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IT Talent Shortage: Ugly Truths
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sandy.schaeffer
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sandy.schaeffer,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/7/2014 | 9:41:46 AM
Disposable Commodities after 30+ years
After 30+ years in the IT industry, I too have recently gone through the "disposable commodity" experience being downsized from a position in higher education I had been in for over 12 years.  The good news is that I found new work, but it was very difficult and left me reflecting on the industry in which I've been employed for so long.  Are we now treating our expertise like an aging desktop PC that cannot run the current programs?  I hope not, because the real issues of managing IT for organizations are far less about the technology itself and more about the people managing the technologies.  Writing a bit of code or upgrading a network infrastructure is trivial compared to providing skilled leadership to the team of individuals doing the ground-level work.

Those of us who have been in the trenches building teams and delivering successful outcomes on time and within budget possess the "soft" skills that only experience can provide. (You know who you are out there.) Unfortunately, I see little evidence that such skills are being treated as an asset or being put to use - at least in the way recruitment and hiring is generally being done.  

Maybe we need a consortium of "old-school" geeks to address this disconnect?   
mpochan156
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mpochan156,
User Rank: Author
11/7/2014 | 9:57:28 AM
more on the IT Talent Shortage; it is a Leadership shortage
"Successful IT people are fierce, smart, generous, proud, and brutally honest."

Agreed. But the very successful ones are great, not just good, leaders too. And they continuously learn. 

As a software entrepreneur with one foot firmly in each camp of 'business' and 'IT', I marveled at the big company internal rants -- IT about the non-tech shallow business people and the business folks about the IT geeks. Our company was wildly successful because we bridged the gap between business needs and IT needs, both in our software and in our leadership. I was a 'hybrid' because I was a saleperson who could truly talk deep technical and I was a software architect and developer who could find the underlying problems the businesspeople needed solved.  And I had the 'people skills' to encourage high-performing teams. 

My business partner and I, both BS Engr and MBA, were no doubt a unique combination. BUT... I can assure you, we are both 'life-long learners'. While growing the company, we studied new sales techniques, managing by goals and objectives, agile development, motivational theory, project management , personlaity preferences and many more topics to continually improve the company and our leadership of our team.

And we didn't let IT and business become separate, warring silos. 

I have seen some executive education programs in "Leadership Development for IT People" and "IT Basics for Non-Technical Managers". They attempt to cross-breed the skills.

In my opinion, more 'life-long learning' programs that develop leadership and people skills AND technology skills combined with a new commitment from the top to listen / understand the business and IT silos instead of just throwing HR at the problems would begin to solve the IT Talent Shortage. 

Yep... pay attention the entrepreneurs that solved it already. 

Ike

 
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
11/7/2014 | 10:10:33 AM
Re: more on the IT Talent Shortage; it is a Leadership shortage
I agree with you that great IT people appreciate great leaders and are life-long learners. They continuously learn not only new technologies, but also how to work with business groups like marketing in new ways.

Fixing talent strategy is not a problem any one part of the business can solve by itself. HR, IT leadership, business leadership, project managers -- everyone must take an honest look at the current pain points and help.
vbierschwale
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vbierschwale,
User Rank: Strategist
11/7/2014 | 10:12:48 AM
Re: more on the IT Talent Shortage; it is a Leadership shortage
So true.

For decades, I made a good living bridging the gap between the IT department and the business side, and as many of us know, it is a giant gap as IT seems to consider themselves to be the keeper of the keys to the kingdom and enforcer of the system even if it hurts production.

For a long time, I have felt that the best way to develop, and maintain a viable IT department is to have one person in your department actively working in each department of the company so that they are intimately familiar with the pain of each department.

This way the developer in each department has valid knowledge that they can contribute to the continuous growth that any viable company needs.

Sadly, I have been unable to find work in IT since 2010 and all of the skills I have learned over 3 decades are wasted as I try to find a way to survive in an era when I can no longer find work doing what I spent my life doing, and the low paying jobs say "We can't hrie you because you won't stay when times get better" which leaves me between the rock and the hard spot.

So I spent my time developing my skills even further by analyzing the LCA data (H-1B Visas), and exposing it to the internet so that the rest of us that are going through this will realize why we are being treated like a disposable commodity.

Perhaps we should do more to Keep America At Work?
dwatkins221
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dwatkins221,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/7/2014 | 10:20:50 AM
IT Talent: Ugly "Realities"
What a concept - built quality teams where members of all experience levels can leverage each other to build exceptional products.  I don't know of a CEO or CIO who would not want to do so; however, that's not what the customer is willing to pay for.  They want it cheap, and they want it bad. So, they'll get it cheap and bad or they'll go somewhere else.  Utopia is a great concept and, I'd like to work there too, but alas, that's not reality.

We live in a capitalistic marketplace and despite its drawbacks, t's still the best in the world. Add in the fact that we're competing in a truly global economy, especially the IT industry, and the fact is, we adjust or become irrelevant. 

It's time IT personnel, who were in such demand in the early days of IT, and who have been taking companies to the cleaners demanding salaries which were driven disproportionaly to extreme by supply and demand, learn that being a Prima donna no longer works. 

The new reality is that you must establish your niche then begin training for the next one, because technology will continue to move at the speed of light, and if you spend time crying in your spilt milk, you'll find yourself starving while others pass you by. 

As a CEO is don't lose sleep over finding qualified IT personnel.  There's always someone ready to jump ship for a decent salary, benefits and a new challenge.  Sure, they'll jump again, but there'll be someone behind them that will jump right in to fill the void.  Again - not the answer IT people want to hear, but it's the new reality.
sandy.schaeffer
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sandy.schaeffer,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/7/2014 | 10:26:24 AM
Re: more on the IT Talent Shortage; it is a Leadership shortage
Good recommendation about following the entrepreneurs' lead.  

One of the things I've done to rejuvinate my skills is to volunteer as a mentor to a local IT startup incubator in my community.  It probably helped me more than I was able to help the largely <30 folks participating in the program. Not only did it reawaken my creative spirit, it helped me make new connections and feel better about myself in general.

I strongly recommend anyone at the latter stages of a long IT career look for channels to mentor those at the beginning. It's a win-win situation.
Steve Naidamast
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Steve Naidamast,
User Rank: Strategist
11/7/2014 | 11:13:46 AM
"IT Talent Shortage: Ugly Truths... And They're Quite Real"
After over 40 years in the Infiormation Technology field I couldn't agree more with the criticisms of the field being made by both the article's author and many of the commenters.

Unfortunately, the field never had really good technical management even back in the 1970s when it was becoming commercially viable as a profession.  Tchnical managers have for the most part always been political hacks with few exceptions making the field a brutal, depressing, and frustrating profession to work in.  Now we have added technologies such as the Internet to the mix and managers have only gotten even worse with their narrow focus on deadlines and terribly developed project schedules.

There has never been a major loss of talent in the field merely the lack of desire of many businesses to pay and treat such talent fairly.  The result over the long terms has been a drop in interest by talented people to enter the field while those already engaged with it leave to begin their own technology businesses or pursue other careers.

What is left are low-grade personnel that buisnesses can't use to produce high-quality deliverables.

The last ten years after the Crash of 2008 have been (at least for me) the absolute worst in terms of technical management and I finally gave up to pursue my own business interests a few weeks ago.  So the business community lost another one...

With the recent trends towards technical personnel turning increasingly to freelancing established businesses and even newere ones will be forced to contend with an increasing group of people that want more flexibility, better project work, and have no interest in maintaining the existing and poorly developed business systems that infest most companies today.

All of these factors may force US businesses to change their habits towards IT personnel but I wouldn't count on it with the ingrained cultures of arrogance that permeates them...
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
11/7/2014 | 11:13:52 AM
Re: more on the IT Talent Shortage; it is a Leadership shortage
Sandy, that is great advice re mentoring. Not only are you enjoying it and doing some good, but you are meeting like-minded people in your areas of expertise and broadening your network. A win-win. PS Those soft skills of yours are indeed marketable, if you can get past the initial screen. IT needs good communicators and negotiators more than ever. I heard one CIO describe the role recently as "master translator."
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
11/7/2014 | 11:26:10 AM
Re: IT Talent: Ugly "Realities"
@dwatkins while I agree there is no room for prima donnas in IT anymore, I disagree that IT teams that nurture talent can exist only in Utopia. You can run fast with smart people and succeed wildly at business goals -- if your team backs you.   
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
11/7/2014 | 11:29:22 AM
Disposable and Decrimated
This started about 25 years ago.  Just like an out dated PC, most of the major corporations "disposed" of older IT talent for newer fresher talent as new technology was brought in.  I was an IBM mainframe person but made the transition to mid-range systems which displaced most mainframes, however others were not as lucky.  Mainframe system engineers were displaced by Unix engineers.  Mainframe database administrators were replaced by Oracle administrators.  Across the board the mainframe people were "put to pasture" without ever given a chance to migrate their skills by the organizations that employed them for several decades. 

It's not a leadership issue but one of dollars.   IT education is expensive.  Why train staff when you can just go hire what you need instead off the street (commodity talent).  Corporations don't want to pay the cost to create people with needed skills so there's a talent shortage.  The government allows corporations to raid other countries using the H-1B visa program to solve the shortage issue rather than require some home growing.  With this "grasshopper" mentality there will always be an IT talent shortage and indeed there has for the past 25 years.

Today it's a double whammy as new waves of technology continue to displace existing IT staff while age discrimination is at work if you are over 40.  We just sent the people (grasshoppers) responsible for H-1B and age discrimination back to D.C.  so look for more of the same over the next 25 years.
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