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2/22/2002
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IT Confidential

Technology networking--not the hardware type but the schmooze variety--has certainly changed. Two years ago, it meant cocktail parties and conferences at exotic locales. Now it means resumés, hand-wringing, and commiseration among the unemployed. Several readers have written in to offer advice on networking opportunities. "Many professional associations provide great networking opportunities, [such as] SIM (Society for Information Management), AIIM (focused on enterprise content management/document management), and ARMA (focused on information and records management)," writes one reader. "Local chapters have monthly or bimonthly meetings and maybe you have to sit through a boring talk (you might actually learn something) and the food may not be gourmet quality, but these are ideal places to meet like-minded and connected people in the industry." On a more grassroots level: "Our local unemployment office has started an executive roundtable for all senior managers and executives who have lost their jobs--predominantly, the members are from an IT background," writes another. "Out of an estimated 60 members of the executive roundtable (and growing weekly despite federal jobless stats to the contrary), one has accepted a CIO position with a nonprofit startup and one HR manager has had three interviews but no offer." On the high end is the Potomac Officers Club, a northern Virginia organization: "We began the Potomac Officers Club as a way for displaced executives to network," writes founder Jim Garrettson, "and ended up with a thriving network of over 70 CXOs--and growing."

Networking may not be a bad idea. IT unemployment continued its climb to record heights in January after a one-month reprieve in December, when the jobless rate dipped for the first time in seven months. Analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data reveals that unemployment among IT workers approached 6% last month, up from 4.4% in December and 2.7% in January 2001. The previous high for IT unemployment was 5.5% in November.

Remember VerticalNet? Last week, the former online marketplace aggregator took a big step toward its stated goal of becoming an enterprise software player by appointing Kevin McKay as CEO. If the name rings a bell, it's because McKay used to be CEO of SAP America. McKay isn't the only SAP alum VerticalNet has tapped: Two years ago, VerticalNet hired former SAP America president Chris Larsen as executive VP of global field operations and marketing. As part of its current management reshuffling, co-founder and CEO Mike Hagan will become chairman and chairman Mark Walsh will remain on VerticalNet's board but concentrate on his new duties as chief technology adviser to the Democratic National Committee.

Gillette last week tapped Kathy Lane as senior VP and CIO. Lane joins Gillette from General Electric, where she was general manager of E-business and IT for the conglomerate's oil and gas division, based in Florence, Italy. Lane began her IT career at Procter & Gamble and later joined Pepsi-Cola International as director of technology services. In 1998, Lane moved to GE as manager of its corporate initiatives group. In 1999, she was named senior VP and CIO of GE's vendor financial-services division, then moved to GE oil and gas in 2000.

Call it the curse of the sports stadiums. Last week, the CEO of CMGI, Dave Wetherell, stepped down and was replaced by the company's CFO, George McMillan. CMGI was one of the first--and highest-flying--of the Internet venture capitalists, specializing in online advertising and marketing companies. CMGI's stock has fallen from a high of more than $150 to its current $1.35. CMGI reportedly spent more than $100 million to have the New England Patriots' stadium renamed CMGI Field, and despite the Patriots' Super Bowl win, it hasn't helped any more than the Baltimore Ravens' stadium helped PSINet or the Houston Astros' stadium helped Enron.

So much for Soat Stadium--but maybe, given the Cleveland Indians' current fortunes, Jacobs Field will need a new name in a few years. Indians' fans can send hate mail, or an industry tip, to jsoat@cmp.com or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about networking or declining IT jobs, meet me at InformationWeek.com's Listening Post: informationweek.com/forum/johnsoat.

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