Sad Times for an Industry

I used to say to my audiences that while the number of jobs in IT will go down, the best will always be in demand.  I then spent several months essentially unemployed.

The IT field has changed dramatically over the course of the last few years.  I suppose it is natural for an industry as young as ours to evolve drastically and violently… but I didn’t expect it would happen to me.  When I did find a job I was relieved to say the least.

During the time when I was looking I noticed that a lot of people turned their backs on me.  I thought for a while it was personal, but I have realized that people in our field are becoming a lot less secure than they were even a year or two ago… yes, some of the people who disappointed me did it out of malice or jealousy, but I have realized that there are also a lot of people who have realized that if they are not protective of what they have, someone else might get it.

I am not naming names… but one of the people who didn’t turn his back on me – someone who commiserated, and did everything that he could to help me – pinged me this morning telling me that he had been let go.  I know that a few months ago I had counselled him on a position at Microsoft, but realized before I even replied (because of time zones it was the first message I saw this morning) I realized that while I remembered him telling me that he found something, I had no idea where it was.  I suppose now it doesn’t matter… he’s not there anymore, and through no fault of his own.

There are a lot of reasons for someone to leave their company… often they will leave because of a better job offer elsewhere (I e-mailed a friend at VMware Canada last week and the message bounced… he turned up at Microsoft Canada this Monday).  Sometimes we are just fed up, and we leave of our own accord.  Of course there is also the termination for cause, and we all hope to avoid that.

All of those are reasons we could have done something about… but when the company simply cannot afford to pay us anymore – they don’t need five IT guys and are downsizing to three, or the project we were hired for was cancelled – it can come as a shock… we did nothing wrong, and there was nothing we could have done to prevent it.  We’re just… gone.  This is a lousy situation.

A few years ago when I went to the US border to apply for my TN visa so that I could work in that country.  Please remember that US border agents are quite loyal, and very protective of their country.  I was trying to explain to the agent what I did as an IT Pro helping companies to virtualize did.  After a few minutes he said to me ‘Let me get this straight: you want me to let you come into my country to teach companies how they can become more efficient and need fewer American workers.’  I could feel his eyes boring into me like lasers.  But the truth is I always felt that the students who learned from me would always be safe, because I was helping to prepare them for the inevitable shift in the industry.  And yet there I was, looking for work… for a long time.

The friend who pinged me this morning was one of those students… I taught him virtualization and System Center, and those are two very important skills to know.  But how do you prepare yourself for the company canceling the project?  It’s not easy.

I have said for years that one of the worst advancements in IT with regard to the IT Pro field was the advent of Microsoft Windows.  In the days of DOS, Novell, and AccPac computers were a mystery to most people, and it was only the real IT Pros who could make sense of everything for the masses.  With Windows `Press Here, Dummy!’ interface myriad people figured it out, and started calling themselves IT Pros.  Some of those people would eventually learn what was really under the hood, get certified, and thrive… but a lot of them did a lot of our customers a disservice and made those people and companies distrust the entire profession.  I see that coming back to haunt us even worse, in a time when automation and virtualization are making thing easier for the fewer IT Pros needed, we are living through the worst of times for the profession.

What is the solution?  I don’t know… but I do know that we can’t put the genie back into the bottle, and it is going to get worse before it gets better.  I hope we are all able to weather the storm.


5 responses to “Sad Times for an Industry”

  1. Mitch to be very frank Microsoft related Jobs are not much in demand, but on the other side if you see Cisco CCIE routing Switching and Voice they are still in demand. How ever it depends on the countries as well. All I can do for is to Pray :).

    1. Syed while I understand why you would say that, I don’t think Microsoft is going away any time soon. Yes Cisco is very much in demand, but there’s still a place for Microsoft too. -M

  2. Great article, Mitch. I will be here over Rosh Hashana. I’m boycotting my shul this year, except for Yiskor on Yom Kippur (long story) so I should be around at least some of the time. Miri and family will be here, but they are staying at Tamara’s so my house should be fairly quiet. Do call or email when you get in. Lehitraot bakarov. Esti

    Sent from my iPad


  3. So this is kinda odd for me to read. Granted, we stay in touch mostly on Facebook, which hides information as it pleases. So it could be you shared all your job hunting and I missed it all. But I had no idea you were looking for a full time job (I thought you were consulting/contracting). Even then, I didn’t know you had gaps in billability.

    So what is going on with all this communications at our fingertips that people didn’t know? I guess it could have just been me…

    The whole “no one is hiring ______” is really a bit of confirmation bias and own-world view. I personally don’t know anyone looking to hire a Linux/MySQL admin…but I’m certain there are thousands of jobs for that type of skill going unfilled. Just like I know of SQL Server jobs going unfilled. I don’t live in the Linux world, so I don’t hear about those openings.

  4. You’re right, we’ve done ourselves out of straight jobs, stable employer with job listings, well-defined roles, steady paycheques, benefits, and the rest.
    And yet, at national level, the US is reporting a desperate shortage of skilled computer professionals, as they like to call them. Why the disparity? The national forecasters are concentrating on national priorities like energy sufficiency, clean technologies, private space initiatives, cyber security, public commercial high-speed infrastructure, etc. All of these need mountains of highly skilled IT Pros willing to take on brand new, unsolved challenges. We’ll have to be more entrepreneurial, pick an objective (or dream, if you like) and pursue it until it’s done or we drop trying.
    A job happens when someone else needs skills that match yours to fulfill THEIR dream. A career results when you apply your skills to fulfill YOUR dream.
    It’s hard, I know. When times are tough, we’d all like nice safe jobs. And more jobs around when the employer eventually no longer needs our skills. And yet that’s just the time when we need a career, to escape the job mill.
    Stop trying to find jobs and fitting yourself to them. Decide what kind of product, service, or goal you want to strive for, declare it proudly, along with how you fit into the solution. At that point you’re skilled and passionate, and you become an indispensable person, not a disposable automaton.

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