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Embracing new Job and Life Strategies

Jim Doyle
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 18, 2003
Posts: 36

There's ALOT of people acheing over being unable to find work. Many of
them are my friends and former professional colleagues. The most valuable
lesson learned from the whole tech bubble is developing a realistic,
grounded sense of self and where you fit into the world around you. I feel
confident and comfortable about feeding myself and being happy, only because
I adjusted my intellectual expectations and financial expectations downward
to me more realistic, more fulfilling and more balanced.
I was an "IT Cowboy" if there ever was one. I dropped ouf of college in 1992
and worked in academic research. First doing kernel internals in Mach and
IRIX. From there, I got really interested in distributed computing and made
a jump into industry where I got deeply involved with OSF/DCE. I eventually
ported the DCE to Linux as a personal challenge. Some people used it, the
technology was largely ignored. Purely from that initiative, I was offered
a job in industry for a company that nearly exclusively hired MS/PhD level
grads in their engineering organization. During the web years, I was designing and coding with CORBA in C++ and Java. I got burned out from
getting obsessed about too many deeply abstract problems that werent
connected with "reality" - that was the essence of the Internet bubble.
I never felt "left behind" when this all came down because in many ways I
exited IT on my own terms for reasons other than being layedoff. I never
chased success. I did chase interesting problems and other people who met
me liked me enough to invite me to work with them. Thats how I remained an
IT Cowboy. You can find remnants of me out there still, in the DCE, Kerberos, AFS, Linux and FreeBSD archives. My "Frontier Days" were spectacular years personally, I will never regret being able to work and play out there. I dont regret whats happened today. Largely today's
work environment is devoid of the personalities and collegiality that
existed back then. For that reason, being "out of the game" is not
viewed as a hardship but more of a blessing.

In 2001, I drastically downsized my life deciding to hold onto my savings
and choose sustaining my life rather than worrying about my "success".
Went back to school, in a year finished my long lost Chemistry degree and
picked up a minor in Physics to boot. Did some hiking. Did alot of thinking.
What I realized WAS just because I was trained, self-educated and self-motivated to solve really complex problems doesnt mean I am obligated
to work at that level of abstraction. Nor does it mean that all the problems
that we envision that can be solved NEED be solved. That is the essence of
downsizing your expectations.
Right now, I'm studying for the SCJP. It's a great review actually of
stuff I havent touched in two years. After that, I'll do the SCJD. Why?
To authenticate that I indeed can do that kind of work. After all, alot
of people dont believe what you put on a resume these days. I'm not sure
if I'll be writing any more code in Java, or if I do, that I would necessarily need to apply the level of rigour asked in the exam preparations. But for me, they are authentication of a skillset ontop of
documented experience and what I believe is a great degree. Work wise,
I've accepted a position for $34K/yr doing more sysadmin stuff than
anything else. Why? Because it will let me have a life after work and
pursue other interests where there exist people with some burning passion
and desire. It's that energy that I seek out, not the wave catching and
the thrill of a crazy paycheck.
So the lesson for all of those belly-acheing about your job worries...
DOWNSIZE your expectations. Just because you can do RUP and code exquisitely
deadlock-free concurrent classes and make them interface with legacy systems
using XML/RPC doesnt mean the world needs you to solve those kinds of problems... Go back to school... Get an education in some real world
problem spaces, combine that with your software development background.
Above all, be humble, and be willing to settle for less grandiosity and
less pay and you might begin to feel very connected again when you realize
that you can solve some more important problems for other people.
You fill find there is a fantastically interesting world out there once
you decouple from the introverted intellectual haven of OO design patterns
and modelling strategies. Learn about business, computational finance,
chemistry, physics, molecular biology. See if you can fit into their world
and play with them.
Times change. You must change too. Part of that change includes discovering what you really love to do that CAN be done with other people rather than
fighting yesterdays standards of success and achievement, or chasing the
almighty dollar.
Rock On... Or maybe "Shine on you crazy diamond."
-- Jim Doyle
Carlisia Campos
sanitation engineer
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 22, 2001
Posts: 135
Your serenity comes through in your writing, and it's refreshing to see this level of contentment around here. I think contentment is a good word: it doesn't express so much attachment as does happiness.
My best friend always says to me when I worry too much about something that I have no control over and should not be worrying about to begin with: "What would the importance of this be in 30 years?". Every time, the answer is "non". Posing this question is a good tool that I use to take measurements of my reality.
But I would also like to say that for many people, to solve huge abstract problems while sitting in front of a computer is what they have found to be what they like to do. Just because the tech boom threw much money around it doesn't mean that every techie is in only for the green.
By the nature of s/w development, I'd venture to say that techies are people inclined to learn, and are willing to work hard to learn new things so they can qualify for jobs that require constant upgrading of knowledge. To me this is actually a fun part of the job. However, not everyone can afford to go back to school for another degree. Did you know that in some states the state universities this year are raising tuition by 40-45%? Degrees and certifications cost money. And unfortunately, w/o a proof of specialization you don't even get to drive trucks in this country.
Can we afford to pay for an extra degree, or an extra certification? I'd guess we can. But then, how many new career fields are you willing to pursue throughout your life time? Are we ever get to be excellent in what we do, or just perpetual beginners?
On the other hand, there is an enormous potential for personal growth right now that many people are indeed letting pass by. I even suspect that some people who are unemployed even have ambitions to pursue something else, but are afraid of not succeeding and thus don't even try. Ultimately, we struggle with being happy and fitting in, and sometimes having a job in our field is a huge validation that we have made correct decisions in the past. When we start worrying less about fitting in and more about being happy, I think a great courage emerges that might lead us into beautiful and unexpected moments in life, all of which will cummulatively contribute to a happy, and productive, existence.
In the end, anything we do will have a cost. And if we must pay, I'd say let's find what we really can't live without and happily pursue that, even knowing that it might not last forever. (Nothing lasts forever). The sheer positivism of our outlook might take us on the right path. This might not be true, but it I think it is true that if we worry and think negatively we might repel good things and good people. Anyway, I think a burning desire is the one ingredient present in all great people, so we must uncover and nourish ours, at any cost.


Carlisia Campos<br />--------------------------------<br />i blog here: carlisia.com
Matt Cao
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 03, 2003
Posts: 715
Hello,
Everyone has to develop their own technique and manuevour suitable for his/her own situation.
I graduated in Electronics Engineering when the hardware industry offshoring to overseas and I did not know about internet back then. Instead of bitching/whinning, I was willing to work with any size/industry organization as long as the job required somekind of thinking and calculations. I did everything important thing was allowing people see my aptitude and attitude shining through. I did not paid for anykind of retraining or additional credentials. The employers paid for them all.
Finally, I made it as Electronics Engineer, but did not like it that much comparing to college days. I transferred to software side, then IT. But then company recognize my versatile background, I allowed running the organization operations. The dotcom era busted, accounting scandals rocked, elongated recesssion, companies hurried to offshore works tried desperately to getout of red ink. Watching my techs, colleagues, and upper ranking got canned. Company president allowed me to have in-house consultant status instead of facing the same fate as many. Is that meant I safe? Not for a long shot, I still work my way to become COO's consultant or advisor. Maybe retire before it.
The moral story is swim with the current is much easier than against current.
Good Lucks to All,
MCao
Tim Holloway
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Jun 25, 2001
Posts: 15957
    
  19

I got into the field long before the Internet, and I got in because it was fun. I was delighted to discover that it also paid well. I didn't get into it for the money - I grew up in what's politely referred to as "modest circumstances" and had no clue about money management in the real world until I was already settled in. Not because I'd ever lacked for money and didn't know its value, but because I'd never had any money of my own, so I didn't know its value. Back then, about 2 out of 3 people in the intro computer courses washed out and/or gave up in disgust.
Perverse creature that I am, I've always put an enjoyable working environment above a high salary.
"Darwinian Economics" (bleah!) says I should be one of the last to exit the field, since the ones who got in just for the money are all on their way to greener pastures. The fact that someone like myself is being squeezed is one of the biggest reasons I'm afraid that Something is Seriously Wrong.
I say that because IT overall is a growing field, not a declining one, and because it's not a field that should be safely exported lock stock and barrel. If the other nations of the world decided we were a bunch of dangerous lunatics and cut off our supply of DVD players, VCRs and TV sets, we'd still manage to limp along (except maybe during football season ). However, if we lose our self-sufficiency in IT, we might as well just pack it all in.
Recessions I understand. They're not fun, but I've bumbled along through 2 or 3 and come back to prosperity (fortunately, I don't require a whole lot to consider myself prosperous). However, this latest one is like an order of mangnitude worse than any I've ever been through and it's still hurting even though the "recession" itself has been over for nearly 2 years. The contract work I should have been able to pick up - as I did in times past - was all bid out from under me at rates I simply couldn't match. The headhunters I should have been hearing from all packed up and left.
Sure, I'm whining and moaning because I want my toys back. But I do have concerns beyond my own private selfish ones. Because I don't think that it's in the National Interest that IT go the way of the shoe industry.


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