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How To Succeed In IT Without Really Trying 283

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-would-you-say-ya-do-here dept.
snydeq writes "Deep End's Paul Venezia discusses the two ways to succeed in IT: through proficiency and hard work, a road that often leads to unending servitude, or the other way; with little effort or proficiency at all. 'I hate to say this, but a number of people in IT positions work harder to make it seem like they're busy as beavers than doing actual work. Quite often this dysfunction starts at the top: When an IT manager doesn't know the technology very well, he or she may hire folks who have no idea what their job is other than to show up every day and answer the occasional email, passing questions along to others with more technical abilities, or to their contacts at the various hardware and software vendors. People like these populate many consulting companies. They rely almost completely on contractors to perform the actual work, serving as remote hands in a real crisis and as part of a phone tree for less pressing issues.'"
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How To Succeed In IT Without Really Trying

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  • Not limited to IT (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Psychotria (953670) on Monday June 06, 2011 @07:02PM (#36356948)

    I suspect a lot of industries have a similar "hierarchy"

    • "Cluelessnes" is pervasive.

      Yes. That is the law of life.

      • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Monday June 06, 2011 @09:16PM (#36358186) Homepage Journal

        That is the law of life.

        The only way to succeed in the game of IT is not to play.

        IT is becoming the 21st century version of the 19th century shirtwaist factory. Your income will stagnate, your working conditions will worsen, and you won't have a single day that you will not be worried about your job disappearing. If you are the one in ten that actually climbs what used to be called the "corporate ladder" the best you can hope for is that each year your job will become less fulfilling and more disheartening because you'll constantly be having to let experienced people go because they've gotten a few raises and now make too much, and there are always less-skilled, more desperate workers available. You will become the person you hate most, a shit-eating middle-manager who never gets to do anything creative and makes life miserable for everyone beneath him because management sets unreasonable expectations.

        If on your first day you have a 401k plan to which your employer matches 10 percent, plan on having that contribution shrink to 5 percent and then zero percent. Whatever health care you start with will get worse over time with bigger deductibles and lower caps because your employer needs to show constantly-growing profits and can always just move the whole operation to South Carolina (as a temporary stopping-place before South or West Asia.

        Find something fulfilling, instead. Maybe the culinary arts or crafting trout flies to sell on the Internet or something. Look at your nearby community for small opportunities. Open a dirty-water hot dog stand. It's cash income and at least you'll be appreciated a little bit. When thinking about your career, it's best to expect the worst as far as the future. Things are going to get a lot, lot worse economically. If you are relying on a company to keep you alive, you will lose.

        Good luck.

        • by yuhong (1378501)

          Yea, I know. I think what we need to do to solve this and many other problems is to move away from maximizing "shareholder value" (stock price), which is fundamentally flawed.

          • by yuhong (1378501)

            And also from "legacy" MBAs that was taught horrible stuff from for example Jack Welch.

        • by mcmonkey (96054) on Monday June 06, 2011 @10:43PM (#36358780) Homepage

          Find something fulfilling, instead. Maybe the culinary arts or crafting trout flies to sell on the Internet or something. Look at your nearby community for small opportunities. Open a dirty-water hot dog stand. It's cash income and at least you'll be appreciated a little bit. When thinking about your career, it's best to expect the worst as far as the future. Things are going to get a lot, lot worse economically. If you are relying on a company to keep you alive, you will lose.

          Yeah, I'm going to disagree with you there. I know the old saying, do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life. But my experience is more like, if you do what you love for your 9 to 5, what do you do when you need a break?

          I got in to programing when my first choice of career was stalling. It was the peak of the dot com bubble and getting in was easy. I had a knack with computers and was suddenly getting paid for what I had been doing for free. Yes, I am good at what I do. Yes, I did go back for some formal eduction so I avoided some of the mistakes self-taught programmers tend to make. Yes, I know enough to know my limitations.

          But while I make a good living, the last thing I want to do when I get home is troubleshoot issues with a WiFi bridge or put together a web site for some hobby project of my wife's. I gained a career, but lost a hobby.

          Now I enjoy cooking. And folks say I'm pretty good at it. At least I don't get too many calls from the hospital. (But it might be hard to get an outside line from the morgue.)

          Anyway, the absolute last thing I will ever consider it making any money from cooking. There are so few things I enjoy at that level. I can't afford to loose even one.

          Think of it this way--most folks love sex. But when you see a pr0n star saying how much she loves sex, do you think, how great for her! Making a living doing what she loves. Or do you think, if it wasn't meth, I'd have to spank it to the Sears catalog?

          • if you do what you love for your 9 to 5, what do you do when you need a break?

            Who says you can only be passionate about one thing?

          • Yeah, I'm going to disagree with you there. I know the old saying, do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life. But my experience is more like, if you do what you love for your 9 to 5, what do you do when you need a break?

            I realized (much too late) that the better approach is:
            Do what you like?
            Keep what you love as a hobby?

        • by evilviper (135110)

          No, this is simply what the aftermath of a gold rush looks like... Back during the bubble, everyone that knew the difference between hardware and software could get a job without trying, and make a mint with no talent. Now, there's so many useless folks out there that a job listing is an invitation for idiots to spam you

          Companies see you as replaceable because there's so many coming along that will work for far less, never mind skill level.

          But those who are halfway decent have always done just fine (once

          • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

            No, this is simply what the aftermath of a gold rush looks like

            That is absolutely true.

            I would say this "after the gold rush" mentality extends throughout what is incorrectly called "free market capitalism".

            "After the Gold Rush" I like that. It would make a good name for an album.

            Of course, doing well may require switching jobs every couple years, until you find one offering a decent salary for your resume, and good stock options...

            Just remember, IT is very hard on older people. I remember one guy I knew

        • IT still pays considerably higher than median income. It's hard to find high 5 to low 6 figure salary positions with just a 4 year degree. Also, let's be honest, a lot of CS majors weren't exactly 'doctor/lawyer' material if you catch my drift.

          So sure it might be a soul sucking endeavor. But while the hotdog stand guy is working 70 hour weeks and stressing over which credit card company to pay down this month. The soul selling IT professional can take the bi-annual vacation to Bermuda with his pocket

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Work for a Union company :|

      Half of my group is competent and knows their sh*t. The other half sits at their desk and drools on themselves.
      The former has to work twice as hard as the latter to make up for the loss. Can't possibly fire em because they
      spout the Union Mantra "I haven't been trained" because the company views training of any sort as an expense
      instead of a investment. What is infuriating is the pay level is the same. Union = top pay once you exceed five
      years. Regardless of your level of knowl

      • Re:Not limited to IT (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Moryath (553296) on Monday June 06, 2011 @08:12PM (#36357616)

        You can easily tell which ones are the Union Members and which ones are not. You can draw the line right down
        the middle and separate those who know what they're doing and which ones do not. Competent = non-union. Easy
        as that.

        Funny, where I work it's the reverse. Competent = union. Incompetent = hired and fired every 6 months, non-union all the way. Really Fucking Incredibly Incompetent = Indian outsource or H1-B Indian On Visa.

        • I've had the same experience as GP, excepting the H1-B bit.

          Unions attract/produce mediocrity with astounding success levels.

          Private companies that actually care about their talent however are the ones that produce the stars.

      • by AvitarX (172628)

        I think a good examlple of the reverse is fedex.

        Their express service is fantastic, courteous, and union.

        Their ground service constantly fucks up, acts like assholes, and in non-union.

        The grround service is specifically kept as a separate company to avoid the union, and it is terrible.

        • Re:Not limited to IT (Score:5, Informative)

          by krakass (935403) on Monday June 06, 2011 @09:38PM (#36358342)

          You have that backwards. Express isn't union. Ground is. Mainly because of the Federal Railway Labor Act.

          • by AvitarX (172628)

            Interesting, everyone always told me that's why ground was run as a different company (that when purchased fedex wanted to prevent them from having a union).

            UPS is still better than fedex, and is union, but really just goes to show management makes a difference in the end I suppose.

            FedEx in my experience plays games holding packages to get things to you at the amount of time you asked, and will ship 3-day to 150 miles away.

            UPS will not let you pick a slower service than what ground takes (next day within ab

        • by lwsimon (724555)

          Both FedEx Ground and FedEx Express are non-union. The pilots are the only ones unionized across the whole company, to my knowledge.

      • It depends on the control of the Union.
        Unions like every thing in life needs checks and balances.
        Large powerful Union vs. A mid sized organization will kill the organization by essentially making human resources department completely useless and ineffective. And will be as you say so many people making excuses not to work, except for coming for reasons to get new and exciting new jobs. Making slowly bleeding the company to its death, or needing life support (AKA Tax Payer funding)

        A Week or non-existent unt

      • i really wont go into the full list, but how about the racist, screaming boss who fired the competent, friendly, but mentally challenged worker who had been there for 5 years, because she didnt like 'retards'?

        would that happen at a union shop?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by burnin1965 (535071)

        What a crock of shit. Occam's razor suggests your just a brain dead ideological twit.

        Labor unions in the United States have been decimated over the past 30 to 40 years and on top of record low participation in unions the unionization of the information technology field is virtually non-existent. [bls.gov]*

        With almost non-existent union participation in the IT field the problems with incompetence obviously has no relation to unionization. On top of the reality that I suspect points out a completely fictitious anecdote

      • by snsh (968808)

        I totally agree. Traditional unions (which reward seniority) are poison for technology organizations by exacerbating the dead sea effect. What's worse is not just that the senior employees can't be fired, but that union rules demand that older employees will always be better compensated (in salary, vacation time, pension, job protection, union backing) than new employees.

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Monday June 06, 2011 @07:52PM (#36357408) Homepage

      The general rule, as I understand it, is that nothing generally hurts your career like being productive.

      Consider this hypothetical - let's say you're a really good front-line admin. You're also pretty good at managing people, so you're promoted to manage your team of admins. You put together a good and productive team, but occasionally get back in the saddle to help 'em out and show 'em how it's done (and show 'em that the boss might actually know what he's doing).

      And now you have just gotten your last promotion, because the company will think that they can't afford to lose your great technical skills to upper management. It doesn't matter that your senior admin who you've groomed to replace you could do the job, they're used to "there's a problem, that guy can fix it", and they don't want to put you in a position where you can't go fix it.

      The Dilbert Principle has its roots in reality.

      • Re:Not limited to IT (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Cryacin (657549) on Monday June 06, 2011 @08:44PM (#36357918)
        Well, the funny thing is that those sorts of guys fall into the "Secret Weapon" category. Make yourself absolutely indespensible. Get on the green beret projects, and then get another offer for more money, and watch the counter offers roll in. They don't pay enough? Leave. I've seen plenty of Spandex Wearing, walk on water without getting their damn socks wet, gurus get paid more on contract than the managers that employ them. Plus they get to have much more fun.
        • Re:Not limited to IT (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Machtyn (759119) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @12:10AM (#36359268) Homepage Journal
          I have to agree with this sentiment. If you become indispensable to your company, then you have bargaining power with said company. If they refuse to match and increase the pay over other offers, then walk - it turns out they don't value you as much as you thought.

          Sadly, many companies, even small ones, are willing to lose knowledge and talent rather than give a raise. Sure, I left my team at my previous company in a bit of a lurch and a major knowledge drain, but by this point, I hope they have overcome my lose - I left them with as much documentation as I could. I can't help it if upper-management refused to even make a counter-offer.

          Of course, now at a large company, another cog in the wheel, bored out of my mind most of the time... but I am getting paid MUCH better. My next position will definitely be a small company where I can contribute a lot.
          • by Arterion (941661)

            Are you saying that having more money to spend doing more things you enjoy with your free time is not a good trade-off for less fulfilling work? I am genuinely asking, it's a question I've rolled around a lot in my own head, and I like to hear others' opinions about it.

        • by corbettw (214229)

          Plus they get to have much more fun.

          Translated to: they have to work more. Screw that, I'd rather put on a manager hat and have time to go play golf in the middle of the day, trusting that my underlings will take care of any problems that arise.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by yacc143 (975862)

        Worse, never show what you can do if working at 110% in an emergency.

        These 110% will become your expected performance every day, every hour. If you try to keep that "emergency"-level performance, you burn out rather quickly. If you try to go back to more reasonable levels of performance, you are lazy, and might end without a job.

    • by ls671 (1122017) on Monday June 06, 2011 @08:07PM (#36357576) Homepage

      > I suspect a lot of industries have a similar "hierarchy"

      Maybe not, but IT is the perfect niche for that. Bullshitting will work better in IT and less well in buildings or car manufacturing where mere mortals can spot when the end product is falling apart. In IT, you can sell the equivalent of a building falling apart as a fine technology product if you use enough bullshit and buzzwords.

      • Mod parent up. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday June 06, 2011 @08:39PM (#36357884)

        From TFA:

        When peers or customers see how quickly someone troubleshoots an infrastructure breakdown or architects a technical solution, they wonder just how hard it could really be. Also, why does this person get paid so much?

        If you perform enough miracles when other people NEED them ... pretty soon they think THEY are the ones performing the miracles.

        And in IT ... without the risk of death or dismemberment should your design/work crash ... that's just the way things are.

        People EXPECT computer systems to crash. Which is the perfect environment for people who know nothing to succeed.

        • by Kjella (173770)

          If this happens to you, you're not doing nearly a good enough job of promoting yourself. Unless you're such a tiny shop it all falls to you, let others deal with it from time to time. Let's face it, it's hard to tell from the outside - particularly for a not-so-technical manager - to say how hard the work is. But if every time they hand it to you it's done in a day and correct while every time they hand it to someone else it's done in a week and not really right, even the thickest brain realizes who the go-

          • by bjourne (1034822)

            That realization does not necessarily occur if the manager in question has little or no clue. If the task given to the less competent programmer takes much longer, the manager may aswell assume that the task is much harder as long as he or she cannot estimate the difficulty at all. The manager will perhaps also after seeing a task being done exceptionally fast "realize" that the task was much simpler than intially thought. If a person has already decided that X number of persons are equally skilled, that b

    • by Idbar (1034346)
      And here I was thinking that was the way government actually worked. But I guess you can always point and blame it on the IT guys. I suppose that makes it more relevant.

      On the other hand, a professor one day told me: "You don't need to know everything, you just need to know where to find the information, even if it's just someone else to ask.", which in summary means that you're not necessarily smarter because you know all the answers (and you're a pretentious ah), but you know the right people that can s
    • It is not as much as the Bad IT Guy gets promoted but the person with the better people skills does.

      There are a lot of actually good successful IT people out there. They know their stuff and keep things going, But they also can put on a Tie, talk to others and explain their ideas better, and they go out of their way to show their success.

      A good IT Person who is in the trenches while good at their job, but doesn't talk to management and sees them as the Evil overlord keeping them down, is well going to be

      • Is this a fair summary?

        Successful people in corporate IT are like successful people in other corporate pools; those who blend best with the other employees succeed. Corporate, like everything else in civilization, is a social game.

    • by ArhcAngel (247594)
      I believe Kyak's latest ad campaign [youtube.com] sums it up quite nicely.

      Executive: Because I'm a moron.
      Assistant: What?
      Executive: Mr. Carol! Are you a bright man?
      Mr Carol: No I'm not!
      Executive: Try and keep up.
    • What I find surprising is that people in IT and technology are so obsessed with being productive... and that includes me.

      In no other industry will you find a group of people looking to be productive and kill their own likelihood and jobs.

      The professions (law and medicine) protect themselves and make sure their education is valued by stopping others from entering their field or doing their tasks. They typically use quality as a justification for their legal restrictions.

      In the rest of the employment world,

    • by drolli (522659)

      i can verify that for research.

      This somehow became clear to me when i asked during my phd if some technician could help me with certain things, my professor said: "o, i think you dont need help, it seems you are the only phd student here who can do everything on his own, i need the technician to help the others".

  • by Hazel Bergeron (2015538) on Monday June 06, 2011 @07:03PM (#36356958) Journal

    "Contractor" and "consultant" are euphemisms for don't care and kickback. You want a good job, you hire an employee. You want an excellent job, you take on a (prospective) partner.

    • by enderjsv (1128541)

      That's not fair. There are contractors who care. I've seen one. In fact, let me check something... um... yup, I dvr'd that episode of Ripley's Believe it or not. I'll see if I can find a clip of it on you tube and post it for ya.

      • Hey, when I first started working as a contractor, I cared. I tried to take on extra tasks because my basic position only took me 20 hours a week max. The client didn't care. As long as my one task was being done, that's all they wanted. I was literally told to read slashdot by my immediate supervisor. I was also advised not to draw attention to the fact that I had extra time as it might make me look expendable to the higher ups. I did get invited to the division xmas party, but I was told I had to pa

    • by hamster_nz (656572) on Monday June 06, 2011 @07:17PM (#36357086)

      As a consultant doing contract work, I must disagree with you. I don't receive kickbacks, and I care. I treat all customers as though their systems are my own... After all, if they have a big technical issue, it's me who has to work though the night fixing it!

      Consultants and contractors have their place. Small IT shops don't often get the chance to build up the depth of skill and experience required for things like infrastructure upgrades (e.g. SAN Storage upgrades, VMware migrations, Database upgrades...).

      Maybe you just a very poor judge of which people bring in to help you with things outside of your core business / skill set?

      • by weicco (645927)

        I've been a consultant too. The job didn't much differ from my current job which is writing code for customer projects at our own office. I did (and do) my job and was rather proud of it.

        But what was bugging in consulting bisnes was that many times the customer wasn't up for the task. They thought that I come in and magically fix everything without even a single sheet of specifications about the system. It just doesn't work that way. I had to spend days without doing nothing when I was waiting for Someone i

    • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Monday June 06, 2011 @07:22PM (#36357130) Journal
      Not always true - I once worked for a very large company as a Contractor. This company was populated with PHB types and was very fond of meetings to track the progress, of... the latest reorg or something. Dunno.

      Anyhow, while filling out timesheets and painfully aware of my per-hour rate doing "admin" work for a not-quite-deployed system, I felt like I should be doing something. With my "developer" background, I wrote all kinds of tools to make my "operations" work easier... pretty my automating my way out of a job, which was my goal, since I was on a 6 month contract. I also did the onerous task of reviewing vendor support agreements and such, and pretty much saved the company my salary in un-needed maintenance contracts.

      Long story, short, they offered me a full time senior position at the end of my contract. Alas, the company was still a PITA to work (more about process, sensitivity classes, and other bs, than working.) The employees were all pretty much clock-punchers with no initiative, which is a toxic place to stay if you have any personal ambition. The point is, in this case, the employees were worse than the "contractors".

      But I have to agree on "consultants" ;-)
      • what country would you suggest moving to?

      • Interesting. I've seen both sides, and all kinds. One favorite example was a consultant to a defense company, who was chartered to herd the project that we were a contractor on. This guy was the best meeting manager I've ever experienced. Before the meeting, he made sure that everyone's concerns were reflected on a published agenda. During the meeting he made sure that we progressed through each agenda item, stayed on topic, progressed to a conclusion and action (even if it was for X person to go find

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In my experience at Microsoft, contractor is code word for "expected to work more than the blue badges, but still gets treated like dog shit for having an orange badge; finally gets asked to interview for a blue badge, but remembers being treated like dog shit and still feels suicidal as a result; decides to stay as contractor to avoid having to BS through the dreaded manhole / gas station interview; then a month later gets let go with all the other orange badges when the entire product group gets axed beca

    • This is not true. The sad reality is that any market obeys the Bell Curve: good contractors/consultants are harder to find than mediocre ones.

      And then, if your fucking boss thinks that 80 bucks an hour is too much for some very high-end tech work, then your really can't even reach the good ones.

    • How is this marked insightful? You want a good job, you find a good worker and pay them well. You want an excellent job, you find a great worker and pay then exceptionally well. It sounds insightful, doesn't it? But is it actually based on anything tangible/testable?

      The only difference between a contractor and an employee is compensation. Contractors typically make more, employees typically have more benefits (though these rarely add up to the same net value as the difference in compensation). A co
    • by RobDude (1123541) on Monday June 06, 2011 @08:37PM (#36357870) Homepage

      I couldn't disagree more; having been both a consultant and an employee.

      Maybe my experiences have been unique; but I've been an employee at a large insurance company (Allstate) and a smaller custom software shop (that I currently work out, so name removed). In both cases, there was little motivation to do much more than the bare minimum. I mean, sure, I showed up and did some stuff; but I found very quickly that expectations where low. I didn't have to work very hard to meet them. If the company had a good year and you were doing good - 3-5% raise. If the company had a bad year then 'salary freeze'.

      Many people find they get significant raises by switching companies, and this is why. Once you are employed the company figures, 'Well, he worked for X last year, now we give him more than X - why would he quit?'.

      I show up late, leave early and surf the web. I've also been pidgin-holed into maintaining and updating a very defined section of the application. Everyone knows, if you have a problem with Y, you talk to me. That's all I do. I do Y. Five years at the same company and after four months of doing good they gave me project Y. I'm still doing project Y. I'll be doing project Y for as long as I work at the company.

      When I was a consultant, it was a world of difference. A consulting firm sells consultants. They want to have REALLY GOOD consultants because selling a good product is a great way to stay in business. My current job, we sell a piece of software. They company wants that software to be really good. It's a subtle difference, but it makes a huge difference. The consulting firm I worked for would intentionally rotate us in and out of projects. If you were a Java guy, they wanted you on a .Net project. If you did desktop apps before, they wanted you to do a website. They wanted you to be highly skilled and diverse because that meant they could throw you on any project that came along. They also knew that, after about a year, as a developer on the same project, the learning curve drops to about zero. You don't learn new stuff doing the same old crap. If you were leading a team, it was different, but as far as being a developer, they wanted you to be really good at it.

      And, unlike selling software, where your contributions were pretty abstract and subjective; when I was a consultant my time had a very clear value attached to it. The client was being billed for it. If I worked overtime, two things happened. First, I got paid (and my company did too). Second, the client had to pay more. There was an actual expectation of measurable work being done.

      Being a consultant was great. I did, at least 2-3 times more work than I do now. I also learned a lot more from people who were really talented and knowledgeable. It was also really hard. I didn't get to spend an hour every day surfing the web and ducking out at 4pm to get an early start on my WoW raids.

    • by billcopc (196330)

      I'm wear both the consultant and contractor hats, and while I'll agree with you that there are many fraudsters abusing those titles, I've been doing my best work since being cut loose from the stability of 9-to-5. Yes, my best work. The fact that my personal standard is the only standard means I just do my thing and GTFO when the job is done. No spacing out and lazing around all day on the company's dime. When my past employers call me back for contract or consulting work, they're getting the best of me

  • by Airdorn (1094879)
    I'm an IT guy -- or at least they tell me I am -- and I have no proficiency to speak of; no certifications at all. Everything I ever need to know I find via Google, review of years of misc. whining on message boards, and trial-and-error. It's amazing what I've done with no actual knowledge of my own.
    • by IICV (652597)

      The problem happens when you hit things that just aren't on Google; I took a networking lab class at one point, and when I encountered problems with configuring the Cisco routers and tried my usual routine of Googling around the problem until I found a solution, only to find that, for whatever reason, people who have trouble with Cisco equipment don't seem to bitch about it on the Internet (presumably they just call Cisco support? I have no idea).

      This also tends to happen with relatively new problems, like

      • This has totally happened to me.

        Totally boned the cisco firewall, email was totally BROKEN, and I was winging it..

        I was so green that i didn't even realize we paid for cisco support contracts.... spent hours searching through google and manuals

        what you said is exactly right, people don't bitch on forums about problems with enterprise cisco equipment, they call support

    • by toadlife (301863)

      Don't sell yourself short. Many decent IT guys "wing it" for a living. I've been doing it for 12 years now.

      • True this ;)

        I've worked many-a-jobs where the first day was "Okay oh shit.... I don't have a clue what i'm doing... let's fire up google"

        Hell, one time I was hired to admin / datamine some small-time company's SQL database..

        had no clue what SQL even was when I was hired, but sure as hell did after 6 months of being knee-deep inside the database

  • Easy! (Score:5, Funny)

    by itchythebear (2198688) on Monday June 06, 2011 @07:06PM (#36356988)

    Work for Sony!

    Well, up until about a month or so ago.

  • by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Monday June 06, 2011 @07:10PM (#36357028) Journal

    Hey, if you're not a genius, figure out something to do with yourself.

    A combo I have seen work a lot and I somehow grew into is someone with a Line Job and a Minor in IT. Sure, you leave the weird network stuff to the hotshot, but you can sorta keep the office running answering helpdesk stuff. Then you go back to your regular job.

    Accountants end up with this pair a lot because accounting software is some of the trickiest in the business. (You mean Job Cost didn't post because we're more than two accounting months out? Oh. Right. Let's go visit the CFO and hope he doesn't bite my head off!)

    Though I am more of a management techinal admin, but the mix is the same. In a small company, being a HelpDesk guy keeps the load off the hotshot IT guy.

    • by bane2571 (1024309)
      I would have given you mod points if I had them, instead I'll say I'm in almost exactly that role right now. I'm doing Accounts Receivable and IT support for our accounting package.

      The skill threshold is lower and I still get to be the computer "expert". Suprising how well it works.
  • "When an IT manager doesn't know the technology very well, he or she may hire folks who have no idea what their job is other than to show up every day and answer the occasional email, passing questions along to others with more technical abilities, or to their contacts at the various hardware and software vendors."

    [question I get daily]
    "Hey, how do I...?"
    'Lady, you have the worlds greatest information resource literally at your fingertips. I guess I should feel honored that you would ask me instead, bu
    • by IrquiM (471313)
      I'm more surprised you are, with that kind of language to your co-workers and all...
  • Happens in every industry.
  • It's already known as the Peter principle [wikipedia.org].

    Nothing new here, move along.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 06, 2011 @07:18PM (#36357094)

    Once upon a time I had a real job, full-time, salaried job with real, full-time (and overtime) responsibility. After years of hard work, long hours, and being the final go-to guy for everything, my bosses began to make it clear to me that I was their personal slave. (Really, they had always been doing that, I just started to get become cognizant of it near the end of my tenure.) So I gave notice and left.

    Sice then I have been doing contract work in major corporations, going on four years now. Once place I worked was in the business of moving packages from one place to another. Another place I worked was a city government. Another was a major hotel chain. And others.

    I have been paid more in the contract jobs, have only once been on-call, have never had any meaningful responsibility, and most importantly, have never really had a clearly-defined task. For the most part I've shown up, kept my mouth shut, got paid, and left. The bonus is that has an hourly employee, I got overtime (and it oftentimes it wasn't hard to come up with excuses for overtime).

    The full time employees at the places I've worked have had little to zero honest-to-god hard skills. I have worked with people who have had "programmer" in their title who could not touch type. I have worked with "network engineers" who declared they "only knew Cisco" (apparently all the other vendors switch frames and route packets in some bizarre and incomprehensible way, hmm). I have been discouraged, and occasionally punished, for trying to go beyond the call of duty.

    Sometimes I am appreciated for my abilities, but more often than not some no-nothing middle manager is in the way preventing me from being any good at anything so that I don't accidentally expose how little he really does in an average day.

    But I don't care. I get paid good money, with overtime, to do nothing, and I get months of time off per year.

    Once upon a time I thought I was just doing contracting until a full time offer came. Now I'm more than happy to be a contractor, and I turned down a full time position last week. I've never felt so free.

    Hard work does not pay.

    • If you don't mind me asking, how do you get months of time off per year? I've been working a position where I actually have to produce something and get about four weeks off (which supposedly is more than most get), but I would like to know how a person would go about getting more.

  • 'I hate to say this, but a number of people in IT positions work harder to make it seem like they're busy as beavers than doing actual work.

    In my case, all serious IT management stuff was outsourced to one of the big IT service companies. My work was to act as a liaison between this IT company and my company....mainly because I understood the 'business logic' of what we were doing.

    My boss was afraid of computers. In the late 90s when Linux was becoming a threat to UNIX and Microsoft, he just could not believe one could run Linux legitimately without a license.

    The most routine tasks I did involved activating and deactivating user accounts...whic

  • You need to be "driven" to make as little work for yourself as possible. Which means figuring out how to do it a limited number of times before automating the process. If it can be automated, time you spend doing a particular task is dead, wasted time that could be spent being more productive doing something else.
  • You've just described the past 10 years of my life. I have been a contractor working non stop for folks who have very good communication skills and can talk the talk but not walk the walk. My phone hasn't stopped ringing. Once you get a reputation for doing good quality work and being technically proficient you become the goto guy. I'm super lazy and do what it takes to make my life easier. Those people with less technical skills than I make my life easy by handling all the other details I don't want to
  • People who have no idea what their job is other than to show up every day and answer the occasional email, passing questions along to others with more technical abilities, or to their contacts at the various hardware and software vendors. People like these populate many consulting companies. They rely almost completely on contractors to perform the actual work, serving as remote hands in a real crisis and as part of a phone tree for less pressing issues.'"

    That is not a problem, it is a crucial function. Speaking from experience as a consultant who billed at lawyer-level hourly rates (I'm retired now at a young age, fired my last client a couple of years ago), except for the "have no idea what their job is" part, that is exactly what I did. And it was an immense value add for my clients.

    It is precisely my contacts at various vendors and my personal domain knowledge that enables me to translate from client-speak to engineer speak and act as a very intelligent

  • TFA doesn't have any definition of "success". Every shop I've worked in has various examples of staff with "what you know" and "who you know". But in the end it tends to work itself out in the "right" way.

    "It's very hard for those outside the technology inner circle to determine who has mad skills and who's slacking, until it becomes obvious that certain IT ninjas are the ones who step in to solve the problems again and again."

    Those ninjas are usually the ones that find themselves on the short list
    • The ninja analogy is probably more apt than the author intended. The ninja is a warrior who relies on stealth, and often the ones that do the real work in IT don't have time to be "visible" to the boss. So after the "ninja" sneaks into the rival daimyos house at night and kills all his samurai, you can bet there will be someone who hears about this and goes to the master and claims credit for it before the ninja can. And of course when the ninja fails, the same guy will be the screaming and demanding tha

  • because I do the IT work for several small companies and a couple of municipalities. I'm not sure where the notion that consultants are incompetent comes from; if we all were lncompetent we wouldn't keep our clients. The only time I see a functioning network is usually when I've just fixed it. Often I get a call from a new client and have to fix their network when I've *never* seen it work. Many times these networks were set up by someone's cousin or nephew who *really knows computers good". As far as qual

  • (paraphrased) "There are two kinds of people in this world, those that do the work and those that take the credit. Try to be in the first group, there is less competition"
  • This one woman who got the job I had applied for... she was utterly clueless. Instead I found a job as netadmin for an ISP. She was calling the level 1 techs constantly for help with problems... but they are clueless as her and eventually they'd shift her onto me. Our responsibility goes up to the modem and her problems were always 100% beyond the modem. So I just stood my ground... and she would rage. "Im regretting going with your ISP." id be like "well unfortunately im not allowed to help with customer's

    • I spent my time doing tech support for an ISP too. Not just helldesk, senior level. In our case, if you had a LAN, you had to be willing to hook one machine up to the modem without the router and see if it could connect; if it did, it's the router and unless we supplied it we weren't responsible. Not everybody liked it, but we were up front about it and didn't make exceptions for anybody.
  • then I remind myself plumbers have to work with shit. Not figurative shit but literal excrement when they snake the main drain. Man I was happy to pay the plumber to do that about a year ago since I wouldn't have wanted to do that.
  • by MrKaos (858439) on Tuesday June 07, 2011 @04:24AM (#36360248) Journal

    The reason why tech salaries and job satisfaction are on the decline is because, on average, most IT professionals are good at tech, but not negotiation. If they were tech pays and conditions, on average, would be a lot better. You, dear reader, need to be a better negotiator so that every tech gets a better deal and employers are afraid that the next guy will drive a much harder bargain. I don't mean showing the finger type of negotiation, I mean your fist right up their ass feeling their internal organs type of negotiation. My mentor described this as "negotiating from a position of strength".

    If you are squeamish about that description, then you don't belong in IT, or you need to consider an IT union. I've never been a member of a union because I'm an ok negotiator, but I sure wish they were more common. Most IT practitioners shun the idea of a union because they think they are going to be the next Gates or Zuckerberg. So instead of supporting the idea of someone who could negotiate on their behalf and focusing on what is needed to get comfortable they refuse to, because they think one day it's gonna be me, I'll have the power, I'll be "the Fister", but they never will be because they're a pussy. IT is a ruthless business and because IT practitioners have spent so much time fisting each other over, management figure thats the way to treat IT professionals. To loan from southpark, I am a dick, you need to be to deal with these assholes so stop being a pussy. Your boss is your enemy, if you don't leave first you boss *WILL* fire you. It's inevitable.

    You know that indispensable guy you've been working with who is so cool that has worked there forever, don't trust him. He is so spineless that he hasn't been able to negotiate a better deal for himself the entire ten years he has been there, despite being the fister. Despite being able to turn off the money tap his misguided loyalty is going to make him knife you in the back after he fists you. You may never know it was him, it might be obvious. He will smile, shake your hand and say it's a real pity. His remorse will last as long as it takes for you to walk out the door, probably less. He is a pussy, he will earn peoples hate. I've been him, he's been you.

    That's the reality of IT today kids. No more parties on triple hulled catamarans cause the company did a good year, just "you get to keep your job,,, for now". Thats why I keep enough pay in the bank to last 6 months to a year so I can tolerate being fired by an asshole. I don't like something, anything, I look for a new job say "You guys are great, I wish I can stay" then leave withdrawing my fist and a gaping hole where it was. They'll be back in 6 months asking what my consultancy rates are.

    Whilst I am polite co-operative, amenable and agreeable I realise these things hold true, there is no loyalty, show me the fucking money and it's all about me. I know you're young, earning 100K a year, well guess what it's the most you'll ever earn. You are a devalued commodity from day one in this ageist industry. Am I bitter, fuck yeah, I love IT. I've seen what it was over 25 years and I see what it is now. So many good people chewed up and spat out. My bitterness and cynicism is what helps me to survive all the assholes I've met.

    Outraged, or don't like my attitude, fuck you, I get interesting projects and plenty of variety, which also means I get lots of invaluable experience so pay is comfortable. IT is a ruthless cesspit of spineless two faced liars that will screw you over because that is easier than standing up for themselves. They have no balls. If you can't be a better negotiator then you had better find a union paid not to have those scruples or get out of IT, pussy, they're your choices.

    If you can't accept that analysis it's more than likely you are the one being fisted.

    • by greg1104 (461138)

      The only thing you didn't get quite right here is painting this picture as if it's specific to IT. You'll find the same cast of characters in every type of work: the lifer who will stab you to keep his deal going, the older guys getting kicked out the minute it's possible to replace them with a younger model, and the loss of any loyalty. This is business in the US in 2011, and the only unusual bit is that IT is new enough still that some workers can remember a time when it was different. I've spent a lo

It is the quality rather than the quantity that matters. - Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 B.C. - A.D. 65)

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