September 7th, 2003


(no subject)

This week has been the epitome of the norm at work.

There was a simple cut-over from a T1 circuit to a multi-T1 muxed circuit. A 15-30 minute task I was not involved directly with (but should have been). It took over 6 actual hours. Why? The person responsible for the cutover. He was 2-3 months overdue on the install, did NO preparation, tested NONE of the equipment before hand and is, well, incapable of doing his job. This is a gripe I have about IT unions. Let me digress a bit.

I mentioned to a friend three years ago during the tech boom that it would be interesting if, given the deep-seeded criticality of the IT segment of companies, IT workers decided to unionize. I had some serious reservations given this was the time the whole phonomenon of "paper-cert" employees were becoming the blight they are. Normally, my politics lean a bit left so it may seem odd that I would be fairly against this idea. Even stranger is the fact I was at the time non-management in IT and had been for a few years.

Now, in 2003, there is discussion about IT Unions related to the fact IT jobs are being outsourced to China, India, and other countries notorious for cheaper labor. Has this 'threat' affected my opinion at all in the concept of IT unions? Not much. Why? Simple. I have run into so many piss-poor employees in IT that no one seems to be willing to put in the jobs they rightly deserve (Burger King at worst, tier 1 help desk at best) instead of the management or technical jobs they have. This is the case in spades at my current job. Let me clarify, this is the case with the IT staff we are required to rely on for network support at my job. My immediate co-workers are good examples of the exceptions to the norm at my work. I have, in two years on this job, been able to avert potential disaters at my workplace by showing management the ridiculousness of some of the ideas from corporate IT. What frustrates me is I have more experience, knowledge and ability than likely the lot of them and I have to spend time showing how things should be done correctly to avert problems instead of being allowed to do my job (in a different capacity) and do the job correctly first time out. Somehow, these people manage to keep jobs despite wasting 10s if not 100s of thousands of dollars...and I know my workplace is not alone. There are hundreds of examples from other companies. Some I read in forums on Livejournal. Some I read at other places online or in trade magazines. And all the while, there are sharp, talented, hungry people in IT out of work. Some for well over a year now. I know one personally. I even tried to get him a job with corporate IT.

So, the question is....why would I want to support a union that would protect the aforementioned incompetence in my (and other people's) workplace? I wouldn't I would hope that the current management in these places realize now, today, is the BEST environment to get the best talent at the best price and clean their houses. It isn't happening at my work. If anything, it is getting worse.

I do, however, support some effort to minimize outsource some aspects of IT to foreign countries. Something like IFPTE. I would like to see some effort from IEEE start something akin to the Professional Engineer and/or CEU credits for some designation that would improve the talent pool. That way, everyone gets something out of the deal. Realistically, I think parts of IT cannot realistically be outsourced. You can't really have a hardware tech in India work on a PC and it is not reasonable to ship it there. I think some efforts will be made to outsource security or system administration to foreign countries but I doubt it will work particularly well. So far, most of what I see being outsourced is non-time critical jobs - programmers, data entry (if you call data entry IT), tech support, RMA and repair, etc. However, some of these jobs really need some home-grown overview by the customer. How far has bad coding gone in allowing the rash of buffer overflow problems we have seen for years now in alerts for OS patches and application 'updates'? How many of us deal with manuals so badly 'written' (likely by dumping text into Babelfish) they were useless?
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