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Lifetime Careers in IT? 568

Posted by Cliff
from the long-term-predictions dept.
CyPlasm asks: "MSN Careers had this article posted the other day that asked about a "Lifetime Career in IT: Is It Possible?" Does the average Slashdot reader think they will retire (with a pension, benefits, etc) after a long and successful career in IT?"
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Lifetime Careers in IT?

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  • Certainly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sparkhead (589134) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:06PM (#5177667)
    We have a few lifers, and they're always the source of plenty of good information. Don't have to know the latest languages to be good at thinking about how things work.

    Not me though. I'm going to claw my way to middle management and worry about TPS reports.
    • by salemnic (244944) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:20PM (#5177803)
      Yeah, about those TPS reports. Did you see the memo? If you could just do that from now on, that would be great.

      And I'll make sure you get another copy of that memo. Okay?
    • Re:Certainly (Score:5, Informative)

      by Telastyn (206146) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:22PM (#5177828)
      Indeed, my dad is a lifer (same systems for 25+ years even). Doesn't know many (modern) languages, but has been keeping the system he's worked on up, running, and maintained to modern needs while the company cycles through less competant engineers (and managers).
    • by FatherOfONe (515801) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:32PM (#5177893)
      Ummmmm yeah..... I am going to need you to come in and work on Saturday..... say around 9:00am... Um.... yeah and Sunday too. :-)

      The thing is Bob it's not that I am lazy, its that I just don't care...

    • Hey! (Score:5, Funny)

      by fireboy1919 (257783) <rustyp@NOspAm.freeshell.org> on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @09:05PM (#5178410) Homepage Journal
      I intend to do something similar: I love computers, and I hope to work in computers until the day I die.

      What this probably means is that I'll die penniless - a broken man - and that my genius will only be discovered 200 years later after my death (when corporations are overthrown by the starving masses, declared illegal, and their suppressed documents are released, causing a second renaissance and pulling all the world out of the second dark ages).

      Or I'll just do something else that I'm good at.
    • It is possible... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TWX_the_Linux_Zealot (227666) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @10:26PM (#5178880) Journal
      I work for the government, in an IS department. We have people who have been working there for 20+ years. One of them still has the same office. The great thing about government is that since one gets raises based on time automatically, one does do better the longer one works somewhere. Granted the raises aren't as fast or as potentially rewarding as private sector, but one doesn't have to worry about one's employer going out of business either.
      • Granted the raises aren't as fast or as potentially rewarding as private sector, but one doesn't have to worry about one's employer going out of business either.
        Good attitude! F*** the revolution!
      • by The_dev0 (520916)
        Good call, friend. I also work the government in Australia after coming to the same decision you did. After working contract IT for about 5 years it was time to make a decision. Do I want to keep working for higher pay but no promises for the future? What's more important to me, cash in my pocket or a permanent job? I could have kept shuffling from place to place with the work like some kind of techie fruitpicker, but instead I took the pay hit and moved into the public sector. Good super, paid sick/annual leave, and a hell of a lot more stability than I ever saw working as a contractor. The money isn't as good, but it's nice to know i'll be paid again next week same bat-time, same bat-channel.
  • I never planned on getting paind for "doing computer stuff" and, at this point, I am just waiting to happen into a situation where I can quit and go back to it being a hobby for me. But the finances are what stop me - I like having the things that I have - a nice motorcycle, a big TV, lots of computers (ironically). If I could make, say, 2/3rds of my salary being a mechanic, I would take it in a heartbeat.

    Anyone need an overpriced mechanic who specializes in aircooled VWs/Porsches?

    • by prozach (91711) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @08:03PM (#5178082)
      You'd be surprised, a good mechanic and a body technician (repair wrecks) can make really great money. It's really hard work but good mechanics can make 65K and body guys can top 6 figures and that's just working for a shop. Most of those guys get paid by the bill hours and the job hours aren't how long it actually takes. There's a big book with how many hours it takes to do EVERYTHING but if you can do it in half the time that's twice the money.
  • Of course. . . . (Score:5, Interesting)

    by havardi (122062) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:07PM (#5177673)
    It's not as if you have to be on top of the game in IT. At least, not the government sector.. Most managers and senior support staff are in their 30's and 40's and completely ignorant of whats been going on for the past 5 years.
    • by coyote-san (38515) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:14PM (#5177749)
      Ironically, most of the people I know in their 30s and 40s chuckle at the young turks who don't realize that their "hot new paradigm" (or language or whatever) is the same recycled cat shit that's been around - and dismissed - for years. They'll all very much aware of the new stuff that really matters, but are also aware of the true cost of changing legacy systems and don't make changes casually.
      • by tshak (173364) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:24PM (#5177844) Homepage
        I know in their 30s and 40s chuckle at the young turks who don't realize that their "hot new paradigm" (or language or whatever) is the same recycled cat shit that's been around - and dismissed - for years.

        Many times it has to do with the right implementation of said paradigm. I won't go into detail, but most of us know that the concept of an abstract syntax machine was around long before Java became the next big Fad. But implementation, market forces, etc. all play a part in the buy-in of a technology.
  • by Augusto (12068) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:07PM (#5177679) Homepage
    Let's see;

    One week it's another company is dotbombing

    Another week is a company replacing all technical people with Taiwanese made sock puppets

    And now how we better think about something else if we want to not starve when we reach retirement age.

    I can't feel the love guys, are you trying to kill us with more stress???
  • by cylcyl (144755) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:08PM (#5177689)
    The million+ folks who got laid off since the burst of the dot-com bubble and have not yet gotten a new job say "NO"!
    • Engineers are destined to get fired. Engineers including software engineers typically work on a project, which means that once the project is complete, they don't have to be around. Of course, some people need to be maintaining and debugging, but roughly 90% of engineers can go. I am not just talking about IT, but engineering in general. Let's say you are a construction engineer and designing a building. Once the construction is over, who needs you? We've got to move around and keep finding new projects, and that's the nature of our profession. Sounds kind of like prostitution, but it's not. Prostitutes might have regular customers, but we (real engineers) don't. If you feel OK about it, you'll have lifetime career in IT, if not, you'll find some other job. Simple is that.
      • Let's say you are a construction engineer and designing a building.

        Yes. Indeed, let's say that.

        * A building lasts for 30-50 years easily. Software lasts, what, 3 or 4 years before there is a new release significantly improved to justify a new expenditure?

        * Buildings require little to no engineering intervention in the intervening period. A typical software project is several orders of magnitude more complex than a typical building. They require constant maintenance.

        * Buildings that need new features rarely depend on engineers. For the most part repartitioning of the cubes, or even moving a non-bearing wall, requires no engineering. Software gets new features regularly and requires engineers to get the job done.

        So, while I'm a consultant and love it. To say that everyone need be is speculation about what the state of things might be, based on a completely untenable position. Software and building engineers aren't the same and never will be.
      • Actually, I'd say most successful consultants *DO* have regular customers. Once you've been in the market for awhile and done work for a series of companies you find that some of the people you've already worked for will call you up for their next project, assuming you did a good job the first time around.

        I've been a full-time consultant for about 4 years and I've observed that 50% of my work is from repeat customers. Hopefully the other 50% later *become* repeat customers. :)

        Whether you are a prostitute or not depends on the kind of work you do, not whether or not you move around. A prostitute takes any work that comes along. Unfortunately, in 2002 I became a "consulting prostitute," so to speak, as I've taken projects that didn't really interest me other than the money because things were tight last year. 2003 is looking up, though, so hopefully I can stop being a consulting prostitute this year.

      • by afidel (530433) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @08:40PM (#5178292)
        Actually many engineers have regular sustainable gigs. For most of them its about a product family or constantly improving technology. Sure I'm a little biased towards IT and related fields since I worked with Cisco's wireless division but most of those engineers would oversee generation after generation of the product, they wouldn't let people go just because a product would finish, not when they finally had some knowledge of how they do things. Firing everone just because one project/product is finished is a short sighted managers way of doing things, unless there is little overlap in knowledge domains between projects it makes sense to keep a good team together. It takes time to ramp up to speed on any project and it takes time for people to learn the ways of their coworkers to form the best teams so why scrap all that work just because one thing is done?
      • by Darth_Burrito (227272) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @08:49PM (#5178331)
        Ba. Where I work, firing any number of the "developers" would thoroughly and permanently cripple the company. These guys are just irreplaceable. Use Strict? Option Explicit? Comments? Documentation? Proper English? Any jedi craves not these things.

        While on the subject, is anyone looking for a young, highly disciplined software developer? Please? Anyone? Help, the escape key isn't working!
    • ...that 90% at least of those million that lost their jobs were the chaff of IT workers everywhere.

      They weren't really IT people either, many were 'idea men' or whatever. Most people that lost a dot com job, and stayed lost, lost the job cuz they sucked.

      Those that didn't found jobs in the real industries.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:08PM (#5177694)
    After spending 20 years as one of the lowest paid (yet consistently employeed) network/sys admins on the planet, yes, I will get a pension, benefits, etc.
  • Sure (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:09PM (#5177700)
    if you're willing to move to India and take 1/10 of your current pay, you can have a lifetime job.
    • Re:Sure (Score:3, Insightful)

      by vsprintf (579676)

      if you're willing to move to India and take 1/10 of your current pay, you can have a lifetime job.

      Nope. Not unless you're young and Indian. The Indian "consulting" companies (body shops) here have made it clear they don't hire Americans. The comment was funny, though.

    • Re:Sure (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wideBlueSkies (618979)
      They won't hire Ameriacans. Yet we allow Guptas to come here on H1-B's and steal our jobs from us.

      Is it me, or is something wrong with this picture?

  • by ProgressiveCynic (624271) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:10PM (#5177709) Homepage
    You'll have to kill me first! I can see getting enough money to go it alone and start my own business, but come on who wants to sit around on their ass all day? That's how you get old, years have nothing to do with it!

    And I don't see that being in computers makes it any easier or harder. Sure you've got to retrain every year, but we've got it easy compared to doctors, and even your average factory job changes enough that it's an issue there too. Stop learning and you die, first mentally then physically!

  • by saskboy (600063) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:10PM (#5177711) Homepage Journal
    The odds of finishing an IT career... are getting better. There are more people retiring very soon, and with that comes lots of senior positions that will be vacant, and ripe for the picking.

    Settle into a company, make yourself indispensible, and you are set... If we avoid nuclear war, and stop using SUVs...
  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:11PM (#5177721) Journal
    Maybe I'm missing something but:

    1) Why on Earth not? The article doesn't offer any reason to doubt the rather obvious conclusion that, of course, people will have lifelong careers in IT. Except that "MSN Careers member EsTeeJay" thinks otherwise.

    2) Maybe I'm nitpicking, but why is a pension a prerequisite for a lifetime career? I'm not holding my breath for a pension but still expect to spend a lifetime doing what I do.

    The only reason I can think of to doubt the long-term potential of an IT career is that systems may become so intuitive there's no need for a admins. But given the way software progresses, one doesn't see much chance of that.
    • I'll bite... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by siskbc (598067) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @08:09PM (#5178122) Homepage
      I would say the one thing that prevents a career in IT for most people is that the low-level jobs are extremely draining (psychologically), and there aren't enough management positions for former programmers, etc.

      It's been well documented that the average career of a programmer is about 4 years, before they get promoted, move on to something else, or go insane. People just can't take being a code monkey, with the insane hours, for longer than that. There aren't enough management positions for all of them to get promoted within 4 years, so a lot probably quit for something else.

      Of course, it begs the question - why does this situation exist in IT? I think the answer is that there is such a flood of programmers (both domestic and "imports") that employers have 0 incentive to make them happy. Programmers are disposable - those that aren't promoted get used up.

      I would say there are only a few ways out of this. Either educate kids how shitty an IT job can be, or close off the tech visas for foreigners. But really, neither will happen. So we get to enjoy generation after generation of programmers (and admins) get disillusioned with what they used to do for a hobby.

      Happy life!

      • Re:I'll bite... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by naarok (102579) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @08:23PM (#5178198) Homepage
        "It's been well documented that the average career of a programmer is about 4 years".

        SAY WHAT? Where is this well documented? Other than people who have just started, I don't know many good code monkeys who gave up after four years. I and a number of friends have been going at it for 10. My brother (much older than I) has been going at it for more than 25 years.

        And I have to say I'm glad there aren't enough management positions for all of them. I've quit jobs because they wanted to push me into management.

        I LIKE coding, and I'm very good at it. I don't want to manage and get away from the tech. Although I have accepted architect roles as long as I could keep my hands dirty.

        I can see myself staying in IT for my entire career. I can also see myself going low tech and becoming a boat wright.

        I agree that there are places where programmers are disposable. This is probably where you get the 4 year people from. I was lucky enough to start in a place that wasn't like that. And now I'm lucky enough to have the insight to recognize a place like that and the skills to walk away to find a better place.
      • by alexhmit01 (104757) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @09:40PM (#5178629)
        Sorry buddy, that's not IT, that's the fast track. Making $50-$75k/year right out of school, you're on the fast track. Guess what, median income for a family of four is under $40k/year. Every fast track career is short (the pre-MBA consulting jobs, etc., are 2-3 year jobs, then you get an MBA and start track two, or you wash out). Traders have the same lifestyle.

        You get out of school, and run like hell. Most people fall off (not everyone can be a senior partner at a law firm or Big-5 company), that's how it works. With the IT path, you find something else, or you sit and rot. You can sit in a big company's IT staff for years, but the hot-shot jobs are all going to be churn and burn. You want the comparitively big bucks, get ready to run like hell.

        Ya know all those cushy management consulting jobs that your business major friends wanted? Talk to them after 6 months, 12 months, 24 months. Some make it and go to B-school, others wash out and go find something else to do. If they couldn't take 80 hours a week of crunching excel spreadsheets that get ignored, they wash out.

        Stock traders, they can't sit there staring at a screen forever. Same with brokers. The ones that sit in a phone room either make it or wash out.

        Lawyers can go and start a 1 person law firm, but the big firms will suck you dry. You can't bill 80 hours, you can't make the next rung. That's life. There is only room for one CEO, and he can only have 7-10 people reporting to him, and so on, and so on. That means that for every person that advances, 6-9 wash out.

        Such is life. You can find engineering jobs that last, but the hot-shot code wringing dot-com lifestyle? Yeah you only got 3-5 years of it, same for everyone else.

        Alex
  • by MrWinkey (454317) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:11PM (#5177724) Homepage
    If I die tommrow that is....
  • by Rev.LoveJoy (136856) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:12PM (#5177730) Homepage Journal
    Before this becomes a pedantic debate about H1-Bs or IT unions I think it is important to keep in mind the diversification within the IT industry in recent history.

    Asking a generation x geek today if they will 'retire from IT' might in 30 years seem as inappropriate a question as saying, "well gosh, do you think you could spend your career in education?"

    The obvious answer being that of course you can spend your lifetime in IT work. In it's current manifestation, it is a new field. One that will continue to branch out in ways currently not imagined.

    Cheers,
    -- RLJ

    • by dboyles (65512) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @08:23PM (#5178200) Homepage
      Asking a generation x geek today if they will 'retire from IT' might in 30 years seem as inappropriate a question as saying, "well gosh, do you think you could spend your career in education?"

      Speaking of which, I'm surprised there isn't more mention of education in this thread. I'm a graduating senior in Business Information Systems (insert sound of CS majors snickering because they think IS majors choose such because they can't hack it in CS), and recently rethought my plans for the future. I could go to work in June making a good salary. I could be there at 8, sit in my cubicle, and leave at 5. Things would get better over the years, assuming I don't get laid off, but I'd always have to deal with office politics and other such BS.

      So I went and talked to a professor that I'd had a year ago, and told him that I was interested in pursuing a PhD and eventually teaching at the college level. Let me tell you, if you all had heard what he said, you'd probably be lining up to get in a doctoral program and get a teaching/research position. There are clear benefits such as job security, a low-stress environment (generally), and the ability to do consulting work on the side. And on top of that you can influence students in a way that nobody else can.

      I was curious about salaries, so I looked his up: six figures. He's about 45 years old. I checked some salaries of top-level ITS employees at the university, and only a handful of them were even close to a six-figure salary. Not to mention what they probably have to deal with on a daily basis. I quickly decided that such a career was not for me.

      Of course the educational arena is not without its faults, and I'm sure there are plenty of happy senior system admins, but for me, the choice is easy.
  • hmmm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pummer (637413) <spam@pum m . o rg> on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:12PM (#5177736) Homepage Journal
    Does the average Slashdot reader think they will retire (with a pension, benefits, etc) after a long and successful career in IT?

    what about those of us that aren't in IT now??
  • by cmacb (547347) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:13PM (#5177739) Homepage Journal
    Many (most) IT people in the past job-hopped like crazy at one point or another. This allowed up to get our salaries up faster than staying at one organization. The downside of that is no big pension benefit from a particular company. Most of the people I know who have built an entire career in IT are government people maintaining Cobol programs from 30 years ago. More people in the private sector tend to transition into related management functions and from there possibly into non-IT activities. So, while it will never be impossible, it will probably grow more difficult to spend one's entire career in IT. That doesn't make IT different than other endeavors however, just the opposite, it makes IT more similar.
  • by BaronCarlos (34713) <slashdot@geekbrigad e . c om> on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:13PM (#5177740)
    In my experience, the only success I have seen in climbing the corporate ladder in IT is through a select few vectors:

    Consulting: You work for a consulting firm and merc yourself out to the highest bidder. (Benefits: Lots of money, though little in corporate benefits (Stock, Options, etc.))

    Management: The top of the IT ladder is CTO. Most companies have them now. (That puts you on the Board of Directors, and a VP after your name). (Disadvantage: You are now a technical manager, not a technician.)

    Company Leap Frog: Work for Company A, beef up your resume and jump to Company B (higher up the corporate food chain). Work for Company B for awhile and do the same and jump to Company C (again with an increase in Title and Wage) and so on and so forth. (I have worked longer in my company the Every Director/VP in my building. Most have not worked here longer then 2 years.)

    Conclusion: It is possible, even using tactics found in other departments. But is the end result really worth it? (Even if it is what you want to do for the rest of your life?)

  • by Kenja (541830) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:15PM (#5177767)
    When we fire you, we kill you.
  • IT in Government (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JackL (39506) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:16PM (#5177775)
    I'm pretty sure I could have had a lifetime IT career working in state government. Slashdot has had the private sector "cutting edge development" vs. "behind the times" government work before. It is basically personal preference - exciting and short term vs less exciting but stable. Many associate government work with being boring and while the database I maintained certainly wasn't exciting, it's impact on the state's medical system was.

    So yes, lifetime IT jobs probably exist and they don't necessarily have to be boring. It really depends on what you are looking for.

  • Hell no! (Score:5, Funny)

    by ENOENT (25325) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:16PM (#5177777) Homepage Journal
    Someday I'm going to sell my stock options and retire early on the proceeds. Of course, since the options are so far underwater there's little hope of them ever seeing air again, my retirement years will be spent in a cardboard box underneath a freeway overpass.

  • by sakusha (441986) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:17PM (#5177782)
    you blow your brains out at age 30. This is the only industry I know of that eviscerates itself every few years and rejects the knowledge of its senior experts. I'm 45 with experience from design and assembly to sales to engineering to programming, and I've been looking for an IT job for years. Ever heard the term "gray-listing"...?
    • by vsprintf (579676) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @09:31PM (#5178563)

      you blow your brains out at age 30. This is the only industry I know of that eviscerates itself every few years and rejects the knowledge of its senior experts.

      That's graphic but well put. It's (not) funny that the IT-heavy companies are all run by old codgers who think that anyone over 35 is a has-been (except for themselves who are all eternally brilliant because of the MBA, of course).

      After 40, I've found the only way to get an IT job is to know someone in the company who is willing to present in your resume (many times a company won't advertise a position - they just ask for recommendations from current employees). Once you're hired and working, they're thrilled.

      It's bad. Just keep talking to anyone and everyone who might turn up a lead. Good luck.

  • by Lord_Slepnir (585350) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:19PM (#5177800) Journal
    "Back in my day, we didn't even have cybornetic implants. We had to interface with the computer through this thing that had all of these buttons, and another thing that moved around and had 3 buttons. And another thing. We had a command line. When we used Xwindow, the corners were so sharp we had customers sue us for it. That's why we had to use the round ones. And there was this company called apple....."
  • Why not? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzybunny (112938) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:21PM (#5177817) Homepage Journal

    My grandfather is 90. He is in perfect mental and physical health, and "officially" worked as an attorney until a few years ago. He still occasionally takes depositions and adjudicates some lesser disputes.

    Aside from the fact that that side of the family has a history of longevity, I believe that the two reasons why he kept going were (a) he didn't feel like quitting, because he enjoyed his job, and (b) he worked in a field (partner in a mid-sized law firm) where nobody could dictate to him when to retire. His expertise grew over time.

    In Europe, a lot of societies which have historically cherished the idea of retirement at age 65 with a generous pension are starting to re-think this concept, primarily because the pension funds simply won't be able to keep up with the glut of baby boomers retiring soon, but also because peoples' attitude towards work is changing.

    Lack of job security nowadays means that, while you may show professionalism towards an employer, you do not display the traditional "loyalty for life". As I can tell, it is in the nature of companies to act in a manner they perceive to be economically rational (regardless of whether it is or not)--this takes precedence over keeping old Smithers but-he's-only-got-2-years-to-go-until-retirement around at all costs. Concurrently, people are discovering that they are far more mobile in the labor market, recession or not, than they once were, and employers generally seem to recognize that fact.

    Especially in IT, where actual hands-on know-how may become obsolescent fairly quickly, but experience in how to manage that know-how (project management, design, business-side consulting, etc.) grows over time. I can imagine that we will see an increase in the number of over-40 employees going part-time consultant, and simply not quitting at 65. I don't know about you, but I love my line of work, and can't really imagine just stopping dead in my tracks one day to go play shuffleboard with a bunch of walking corpses.

    So a classical "employment-until-pension"? No. A "job for life"? Definitely. I don't know about you, but I would love to still be a part-time IT consultant when I'm 70.
  • Benefits (Score:3, Funny)

    by fuzzykitty (265256) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:21PM (#5177822)
    Will I have retirement, benefits, etc...? Of Course! I don't work in IT.
  • by panaceaa (205396) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:22PM (#5177833) Homepage Journal
    Some techies are pessimistic about their prospects, citing outsourcing of IT projects overseas and workplace competition from H-1B visa holders.

    People have talked about this a lot recently, on Slashdot, in the news, and around my office. But I think people really underestimate the importance of having the developers around so they can be brought into meetings and have face-to-face meetings. When developers feel their responsibility every day, they gets projects done faster and at higher quality. As a developer, I better see the importance of my work by going to more meetings and interacting more with our clients. However, if I was reporting from around the world, I wouldn't feel the same way.

    In fact, at my work we're actually bringing lots of QE in from India because we want them working extra hard helping our American-based developers. There's no way real development by American companies will move offshore.
    • by zero_offset (200586) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @07:16AM (#5180621) Homepage
      The bad part is the several-year cycle before the big American companies figure out that off-shore won't work. My employer (over 50K employees) has decided this is the Hot New Thing and is busily shedding developers all 'round the world. We're hiring folks in India at cheerfully insignificant sweatshop rates, and in some cases temporarily bringing them to the US for training (where they're literally kept far away from everyone else during their short stay).

      Meanwhile, those of us still doing development are watching in horror as we receive awful newbie-grade code from these off-shore super-genuises, projects slip as communications fail (verbal and connectivity-wise) or the foreigners simply go missing for hours or days at a time, delivery dates come and go and the apps still don't work right -- the stories go on and on.

      Now, this isn't a simple case of us having just chosen the wrong company to contract with. As I noted above, we're an enormous company (Fortune 50). We have contracts with many companies in India, and in some cases contracts with American companies who employ off-shore resources in turn. So far, I haven't been able to dig up any success stories. I have been personally involved with (although thankfully not responsible for) quite a few ridiculous failures -- none of which would have occurred if we hadn't been chasing this magical off-shore solution. However, the trend will continue in big companies because middle management has no choice but to show (and therefore report) success, and upper management has no connection with what's really going on day-to-day which means they only rely on the falsely-rosy middle managers' reports.

      I should point out that nothing I said about our experiences with the off-shore effort was even a little bit exagerated, either. I have personally been involved in these problems for the last seven or eight months. Here are a few examples I've seen in just the past 45 days or so:

      • Several weeks ago I recieved a piece of modified code from an off-shore guy who had been described to me as literally a "hot shot" by the proud manager who "owned" him. The code was awful. I ripped out the ninteen lines of new code this guy wrote, and did the same thing in a single line of code. Even our newest programmer trainees would have been capable of doing the same thing. This was all inside a smallish procedure (his modifications more than doubled the size of it), so the leeway for making an excuse was minimal at best. When I questioned this, the contracting company was reportedly "concerned". This same "hot shot" is still writing code on another related project which is now four weeks late and is failing in production.

      • A friend in an office near me was asked to call an Indian off-shore maintenance programmer who reported an outage in a critical system a few hours before -- this was an emergency, and the fastest way to fix it was to get more info from the person who reported it. This friend of mine starts going through the several phone numbers the off-shore guy had in his auto-sig at the bottom of his e-mail. The first number connected him to someone who didn't speak English. He gave up after being put on hold the third time. The second number connected him to a different non-English-speaking person, and this time he didn't waste time (emergency, remember?). The third number connected him to an Air National Guard airbase switchboard halfway across the US. We never did manage to contact the person who reported the problem.

      • Last week one of the off-shore guys put a call into networking and convinced them to change a password on a major database component. This had the fortuitous effect of fixing the off-shore's application, but breaking no less than 28 other far more important applications. When we informed the off-shore developer of the consequences of his decision -- which he had been previously advised to avoid by another developer here in the office -- he became angry and has apparently chosen to avoid communicating with us. Because middle management is shielding his "on-shore" rep (I guess you'd call it), we have no choice but to work around this guy to complete the project.

      Again, those examples all involve completely different off-shore contracting comapies, unrelated projects, and very different skillsets and responsibilities -- yet they are all characteristic of every report I've heard from co-workers and colleagues at large companies who are enduring this fabulous new technique for managing the bottom line, and similar examples are not hard to find if you go digging around on-line.

      In a nutshell, so far it appears the only positive stories come from managers, and they mostly appear to focus on up-front costs -- not quality, or long-term costs. (And in a company this big, believe me, even the worst little application can have a lifespan measured in many years.)

      I'll say this much -- it makes me miss working for smaller companies. Sure the pay wasn't as good, and the risk was greater, but at least mid- to small-sized companies simply don't have the option of sustaining the massive waste of exercises like the great off-shore push.

      Now before somebody goes and labels me racist or a nationalist or jingoistic or whatever thesaurus.com spits out next, please understand I don't blame these off-shore guys in the least. If I could live on a few bucks a day (I read recently that the average programmer in India makes about $12K) I'd be undercutting the big boys too, and my skillsets be damned -- at that point I'm competing purely on price, and even the shittiest hack-job code still has a chance of running right; certainly business managers aren't going to review it. But so far, in my experience and in the considerable experience of many people I know, the basic quality and skills are sorely lacking, and success stories are few and far between. This is my opinion based on real experience. If my experiences change (and by god I hope it does, given the way our current project is spinning out of control and requiring the stereotypical "heroic efforts" of our now-scorned American programmers) then I'll gladly sit back and agree with the Wisdom of Management. But I've just seen too much failure to deliver in the Great Off-Shore Push, so far.

  • Lifetime career? HA! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MsWillow (17812) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:23PM (#5177837) Homepage Journal
    You go through school, going deep into debt, to learn the trade. You get a job, where they work your nuggies off, for a "salary" that's laughable in hourly terms. Then, after ten years struggle, you're either RIFfed, or, if you're darned "lucky", they'll "reward" you by taking away the only thing that made the job even tolerable - you'll become a low-level manager, and never again be permitted to dirty your fingers typing in code.

    Thanks, I'll take a pass on IT as a career. In many ways, I'm glad that I came down with MS *before* I got RIFfed, as it has allowed me the time to realize that my "career" had cost me my health, my social life, and one of the things that I enjoyed most - the joy of crafting a well-thought-out and well-executed program with my own two hands.

    Pension? Get real! To get that, you have to stay in one company for ages. Fat chance of that, with companies dropping like flies all the time.

    No, you might actually be better off if you skipped school, and stuck with your "You want fries with that?" menial job. At least you'd have some semblance of a life with that, and after paying off the student loan that allowed you to join the exciting and fast-paced world of IT, I'm not so sure that you wouldn't actually be ahead financially, too.
  • by Bitmanhome (254112) <bitman&pobox,com> on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:26PM (#5177861)
    There's only a worldwide market for, what, 6 machines? No way to make a career out of that.
  • by greymond (539980) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:27PM (#5177868) Homepage Journal
    Honestly, how many people in MANY OTHER FIELDS got layed off within the last 2 years? Granted a lot of people in the Silicon Valley Tech industry got layed off, but that includes more than just "IT" workers.

    Sales Managers, Marketing Employees, Graphic Designers, Gophers, PC Technicians, programmers, and Administrators were layed off.

    Some of the Marketing people I know that were layed off had been with the company for over 15 years. You can be layed off or fired in any field - it doesn't matter. As long as your smart, have a plan, and quite a bit of luck - you can get your way through anything (almost).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:28PM (#5177872)
    According to this [computerworld.com] and this [computerworld.com] article, close to half of all IT workers could be displaced in as little as two years. International outsourcing, contractors, part-timers and consultants will do most of the work. If you want to work in IT for the rest of your career, you need to be planning your strategy now. So quit munching pizza and watching cartoons and figure out what you want to be when you grow up.

    Maybe the analysts are wrong, but do you want to bet your career on it?

    The warning signs are out there.

    • by mrkurt (613936) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @08:38PM (#5178278) Journal
      that 35-45% of IT positions in the U.S. may be outsorced, not that they will be eliminated. And just because the positions are outsourced doesn't necessarily mean they move overseas. I might also note that a lot of the managers they interviewed for the story on outsourcing didn't think it was cost-effective. Do you really believe that someone halfway around the world is really going to understand what your needs in software are? That's a tall order. It can be tough enough to make systems work when you are dealing face-to-face with a customer. I think career planning is helpful, but I think it revolves around the notion that you affirm that this is what you really want to do, and that you are going to commit to doing what is necessary to be gainfully employed, such as keeping up with new technologies and being open to changing employment arrangements.
  • by sbillard (568017) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:31PM (#5177887) Journal
    IT professionals still wonder what to expect if they choose to devote their entire career to IT.
    Since 1987 I've endured thankless all-nighters and many wasted weekends to satify the insane schedules of inexperienced project managers. I've also had the crushing responsibility that comes with installing and supporting systems that multi-billion dollar companies rely on. I've been shit on as a consultant and exhalted as a savior and treated like a hero. I have experienced a full-spectrum of environments. I am now 35 years old.
    But the one thing that has been consistent thoughout this whole time is this: I love what I do. Maddening at times - yes. Mundane - yep. But almost always interresting. If you dont have passion for technology, you wont last.
    "You have to keep yourself trained even if management will not pay for it," says Edward Pilling, who participated in the discussion. "You have to have one critical skill set that is in need."
    This is what I mean. Learn the new technology. Stay current and informed. Read Slashdot (mod me up now). Take classes. But most of all, stick your nose into it, roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. If you are going to get up each day and drag your ass into work, you might as well enjoy your workload. Sure, most IT jobs pay well, but if you hate computers it will show and you wont survive the influx of new grads and you will fall to the side of the road while the fast pace of technology marches on without you. If you love it, you wont be able to get enough of it, and you will succeed.
  • I will (Score:4, Insightful)

    by eclectric (528520) <bounce@junk.abels.us> on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:34PM (#5177899)
    I work at a university, which means I have a couple of things going for me.

    1. Longevity. Not many universities go out of business.

    2. Job security. You may be reassigned to departments you don't like, but it's pretty damned hard to get fired.

    3. Growth. Constant opportunity to do different things. I can get tired of IT completely, and switch to another field entirely, without losing any time on retirement.
  • by nuwayser (168008) <pete&tux,org> on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:37PM (#5177914) Homepage Journal
    Linux and OSS help me love my job. SOunds corny and it is... and it's true. That I work for a .gov helps that much more... lots of opportunities to learn and spread the good word, plus there's a lot of stability. If I wasn't having this much fun I would probably stop my IT career pretty soon.
  • by jbuilder (81344) <{evadnikufesin} {at} {gmail.com}> on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:40PM (#5177939)
    My short answer is 'no', I don't think anyone can really be in a position to retire from an IT career if they are expecting things like a pension and other retirement-age benefits.

    If you want to work in IT and you want to be able to retire you need to look into:

    - Building up retirement funds in a 401(k).
    This is tax deferred income and if your employer matches you contribute to the MAXIMUM percentage that your employer matches on. Just keep in mind NEVER EVER EVER touch that money (unless you're retiring, or need to buy a house). Basically pretend the money disappeared and you have no idea where it went.

    - MANAGE your 401(k).
    Watch those investments! Make sure that where your money is invested is continuing to grow and perform. If it isn't, the contact the company holding your 401(k) funds and move it into investments within the program that *are* performing.

    - When changing employers roll the 401(k) into the new employer's plan (if it's a good plan with varied investments).

    - Investing in land.
    This is a tax shelter while you're working (since interest in a mortgage is deductible) and land always appreciates in value over time (even in Arizona <g>). When you retire you can sell the land and if you're over 59 you can skip paying the taxes (this is a one-time benefit). And if you invest in land by buying a home and you live in the home for 2 of the last 5 years, you can keep the gains from the sale of the house *tax free* up to 250k (500k if you're married). Go put that into some IRA's and life will be gooood come retirement age.

    But if you think that pensions and social security are going to get you by in your later years, forget it. The only one taking care of you will be YOU. And the sooner you get started the better. GWB just said that most people age 50 are not anywhere *close* to being in a financial position (investments, pensions, whatever) and that's a real problem.

  • Full Circle (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rathian (187923) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:44PM (#5177967)
    I see the job market in general as coming full circle back to an environment similar to that of that of my great grandfather. In those days a person with a given skill set worked for whomever payed them the most and provided the most interesting projects. Experience is as valuable back then as it is today.

    The days of working for a company for 30 years and retiring with full pensions are gone. Companies I see rarely offer pensions and more often than not you hear tales of them raiding pension funds anyway. At least with a 401K our money is out of their hands.

    As an IT person(web primarily), I spend a lot of my personal time researching and learning new and different technologies. Partially because I have to, but mostly because I love to play with things on my LAN just to see how they work. Will I be doing the exact same thing 10 years from now as I am today? I hope not!

    The IT field moves fast, as an IT person it is important to me in a job that the employer is willing to 1. Train me in additional skills and 2. Allow me to freedom to implement them however is best. If they can't offer that, then it's time to find one who will. Or freelance with someone who will.

    Yes, times are dark now for the IT field. Things in the DotCom Craze swung so much out of control and the pendulum was bound to swing to the other extreme. God willing, things will balance out. Some great people have been hurt in the downturn in the IT field, but then again a lot have been flush out who had no business there to begin with!

  • Same as a musician (Score:4, Interesting)

    by moankey (142715) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:45PM (#5177970)
    I would say the longevity of a career in IT, considering the path its on now, is about the same as trying to be a musician. There are some one hit wonders, some with staying power, some that have made it and lost it, but most just trying to stay in but keep getting kicked back out after a few years to either regroup trying to do something else and trying again or going a different route in life completely.
    • by anubi (640541)
      Except we do NOT get royalties from the work we have done, nor do we get any consideration from those who come later and build on our work.

  • Probably not. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by satch89450 (186046) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:52PM (#5178017) Homepage

    I'm one of those people who have had several "careers" during his career, and until the current economic downturn I was able to slide where the work was. I started in embedded programming, moved to technical writing, managed a QA group, built and ran a couple of testing labs, got into the software publishing business, and right now I'm a product maintenance and tech support specialist and part-time security guard (two jobs).

    My choice? Not really. Companies kept dying on me, and I would have to move on. [This is nothing unusual when you are at the "bleeding edge" of a field -- I've heard the refrain time and time again as friends/colleagues tell about their experiences, "...and then IT died!"] In most cases, I was able to recognize the leading indicators of impending job expiration and "jump ship" before the blow landed. (In one case, Black Friday happened three weeks after I left a company; management there got sticky about recognizing my contributions...and the reason was that the parent company was dropping the axe on the subsidiary and didn't want to bother.)

    In spite of all this, I have received exactly one unemployment check, and that because I didn't act quickly enough before being pink-slipped by a company positioning itself to be purchased -- and the company suffered a near-death experience only to rise Phoenix-like in the UK a few years later -- but not with me anywhere near it.

    Unlike a number of my colleagues, I didn't job-hop per se; I tended to stay as long as the company, or project, stayed alive.

    One bad effect: the deaths of so many of the companies I worked for left me with no pension, none at all. This was before the days of IRAs and other instruments of retirement benefits that follow the employee even with the demise of the company that offered them. Because I followed the call of the job and not of money, the coffers are not exactly bulging at the moment. Indeed, when you strike the side of the money tank, the ring lasts for a long, long time...

    Today, I'm told I'm too old. Oh, no one wants an age discrimination suit, so they don't say it right out loud, but I get the message anyway. So I continue to chase the crumbs and send in resumes, waiting for the day that I have to auction everything off and try a nomadic lifestyle.

    Retirement? I don't think so.

    Can one find a lifetime career in IT? Don't bet on it.

  • by rufusdufus (450462) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:57PM (#5178046)
    After a short and successful career in computer programming I retired.

    To me it is humorous, but also sad, seeing the folks on this forum worry and bemone their futures. While at the same time railing against the Evil Corporation and spouting from the hill tops about the glory of freeware.
  • by EnlightenmentFan (617608) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:59PM (#5178056) Homepage Journal
    Unless you have tenure/a union/civil service, your job is secure exactly as long as your boss can't find somebody cheaper to do your job. If your salary is high, somebody just out of college is cheaper. If you have benefits, somebody without benefits is cheaper. If you anticipate a pension in 10 years, somebody who doesn't anticipate a pension in 10 years is cheaper. I'm not talking just about IT here.

    Think about it. The MBA programs of 1000 universities are churning out cute little guys in suits whose ticket to the good life is figuring out how to squeeze out enough "new" money to justify their own million-dollar salary. Did you think benefits and pensions would escape their notice?

    Getting up into management is one solution, but my feeling was it meant giving up the work I love (nerdy work) to do work I hate. Being so doggone good they don't want to lose you is one solution, that's the one that we all hope we can use. Some of us will succeed there and some...will not.

    Sorry, just my grumpy $.02.

  • by nikko (158280) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @07:59PM (#5178058)
    Corporations are working hard to lower their operating costs. And it's a safe bet that the corporate executives will exempt their own over-the-top salaries, which seem to be completely immune to performance considerations, from the chopping block.

    IT is an easy costs target for two reasons:

    1) corporations can't measure IT quality, so might as well get the lowest cost

    2) the lawyer types who run government-industrial complex never liked geeks in the first place. They're the guys they made fun of in high school.

    So corporate chieftans love sending IT work to the lowest cost corners of the planet. To rub some salt in the wound, they even import cheap pieces of the planet to take jobs in America (H1-B).

    So as geeks, we have to lower what we charge corporations in order to stay competitive. But that's awfully hard to do when our input costs (like healthcare and housing) are growing at double digit rates.

    So the only logical thing for us to do is export ourselves to the 3rd world in order to lower our costs and stay competitive.

    Does anyone know if India or Australia will grant work Visas to Americans?
  • Hell, yes! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vrmlguy (120854) <samwyse.gmail@com> on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @08:01PM (#5178070) Homepage Journal
    I spent 15 years at one Fortune 500 company, enough to get a genuine pension when I retire. (Sure, it's only a tenth of what I make right now, but it's better than nothing!) Then I jumped to consulting, where I've been for six years total. Along the way, I sat out a one-year non-compete as the sysadmin for a mixed Windows-Solaris shop. And on the side, I've earned an annual amount roughly equal to my eventual pension writing Palm OS software in my spare time.

    I started out in Cobol, moved to Fortran and PL/I, and then Turbo Pascal and GW Basic. When I became a consultant, I had to learn C, csh, Borne shell, C++, Java, Perl, JavaScript, SQL, PHP, and VBscript. I've done some stuff that sounds pretty interesting in retrospect, although it didn't always seem that way at the time. (Imagine programing on a PC/AT at midnight in the middle of winter in Wyoming in a building where the sole source of heat is your PC and a single 100 watt light blub overhead!)

  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @08:06PM (#5178109)
    My dad, who was in one tech job or another since high school, finally gave in his last retiremnt notice at age 81. 5 months later, he passed away.

    He had gone from radio repair, to manager at a major defense contractor (fighter jets), to nuclear power plant design. After retiring from the 'regular' job, he went into teaching programming classes at a local computer chain.

    An "IT" job does not necessarily mean coding day after day for 40 years. Explore the various segments of the field. As you age, you'll find you some things better than others.

    As long as I'm breathing, I'm going to be doing something.
  • by mcgintech (583056) <.feedback. .at. .mcgintech.com.> on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @08:09PM (#5178123) Homepage
    This is great you guys. Keep up the discouraging articles and reports all over the web and NO ONE new will try to get into IT. The remaining few of us will command the most outrageous salaries ever!!

    1) Bring in lots of suckers out for the $$

    2) Purge them with the bad economy

    3) Post stuff all over the web about how terrible the IT field is so no one new enters.

    4) Profit!!!!

  • by version5 (540999) <altovideo@ho t m a i l . com> on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @08:10PM (#5178131)
    A new SlashDot poll reveals that when MSN Careers publishes a fluffy article based solely on idle message board speculation, the end is surely near.
  • by lcsjk (143581) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @08:24PM (#5178207)
    Is the "average SlashDot reader" really in IT? Have you done a poll? I am a hardware Design Engineer (35 years of it and love it still). We hardware engineers went through the layoffs in the late '80s and saw the idea of pensions get supplanted by the 401k.
    With the average engineer position lasting 3.5 years, pensions don't exist and I do not think the IT career is any different.
    If you like what you do and make enough to eat and buy a few things as you do it, any career is successful.
    Retirement planning should be done by everyone as soon as their career starts. I was unfortunate to get caught between the pensions that disappeared if you did not stay 5 years, and the 401k/IRAs that you were not allowed to have if you were on a pension plan.
    If you can't do a 401K, do the IRA's and do it young! Then you will be able to retire if you want to stop working.

  • Lifetime? Easy. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Eric_Cartman_South_P (594330) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @08:31PM (#5178248)
    Incorperate. Get yourself an S Corp ($500 USD). Sell yourself as a consultant, and do whatever consulting you want. Enjoy tech? Consult on tech. Teach, help, code, whatever. You will need to learn how to sell, because selling yourself is what brings in the clients who want and need your service. It takes little capital, lots of balls and lots of long days and nights. But it's worth it. And as technology changes, your deliverable (products/services) can change with them.

    And the legal tax breaks will make you drooooool. :)

    Yeah, it *IS* that easy. I know. It's what I did after 4 years of Java programming for idiot managers on Wall St who didn't know Swing (the API) from Sting(the Singer). Trust me... with a Palm pilot, a cell phone, and a bit of SELLING, you can do ANYTHING. Lifetime career in IT? Easy, if you work for yourself.

    Good luck! :)

  • by gillrock (517577) <gillrock@yahoo.com> on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @08:48PM (#5178330)
    Those of us that enjoy what we do for a living can and WILL make a career out of IT.

    The people that won't be in this for the long haul are those that were told, "Hey, get into that IT thing. You can make a ton of cash and play games all day."

    Those that got into IT because it was the "place to be" will vaporize into whatever the next "place to be" is.

    To me, this means that I won't have to listen to people bitching about how they took a desktop job and don't get to work on any servers. I won't have to hear, "I worked on this, that, and the other thing" and the words 'but you don't know what cut and awk do' ring in my head.

    Sorry, I'm venting because these are the folks that are kicking and screaming to stay in IT, but they don't really belong in IT and the "next big thing" isn't here yet for them to hop to. There are many good IT folks out of work today, and these whining people need to make room.
  • Possible ? (Score:5, Funny)

    by KoolDude (614134) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @09:05PM (#5178411)

    Yes, here are a few ways you can make it happen right now.

    1. Take an electric cable and fit a plug on one end. Put the plug into an electric socket. Hold the other ends of two wires in your hands. Switch on the power supply and you can see Lifetime IT career reaching you soon at electric speed.

    2. Take your server machine to the topmost floor. Tell your assistant to put down the server in five minutes. Go down to the ground floor and stand right below the server. Within five minutes, you can achieve lifetime IT career falling into you.

    3. Disassemble all the parts of your computer. Eat the parts in the following order. Processor, RAM, Video Card, Audio Card, Motherboard. This method is so special that you can get rid of your hunger at the same time you acheive lifetime IT career. wow !

    That's all for the trial version. For full version of advice, please register at http://lifetimeITcareers.gotse.cx. Hope you enjoyed our tips. We wish you good luck !
  • by hacksoncode (239847) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @09:12PM (#5178445)
    The reason it's impossible to have a career as a programmer is that programming is a dime-a-dozen job.

    If you want to have longevity in the IT field, learn how to solve problems first, then how to do it in software.

    I don't have any worries, myself, because there will always be a place for people who can cut to the core of a problem and have insights into the key issues, in a broad range of fields.

    Actually coding up the solution, though, is a S.M.O.P [reference.com].

  • by Mr. Slippery (47854) <`ten.suomafni' `ta' `smt'> on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @10:06PM (#5178792) Homepage

    I'm 33, have an M.S. in computer science, and got my first paying job in software development in 1990. While I expect I'll always be playing around with computers, I doubt that it will be my primary employment in the long-term.

    Partly this is because of my growing frustration with the universality of poor management; partly it's because of the ceiling I see for techies who don't want to become managers; partly it's the threat of jobs moving overseas.

    I'm a second generation programmer. My father started programming in the late 60s. He had a pretty good career going (a few rough times, but all in all pretty darn good for someone without a college degree) until about a year and a half ago. When the downturn hit, he found that no one was interested in hiring a 58 year old programmer/analyst. (What percentage of coders, designers, and analysts at your shop are over 50?) He's finally just about given up on getting back into the field, and gone on to take real estase classes, just passed his licening exam.

    I've decided not to wait, but start laying the groundwork for a second career now. I've cut my day job back to 30 hours/week and will be starting classes in Shiatsu in a month. No rapidly changing skill set in massage and acupressure....

    I hope that in five or ten years, I'll have my own bodywork practice, and do some computer consulting on the side.

  • by senahj (461846) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @10:54PM (#5179008)
    I've been twenty-two years in Silicon Valley, and I'm _trying_ to keep
    going as a geek,but it gets tougher every year.

    Technology companies have this inherent need to plan projects for the
    earliest possible completion.
    It's _always_ a race to market.
    There's _always_ schedule pressure.

    When you're 22 or 25 and just out of school, single and with few
    responsibilities, "challenging" projects are fun, in that masochistic
    geek way that we'reall so familiar with. Possibilities are exciting;
    obstacles exist to be overcome. You're gaining mastery.
    You *know* that you can bring in on time if onlyyou work nights and weekends
    for nine months or so. Maybe a year ...

    So you work insanely hard for three years, maybe five, and the company "appreciates" it. And eventually that company goes under, or closes your
    division, or something, and you move on. (Those options? Never were worth
    very much, and you never sold any of them anyway.)

    Then you're 37 and have young kids and a spouse who works.
    Your manager comes to you with a right-to-left project plan that you _know_
    will require nights and weekends. Again. And you sigh, and sign up, and do
    the work -- it's familiar, you know the right way to do stuff, you know the
    problems and what the solutions cost, you know the tradeoffs.
    You do it, but it costs you -- you have to miss your kid's school talent show,
    you're not home nights, you have to work the week you had planned to take the
    family to the beach. Your spouse resents the hours, but they've promised you a
    sabbatical after only five years, and you've got lots of stock options.

    Somewhere along the line you try management, and parts of it are OK,
    and parts of it you're real good at, but it's tiresome to work at such a high
    level of abstraction, where there's no right answers, only "issues". And it's
    soul-killing to watch your boss, and his boss, try to avoid understanding
    inconvenient facts. At some point you know, you _insist_ that the plan under
    discussion is unrealistic, because it is. You're not a team player.
    Your review is painful, for the first time ever.
    Back to engineering.

    You work hard for a year, and they cancel the project.
    You work *really* hard on the next, critical, save-the-company project --
    and they cancel that one too. You go to meetings for three weeks trying to
    define another product, and then that company folds. Your options are again
    worthless. The company stock you bought through the ESPP is worthless.
    You're burnt out emotionally, and your health could be better -
    a dozen years of sitting in a cubicle typing under fluorescents
    has taken its toll.

    You resolve never again to sacrifice family life and emotional health in favor
    of working too hard. You limit your hours,never come in on weekends any more.
    You won't sign up for plans that demand sixty hour weeks -- but most of your
    co-workers are youngsters just out of school, and eat that stuff up. You look
    unmotivated and cynical by comparison -- in fact, you _are_ unmotivated and
    cynical. It's great doing stuff with your own kids for a couple years (but
    they're teenagers now, and don't have much time for you), but your reviews
    aren't much fun. They hand out options and you get damn few. You stop getting
    raises.

    Then that company folds, and you're forty-nine years old, looking for another gig
    in a downturn. The companies that need you are looking for someone to come in
    and work _really_ _hard_ to save a project that's fallen behind schedule

    but you could pull it off, with only
    nine months or so of working nights and weekends.
    Maybe a year ...

    ----

    All you young guys should read Tracy Kidder's excellent
    _The_Soul_Of_A_New_Machine_. Maybe read it twice.
  • by telstar (236404) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @11:21PM (#5179152)
    "Does the average Slashdot reader think they will retire (with a pension, benefits, etc) after a long and successful career in IT?"
    • The way things are going at my company ... only if I move to India.
  • by devleopard (317515) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @11:22PM (#5179163) Homepage
    I'm only 25, but I've maintained employment in IT since October 1998. My pipeline is filled through the summer, and I have plenty of prospects. I haven't taken the typical jobs - none of the 60 hour a week crap. I haven't been salaried, ever. I only take contract work. The jobs I do have to work the extra hours for are my private clients - no manager to screw with. I keep my eyes and my mind open - I go where the money is.

    I'm primarily a programmer, and I have picked up a number of technologies, since no platform lasts forever, or always has work available. I don't play the "platform politics" game - currently I'm doing .NET development because that's where the work is. Next week it might be PHP, or Perl, or Java. I don't care, I'll do it, regardless of what my personal feelings are. Until ESR or Jobs or Cox or Gates start paying my rent and feeding my family, I show no "professional" allegiance to any one company or principle. I consider software and technology a tool; to me, Windows, Linux, .NET, and Java are just hammers, screwdrivers, and saws. You have your preferences, but you're willing to use any one of them if there's a paycheck on the other end.

    I focus on architecture. I focus on networking - I'm on the board of a local user group (DFW ColdFusion Users Group). This keeps my name in the community. I focus on business processes that drive the software I build - so far, I've picked up in-depth knowledge of the airline, health care, and financial markets, among others.

    The bottom line - don't sit around letting yourself be influenced by the market; create your own market. Always remember that no how good you can write stored procedures or killer C API's, your just another code monkey - find a way to make yourself more than a coder, and you become a solutions provider that customers keep coming back to.

  • 3rd generation (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ediron2 (246908) on Tuesday January 28, 2003 @11:47PM (#5179294) Journal
    My grandpa was an engineer. Pretty much spent his day doing a lot of what I do, solving problems. He was freelancing/contracting when he died in his 80's.

    My uncle got into computers before I was born. Retired and freelancing.

    I've been at this since I was a teenager. Every project/process I have used has long since gone away and been replaced by something more complex. The amount of available work has grown exponentially throughout.

    What'll I be doing in 20 years? Retiring... and by that I mean shifting to part-time and being selective about the projects I do.

    Do I think the specific work type I'll be doing will change? Yeah. Appreciably? Nah. I'll be teaching things how to do stuff. It might be computers, it might be lightwave-based tools, and it might be little microbes. Assembling logic-based tools is what I like, regardless of what the tool looks like. I/T, to me, is the epitome of wise laziness... rather than doing it all myself, I spend all day inventing ways to automate tasks.

    -- advaitavedanta
  • by weave (48069) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @07:08AM (#5180603) Journal
    I've been at the same job for 21 years. It's a state job, which hasn't been the best paying, but I can retire in 4 years and pull a pension.

    What also helps is I haven't let myself get too set in my ways. We've been through a lot of changes where I work.

    First, it was Z80 assembler coding on Xerox 820 computers hooked to some ancient twisted-pair 307.2Kbps network. I wrote an OS for it. It ran until 1989.

    Then in 1988 we got a Prime minicomputer and 386-based AT&T Unix system. I had to learn configure that Unix box having never touched vi before, had to figure out Primos and their gawd-awful ed program, and then taught myself C. Made sure all above ran TCP/IP so we could one day connect to public Internet, even though everyone else wanted X.25. In 1992 we connected.

    In 1993 threw that all out and bought a Data General Aviion box running dg/ux and a nifty 20-slot RAID array system. Shortly after that I pushed a web server in my company and got them up with that. Chose to learn Perl, quickly preferred that over C.

    In 1999 threw it all out and got a new fangled Storage Area Network with a rack of cheap (relatively) servers. An entire new technology to learn.

    During above time I also became very proficient in Windows Systems administration, and currently manage a 50/50 mix of Windows under Active Directory for 13,000 user and Linux boxes.

    I'm 43, I'm going to retire in 4 years with a pension and health insurance for life. At that time, I'll do riskier self-employment scene since the pay is better (if you can get the work) but the pension check will pay the bills during dry times. I've already purchased a server at johncompanies.com and have two paying clients and am working on more with goal to build it up until I retire and move to that stuff full-time.

    Another opportunity is to teach. I taught part-time at a community college from 1984 to 1994 and enjoyed it. I also know, beings that I work for one in IT, that good teachers are hard for these places to find.

  • IBM (Score:3, Funny)

    by perky (106880) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @07:17AM (#5180625)
    IBM is a black hole for IT guys.
    • first few years you kid yourself that you're just there for the training. Then you'll be off somewhere else.
    • By then you've got company car, and rented house with great bunch of other IBMers and you're having a great time. Through devious institutions like the Hursley clubhouse you now have a bunch of IBM friends.
    • so you hang around for a few more years -you write a list of things that yould make you leave - marketeers take over and rename MQseries, CICS isn't making billions any more etc.
    • By the time MQseries is renamed to Websphere MQ Thingy (or something) you have a house with the girlfriend, and the woman has already decided on local schools. If you've become bored with the techie job then you have yourself shifted sideways into one of the less demanding roles.
    • That's it: there is no way you can leave when all your mates are IBMers, you live nearby, you haven't done any proper work for 4 years, kids at local school and (here's the kicker) there's no way you are going to work anywhere without flexitime, and an onsite pub with bar billiards.

    So to answer the question, If you work at IBM you have a career at IBM.
  • by weave (48069) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @07:53AM (#5180696) Journal
    Those in IT can at least take comfort in the fact that all over the country, the number of students going into IT related fields in higher ed is dropping dramatically. People coming out of high schools look at this current-bad market and are choosing other career paths. Where I work, a community college, enrollments in the CIS program are down 50% from last year. That should help dry up the supply side.

    And come on, I'm sure we all have known a lot of wannabe coders who got jobs making insane bucks a few years ago and we couldn't figure out how they did it. Well, they are all dropping out of the field too. Companies hired a lot of people because they were desperate a few years ago, a lot of marginal or really suckass personnel. If Bush stops scaring the shit out of consumers and businesses and things settle down and this country gets back to business, they will start hiring again and people with true skills this time will succeed because there will be less of us. Only the real talented ones will be left.

    (At least this is what I keep telling myself so I feel better...)

  • by crazyphilman (609923) on Wednesday January 29, 2003 @12:37PM (#5182103) Journal
    First of all, you ought to boycott private industry entirely. They're shipping all of our jobs overseas, outsourcing our projects, bringing in cheap foreign labor... Corporate America is out to get rid of us, and we might as well stop playing ball with them. So that's a start.

    Second, avoid accepting any debt at all. Don't build up huge student loans (trust me, I know, I'm paying one off right now), don't abuse your credit cards, don't buy expensive cars or other consumer crapola. Debt is the modern analog of indentured servitude. Why do you NEED a 100K IT job? To cover your expenses. Lower your expenses, and you don't need that job! Cut all your fixed expenses, especially debts. Live somewhere relatively inexpensive, buy a used car, get your computer equipment on ebay... Get an apartment instead of a house. Eat out less. And so on.

    Look for a job where you have reasonable hours and no noncompetes or IP agreements to sign. Make enough to cover your expenses, and program for open source projects, contributing to the community. Make it FUN again. Instead of putting in that sixty or seventy hour week in IT for a bunch of asshole suits who don't care if you live or die, move out to the country, take a forty hour week maintaining the computer system of the county courthouse, and spend your free time out at the lake with a friendly, perverse woman (or, if you're like me and lean towards celibacy, get a tan). You'll be happier. You'll live longer. You won't age as quickly, and you won't be as heavy because you'll have time to cook real food instead of the vending machine crap you live on right now.

    If you want to continue to work in IT until you retire, and then get a retirement, all you have to do is get a civil service job. The pay isn't as high, but the benefits are spectacular. The people are nicer, the hours are shorter, the job is more fun... I could go on but you get the idea.

    I make in the high forties, I work only 37 1/2 hours a week, and I have benefits you corporate guys can only dream of. Plus, MY retirement is going to be almost at full pay (I've already done the numbers).

    Think about what I'm saying. What do you really owe these corporate assholes, anyway? What have they ever done for you? Get a state or county job in civil service. Work for your neighbors instead of some asshole corporation. Help your community, not some greedy fat-cat in a Mercedes.

    Seriously.

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