dollar.

    And I don't do IT because I want to get rich, I do IT because I like it. Getting rich is about doing the stuff you don't like if your the type to be passionate about a craftmanship or something simular.

    I'm in the process of founding a Ltd. in order to do some financial tricks and generate turnover. Hopefully with the sideeffect of making some 'backstockable' revenue (read: make money, get rich). It's an entirely different game. Infact it involves actively RESTRICTING your time in which you do the stuff you love: programming. And putting the time into stuff people usually hate doing: Paperwork and throwing out the stuff that isn't cost effective - which sometimes means throwing out the fun stuff.
  • by easter1916 ( 452058 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @09:57AM (#14971104) Homepage
    Milton, greetings from a fellow Paddy... I live in St. Louis, about as mid-west as you can get. The market here is very hot right now, and though there was pain during the dot-bomb days, it was never as severe as it was on the left and right coasts. Starting salary for a good person with a masters in CS or EE would be around $50K to $60K. My wife began working in IT after retraining from her previous career in business development four years ago, with a mere Associate Degree (much like an Irish National Certificate from CIT or whereever), began at $37K, now makes $65K. I just accepted a job offer for $90K, with overtime payable... but I have 18 years experience, the past 8 being spent in the world of Java, EAI, J2EE and large distributed systems.

    Don't believe the hype! IT is *still* a rewarding and highly lucrative career for those who are good at what they do and who enjoy what they do.
  • Re:No different (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @10:15AM (#14971206)
    My experience has been that between 1.5 and 4 years doesn't raise significant flags for employers. There is a catch though. If you've been in the same position for 2 or more years without a change in responsibilities or pay then you've become stuck and should move on ASAP.

    Some employers are worse for this than others. Strangely, those tend to be either small employers or very large ones . Small employers since they generally have nowhere for you to move up. Large since it makes their lives easier to have someone who's willing to stick in one place forever.

    Personally I found the slow-moving pace of most companies painful and switched to contracting. This means that pretty much anything over 3 months is fine on my resume. As an added bonus I get exposed to new technologies and renegotiate my salary on a regular basis.
  • by drewsome ( 944659 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @10:34AM (#14971318) Homepage
    Because nurses aren't qualified to examine the patients physical body, much less take samples?

    Uh... yeah, they are. When you go to the doctor, the nurse will weigh you, measure your height, take your blood pressure, your pulse, your temperature, look in your ears and down your throat. In the ER or Surgery or ICU or any number of other in-hospital departments, nurses will run IVs, order medication, change bandages, clean wounds. A Nurse Midwife is qualified to stitch a mother up if necessary.

    Nurses frequently know more than the doctors around them. They aren't just qualified to examine the patient's body and take samples, they're REQUIRED to.
  • Re:No different (Score:2, Informative)

    by Jerim ( 872022 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:15AM (#14971654)
    I consider IT to be a "project" occupation. You stay on board about a year or two, build up your skills in an area the company can offer a lot of training in and then leave for a better deal. If your next employer asks why you left so soon, just explain that you were brought on board to manager various projects that have now completed. It may be stretching the truth, but there is an inherent nature in IT that makes it seem like a "project" based career. Most employers will buy the "project" story.

    That way it seems like as long as they have work for you, you will stick around. And if they don't have work for you 2 years from now, you won't take it so badly when they lay you off, because you have been down this road before. Also, jumping ship every few years puts you in the "power" position. It makes it look like you are skilled enough to take command of your own career instead of being a desk jockey.

    As well, IT is a performance industry. People don't care who you worked for and when, they only care what experience you have. IT workers are judged on what they get accomplished and what they can do. Even if you are only going to be around a year or so, any reasonable company will hire you because you are great at what you do. They aren't going to pass up one year of great IT service to find someone who will put in 10 years of average service.

    Plus, if they are a good company, they will want the best and will do everything in their power to keep you. If they are so worried about "loyalty" that is usually code for "We will work you to death for low wages and then toss you aside in 10 years, just like we did the last IT person." You don't want to work for that company. You want to work for the company that will compensate you to stay around after a year.

    Sure, you could do the "20 years at one company thing" but you will get so burned. 20 years of loyal service and they won't hesitate to toss you out as soon as the boss needs to cut costs to buy his new yacht.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @11:27AM (#14971766)
    3 to 5 years? Are you %$#@%^#ing kidding me? A typical contract is for 3 to 6 MONTHS, not years. Staying a whole year at a company as a senior programmer, software engineer, architect, etc. is a long term. My typical job is only 9 months and I'm considered extremely successful among my peers.

    Why am I successful? Because unlike 90% of the IT workers in Florida, I don't have any gaps on my resume. Here's the moral of the story: as soon as you get a job, start looking for the next one.

    As for IT being a dead end career... You bet it is. I would not let my children enter this field. In 20 years there will be NO jobs for American and European programmers.

  • by ranton ( 36917 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @01:34PM (#14972949)
    Wait a minute. This guy was not writing his senior year political science thesis, it was just a post to Slashdot. Asking for references is okay, but saying that his post is incomplete just because he didnt cite his sources is wrong. If everyone did that, my 30" monitor wouldnt be enough to see 2 posts on the same screen.

    "The government does not intervene when there is a labor surplus"
    Why not? Does it need to? What suggestions do you have?

    He answered all of your questions in his post. He said that a free market corrects itself without intervention. He said that the government doesnt have to do anything except for to foster the free market system. It is okay to ask him to elaborate or give proof, but it was not an incomplete post. He couldnt possibly cover every single angle of the issue in one Slashdot post.

    You can respond and ask questions without attacking his logical reasoning skills.

    politicians attempt to damage"
    Again, use of emotional 'damage' without any reasoning behind why it's 'damaging' and not, say, 'fixing'.

    The reason he used the word "damage" instead of "fixing" is because he does not believe that it is fixing the problem. He believes that it is damaging our economy. And he has given reasoning for why, it is because it floods our workforce with extra workers that the workforce did not need. Which then increases unemployment or at least lowers wages.

    You can say that he is wrong, but at least give examples of why. You attack him for not explaining himself, but you do not even try to explain yourself. You are simply attacking him with no basis for your arguments.

    Sounds alot like the pot calling the kettle black.

  • by cowscows ( 103644 ) on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @02:05PM (#14973252) Journal
    As one of those architects designing houses for people, I'm going to agree with the grandparent comment at least in that regards. While I know that real estate agents can work pretty hard, designing houses is generally much harder.

    Saying an architect can just turn around and produce another design is simplifying things a bit much. A building is a very complicated thing. Houses are, in many ways, just as difficult to design as larger structures. They've got all the same stuff(structure, electrical, plumbing, site conditions) as a big commercial structure, plus you're competing with developers and dinky websites selling floor plans for $250. If you don't keep your client incredibly happy and convinced that the money they're paying you is well spent, it's very easy for them to fire you and get a house built another way. Will you still get paid for all the work you already did for them? Maybe some of it. A large percentage of the projects that go through the office that I work at end up not getting built. It's the nature of the profession.

    But yeah, architects in general are severely underpaid. It kind of sucks. Just thought I'd share.
  • Re:Yeah yeah... (Score:5, Informative)

    That's a trick question, as "SQL" doesn't stand for anything.

    It kind of does stand for Structured Query Language though.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 22, 2006 @03:47PM (#14974606)
    Very true. For that reason I recommend data and network administrators over programmers. Support people must be right there on the spot to solve the major problem. If you have 20 unix servers, cant depend on an IT guy in Mumbai 12 time zones away to debug and fix it all immediately. Each company over 50 fulltime employees in N America needs one techie to control all communications and data. This part of the IT world will not die.

    First off, I agree with you.. but do not for a second think that companies won't try to outsource just about everything. I was talking to my wife a week ago trying to get some free time to break loose for lunch in the middle of the day and she couldn't.. she was waiting to shut down an AIX box. The problem was that the DBAs were still logged in and hadn't squared Oracle away yet. From India. And this is a Fortune 5 company.

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