Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Emails to me consistently show that Obamacare rollout has been plagued by lack of maturity on the mainframe skills side, too

I am still seeing mainframe jobs in my inbox related to health care.  The skills I have seem most recently are a “preference” for knowledge of diagnosis coding (ICD-9, ICD-10), health care operations, familiarity with the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (although that could hardly be “required”) and how it can affect operations, and currently active expert level skills in MVS, modern versions of COBOL, JCL, and sometimes CICS, VSAM, and databases (DB2 and sometimes IMS, and sometimes Adabas/Natural).  I’ve actually seen less emphasis on ideas like direct connect, replication, scripting languages.  The tone of more recent emails reflects a concern about basis integrity and skill in implementation where processing cycles and prerequisite are critical (as would be expected with the federal and state exchanges and the complexity of all the rules, and the confusion over them with the public.)

Job requisitions in these emails want to see skills and experience to be current. But I wonder how contractors feel about the older mainframe professionals (in their 50s, 60s, even 70s now) who left the market after the 9/11 recession.  The health care systems workplace seems to be badly lacking in maturity, not just in fancy web programming, but in legacy processing too.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

Mark Zuckerberg speaks out for more visas for skilled IT workers, and for immigration reform ; we depend on undocumented workers, he says

Mark Zuckerberg appeared on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” Sunday morning, toward the end of the hour, and spoke up for immigration reform as it affects the high-tech labor market.
Zuckerberg seems to believe that American tech companies need to rely on the talent of young adults and teens whose parents were undocumented.  That is an interesting notion from merely a business perspective.  Why are American families unable to produce enough talent?  Zuckerberg has previously made donations to inner city school systems, as in Newark NJ. 
Zuckerberg;s lobbying organization is called “Fwd.us” with link here.
He argued for three proposals:  more visas for workers with skills, allow a clear path to citizenship, and increase border security. Presumably he wants to strengthen the H-1B visa program for skilled workers. 
Zuckerberg has also spoken at the screening of a film “Documented”, by Jose Antonio Vargas, who announced that he was undocumented.  I will look for the film to review (it’s not on Netflix yet). 
I do get the impression that he thinks that overseas kids, maybe because they are raised in more difficult conditions sometimes, develop the cleverness (as well as “curiosity”) that is needed for the job.   

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Technology sites talk about employee social media and blogging policies, and they do affect personal use (and they're not always "free")

Tech Republic sent out an email today with a link to it’s suggestion for a corporate blogging policy.  When I went to the link (here) I found that it wanted a subscription to Tech Pro Research for $299 a year.  I don’t think I need that myself, but here is the link.   

“About.com” has a sample corporate blogging policy which recognizes that the policy needs to cover blogging and social media use both on the job and away from work, with one’s own materials.  The policy is thorough but reasonable, with link here. I would expect Tech Republic’s to be similar. So, you can read “About’s”, and “it’s free”.
Techsoup has a privacy policy for non-profits and charities here.  Toward the end of that policy, there is discussion of the “work v. personal” axis, and it is more explicit in suggesting that employees, when blogging or using social media, should always use privacy settings and only allow whitelisted followers or “friends” to have access.  That would pretty much shut down “broadcast self-publishing” like what I do.  But I have suggested that people with direct reports or underwriting or grading or evaluation responsibilities should adhere to this idea.
The modern social media world has pretty much obliterated the distinction between work life and private life.  Facebook’s policy of requiring real names, and Zuckerberg’s idea that anonymous or pseudonymous speech shows lack of integrity has contributed to this idea.
I see that I discussed corporate use of "social sentry" products on employees on my main blog on Aptil 20, 2011.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Has our job market winnowed down to working in phone banks begging for money?

I get a very large number of landline calls from charities.  Many are identifiable on Comcast Xfinity, and some are repeats (like a clothing pickup service).  Some leave dead air when you pick up the cradle. 
But a number of legitimate charities, ranging from typhoon relief to leukemia and other children’s charities call.  I do my giving through an automated mechanism at a bank, where the charities I prefer (and that were preferred by the estate) receive funds monthly.  A few involve issues I have a longstanding interest in (like gays in the military).

But what happens with the others is that I have to cut them off if I answer the phone at all.  I simply don’t have time for ten of these conversations a day.  I can be more “efficient” by doing this with a trust account at a bank.  More of the money will go to the charity, including to actual victims in the Philippines, or to children in the developing world.  Less will go to overhead or to callers’ commissions.
This does get callous.  After all, I worked in a phone bank, calling for the Minnesota Orchestra for fourteen months (from 2002-2003) while I still lived in downtown Minneapolis.  (The job was still a quick walk from the Churchill Apartments on the Skyway, only a little more time than to get to ING after the end-of-2001 “forced retirement”.)  I didn’t grasp them how many calls people get.  The job was fun as was the staff, despite the comment from one person “they aren't bad people, but this is the only kind of job some people can get”.
And maybe so.  Yesterday, on the movies blog, I reviewed “Death by China”.  Look at how the manufacturing and even white collar jobs have gone overseas.  What is left for a lot of people to do at home amounts to hucksterism.  Am I supposed to waste for such inefficiency – because it’s not really the best way to raise money.

The Amish may have a point when they say that societies destroy human beings when they become obsessed with “efficiency”.  But then there is the twist in the film “Visioneers” (Movies, Oct. 27).   

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Federal government not getting the best IT people, even from contractors; Silicon Valley salaries are very high for real "talent"

Tom Cochran has in interesting piece on the Washington Post Switch Blog today, about the need for the federal government to get serious about recruiting IT talent, link here. That would seem to apply more to the employees contractors hire.
Cochran compares the entry level salary of a federal IT worker to that in Facebook or a major Silicon Valley company.  I presume that contractors get paid more than GS-7’s – the comparison is interesting, because the $42000 today compares to about $9700 in 1971 (when I worked for the Navy and a friend made that salary).  Top talent in developers can start at $150000, plus stock options, at Facebook. I didn’t realize that.
Cochran also discusses the need for recent college graduates to draw big money to pay back student loans.  The government pay won’t cut it.
I also wonder about another overlooked issue – the mainframe side.  People with those kinds of skills have been retiring, after the job market became fragmented following Y2K.  (The behavior of employer clients in the years following Y2K and 9/11 did not treat older professionals with a lot of respect.)   It sounds like the kind of maturity it takes to thoroughly test a system like “healthcare.gov” behind the scenes, with all the comparisons between insurance plans and the complicated business requirements, wasn’t there in the workforce that developed and deployed the system.  There’s a lot more to worry about than just the website.
Remember, a lot of people can code, but fewer can implement!
Even so, “coding” is important.  Remember the whizbang skills of a young Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) in the opening scenes of “The Social Network”.  It was like playing piano.  People don’t get and maintain those skills without some inner psychological drive, and that doesn’t persist forever in one’s career.  Eventually, for most of us, “The Peter Principle” tales over.  We become managers or perhaps “auteurs”.  But we use packages and apps, and leave the methods coding statements for others.  About the only time right now I look at code in my own life is raw HTML (with XSL and XML) when something doesn’t look right after posting. 

The mainframe gigs keep showing up in my AOL mailbox, and some of them are desperate, for an IBM mainframe  ALC guru to fix something in the next three months (maybe related to the processing behind Obamacare) . And I got still another vanilla COBOL-CICS-VSAM-JCL requisition in my mail. They’ve become much more frequent. 

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

IBM CICS systems programmers: they're still around. Are they a clique?

Well, now I’ve even seen an email job requisition for a CICS systems programmer, in Brooklyn NY.  In this case, the applicant has to be familiar with systems support of everything (COBOL, VSAM, Assembler, Adabas) and with IPC (interactive core process) system dumps.
That used to be a regular job twenty years ago.  In a mainframe shop, the systems programmers installed new releases of everything and installed fixes.  They had to do a lot of their work on nights and weekends.  The applications people, relatively speaking, lived normal lives.

Systems programmers would have binders of IBM manuals along the entire upper spaces of their cubicles. 

Once again, people who stayed in this niche have to build a whole public reputation around this expertise. 

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Windows 8 Action Center starts misbehaving when daylight savings time ends

On Sunday morning, November 3, the Action Center on my Toshiba Satellite P875 started behaving differently.  Now, the Action Center keeps on displaying a yellow banner message saying it was interrupted and wants to be run.  Yet the log says it was run.  I have started it and let it run with the machine asleep for half an hour or so.  It might be trying to defrag the hard drive, which could take hours, but doesn’t seem necessary. 
The best reference I can find on Action center maintenance is here.  It appears that maintenance stops when the computer is in use.  Does it have to go to sleep (turn blank)?
The Sunday morning is significant because that’s when we shift to standard time, and the auto time for running was set at 3 AM.  Yet, I let it try to start art 3 AM Monday morning and it did not.

I see that I have taken up this subject July 5 and September 19.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Is publishing a book like an IT implementation in the workplace, or like having a baby?

In the near future – I’m saying November 11, 2013 now, which is a “real day” for me – I expect to be formally submitting the complete manuscript for my “Do Ask Do Tell III” book (see Books blog, Oct. 1, 2011). 
I’m going through all my final editing and checklists;  I’ll have to make the final individual chapters absolutely consistent as to style and format, and remove all the comments and tracking;  then I have to concatenate them, correctly, into one.
I also have be absolutely sure of facts and of name changes in the comments in the book that refer to actual people.
All of this calls to mind what would happen before real “moves” or “promotions”, “elevations”, or “implementations” in the “real” workplace of the past.  I recall little rules, like for a move on Friday, elevations had to be “locked” into CA-Librarian or ChangeMan by Wednesday noon.  There was always a move meeting on Thursday morning.
Is publishing a book like a workplace implementation, or like having a baby?

What is a major elevation for employees at Facebook really like?
This will again be “déjà vu” for “moi”.