Successful job actions... and the possibly dark future

how I survived, and might still, in I.T. or out of it

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2 Replies - 929 Views - Last Post: 23 January 2009 - 08:47 AM

#1 warthog1  Icon User is offline

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Successful job actions... and the possibly dark future

Posted 22 January 2009 - 11:23 AM

This is a somewhat philosophical post inspired by Martyr2's "Are Programmers Recession Proof" in the latest eLetter I got from Chris Kenworthy. Having recently made a major life move based on factors that affected my I.T. career, I thought I would share them. Maybe this will give some coders, esp younger ones, a perspective on the industry if they haven't been employed long, or at all.

I'm 52, going on 25 (or something) and a 15-year I.T. vet, having worked in the L.A. market for 14 of those years. My main languages/tools were Powerbuilder and MSS / Sybase, and Compuware. I am equally good at front & back end development, but woefully lacking in current languages (rushing to learn Java now to get "experience"). I worked most of that time for a software house, basically, doing various projects on and off site, some for some very big clients you would recognize (internet / entertainment / insurance / banking co's). So far I have had very good luck making myself recognized and valuable at all of these jobs (except one very short on-site gig, where they didn't really need me anyway as it turned out) by simply...

a) being deferential to managers and other same-and-lower level employees instead of challenging them with my superior technical aura, and giving them fast and straight answers, and

B) delivering what they wanted in the way of development, including very clear communications and explanations when it came to explaining problems and proposed solutions. (this assumes knowing your tools and database concepts and not guessing).

The above may seem "but of course", but it seems like many of the complaints I heard on the job/s revolved around people not doing those kinds of things. I also routinely hear complaints from recruiters about developers' arrogant attitudes about their expertise and socioeconomic value. Possibly these have toned down in recent times due to supply/demand curve. I had a little rule I operated by, which is to never give anyone (esp a manager) a problem unless I had a solution, hopefully feasable, to offer also. When I sent emails to other coders with questions about code problems, I would always include screen shots or snips of the code or app screen. I would make it a point to make it as absolutely easy to understand, at a glance, as I could. [I would get comments back that they loved this, it evidently was not the usual style]. Assuming that the other coder, or manager, or analyst "should know that" [code, app, rule, etc] can easily make work for them on the other end, and misemotion. You have given them a problem, and work to do. If you become a "solver of problems" in the minds of those that matter (when it comes to making recommendations of layoffs?), it might mean you're the last one standing.

That's how I operated. Aside from that, I have no real passion for programming, but I can fake it in interviews well enough (my last manager said she hired me for my flip attitude, go figure). I got into it for the money, and sometimes find it rewarding. Guitar playing I find more so. My dad worked as a mainframe system designer / programmer for 30 years for IBM and others and came home looking wrecked every night. But then he didn't have 4GL / GUI tools, which makes it more interesting.

For part 2 of this post: What about this tentative future economy for programmers and others? As has been noticed, programmers depend on business continuing to bubble along, hopefully in a "growth" direction. If you are one of those people who can brave the idea of "what's the very worst that can happen" economically (i.e. to the "American way of life" which includes steady high incomes), then read on. Otherwise, maybe not.

Much of the speculating about career decisions, jittery state of the job market, etc, is of course an effect of the Big Economic Forces which affect us all. We do our best to tilt our sails to the constantly changing wind, which hopefully does not blow a hole in those sails or break the mast. But what about gale force winds? I advise anyone who would like to truly be prepared, psychologically, for the remainder of the Big Show which whose opening acts include the recent financial and housing meltdowns and our increasing inevitable deflationary cycle, to read the following articles by Mr. Orlov and Mr. Kunstler. The Orlov articles provide a good hypothetical illustration for young and older professionals. Anyone who is not aware of the impending energy situation in the world, and the possibility for real full-blown economic collapse, has a large gap in their knowledge base. I think it is worth knowing, for the sake of calculating life moves. Since we are highly developed technical minds who like to constantly try to predict salaries, markets, growth, etc, big world factors like the below should have their own variables declared. I myself have dumped the L.A. life recently and bought a few acres of land in a very rural area of northern California and am doing a bit of programming remotely, luckily. With luck in 4-5 years I will be growing and selling apples, whether the programming work dries up or not. I post this info not to scare people, but only to help them get a perspective on the real possibilities. Since their writing four years ago, some of the things predicted in the below articles have come to pass. It could be that our new president and wave of optimism softens the blow, but we should prepare for anything. Good luck,

Thriving in the Age of Collapse - Dmitry Orlov 2005

The Long Emergency - JH Kunstler 2005

And on the lighter side:
Closing the 'Collapse Gap' - Orlov

P.S. Orlov has a great blog at
Kunstler's board is at

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Replies To: Successful job actions... and the possibly dark future

#2 Ellie  Icon User is offline

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Re: Successful job actions... and the possibly dark future

Posted 23 January 2009 - 03:57 AM

Thanks for the interesting post.

Orlov has a great Russian turn of phrase and black sense of humour.


In terms of religion, the Soviet Union was relatively free of apocalyptic doomsday cults. Very few people there wished for a planet-sized atomic fireball to herald the second coming of their savior. This was indeed a blessing.

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#3 Smurphy  Icon User is offline

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Re: Successful job actions... and the possibly dark future

Posted 23 January 2009 - 08:47 AM

Wow now this was an awsome read. hmm well my brains working.
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