Monday, July 30, 2012

Do today's "salaried" IT workers get overtime or expenses when on-call?


As many readers know, I last “enjoyed” stable information technology employment at ING-ReliaStar through the end of 2001, for about three months after 9/11.  Most of my career was that of a “salaried professional” in a mainframe area, with a modest move to client-server in a support role for the last two years.

Typically, the official work week was Monday-Friday and theoretically 40 hours, with a great deal of on-call rotation to support nightly (and especially end-of-month) batch cycles. (Remember the phrase, “End of month is on fire!”)  Technically, because we were exempt and salaried, there was no compensation for on-call duty, whether done from home (either through company terminals or laptops or on one’s own PC through software like ProComm), or by coming back into the office. There was no compensation  or mileage allowance for extra commutes or trips.

However, in the mid 1990s, I was on a “first tier” team that responded to on-call emergencies, in an arrangement where there was one night-time programmer scheduled to be there.  Most duties happened when she couldn’t work (as toward the end of a pregnancy).   Just once, I was “there” almost all weekend for an end-of-month.  Those with fewer family responsibilities (often singles and/or childless) tended to pay their dues more.

There was indirect compensation, however, in the form of annual raises probably 2% greater than they would have been.  So for the remainder of my “career” the accumulated extra compensation (for playing “volunteer fire department”) was probably around $10000. 

In today’s information technology work environment, so much more geared to the home consumer and to managing Internet connectivity and user-generated content platforms, I suspect that a much larger portion of the “professional” workforce does work planned odd hours.  This seems to be the case with tech support at my own ISP.

Can anyone described the work culture now at Facebook?  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Workforce has article on hiring autistic workers


Susan Ladika has an article “Companies find fruitful results when hiring autistic workers” in “Workforce”, link here.  This scope includes workers with Asperger's syndrome. 

But the specific jobs in the article referred mainly to manual labor, repetitive tasks, and farm work, and possibly a desire to hire someone who would be satisfied with the detail of the work.  Morally, it sounded like a dubious concept.

Yet, I remember my own “occupational therapy” at NIH, back in 1962; part of the gig was learning to focus on “repetitive tasks”, like assembly line work, something that would eventually get outsourced. Talk about exploitation.

Maybe this is a question of “paying your dues.”

Later, as I entered programming, I did learn that a lot of it was about becoming meticulous: about attention to detail, desk checking.




Monday, July 23, 2012

Vanity Fair describes the sinking of Microsoft under Ballmer


Kurt Eichenwald has a major story on p. 108 of the August 2012 Vanity Fair, “Microsoft’s Lost Decade: How Microsoft Lost its Mojo”, introductory link here.

Eichenwald describes a corporate culture that developed in the 90s, where systems engineers were more concerned about their “appearance”, particularly to managers other than those of their own teams, than with innovation. The stiffening of the company developed under Steve Ballmer, Bill Gates's successor.  

And there was a corporate mentality that focused on formal, business-like ways of doing things inherited from the mainframe world.

In the meantime, Apple (whatever the complexity of its own history with Steve Jobs) was much more in tune with what younger consumers really wanted.   At least one classical musician friend of mine has blogged extensively about Apple’s contributions to the capability of artists to become more productive, a need that Microsoft completely missed.

I was a little confused by the remark that C# (an OOP somewhat simpler than java) was sidetracked. It still appears to be part of .NET.

In 2002, in the middle of a major recession after 9/11, Microsoft’s .NET was regarded as a “hot” skill.  But basing major platforms on it seems to have been overrun by the world of social media. 

But I took evening courses in C# and XML at a suburban Minneapolis technical college in the fall of 2002, expecting the world to go in a different direction than it finally did. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Fifteen years ago: some major serendipity and transfer ends a major conflict of interest


Friday, July 11, 1997 – fifteen years ago – was the day that I officially “published” my first “Do Ask Do Tell” book by mailing the required registration copies to the Library of Congress, at about 4:30 PM in the afternoon. I remember the moment well.

When I got over to my mother’s home nearby, for dinner, afterward, I had a message waiting there.  I don’t know why the call went there rather than my own number.  It was from HR at my own employer, regarding my interest in transferring to the company that had acquired us, in Minneapolis.  It was an unusual time for such a message, late on a Friday afternoon.

The timing was perfect.  I needed to report to a different division of the company to avoid a potentially serious conflict, because my book “reported” on the military (about a controversial issue), and the division of the company that I had worked for in northern Virginia focused on sales of insurance to military officers.

Sometimes mergers and acquisitions are actually good for employees.  This one worked out really well for me, even though I remember the tears when the acquisition was announced in the fall of 1994.  Mainframe programmers were not affected because legacy applications were not combined (they would be replicated to a mid-tier and GUI).  But data centers were merged and operators were let go in the early summer of 1995. 

Sometimes in the work world, serendipity really works. 

Monday, July 02, 2012

Contractors need to prepare clients for downtime; could "technical executors" be required in the future


Tech Republic has a useful article by Chip Camden for IT consultants, “Preparing for the day you don’t come back”. 

Self-employed people have to prepare their clients for downtime, such as when they might need medical attention, or for outages caused by infrastructure or storm problems (particularly relevant now).

It seems to me that this is also true for people who run major websites, networks and even blogs.  If they are offline for any reason (even something rare and unpredictable like jury duty sequestration, or perhaps overseas travel to primitive or autocratic countries, they might not be able to respond to problems, which could cause issues for service providers. 

Camden recommends that everyone appoint a “technical executor” in a power of attorney.  The situation could develop in the future that service providers might even require one as part of a TOS agreement, an idea I had never considered.  (There is a clause like that in my will.)

Actually, a quick Internet search shows that right now ISP's and social networks often have been unwilling to give executors access to accounts, but I expect that to change in the future -- disability or travel can be an issue as well as death.  I'll cover this soon in my main blog. 

The link is here.