Continuing the theme...

…Of my last post, Kevin Pettitt takes up Jack Dausman’s post about employee retention in our industry. Both posts are well worth reading, and certainly bear out my thinking on the matter.

I know of a number of people in our industry who are paid extraordinarily well (I’m talking the equivalent of the 1993 rates in IT contracting). I am privy to their technical ability, and I am also privy to what they can bring to the table in terms of “softer skills”. And I am shocked. On the one hand I say good luck to such individuals: make hay whilst the sun shines! On the other hand, I am profoundly depressed (still). This can’t be good for IT.


  1. I agree with a lot of things in this discussion. More interesting is the point where I disagree:
    "When you spend so much time writing code or setting up servers, you come to expect that all decisions could be made in a logical fashion."
    This is a myth. Simply to claim that tech people are rational by nature is even dangerous.
    To be rational I need to know, that irrationality is part of me as a human being. Have seen so many wrong design decisions, wrong deployment decisions, wrong coding decisions, etc. Of course its allways easier to grasp that ex post. But its there. And its often smart tech people who take those irrational decisions.
    Today, for example, there was a crazy move in our office to design my CreditCardService in a completly decoupled mode as a remote web service component. And in the name of Ted Neward, I had to argument quite hard to let it remain a local jar, which is a) faster to code, b) faster at runtime, c) easier to exceptionhandle, d) easier to deploy.
    This is just one example. My (without irony) smart co-workers had no better argument than "web service is the modern way" and "completly decoupled" (whatever that means). And some other day I will show up with a irrational and stupid idea. Wouldn't be the first time. Axel#
  2. I guess I should clarify that I don't think all technical people are saints when it comes to rational decision making. Ben's reference to folks who are in essence overpaid hacks bears this out.

    I suppose a more complete explanation of why excellence in IT is often thwarted would have to include the collusion between such hacks and their willing dupes in management. We've all seen it: Some non-techie manager finds themself a "tech expert" and proceed to run all their technical questions past them. Said expert, who happens to be one of Ben's hacks, is now getting paid way more than they should, and knows that few other employers would make the same mistake.

    Consequently, our techie hack, through no fault of his own, is trapped. Having a family to feed and a wife who really digs his 80K salary (and her new BMW), he is forced to protect his status as "tech expert" at all costs. Sadly, this includes making sure that no "real" experts show up to spoil the party.

    If a vendor with a great product or solution comes calling on our manager friend, our techie hack is called in to "provide an assessment" of the vendor's offering and "make a reccommendation". Considering that what the vendor is selling will have the unfortunate effect of automating much of the day to day tasks our techie hack gets paid to do, while costing much less, you can imagine what his recommendation will be. Meanwhile the company continues to bleed money and not even realize it, and eventually may even go bankrupt, leaving everyone the loser.

    Interestingly, around the time I was first exposed to Notes and had my epiphany 10 years ago, I was in a position similar to that of our techie hack friend. The difference was that I knew the train was headed for a cliff and was unwilling to become trapped. So I took the 40% paycut, convincing a Notes consulting firm to take a chance on someone who didn't even have billable skills yet, and became a junior Notes Developer. Their investment eventually paid off, and the rest is history.Kevin Pettitt#
  3. Axel makes a fair point, but what I was trying to say in my original response to Jack's post was that, as technical professionals, we tend to expect that technical decisions will be made on the basis of rational arguments. Compare that to, say, a sales professional, who will spend hours of time and money cultivating a relationship with a customer on the expectation that the relationship will make a difference in the decision process.Jonathan Walkup#

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I’m a software architect / developer / general IT wrangler specialising in web, mobile web and middleware using things like node.js, Java, C#, PHP, HTML5 and more.

Best described as a simpleton, but kindly. You can read more here.