Saturday, April 11, 2009

Turn! I.T. is a world, or isn't it?

If you’ve worked for the same company a long time as a “programmer analyst” and an “individual contributor”, have you ever noticed how your employer becomes a “universe”?

You develop arcane expertise in the intricacies of the daily cycle, end-of-month, the precedence order of computations, the automated balancing, the reports loads or the replication cycle, or what regions have to be up for direct-connect to work. You make your plans carefully, taking into consideration the on-call schedules. You’re the point man on the deepest processing secrets of the company. You survive downsizings and layoffs because for a while they can’t run their business without you.

Then, that fiction comes to an end. A downsizing so big happens that they can do without you. Perhaps the entire application is replaced by one with an acquiring company. You go out into the market. The specialized experience that paid your mortgage (even if underwater) for ten years is no longer valuable to anyone else. And you don’t have the specialized, more up-to-date skills that more maverick employers require. You’ve become obsolete through all your loyalty.

Then, you start looking at the world outside of your previous insular niche, and you realize how different it is. People actually manipulate each other to sell things. “Good-old-boy” networks and blood family connections really matter in many “old school” lines of work. Your education, it turns out, didn’t just give you knowledge and skills; it conferred a certain social legitimacy that invited you to make money by manipulating others. Techies and geeks generally don’t relate to being expected to do this.

Everything you had assumed turns on its head.

Then, one day, you create the right opportunity itself, and it turns again.

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