An interesting bit on IT shops …

From /., they linked to this blog post.

What tends to remain behind is the ‘residue’ the least talented and effective IT engineers. They tend to be grateful they have a job and make fewer demands on management; even if they find the workplace unpleasant, they are the least likely to be able to find a job elsewhere. They tend to entrench themselves, becoming maintenance experts on critical systems, assuming responsibilities that no one else wants so that the organization can’t afford to let them go.

Interesting take. What I note is that like all infrastructure, IT is viewed as a cost center, and is often relegated to cost minimization practices.

Sometimes these are a good thing. Sometimes they are a very bad thing.

Real talent costs money. To a very large extent, you get what you pay for.

Getting competent generalist people from a low cost body shop is possible, though more than a few of them may be paper MCSEs. YMMV. Getting highly specialized skills from a low cost body shop is effectively impossible.

We are sometimes asked to do knowledge transfer to our effective competitors so that our mutual customers can pay less for the “skillz”. Just like the onerous T&C, we politely refuse.

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen some of these folks act on the belief that power cycling a machine is an effective administration tool of first resort. Or allowing users to run as root.

An IT staff that is given the tools they need for the mission they have is a good thing. These folks are fun to work with, as they are looking at creative ways to work within their constraints. In this day and age, many have to do more with less. This is part of why I think Linux is being driven hard and fast into these enterprises, it lowers costs of deploying/implementing/maintaining services. We are getting *lots* of questions from such folks.

So I don’t necessarily agree with the blog poster that IT shops have the “dregs” of IT staff. There are good people out there, and smart management is paying to keep them there. Thats the critical issue … one good person is usually worth considerably more than several cheaper body shop people. One good person has a stake in making this work.

Luckily, we interact with lots of good people.

Its the places with contractors from Kelly, and all the other job shops out there, that think they are getting value by paying less (remember, some managers have a view that value == inverse price by definition) that might be what the blogger is talking about. I don’t know.

This is not to say Kelly doesn’t supply good people. Some of them are. The ones I know are badly underpaid, and quite talented, and looking for other work.

Maybe thats what he means.

Real talent costs real money. If you aren’t willing to pay for real talent, your expectations need to be low.

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4 thoughts on “An interesting bit on IT shops …

  1. Want to be depressed? You’ve just described UC Berkeley’s EECS Department. Yeah. Various concerns (e.g. faculty who think there’s no grunt work involved) have so hamstrung the staff that the department’s a complete mess. Everyone now runs to having laptops so they don’t have to depend on the infrastructure for anything.

  2. @anon

    Owie … I remember at my alma mater that the local union did not allow us to drill holes in the wall to run networking cable (this was in the thin-net/thick-net days. We were told that each hole drilled would be filled in, and we would be fined $3000. Then they would drill the hole for us and charge us again.

    Needless to say, very little in the way of networking happened there for quite a while.

    Since I was working on a bunch of supers at the time, I had these 9600 and 14.4k baud modems that I ran with, and well, it took a little while to get things done.

    Ok, it was that way until the department needed to cut its budget and dropped the phone line in my office.

    I commiserate. The department had its share of egos battling for OS/platform dominance. Mac people versus PC people. Oddly, this platform war did little to help get things going in the department. We eventually opted for this new UTP thing, and ran over telephone lines as I remember. Pissed the union off. Saved us tons of money.

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