Ramblings, meanderings, rants and discoveries.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The I in IT

Once upon a time the IT department was kept in the basement and thrown bones every so often. The rest of the company never understood them and that was fine with everyone. We were let out of our cages to go fix stuff. We were faceless, nameless (as one manager said were were the Shadow Ninjas we fixed stuff and you rarely saw us do it.)

Somewhere along the line all that changed. It was sometime in the 90's. Probably about the time Windoze 95 was released. Suddenly we were adored, worshipped and fawned over. Salaries went skyrocketing and people began to flock to the field.

Then it started happening - branding, image, marketing yourself as an IT professional. It was no longer enough to do your job and do it well, you had to be known; in some cases being known counted for more than knowing your job. Then the bottom fell out of the market for IT professionals. Why is that do you think? Well some maintain we did it to ourselves to some extent and that the nails were driven in by those who are impressed by the look not the knowledge. Egos have ballooned and more and more we see sites, blogs and information that are written by people who bow down to the almighty *I*.

First, let's look at the boom in IT. In the late 90's IT was the place to be. Consulting companies like the now defunct EDS (bought out by HP in July) had strict requirements to be a programmer with the title Software Engineer or Systems Analyst. But almost none to be a Business Analyst, even though in many client locations they performed the same or very similar tasks. Usually a BA cost less than an SA though the client.

Now like most companies, each job title had a level and each level a salary cap. Let us say an employee was a BA level 1. That would mean they had a salary cap of say 30K. So, for a raise you had to be promoted by a manager to a BA level 2 and then you could code pound merrily until your salary broke say 45K. Only thing was a BA level 3 was a manager type. Many code pounders do not want to be a manager and deal with HR things, so as an employee under them approached the next cap; good managers would sound them out and mentor them as to their next step in the company, bad ones forced techies into management. Most of them left the company because they hated being a people person.

The hybrids went to SA boot camp. Most of us never wanted to be more than a Project Manager or Team Lead. A full class at the beginning was around 30. Usually that whittled down to about 20 by the end. The thing was over half the class was frequently comprised of people from the marketing side of the company. When asked why they wanted to become coders, most answered, "Because I can make a lot of money."

That *I* should have been the first red flag to the industry, the answer was not because technology was cool, or users needed friendlier apps, or companies need better systems that are secure or that tools could be more efficient. It was about the person. Unfortunately, that has carried over into the present day. More next time.

No comments: