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Comment Interesting how few controls there are (Score 1) 30

I've worked for big companies most of my career, and regular employees making purchases, signing contracts, etc. takes an act of God. I can't spend $100 on supplies without getting competitive bids. But there are apparently some very stupid people who have full unrestricted access to the bank accounts.

How do people fall for phishing scams anymore? Everyone has to know this by now -- never trust email requesting you to do anything involving linking to a website, sending money, etc. This could have all been resolved by someone calling and asking if they should really pay this $8 million "invoice" with an irreversible wire transfer.

It reminds me of how people were talking about the Podesta email incident as some massively complex hacking job. It wasn't -- they found out he still used Yahoo Mail and phished him. I can't believe that (a) one of the most powerful political operatives in the Clinton campaign uses Yahoo Mail, and (b) that he fell for it.

Comment Good - hope they get what they want (Score 2) 104

I hope the union members get what they want. People are all too willing to give up all of their bargaining power and be at the mercy of employers. I happen to be one of those strange people who would like to see a little more loyalty on the part of both employers and employees. It's not good for either side to have a revolving door - employers lose valuable trained people, employees become modern-day Okies migrating from employer to employer with no consistency in their lives. If you have that loyalty, and a good work environment, and good salary/benefits, then you wouldn't need a union. Unfortunately, we're back on the other side of the pendulum now, and I think it might be time for collective bargaining to make a comeback.

Think about it rationally -- even if you're the l33test, baddest full-stack DevOps Ninja out there, you're still at the mercy of an employer who is actively trying to pay you as little as possible. If you work in Silicon Valley, you're in a salary bubble right now because Apps! Wait until the bubble pops and employers have their pick of 500 DevOps Ninjas, some of whom are willing to work for practically nothing. Or, they have their pick of thousands of H-1B candidates who work for even less, or could just have all the Ninja-ing done in India and pay less than that! And of course, all that savings goes directly into their pockets, increasing the income disparity and making life miserable for everyone except the executives. I don't think there's anything wrong with a union standing up and fighting against the offshoring of their jobs...or look how many IT jobs might have been saved had the H-1B visa been lobbied against. This is what unions do.

Face it, everybody needs a job, and everybody needs a job whose salary keeps up with inflation and lets them earn more as they age. Society is set up around this, and it's not going to change easily. No one is going to buy houses anymore once they see they can't count on their employers to keep them employed. People won't even take out car loans if they don't feel they have income to pay them back. Unless we have a nuclear war and have to rebuild the system with 1% of the population, you're not going to get people to give up using money to transfer value amongst themselves. I think unions and professional organizations are a good limiting factor on the unchecked greed of business owners. No business owner is going to be nice and share their profits equitably among their workers unless something forces them to. A union is an employee's best hope of getting as many table scraps from the executive dining room table as possible -- no one employee, not even a DevOps Ninja, will get the management class to give in to anything they want.

Comment It'll adjust for all but the elite schools (Score 1) 372

When I graduated in 1997, it was still possible to get some sort of non-Starbucks job with a degree in _anything._ A degree in a high demand field got you an even better job, but the compact was there -- if you get into school, study and pay the tuition, you will have steady work you can use to pay for it later. Today, it seems like that's broken for a significant portion of the student population. Entry level jobs are either offshored or automated now, and employers are expecting people to come into jobs 100% trained instead of identifying people with potential and putting in a little finishing work to round off the college education. One example I like to cite a lot is the thousands of "Business" graduates who basically screwed around for 4 years, graduated with 2.x GPAs and still wound up in the belly of some huge corporation doing a middle class job shuffling reports around or being some random "coordinator" or staffing the trade show booth circuit. That still happens -- Accenture and the like depend on a constant stream of 23 year old cannon fodder to shove in front of suckers^Wclients. It just happens way less, and you have to go to an expensive school to get jobs like that.

People just aren't going to pay $500K for a degree that will no longer help them. This figure also doesn't account for the fact that at least some of that price tag will be inflation. The price will adjust to the point where the average person can afford it either through reasonable loans or savings. And many people will still continue to go if that becomes the only way to get any sort of non gig-economy work. I still think college is very good for some people. I know I learned a lot about how to navigate a bureaucracy and get what I needed without complaining incessantly. 18 year old kids also do need an environment to "grow up" in -- you could argue the military would be a good option, but it's not for everyone. People that age need an environment where screw-ups aren't permanent and there's a little bit in the way of support on the way to being an independent adult.

Comment They should unionize or form a not-for-profit Uber (Score 2) 200

I'm a big proponent of unions simply because I can see what happens when business owners are allowed to do whatever they want to their employees. The number of ethical employers that treat their employees well is a tiny fraction of the workforce, and I wouldn't count Uber in this class.

People forget that taxi driver is one of those job of last resort for people who don't have the skills to be in the higher levels of the workforce. I live near NYC and some of the recent immigrant cab drivers I've met have crazy stories of coming here, some as refugees, working 14 hour days, 6 days a week while they're learning English and going to school. No one in IT believes me, but this is just a preview of what's coming for a huge swath of white collar workers who will be wiped out in the next automation wave. Those nice safe jobs new grads get shuffling paperwork at some big company are getting squeezed now, but could just disappear entirely very soon since companies seem to be in a massive optimization drive. The white collar workers of today are going to end up as the Uber drivers of tomorrow as no one wants to hire them for their skills anymore. I say we should try to make our Mad Max style future of fighting for scraps as comfortable as possible now while we still can.

The other thing I could see happening is a drivers' association forming a not for profit that makes their own Uber-style app and charges drivers a reasonable percentage of the fares. It's amazing how much better off everyone is when you take the profit motive out of the equation. Note that I'm not saying "non-profit," because people do need to be paid and it's not a charity -- but a not-for-profit removes the pressure to turn the screws on the employees to the maximum revenue-generating setting. It would be a kind of non-scummy, non-evil Uber and they could even use a similar business model.

Comment Company should have been watching more (Score 2) 63

Even in large companies, many sysadmins have full access to everything, especially those involved in any sort of identity management. In most WIndows environments and projects I've worked on, I've either had or had the ability to gain domain admin access, which is basically as good as having full access. Since we're not licensed professionals, most of us don't learn anything about ethics or the way to responsibly manage your access. I do want to keep my reputation somewhat intact, so whenever I leave an employer or get assigned to another project where I don't need the access, I'm very careful to give it up completely. I take the time to ensure everyone involved knows I've disabled accounts and handed access over to the next person. I've had a couple times where an employer has asked me to come back and help the new guy for a couple hours, and I make sure they create new accounts and remove them immediately. It makes sense -- you wouldn't let an employee you fired keep his badge and keys regardless of the situation.

Of course, this situation sounds like the person was planning from the outset to set up his own backdoor and use it. As much as I hate the idea of malpractice insurance, I think it might be time for something similar in the IT world. Computers and access to them are more important than ever and having someone do something like this can damage a company's results and reputation.

Comment Not paper boarding passes, paper tickets (Score 3, Informative) 92

I work in the airline IT world. "Paper tickets" aren't the paper boarding passes you print out at the kiosk. These are actual tickets issued at travel agents or airport ticket counters, and go back to a time when you could buy a ticket independent of a reservation or seat assignment. In fact, travel agents used to be able to manually hand-write them and the only thing keeping them secure was that ticket stock was controlled. It's similar to buying a train ticket for a commuter railroad from the machine at the station...unless you're reserving a seat, you can exchange it for a seat on whatever train you get on. Same went for paper tickets -- if you had a ticket that said "JFK to LAX" you could go to the airport and check in on any flight if you had an open reservation.

The article mentions that they're doing this to get rid of paper buddy passes, which really are the only paper tickets most domestic airlines deal with these days. It's incredibly rare to process paper tickets for passengers these days.

Comment Training the robot repairmen? (Score 3, Interesting) 32

I guess I don't see how this will help domestic employment. In my world of IT, the next big thing is cloud/DevOps stuff and managing thousands of servers via automation. IBM barely makes hardware these days -- they do mainframes, storage and POWER systems. The only thing I can think of that would provide immediate military employment is maintaining Watson or whatever, watching over data that requires a security clearance.

IBM is basically rebranding itself as a "cognitive" Accenture/Wipro clone with an AI system, so what will all these graduates of the P-TECH schools actually do? Are they just going to add a few token US employees to their offshore outsourcing operations? Teach them to fly around the country in identical suits giving PowerPoint presentations to executives? I'd love to see domestic job growth in tech, but this seems like a PR stunt.

Comment Re:Entertainment is entertaining (Score 3, Interesting) 299

"He was dumbfounded that I would even suggest such a thing."

I've dealt with this over and over working for large companies. Once a company grows beyond a certain size, the ability to buy anything is paralyzed. I routinely buy stuff like hard disks, USB drives, little peripherals like that out of my own money for that very reason. You can't just go down to NewEgg or Micro Center with your credit card and submit an expense report -- it has to go through purchasing who will spend a week researching the cheapest price or steer the sale to whichever "preferred supplier" bribed them this year.

"Same boss was chatting with me in my office when he suddenly noticed that my desk was bigger than his. "

True story from a friend who worked for a major European airline...this airline actually had a written policy stating what furniture and accoutrements were available to staff at the various levels. There was a team of people that would actually go around and fit offices with the new hard-won accessories when people were promoted, just like getting a new patch on a military uniform. The policy had strict guidelines stating office size, how big the desk was, whether you got an additional chair or cabinet, what grade of carpet you had, at what exact level of service and seniority you got a door, which desk accessories and quality level thereof you were allowed to have, etc. When people end up working for an organization for a long time, stuff like this becomes extremely establishes a clear hierarchy.

Comment Oh, so many stories... (Score 3, Interesting) 299

I've been working for a long time in a highly political private company. I'm extremely lucky that I've been allowed to advance in my career on a technical track, but most people foolishly pick the management path. The actual work we do is really interesting and it's a fun job as long as you don't let the politics get to you, or heaven forbid, get involved in it. If you let it get to you, you're going to be miserable. If you do your work and don't step on any landmines, you're golden. It's not government IT, but the politics are very close -- think appointed VPs who can do no wrong, and whose appointments are basically gifts.

Most of my horror show IT boss stories revolve around people promoted into management positions who have no aptitude for it. I've held supervisory and management positions, and I can tell you first-hand that tech and management are completely orthogonal skill sets. I'm not sure what's different about IT, but it seems like there's just no easy way to retrain people to deal primarily with machines instead of people. Unfortunately, most organizations are built around the assumptions that the only way to advance in your career is to manage those doing actual work, and that everyone actually wants to climb the ladder. I was smart enough to realize that I wouldn't be effective no matter how much retraining I did, and luckily the company was interested in keeping someone with good technical skills as a "lead" without the political crap. I actually think it's for the best, because the company just went through its once-a-decade middle management clean-out. Moral of the story: If you want a job, keep your skills sharp and keep learning.

The other stories involve "white knight" MBAs coming in and managing departments through Excel. I worked at one place where the new CIO came in, and within 2 weeks announced that the entire department was being outsourced after a 6 month transition period. His speech basically amounted to "you're too expensive, capex vs. opex, right-sizing,..." The instant the meeting was over, every single person worth hiring was on the phone pulling the emergency cord, arranging new jobs and quitting (including me...I wasn't going to end up with the Scarlet Letter U (for Unemployed) on my record.) Instant dead-sea effect...the outsourcer ended up sucking at their job, got kicked out and the department was in-house again. Luckily the CIO got fired...that akways drives me nuts when executives keep messing up and end up at another company after getting a huge payout. Why can't we worker bees do that?

Comment Credit stuff is one thing, federated ID is next (Score 3, Informative) 66

If I were a thief, the thing I'd try attacking is the increasing use of federated identity, and hit those targets with everything I engineering, zero-days, finding soft spots where cut-rate consulting firms left the door open, the works. In the new cloudy world of abstracted everything, companies are finding it easier to rely on a few identity providers..."log in using Facebook" and the like. In the Microsoft, Google and Amazon iterations of this (MS account, Azure AD, Google Account, Amazon Identity Management,) companies are using third parties to handle authentication to their resources (at least on the web.) This means that the identities are slowly being consolidated to a few providers on the corporate side. Anyone using Office 365 in an organization likely has their credentials synchronized up to Azure AD, for example, so they can use the web apps like Outlook and Skype.

OAuth and the like set up a very strong environment, but it's still just an identity database under the hood. Even if the provider has no idea what your password is, a hash of it is being stored somewhere...otherwise you wouldn't be able to authenticate. If anyone ever comes up with an easy way to break this, then everyone's going to be in for a round of password changes and free credit monitoring. Getting someone's corporate credentials gives thieves a lot more access than stealing one database.

Comment Unions are bad until you see the other side (Score 1) 102

I've never had the opportunity to work in a unionized environment, but would be happy to do so. In environments where it's allowed to work well, unions provide individual employees a balanced environment that they couldn't get on their own. Even a fair dismissal process in the coming age of mass unemployment is a good minimum standard.

Most Uber fans trend younger, and younger employees haven't experienced the other side of the corporate coin. I've been working for almost 25 years now, and have been very lucky to have generally decent employers for most of it. However, younger workers are supremely confident in their ability to negotiate with their employer. They think they'll never be treated unfairly, or if they are they can just walk into another job for a 20% raise the next day. They will happily give their entire life to their job and expect that their employer will never turn on them; look at all the Amazon or Microsoft employees working 100+ hour weeks. And, the most vocal will loudly beat the drum saying that pro-union workers are lazy, entitled and tools of organized crime that drain the precious resources of their employers. They will gladly walk out in front of a train for their employers and say that the free market fixes all. Perhaps the most interesting thing I hear is that they're so much better than the average employer, so why would they ever stoop to the level of helping someone else out?

Even with my decent employers, I've seen people in their 50s who basically built billions of dollars worth of products and gave their entire career to the company get thrown out with no severance one day when the company decides they have to save money. Entire departments get sent off to India or the Philippines by Accenture and their ilk with the stroke of a pen or click of a mouse. Even inflation-index salary increases are routinely denied because "you're too expensive already." Something has to be done to level the playing field in cases like this, and no individual is going to have the power to do that. The labor/management divide needs to exist; companies have spent decades convincing workers that everyone's all on the same team. You need an antagonistic relationship to keep things fair, otherwise you wind the clock back to the beginning of the 1900s.

Comment Re:Yeah but (Score 1) 193

"accelerated stress & wear test"

Absolutely agree. Look at before and after pictures of US presidents. They age a lot more than 8 years (or 4) in that job. However, most of them have the personality type to withstand it, having either been in politics for a lifetime or run businesses, or fought wars, or whatever.

From the presidential biographies I've read, I'd never last in that job. You're subjected to lots of stress:
- Hounded by the press and political factions every hour of every day
- Having to simultaneously protect and make happy hundreds of millions of people who are all different and have completely different aims
- Having your life scheduled down to the minute
- Constantly traveling
- Being woken up in the middle of the night to deal with a crisis that may or may not be known or threaten the country
- Commanding one of the biggest (if not the biggest) military forces in the world and having to decide how and where to use it
- Having the power and ultimate authority to destroy the world with nuclear weapons
- Never being able to disconnect or unplug -- I'm sure bathroom breaks are scheduled events
- Meeting world leaders who you may hate but have to work with, or like but have to disappoint, etc.
- Actually knowing all of what your intelligence agencies know -- this would be the ultimate deal-breaker for me; I'm sure there's so much going on that the public never sees and not all of it is pretty or neatly packaged.

If you can make it through that, sure, you're set for life. But it's a lot to get through!

Comment Maybe it calms them down? (Score 1) 193

When you're talking about the overall population as a whole, and expanding your study across socioeconomic lines, maybe the factor they're looking for is the calming factor kids have on the average person's personality. (I know any parent will think I'm crazy, but keep listening.) Being a parent is financially, emotionally and physically stressful. I have a 3 and 6 year old, and that phase where the second was a newborn and the first still always needed something was an absolute nightmare in terms of sleep and emotional well-being. I'm only now starting to climb out of the no-sleep, constant-stress fog.

However, one thing I'm not is impulsive. I don't go tell off my boss when I'm having a bad day or rage-quit my job regardless of how nuts someone drives me. I highly doubt I'm going to get the sudden urge to skydive, or bungee jump or drive 110 MPH on the way home from work. Extend this out further, and people with kids might be less likely overall to smoke, take drugs, drink heavily or any other vice that reduces lifespan. Yes, of course there are plenty of parents who still do this stuff (and they're the most noticeable either on the news or reflected in their kids' behavior.) But I think overall, having responsibility for another human calms people down. People might also subconsciously want to stay healthier so they stick around. Childless people, even married childless couples, might not have that same drive below the surface. I've worked with lots of 20-somethings who just throw up their hands and walk out the door when they're mad about work...less doable when you have kids, even if your spouse has a job. There really is a settling-down that takes place -- it's rare that I see someone who has kids _and_ an angry chip on their shoulder; usually they're the divorced ones pissed off about paying child support, etc. If you're happy, it extends to other aspects of your life. If you're pissed off all the time, you just make everyone miserable.

Do I ever wish I didn't have kids? Sure, it's easy to look at no-kid couples and singles who go through life without a care in the world, have millions of dollars in the bank by the time they're 50 and do whatever they want whenever they want. But I've kind of done that -- we had kids later. I wish we had done more, but if we stay healthy enough we can do that later. And if we do a good job, the kids won't come back to live in our basement. I know it's impossible to defend being a parent, but I'm really glad we did it. It was pretty telling when my father in law, who's Mr. Spock as far as emotions go, told me "Congratulations, having kids was the best thing I ever did." after we found out. He's right, and sometimes it's a pain in the butt, but who else am I going to play Lego Worlds with? :-)

Comment Not all older workers are dinosaurs (Score 1) 188

I'm in IT, and we have the same problems programmers have, to a slightly lesser degree. Experience is not valued the same way it is in other fields -- most people don't trust a doctor straight out of medical school more than they'd trust a mid-career specialist who's probably seen thousands of patients. The reverse seems true in development -- employers place enormous faith in fresh grads programming in Web Framework of the Month and discard people who've seen this stuff 20 times over because they're too expensive. In IT, experience usually matters a tiny bit more, but it's really hard to justify the higher salary levels and you have to work very hard to keep your skills current as you age.

I'm in the middle of a huge "migration to the cloud" for one of the core products the company I work for sells. When talking about Azure, Microsoft lumps us "old school" folks into a term they call "IT Pros" to separate them from "Developers." Because it's the cloud and they're targeting new developers writing from scratch, almost everything provided is aimed at developers and abstracted to a very high level. This is getting better, but Microsoft's a software company and they're used to interfacing with developers especially since they're not releasing packaged products anymore, instead they're rolling out and improving services as they go. The truth is that all this cloud stuff is just another layer removed from the actual hardware to make people's lives easier. It doesn't absolve you of the need to design in contingencies for failures or to know how things actually work at a low level. The best people I've worked with on cloud things so far have been the older crowd -- they understand that behind the magic is still servers, still TCP/IP, DNS, load balancers, VPNs, firewalls, etc. and that the concepts behind these haven't disappeared. Someone fresh out of school might not have the background and might even say "oh, that's low level crap, the cloud provides magic 100% uptime and infinite scale!" (And yes, I've had conversations that end like that...the concept of backup and DR is lost on some people regardless of cloud-vs.-on-premises.)

That said, I do know people my age who haven't really grown all that much in their careers and have done the same thing for ages. The problem is that everyone over 40 gets lumped in together. You basically have to know someone to get hired past 40 at some places. How do we as an industry recognize hard-won experience for what it is instead of worshiping the cult of the 25 yeard old startup employee working 100 hour weeks because they're basically learning on the job?

Comment We need "detente" between employers/employees (Score 4, Insightful) 621

I'm surprised that this issue isn't limited to the US. Canada's pretty much my #1 relocation destination if I had to pick another country -- hopefully they're not going fully down the "USA Lite" road the way the UK seems to be. The people are friendly and the climate is only going to get better as the temps start getting uncomfortably high further south.

Lots of people love to share anecdotal evidence of "lazy Millenials" studying Underwater Gender Studies and generally being unemployable. Having graduated eons ago in 1997, I can say it's legitimately different now than it was. Back then, even the Comparative Literature and Classics people were at least getting interviews. It was still the case that graduating with a bachelors' degree in anything was the entry ticket to any sort of corporate job. Employers knew they were getting raw material and trained them. Roll things back another 20 years and employers were training people straight out of high school. My wife works for a company that did this and just got taken over by MBAs -- there are a ton of people who only have a high school degree with 25+ years experience in senior positions, who are getting kicked out now, having never known another employer. Today, it seems the only employers who train people directly out of school are the management consulting firms, and that's basically because they don't want anyone who's learned habits anywhere else. The only ticket in is a high enough GPA in anything from an Ivy League school...everything else is taught.

I think the only thing that can fix this is a "detente" on both sides, borrowing a Cold War term. Employers need to accept that they're not getting a drop-in replacement for someone who leaves, no matter what the Indian consulting firm tells them. Employers need to understand that they need to develop employees if they don't want a bunch of mercenaries working for them. On the other side, employees need to stop job-hopping every 6 months and actually spend time to learn the business they work for. I'm one of those strange people who like working for the same company for long periods. As long as you don't let yourself stagnate it's a really positive thing in my opinion. I've been careful to move around and take work assignments that keep my skills fresh, but I've also built up a ton of industry knowledge that really helps me do my systems engineer/architect job better.

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