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Magna Cum Unemployed
Computerworld ^ | APRIL 28, 2003 | Donald Finley

Posted on 05/02/2003 1:58:28 PM PDT by Mini-14

When I changed my college major from mechanical engineering to computer science in 1998, I had few reservations about making the switch. After all, the salaries of the two professions were comparable, and IT seemed to be thriving.

Unfortunately, my graduation in December 2000 roughly coincided with the crash of the dot-coms and a dip in the economy, which made job searching much more difficult.

No fear, I thought, I have an academic record that will impress employers and help me stand out among job candidates. I had graduated magna cum laude, made the dean's list multiple times, won awards for academic excellence -- and no one seemed to care. The liability of my inexperience seemed to outweigh any advantage that a solid academic background provided.

The slowing of the economy has left many experienced IT professionals looking for jobs, and companies have their choice of workers with proven track records. This means decreased opportunities for entry-level programmers with resumes heavy on skills and education and light on job history.

Illustrating this fact are the employers and headhunters who call to express interest in the skills I have listed on my resume online. One of their first questions is, "How much experience do you have?" Answering this potentially damning question with honesty usually ensures no future correspondence.

The lack of opportunities made me increasingly worried, and in September 2001, I committed an act of desperation. I had been job searching by myself and through employment agencies for almost eight months when I accepted a knowledge management position at a government agency in Washington, where living expenses are high and the pay is low. The job was part intern/part employee and kept me on the periphery of working with IT (checking e-mail was my sole interaction with computers). After six months in the program, I decided to return home and earnestly look for opportunities in software development, the area of most interest to me.

Searching online job sites yielded few possibilities for someone with my level of experience; I fared better by contacting hiring managers directly. After three months of research and many phone calls to managers, I landed a job as a Web developer at a struggling e-learning company. But after being told almost every week for six months that the office might not be open the following week, I was searching for another job by December 2002.

During this time, I had also enrolled in a graduate program, thinking that another degree might help me find a job. However, since starting the program, I have considered the possibility that even this move may not help, because there are factors affecting the job market that are beyond my control.

For instance, the controversial H-1B and L-1 visa programs exacerbate the situation by importing foreign IT workers, placing them in direct competition with American workers for jobs. This, by far, is the most disturbing discovery to me. Abuse of these programs is obvious, and their necessity escapes me.

My heart sinks when I read stories about IT workers such as those at Siemens in Lake Mary, Fla., who were replaced by L-1 visa workers and made to train their replacements. The matter is compounded by the trend of sending IT jobs offshore, as summed up in the ominous proclamation of Ann Livermore, HP's services chief, when she stated, "We're trying to move everything we can offshore," in an interview in a December 2002 Forbes article. Taking these things into account, I am convinced that the IT industry is being undermined.

This point was driven home as I sat with the head of the computer science department at my university and we spoke about the scarcity of IT jobs. "I shouldn't be saying this, because I am from India," he said, "but India has really prospered through this." I told him that I was aware of all the outsourcing, but he explained that companies such as Microsoft were going a step further and setting up shop in India. Then he reassured me that creative IT jobs such as research would be safe in the U.S., but he corrected himself midstream by saying that GE was in the process of constructing a research center in India.

Finally, he punctuated his remarks by saying, "It's been a tough three years," an understatement with which I emphatically agree.

Donald Finley is a computer science graduate student and a graduate assistant in Tennessee. Contact him at dcf1922@yahoo.com.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs
KEYWORDS: employment; h1b; job; jobs; l1; outsourcing; unemployment
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1 posted on 05/02/2003 1:58:29 PM PDT by Mini-14
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To: Mini-14
For instance, the controversial H-1B and L-1 visa programs exacerbate the situation by importing foreign IT workers, placing them in direct competition with American workers for jobs. This, by far, is the most disturbing discovery to me. Abuse of these programs is obvious, and their necessity escapes me.

BUMP ..... why this program still exists is beyond me.

2 posted on 05/02/2003 2:01:41 PM PDT by Centurion2000 (We are crushing our enemies, seeing him driven before us and hearing the lamentations of the liberal)
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To: Mini-14
I've had classes with the author of this article. I wish him luck. He would be a tremendous asset to any business.
3 posted on 05/02/2003 2:03:58 PM PDT by willieroe
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To: Centurion2000
The IT industry in this country has been in a Depression for the last two years. I believe the same thing is in store for the rest of the economy.
4 posted on 05/02/2003 2:10:35 PM PDT by sourcery (The Oracle on Mount Doom)
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To: Mini-14
Wonder where the author was (along with all the other IT people) while the American industrial workers watched their jobs being shipped overseas. First the lower and semi-skilled jobs, then the highly skilled jobs, then managerial jobs when there was no one left to manage.

NAFTA and GATT have made corporate profitibility more important than domestic employability. That's the way it is and the way it will stay. Learn to be more versatile and expect less if you want to survive in the future.

5 posted on 05/02/2003 2:10:57 PM PDT by templar
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To: Mini-14
Taking these things into account, I am convinced that the IT industry is being undermined.

The truth is, Donald, that federal government policy is to undermine ALL domestic industry. Unless your standard of living is based on inheritance, dividends and capital gains, you've been targetted for salary, wages and benefits at the global subsistence level. You can thank the "free" traders for that.

6 posted on 05/02/2003 2:11:34 PM PDT by Willie Green (Go Pat Go!!!)
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To: Mini-14
I never got the whole thing about the computer science, IT stuff...once you have a program that does the job you want it to as fast as you want it to,why would you pay someone to change everything?...guy shoulda been a plumber...
7 posted on 05/02/2003 2:14:39 PM PDT by Bobber58 (whatever it takes, for as long as it takes)
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To: Centurion2000
I work in a relatively small company (225 employees) and we have dozens of these employees (H-1B and L-1). We used to have 500 employees, but then the dot com bubble burst. Many US citizens have been let go, yet the foreigners remain.
8 posted on 05/02/2003 2:15:59 PM PDT by Living Free in NH
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To: Mini-14
I went through a similar experience after I graduated with honors in computer science in 1986 shortly after several area employers laid-off large numbers of technical employees. At one time I had a file folder of 350+ rejection letters. Even when I did finally find a job, the company went belly-up in three months. It was a long and rocky road.

9 posted on 05/02/2003 2:16:48 PM PDT by FourPeas
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To: Willie Green
The truth is, Donald, that federal government policy is to undermine ALL domestic industry. Unless your standard of living is based on inheritance, dividends and capital gains, you've been targetted for salary, wages and benefits at the global subsistence level. You can thank the "free" traders for that.

I was gonna say that, but you beat me to it, and stated it better than I could have. Nicely done.

10 posted on 05/02/2003 2:17:43 PM PDT by Cacophonous
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To: Living Free in NH
Many US citizens have been let go, yet the foreigners remain.

Do the foreigners actually get the job done?

Did the US citizens turn in equal or better work than the foreigners?

11 posted on 05/02/2003 2:18:20 PM PDT by Poohbah (Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women!)
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To: Mini-14
Washington, where living expenses are high and the pay is low

Who says you have to live in the city??? Plenty of jobs for the educated in smaller towns away from the coast.

Financial managers, pharmacuetical sales, teachers, cops, firemen, Marines....suck it up, (I don't care)..I look for jobs daily and work part time teaching. I drove ten hours for one interview last week and I'm still sending out my resume and fixing my house to sell this summer. Yeah, it isn'y ideal, but there are shortages that need to be filled in this economy that pay very well.

12 posted on 05/02/2003 2:18:20 PM PDT by Porterville (Screw the grammar, full posting ahead.)
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To: FourPeas
How is the market for CS/CE majors? Similar?
13 posted on 05/02/2003 2:19:04 PM PDT by Desecrated (A nickel of every tax dollar should go toward the defense of America)
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To: templar
Well this IT person was and is still buying American when he can. There has been a conscious decision not destroy the American Economy by moving offshore every IT, Engineering, Manufacturing, telecomn job possible. these are moved to very low wage nations and then we wonder why our economy is not doing well. Step 1 is an immediate end to the H1B program and the L1 program. Absolutely every one of these workers should face immediate removal from their jobs. If companies do not like the result then oh well I guess they will realize they made a bad decision.
14 posted on 05/02/2003 2:19:09 PM PDT by harpseal (Stay well - Stay safe - Stay armed - Yorktown)
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Comment #15 Removed by Moderator

To: Mini-14
How is this any different from the Manufacturing Industry and its professionals and workers? There has to be a way to promote Made-in-America content.
16 posted on 05/02/2003 2:23:48 PM PDT by Natural Law
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To: templar
NAFTA and GATT have made corporate profitibility more important than domestic employability.

Yep, that pesky GATT Treaty. Lurks waiting in the wings for 50 years, and just when your economy suffers from slow growth, swoops right in and takes all your jobs away.

17 posted on 05/02/2003 2:25:47 PM PDT by 1rudeboy
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To: harpseal
I stayed out of IT and avoided this whole mess altogether. Just got a raise and a bonus at my current job...booyeah!
18 posted on 05/02/2003 2:25:53 PM PDT by sirshackleton
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To: Natural Law
How is this any different from the Manufacturing Industry and its professionals and workers? There has to be a way to promote Made-in-America content.

Let's see. We can modify our insane civil tort system to prevent the sort of outrageous lawsuit abuse we presently have; we can lower taxes across the board; we can demand that the insane government regulations that provide zero (or less) benefit to anyone in return for inflicting massive costs on the business...

19 posted on 05/02/2003 2:28:47 PM PDT by Poohbah (Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women!)
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To: templar
Wonder where the author was (along with all the other IT people) while the American industrial workers watched their jobs being shipped overseas

Most of them were in junior high school at the time...

20 posted on 05/02/2003 2:29:30 PM PDT by The Green Goblin
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To: sirshackleton
Give it time and you too will join the ranks of the unemployed.
21 posted on 05/02/2003 2:29:52 PM PDT by harpseal (Stay well - Stay safe - Stay armed - Yorktown)
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To: Cacophonous
U.S. White-Collar Jobs in Wave of Emigration
22 posted on 05/02/2003 2:32:28 PM PDT by Willie Green (Go Pat Go!!!)
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To: Centurion2000
My sympathies. I am employed in the same sector as you and it is very tough to find work at this time. Many of the IT teams that I have worked with in the last year are Indian and these are all teams from Big accounting firms. It may pay to look at another major, such as engineering although I found numbers from the IEEE that show that Electrical Engineers have an unemployment rate of 7.8 percent.

Start you own firm is probably the best advice.

23 posted on 05/02/2003 2:35:19 PM PDT by TexanToTheCore
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To: Mini-14
Yep, H1B as it is, sucks.

My main gripe is I don't think corporations should able to use residence (if not citizenship) as a perk to attract everyday talent. If were talking top of their field guys that's one thing I suppose, but average talent, no way.

As for Donald's plight, even without H1B or the sagging economy, the programmer market is unusual in that anyone (who has the $ and desire) can get a PC, buy a book and a relatively cheap compiler (if not free) and teach themselves. Even after he get's his first real IT job, he'll have to keep re-training to keep up with the latest stuff or risk being pushed aside by someone who has. You basically have to make your own oppotunities and even more so in the current environment.

As someone mentioned, maybe he should've been a plumber. Once you learn $#it runs down hill, you've got it, right? No offense to that profession intended ;-)

24 posted on 05/02/2003 2:35:53 PM PDT by Vortex
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To: harpseal
Actually, I went through my unemployment spell for the year already :)
25 posted on 05/02/2003 2:36:10 PM PDT by sirshackleton
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To: Willie Green
Thanks for the link. I wonder if all those "consultants" and smart kids with compooters have reconsidered their opinions that "It's only blue-collar jobs that are lost; the kind we don't want to dirty our hands with anyway. We'e in a techno-age now. Don't need to know how to make things, just need to know how to move money."
26 posted on 05/02/2003 2:36:21 PM PDT by Cacophonous
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To: sirshackleton
Then sir, I suggest that you not become over confident. the simple fact is without an abundance of well paying jobs in the USA absolutely every business will be hit in some way. It is not a pretty fact but it is a fact.
27 posted on 05/02/2003 2:39:27 PM PDT by harpseal (Stay well - Stay safe - Stay armed - Yorktown)
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To: Poohbah
Regardless of the answer to your question, and I suspect American workers are the equal of any on the face of the Earth, it is wrong for the U.S. government to allow companies to bring in employees from overseas and give them jobs Americans can perform. It is wrong for the country's immigration laws to in effect flood the labor market, putting extreme downward pressure on wages, in a way that would never be tolerated if it were a policy that flooded, say, the money supply and resulted in inflation. We have an election coming up, everyone ought to be asking their various elected representatives, in public and often, what they're doing to fix this. We all know that the American taxpayer is further injured when he or she has to subsidize these companies' cheap labor in many, many ways, throught subsidized housing, schools, Medicaid, food stamps, etc. We are getting screwed twice. End H1_B
28 posted on 05/02/2003 2:42:58 PM PDT by 3AngelaD
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To: Poohbah
yes, but they work cheap, you don't have to offer them benefits, and because they are a VISA holder - you ALWAYS have leverage against them to do things the way you want them to do it.

You don't like management deciding to spend an extra 300 million dollars on stock buy back instead of buying a new ACD phone system. "I"m sorry Raji, but we can't renew your visa, you may have to go back to tim buck 2. Now, what were you saying about that ACD system again?"

leverage.

it's all about leverage. price (cheaper) and power (more of it).

29 posted on 05/02/2003 2:43:22 PM PDT by PokeyJoe (BBQ Iraqi Pork Ribs for Dinner.)
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To: harpseal
Right before the war, there was, or still is a government IT job in Kuwait that deals with firewalls and the unix operating system. It pays real well-- $320,000. They couldn't find anybody to fill the position so the salary went up and up.
30 posted on 05/02/2003 2:49:39 PM PDT by demlosers
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To: Mini-14
The writer left out some details. Were his grades inflated like the majority of schools? Did he realize that a BS degree is not enough anymore because they have dummied it down to get more students into the program? Why did he switch from Engineering to Computer Science? Money or interest?

He could open his own business and offer to fix computers for people. You could work all day long at great wages if you know how to fix things. What actual skills does he have other than what the professor told him?

I'm an engineer who can program. I'm worth more to a company by a long stretch because I can do both. No need to translate from Engineering to computer speak. Just tell me what you want and I'll get it done.

And, I do have a 3rd prize genius award from the Cub Scouts that really would stack my resume.

That said, I have sympathy for this fellow. They were lying to you when they said you would get millions making web pages. Get your master's degree, adjust your expectations and get up and do it.
31 posted on 05/02/2003 2:51:32 PM PDT by Joe_October (It's the Slogans .... Stupid)
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To: Bobber58
once you have a program that does the job you want it to as fast as you want it to,why would you pay someone to change everything?...

Remember, we are talking about vertical applications - these are not programs like Microsoft Word, but software that is customized for the specific needs of a given company.

An example: changes in the law. Programs that calculate tax payments or human resources forms often have to be modified many times a year to keep up with legislation that the Barbara Boxers of the world implement without even considering their impact. The Patriot Act mandated the development of a huge amount of new reporting software for most financial firms. Changes in the law amount to a huge, hidden tax on many companies, because they have to adapt their IT infrastructures to accomodate new legal requirements.

And of course there is the routine stuff like growth in the size of the business that has to be accounted for.

Programmers displaced rooms full of clerical types in the 60's and 70's, now we are ourselves being displaced by foreign labor. Everything has its day in the sun, and the generic IT professional's day is coming to an end.

32 posted on 05/02/2003 2:51:44 PM PDT by Mr. Jeeves
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To: Centurion2000
..... why this program still exists is beyond me.

And what about taxi drivers? With all the foreigners driving taxis, what's a new philosophy Phd supposed to do?

33 posted on 05/02/2003 2:53:28 PM PDT by Grut
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To: Poohbah
Do the foreigners actually get the job done?

The jury is still out on that one.

Did the US citizens turn in equal or better work than the foreigners?

Until the move to outsource to cut costs gained steam in the year 2000 the US IT worker had the reputation of producing a far superior product that was worth teh higher cost. the conversion of many systems to handle the Y2K problem was outsourced for much of the scut work and it was deemed of sufficient quality that adequate code (product) could be gotten by moving offshore. Now, since companies see the cost cuts for the low end work and they hear promises about the high end work they are moving their systems work now plus with the H1b workers they have far superior control over these employees because if they were to let one go he/she is out of the country.

H1B workers who had been continuously employed find themselves looking for work when they get a green card.

34 posted on 05/02/2003 2:54:17 PM PDT by harpseal (Stay well - Stay safe - Stay armed - Yorktown)
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To: 3AngelaD
You are quite correct and this will be the firestorm political issue of our times. The Democrats will win big if the Republicans keep importing foreigners to take the few jobs left and cheering the export of the rest of the jobs. Hamburger flipping as a vocation? Even McDonalds is losing money!!

If education can't get you a job, who needs education? If Republicans don't want Americans to be employed at a decent standard of living, how long before Republicans are the most hated of all earthly creatures?

Hillary will ride in as president and she will do it on the jobs issue. You can't debate free-trade economics with a voter who can't pay the rent or buy groceries.

35 posted on 05/02/2003 3:05:55 PM PDT by NoControllingLegalAuthority
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To: NoControllingLegalAuthority
I don't think EITHER party has figured out that there is a political advantage in keeping Americans employed. I MYSELF would vote for Hillary over Bush if Hillary decides to oppose the H-1B and L-1 programs.
36 posted on 05/02/2003 3:12:17 PM PDT by Mini-14
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To: demlosers
Right before the war, there was, or still is a government IT job in Kuwait that deals with firewalls and the unix operating system. It pays real well-- $320,000.

Talk about irony .... I think my friend actually turned that job down :)

37 posted on 05/02/2003 3:20:18 PM PDT by Centurion2000 (We are crushing our enemies, seeing him driven before us and hearing the lamentations of the liberal)
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To: Mini-14
if Hillary decides to oppose the H-1B and L-1 programs

You might want to consider the possibility of her lying to get your vote.

38 posted on 05/02/2003 3:31:03 PM PDT by palmer (ohmygod this bulldozer is like, really heavy?)
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To: Bobber58
once you have a program that does the job you want it to as fast as you want it to,why would you pay someone to change everything?

I remember someone asking me that same question 20 years ago. A lot has changed though some things have not. There are many companies still running 30 year old mainframe programs. One of the biggest reasons for software changes is to meet customer requests. A return on investment is not a factor, making or stealing sales from a competitor is the point. Another big reason is when software and hardware vendors stop supporting old versions to force an upgrade and more sales. These same vendors sell buggy products on purpose to plant the seeds of future sales, Microsoft being an example. Sometimes a company upgrades to prevent a competitor from gaining a possible advantage, or to support an executive's ambitions, marketability, or ego. Many IT workers want to play with the latest toys, want themselves to stay employable since few new projects involve old technology. Dirt cheap hardware increases demand for doing more and more with computers. On the other hand there are a large percentage of IT workers that build job security into their work. They make systems overly complex which then break a lot and require constant attention. Often the oldest systems are the worst, no one can figure out how they work so they don't get upgraded. There are many forces going on why IT workers stay employed.

39 posted on 05/02/2003 3:32:58 PM PDT by Reeses
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To: demlosers
there was, or still is a government IT job in Kuwait that deals with firewalls and the unix operating system. It pays real well-- $320,000. They couldn't find anybody to fill the position so the salary went up and up.

Damn, I would have taken that job in a heart beat!

But they wouldn't have hired me because I am--(one of those ethnic/racial/religious/gender persons that they don't allow over there)

Why can't I sue for discrimination?

40 posted on 05/02/2003 3:38:05 PM PDT by Alouette (Why is it called "International Law" if only Israel and the United States are expected to keep it?)
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To: Reeses
...These same vendors sell buggy products on purpose to plant the seeds of future sales... ...there are a large percentage of IT workers that build job security into their work. They make systems overly complex which then break a lot and require constant attention. ...

I seriously doubt there is some great conspriacy either by large companies or individual programmers to design flaws into their systems so as to secure future work. I wouldn't deny that there are some coders that will knowly protect information about how a system works for that purpose, but that's no different than any other engrained employee protecting "their" business processes, contact lists, or whatever in the name of job security. That's just mediocrity.

When you think about it, you'd have to be really smart to purposely build in flaws in a plausible way. I'm sure more of these overly complex systems support overly complex business processes that no one ever documented. That's not necessarily the programmer's fault. Plus, I'd bet most systems evolve over time.

Think about what would happen if you built a house one room at a time and lived in it as you went along.

41 posted on 05/02/2003 4:27:23 PM PDT by Vortex
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To: sourcery
I had to go to the office today (I usually work from home) and every other office I looked into to had and Indian sitting in it. My company has been importing them like crazy. They've been shifting some of our operations to other countries even though the quality of labor is abysmal. The management just can't seem to see this. They think less money paid out is the ONLY criteria. They're gonna be very suprised when their systems just stop working.
42 posted on 05/02/2003 4:36:20 PM PDT by dljordan
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To: Bobber58
You're right, you never got it. Things change at the speed of light in the IT industry. It's really insane.
43 posted on 05/02/2003 4:38:11 PM PDT by dljordan
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To: dljordan
I was a nuculer physicist...now I build hardwood furniture. There was no recession for me, and I have all the work I want...time and space are illusions...so is the whole IT pipe-dream
44 posted on 05/02/2003 4:48:51 PM PDT by Bobber58 (whatever it takes, for as long as it takes)
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To: templar
NAFTA and GATT have made corporate profitibility more important than domestic employability. That's the way it is and the way it will stay. Learn to be more versatile and expect less if you want to survive in the future.

Your advice could prove invaluabe if you would please elaborate. How exactly does one survive with "less" -- less then what? Less than a job? Less than a future? Versatile as in . . . dumpster dining?

45 posted on 05/02/2003 5:03:25 PM PDT by EverOnward
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To: Bobber58
You are right on, Bobber. There are some jobs that are almost impossible to ship overseas. This poor sap better get himself into a trade school fast! If he had a valuable skill, such as plumbing, his retirement portfolio would be a whole lot better than those of his deluded classmates within just a few years.

But, then, he probably wouldn't want to hear that, right?
46 posted on 05/02/2003 5:04:34 PM PDT by jacquej
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To: Mini-14
bump
47 posted on 05/02/2003 5:09:34 PM PDT by VOA
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To: jacquej
the IT people have done wonders, and will do more...I commend them and pray for the best for them...but I have read, and it makes sense to me, that the physical, hands-on skills are what persevere through time and change...just because you have a pig-fat fuel cell doesn't mean the electricity magically appears at your desktop with the touch of a button...someone still has to route the wires or configure the beam-station :)
48 posted on 05/02/2003 5:14:52 PM PDT by Bobber58 (whatever it takes, for as long as it takes)
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To: FourPeas
At one time I had a file folder of 350+ rejection letters. Even when I did finally find a job, the company went belly-up in three months. It was a long and rocky road.

I had a similar experience during the recession of 1979-82. My IT consulting firm went down in 1981 and I applied for jobs in various industries our in which our firm had expertise. In ten months I amassed 1500 rejection letters, had two interviews scheduled (both of which were canceled) and was almost on the street before getting hired by a consumer products manufacturing company.

Since then, I've been through nine leveraged buyouts, been laid off four times (the fifth will be the end of this month), and I don't know how I've made it this far.

Don't think I'll survive this one, however. There is no domestic IT profession anymore.

49 posted on 05/02/2003 5:16:35 PM PDT by Euro-American Scum
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To: Poohbah
"Let's see. We can modify our insane civil tort system to prevent the sort of outrageous lawsuit abuse we presently have; we can lower taxes across the board; we can demand that the insane government regulations that provide zero (or less) benefit to anyone in return for inflicting massive costs on the business..."

YEAH BABY!!!

50 posted on 05/02/2003 5:35:32 PM PDT by AAABEST
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