Thursday, July 27, 2006

Information Technology Jobs

For many years it seems that everyone has been gushing about how great jobs in information technology are. On the surface this idea still has truth to it. If you want to always be able to find work, IT is the industry. Now, before everyone freaks out about that last statement, I have to say that you'll always be able to find work, but it might not be that great. Let me explain.

We've all heard about the high paying software engineer jobs. An experienced programmer with good credentials can potentially make into six figures. IT managers are also up there, especially CIO's (Chief Information Officers). There is definitely money to be made in this business.

The problem lies in the fact that there aren't that many of those high paying jobs to go around. The ones that are out there are not often advertised. The best jobs in any industry are typically filled by word of mouth and networking without even having been put into an advertisement. There is a huge amount of competition for fleeting opportunities.

There are other good jobs in IT that pay relatively well, but salaries (and raises) have taken a dive in the past few years in technical jobs due to outsourcing and downsizing and other economic factors. You can still make a decent living as a programmer, system administrator or in IT management if you find your niche.

There is an abundance of IT jobs that are relatively thankless and menial, though. I know this is another controversial statement, but if you're a lab tech or work at a helpdesk, I'm sorry. The truth of the matter is that these jobs DO tend to be stressful, low-paying and lacking in any sort of gratitude on the part of many of the users you serve.

Be assured that that may be a problem no matter how high up the tech ladder climb. Believe it or not, in many companies technology is still not fully understood or appreciated. Upper management may have a difficult time understanding how their technology staff adds real dollars and cents value to their organization. Their awareness of the value of their technical people is kind of like that of the clueless car owner who realizes the need to change the engine oil only after the engine seizes up.

Another thing to consider about technology jobs is that most people employed in this sector are always playing catch up. That is, technology is always advancing and you have to keep up with it or get left behind. At the pace of today's changes, this is a difficult task. Tech types have to be willing and even eager to absorb new knowledge as it becomes available.

With all of this in mind, is it all worth it? Declining matriculation rates in Computer Science programs at US colleges seem to be telling us that many are now saying no. Still, there will be many opportunities for those who do choose this field. If you want to get into information technology or move up the ladder in the field, knowledge is the key.

Having impressive credentials certainly helps get you in the door, but knowing your way around current technology and being able to hit the ground running is key. Be prepared to know your stuff and above all, have a lust for learning new technology and you'll do well.


Monday, July 24, 2006

The Biggest Waste of Time

I regularly teach a study skills course to new college students. One of the topics that we always cover is time management. We usually do an exercise in which we calculate how much time we spend during the week on different activities.

Many students are surprised at how much time they spend on certain things in their lives. Some find that they study much less than they thought or sleep or work more than they were aware of. Some are simply shocked to find out how much time they spend watching television in a week.

For me, it was a rude awakening when I realized that I spend something like ten hours a week just commuting back and forth to work. That's about an hour each way, five days a week.

When I put that in perspective, it's more than a full work day that is lost to me. Sure, I can spend some of that time thinking and planning my day or week, but for the most part that time is wasted.

This is another opportunity cost of working outside the home. For those who are able to telecommute or otherwise work out of their home or even nearby, this isn't a factor. They are able to make much more efficient use of their time. For those of us who do have to spend time traveling to get to work, we are investing a significant amount of time and effort every day just to get there.

What do we do on this commute? Most people probably listen to the radio. The morning FM shows are typically full of unintelligent, adolescent banter with each program competing for the prize of most crude and banal. How entertaining are the constant dirty jokes and interviews with strippers? Don't you get tired of all the cleverly worded and thinly veiled references to sex and deviancy designed to just barely escape the notice of the FCC?

If you're not listening to that brainless chatter, is it the news? How enlightened are we after hearing the latest tally of shootings, apartment fires, drug busts and car crashes? Does anybody profit from absorbing this information? Or how about the ridiculously detailed weather forecasts? Does it matter to anyone what the wind speed is or whether a cold front is due to come in? Just tell me if it's going to rain!

What could we do with the time that is essentially wasted this way? Read more, write more, work more, relax more? More of something other than wasting time? Though this isn't a call for everyone to run right out and quit his or her job, it's definitely food for thought.


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Jobs Are For Suckers!

I came across an article the other day that has really made me think. The author is Steve Pavlina, a reformed shareware game developer who now runs a personal development website offering ideas for self-improvement. He has hundreds of articles on his page and, even though some of it is pretty new agey, I found much to consider.

This article stuck out in particular, though, possibly due to my own dissatisfaction with my current employment situation. The title says it all: "10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job." Although there's quite a bit of sarcasm here and the tone is at times fairly harsh, the point is interesting.

Steve Pavlina maintains that it's much better to work for yourself than to work for someone else. I won't recap the entire article as it's worth it to go read the whole thing for yourself, but a couple of his reasons really resonated with me.

I find the idea that my livelihood is entirely dependent on the whims of a few people to be scary. Factors completely out of my control can shut off my only source of income like the flick of a switch. Also, it's true that I don't get to realize much of the fruits of my labor. Most of the work that I put into my job benefits others much more than myself.

Having a job does seem to provide a sense of security, but is it really a false sense of security? I think he's got a good point here. Those of us who rely entirely on a job for our income do serve at the pleasure of others. Once they decide that our services are no longer needed, we become a liability rather than an asset.

It's clear that having this threat hanging over our heads can lead us to make decisions that we otherwise might not. We are conditioned to protect our jobs and to stay safely inside the box of other's expectations. We make choices in life that are channeled down a certain path by external factors rather than our own needs, desires, and internal values. In the end, we can become thoroughly compromised. Can this possibly be a good thing?


Friday, July 14, 2006

Krohn Conservatory Pictures

I was just looking at some pictures from my cell phone and thought I'd post a few. A few weeks ago we took a family day trip to Cincinnati's Krohn Conservatory for their annual butterfly festival. This place is small, but has some amazing displays of plants from around the world as well as some incredible butterflies. The kids loved it and I managed to snap some beautiful pictures with my cell phone.


Google Ads

I'm experimenting with what I can do with Google Ads, so you may see more advertising showing up on this page. Hopefully, it's not too distracting or intrusive. I think Google's text ads tend to be pretty unobtrusive in general.

I'm actually toying with the idea of starting another website. Advertising may be a way of helping to pay hosting fees. I'll post more about my ideas here as they develop.


Thursday, July 13, 2006


I've had to take some time off from running again due to soreness in the knees coming back. It took a few weeks of running, but I'm having the pain and inflammation again. I'm going to have to try to work on stretching out and strengthening the muscles in my legs and see if that helps.

I've also been taking a break from my story writing. I'm not giving up, but re-evaluating where I want to go with it. Actually, I'm taking a fresh look at everything I'm doing to get a sense of where I am in my life and where I want to go. It seems like it's been a very long time since I've been able to step back for a moment and really consider what I want to do.

I've been entirely caught up in achieving goals that I set long ago as well as just making ends meet on a daily basis. It struck me that I've been spending much of my life in crisis mode. I've been focusing mostly on survival rather than actually getting somewhere. It's time to get out of crisis mode and rethink my purpose and the goals that flow from that.


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