Steven E. Newton
Crater Moon Development
Orginally posted by StrugglingInMI on Tue, 09 March 2004 14:49:15 at the now-defunct itunemployed.com
Is it becoming relevant again? Or was it never not relevant?
Elegy for a Profession
A song of the discarded
Hello, Corporate America. Do you know us? Do you remember?
We are I/T.
We are the men and women who helped you build the 21st century.
We flocked to the new technologies, taught ourselves the skills we needed when colleges could not, and forged the tools you asked for.
We signed up willingly, knowing that of all professions, ours was the one where today’s knowledge would be tomorrow’s obsolescence, where last week’s skill is worthless now, and where falling out of touch with progress is career suicide.
And we knew, some of us, that ultimately it would be impossible to keep up with the pace of change - but we tried anyway.
We are I/T.
We are the ones who embraced the idea of 7 x 24 operations, who willingly condemned ourselves to odd hours, unpaid overtime, and ever-increasing expectations, so “expensive equipment could be used most efficiently.”
We are the ones who gave up families, friends, and “life outside” to spend endless hours building, fixing, and changing the systems that kept you going and growing. We learned that the dream of a 40-hour workweek would never, ever apply to us.
We are the ones who carried pagers when they were almost exclusively the tools of doctors, pimps and drug dealers.
We are a young mother, sitting in a cubicle at 3:00am, troubleshooting a software problem while her new baby sleeps in a carryall next to her desk.
We are a husband, called from his bed in the dead of night, on call not to save a life, or rescue a trapped motorist, but to rebuild a database index, or repair a broken disk drive. And sometimes, the problem was fixed, and it was the marriage that stayed broken.
Do you know us? We are I/T, too. We are the family of a “computer geek”, who learned that vacations, holidays, and sick days did not mean freedom from stress for our loved ones, or uninterrupted time with us. We watched as our parents and spouses took cell phones, laptops, terminals, and manuals with them everywhere, ready to give up our family plans on a moments notice to keep your business running. We heard the phones ring in the middle of the night, at the park, or during dinner. We tried to understand.
We are I/T.
Yes, we are the ones who listened when the siren song of ever higher salaries beckoned. Are you surprised? Do not blame us for taking the salaries you offered. Rather, look to yourselves for creating a work environment so intense, so stressful, so demanding that for ten straight years, the schools to teach the next generation found fewer and fewer applicants.
But your demands did not decrease. In desperation, you threw money at us to buy the expertise your own voracious appetite made scarce.
We are the ones who welcomed foreign workers into our midst, when things were so bad you had to recruit overseas to feed your endless demand. While other departments struggled with racism and intolerance, we became a United Nations in miniature, grateful for help from any quarter, any society that could ease the crushing workload. We built a society of equals, holding no prejudice except technical inadequacy.
We watched our budgets shrink each year, while demands for productivity soared, and our pleas for more help were ignored. And we endured the criticism when the inevitable failures occurred, as overwork, stress, and tension took their inevitable toll on our skills.
We are I/T.
We had to learn not only our profession, but yours too. We learned your business practices so well that sometimes we knew more about them than you did; and we are the ones who had to stand by and listen to your “voice of experience” while we watched you make fatal decisions.
We designed the systems you asked for, only to watch as those with too much power and too little knowledge made decisions that doomed them to failure - a failure for which we would take the blame.
We sat in the sales presentations with you, horrified as we listened to you sell a customer on a technology you did not understand, and we knew could not be delivered at the price you promised. When we protested your inflated claims, we were criticized for being “too negative” - and we took the hit when reality collided with a salesman’s almighty commission check.
We did the work, kept the lights on, kept the back room functioning, year after year, knowing that the best we could hope for, the only reward, might be that no one would find a reason to complain that day. We lived with the constant knowledge that almost everyone outside our own group looked on us as a necessary evil.
We are I/T
We listened to the countless calls for help from people who could spout endless streams of information on inane subjects, but could not remember an 8-character password from one day to the next.
We watched as it became fashionable for those who controlled your companies, and our destinies, to shrug their shoulders and wave a hand at “the computer guys”, when “technical issues” arose. To be computer illiterate has become a badge of honor in the boardroom.
We watched as the hardware industry built better and better desktops, and the software designers were forced to use that power not to add real utility, but to dumb down and simplify basic operations, because you couldn’t be bothered to train your employees- it took too much time.
We watched as you leveraged the tax system to change us from employees to contractors - a creative way to deny us the benefits we needed like everyone else, while giving you the freedom to drop us the instant you felt we weren’t needed. No one was laid off - contractors were just “not renewed”.
We are I/T
And now, many of us must watch from the sidelines.
We watch as you take our jobs and hand them to people in other nations - not immigrants who come here, willing to work hard, and to contribute to our society, but people still in their native lands, trained to do our jobs at a fraction of the cost.
You train them to answer phones “sounding like Americans” so an unsuspecting public does not know they are talking to someone half a world away. To add insult to injury, you use the tools we built for you to make this happen.
You claim that no impact to the economy will come of this, but you do not explain how the loss of billions of dollars worth of spending power, from thousands of high paying professional jobs, will be offset. People in India and China do not buy clothes, cars, and homes in Detroit or Indianapolis.
You do not explain how America will stand on her own, when the technology she relies on is developed and supported by people in nations whose agendas and goals are not hers. What will happen when interests change, technology leaks to those who are no friends to democracy and the American way of life, and the tools to keep things running are no longer here?
You do not explain how the few jobs that remain will be filled, as people retire or burn out, and students again shun I/T curriculums because they see the misery their parents have suffered at your hands.
We are I/T.
We send out resumes by the ream, month after month, as savings and retirement money slowly dwindle, unemployment runs out, and no one will talk to us about a job, in any field. In desperation, we apply everywhere, to do anything, but to no avail. We are overqualified for anything else, and we are unable to work in the field we love. Hard-working professionals with college degrees and decades of experience are stocking shelves and serving drinks.
Do not blame us, Corporate America, for the cynical attitude we have toward you, for some of us remember 20 years ago, when we could not buy a job, and you threw us out on the street at a moments notice.
And now, it is happening again.
Thank you, Corporate America.
We are IT.
Some of us will remember.