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6/13/2003
07:12 PM
John Soat
John Soat
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IT Confidential: Half-Empty, Half-Full, All-Around Depressing

'The people we need to speak to are concerned about their own fates.'

Seems my column two weeks ago about the laid-off IT project manager with two master's degrees hit home with some readers ("It's Getting Ugly Out There--For Some," June 2, 2003). It generated quite a bit of feedback, much of it depressing but some of it magnanimous (thanks to those who sent in suggestions or leads--they were passed on.) This was typical: "I have two friends, both of whom were long-term IT professionals, like Ms. Pilkington. They both lost their jobs in the aftermath of 9/11. One of them is now selling real estate, one is driving a bus." Or this: "I'd say it's been an ugly century, thus far. One of my friends was laid off in the winter of 2000 from an IT company in the Washington, D.C., area. He has a degree in Computer Science from a well-known technical school and Microsoft certifications. He was out of IT work for over a year and survived by working construction jobs at $10/hour w/no benefits. He currently has an IT job at many thousands-per-year less than his previous one." Or this: "I'm a certified IT Project Manager (PMP) with 30+ years experience, and I can't buy an interview. I just eclipsed my 2nd anniversary from being laid-off. Your article is a little late. 'Ugly' was last year. It's only gotten worse." There was the assistant professor with a doctorate in computer science looking to get back into the software industry (her first love--she has "13 years of professional experience"), who got no takers and decided to stay put: "Other women, those who don't have a Ph.D., probably don't have that option. From my perspective, it seems there is lots of talk about hiring/promoting women in the IT profession, but not much action above entry-level positions." And finally, there was this: "I also know a multitude of [people] laid off from IT jobs ranging from technical to sales/marketing to senior management. If anything, I would say that the frequency is increasing, i.e., the situation is getting worse. Many are either unemployed, subemployed (i.e., contracting for a pittance or taking on low-level jobs), or trying to reinvent themselves by going into another field. The latter usually involves 'careers' that have a low cost of entry, e.g., real-estate agent. ... There is so much talent out there being wasted and I cannot understand why there is not greater recognition of the extent. People still seem to be surprised that someone else is out of work, like it is a rarity rather than 'business as usual.'"

On the other hand, IT salaries have stabilized since the end of the Iraq war and more companies are planning to hire tech staff, says Vic Janulaitis, CEO of Janco Associates (see story, Outlook Brightens For Tech Staffing). "This shows that most companies have realized there aren't any more places to cut," in terms of IT and tech talent, Janulaitis says.

Is the glass half empty or half full? Who cares--there's only half in it, so bartender, fill it up! And since I still have a job, pour a round for my friends. But only if you send me an industry tip, to jsoat@cmp.com, or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about the IT job crisis, meet me at InformationWeek.com's Listening Post: informationweek.com/forum/johnsoat.

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