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4/30/2004
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Letters To Bob Evans



You missed the real answer: (d) Infosys is hiring U.S. pimps to sell their services. After all, prostitutes do not cruise their own neighborhoods, they go where the money is.

Mark A. Hamilton



As the economy picks up, would you recommend to your children that they pursue a career in your field? Why or why not?

Yes, I would recommend a career in my field--MVS system programmer (or should that now be z/OS?). I love my job, and it, or at least a derivative of it, will be around for a long, long time. But don't go by me: My three children listened to me and then went their own ways to automation engineering, sales management, and risk management for banks. Go figure, not a sysprog in the bunch.

Lee McKnight
Senior System Programmer
Bandag



a. McBride by a country mile. This is strictly a ploy to save his faltering company, and he has enlisted Gates to go along for the ride out of Gates' fear that Linux will eventually clobber Windows (which it will). Shame on the board and shame on the stockholders for allowing this utter nonsense. They are the ultimate losers. McBride will crawl out from yet another rock in time.

b. The global economy is here to stay, whether we like it or not. High technology has shrunk this planet to the point where even the smallest country can belly up to the table. In relation to the world economy, we in this country are overpaid. We'll just have to learn to live with it.

c. IBM is merely gathering all the pieces together to dominate the business market (and doing a damn good job of it, too.) Anyone who thinks that it is scattering its shots will live to regret it. The sleeping giant is awakening!

d. Time, time, time!

e. While I'm not involved in RFID in any way, companies that are, particularly the small guy, are being asked to ante up large sums for implementation with little possibility of a return (except keeping the customer). I doubt very seriously that the numbers add up. They are also being asked--required--to implement the program at Mach IV speed, which will only lead to chaos and probably the eventual downfall of the entire scheme, resulting in huge economic loss to everyone.

f. No! We are in a very specialized field (mathematical profiling and prediction), which demands a love of reading equations and such for funsies, and I have not detected one whit of interest on the part of my kids to spend their time on such "odd" endeavors.

Duane C. Morton
Managing partner
Illiad Research LLC



Regarding vote for least-favorite person, I am surprised that the list is so short ... There are several other folks who I think might be solid candidates for most vilified and pilloried personality. Can I qualify my vote by saying not just Donald Trump, but specifically his hair? I mean, c'mon, anyone with that much money could afford to be better coiffed...

As to Infosys' announcement, it's probably (IMHO) a combination of A and C. Frankly, I'm not aware of India being a powerhouse of consulting experience, but rather of developers. There IS still a difference as far as I can tell (let the Peter principle be not forgotten).

If I could change one thing about my job, it'd be ... wait, I just turned a layoff into a transfer with a promotion and raise, and I get to keep my sixth-floor office window. Let me get back to you on that one.

As to RFID, my business unit is exploring the use of RFID in business-process-reengineering efforts for the Defense Department Military Health Systems--understanding where patients are and where they go between the time they check in for an appointment and when they leave the building, understanding where key resources are (from IV pumps to the physicians who are supposed to be seeing them) can help better streamline access to care in clinics, saving time, money and increasing productivity.

As to whether or not I'd tell my kids to get into my field ... well, I'm not even sure my field will still look the same, considering I don't have kids yet. If we bubble it up to a higher level, yeah, I'd tell them to get into program management--you get all kinds of free magazines. Transferable skills include public speaking, conflict resolution, decision analysis and critical thinking, financial and resource management, and a new level of anal retentiveness that can result in developing Microsoft project plans with resource-loaded networks, critical path analysis, and work breakdown structures for your wedding and honeymoon planning projects. (Yes, I really did it. At least I can laugh about it now, six months later.)

I'm not touching the IBM question with a 10-foot pole. Not enough insight, sorry.

But the bugaboo, the big one, the question du jour regarding the government's ability to develop a way of seamlessly sharing information across departmental boundaries, that one I can give some input to:

Overall, I think that you're right, the government has a clear impetus to move quickly. It certainly has the public support and, ostensibly, the funding. There are even precedents showing that the government is capable of moving relatively quickly to achieve critical goals. If we can mobilize several military divisions across the Joint Services, one would guess this kind of information integration would be doable, too. However, there has ALWAYS been an issue (at least in my opinion) in the government regarding the ability to standardize information and share it across organizations. Simply stating "it's the government" doesn't mean that it's one big, happy company.

Each department, administration, or organization has its own requirements, stakeholders, and associated agendas, and they don't always necessarily align. Also, the methodologies utilized to secure private-sector input or assistance (i.e., contracts) differ widely, and although I hate to say it, red tape really does seem to rule the day. Now, that red tape can be great in terms of oversight (a la the $400 hammers and $700 toilets we heard about in the '80s), but most companies, unless they are actually deeply aware of the Government Federal Acquisitions Regulations (which is itself an interpretive document), aren't likely to be familiar enough with the reporting requirements alone that go with having Uncle Sam as a customer.

Recently, I was facing a potential layoff because of downsizing (hence the comment above about changing my job--I already did), and most companies that I applied to and spoke with who weren't defense contractors didn't have a clue when I started talking about some of the level of management and reporting that I was doing. Granted, in some cases it was simply a matter of different paradigms or management tools that in essence provide similar outputs, but still, there's a level of understanding and infrastructure that most commercial, non-public-sector-serving organizations don't have.

It's a gargantuan task, considering the NSA and CIA alone process several terabytes of data on a weekly basis to try to track incognito communiqués between terrorist cells by scanning vast numbers of printed documents and Web sites, but it's not insurmountable. In a nutshell, it's going to take some very high-level mandates (congressional level or executive level, at least) to start the process and get the ball rolling, and that alone will take time.

Thomas J. Hobbs
Product Manager
Enterprise & Health Solutions Business Unit
SAIC
San Diego



Who gets your vote for your least-favorite person?

The hacker who created the MyDoom virus.

What do you think of Infosys' recent announcement of its plans to hire 500 U.S. consultants over the next three years?

A move aimed at placating an American public that feels victimized by the rise of India as a business-technology power

From which line of business does IBM generate the most revenue?

Hardware, including all servers, PCs, mainframes, storage, etc.

If you had the power to change one thing about your job, what would it be?

Project creep. I want to do the job I was hired for and not have a constant increase in all the "just this one more little thing(s)" that never goes away and causes the job tasks to become time overwhelming.

As the economy picks up, would you recommend to your children that they pursue a career in your field?

No! Not if they want a personal life. I'm on 7-24 support, and unless I vacation on a desert island (which I cannot afford), I never get time that's truly away from the job. I work for city government, and there is an ever-increasing lack of budget for personnel. I have yet to see "work smarter, not harder" actually pan out.

Jaci Gibson-Henrie, ISA
Aspect & Itron Systems Administrator
San Diego Water Department



Least-favorite person (a) McBride, close second (d). The others are heroes by comparison.

IBM is like the tide: it's there, it changes, it moves, and it is always easier to go with the flow than to fight it, but sometimes you just have to go the other direction.

Infosys (C). We Americans should learn not to analyze long-term thinking and planning with our short-term brains. It always leaves us guessing instead of learning.

Job changes: only one. Add more time, money, resources, customers, products, etc.

Thomas Bowen



Who gets your vote for your least-favorite person: (a) SCO chief ambulance-chaser Darl McBride; (b) the hacker who created the MyDoom virus; (c) Donald Trump; or (d) the juror who tanked the Tyco trial?

E) Any of many government officials who have made "doublespeak" an art beyond anything George Orwell envisioned.

What do you think of Infosys' recent announcement of its plans to hire 500 U.S. consultants over the next three years? Is it (a) a move aimed at placating an American public that feels victimized by the rise of India as a business-technology power; (b) a sudden and unexpected indication that India's rapidly growing economy has pushed incomes in that country so high that Infosys can now find qualified talent in the United States at lower wages; or (c) another example of a highly efficient global economy aligning resources and capabilities with business opportunities?

D) Marketing: A customer-relationship and channel-expansion strategy--i.e., it increases their visibility and their accessibility to potential and current U.S. customers.

From which line of business does IBM generate the most revenue: (a) hardware, including all servers, PCs, mainframes, storage, etc.; (b) services; (c) software? Is that leading revenue-generator in decline and likely to be supplanted soon, or in ascendancy and likely to become the company's dominant offering? Will this affect how the company goes to market? Will this affect how other companies-whether in category a, b, c, or all of the above-position themselves and relate to you? Do you care? Should you care?

B) Services. It's probably in the ascendancy, and I'd be surprised if it weren't already the dominant offering and that it is the way IBM is going to market. If it sells some hardware and software, too, so much the better.

If you had the power to change one thing about your job--just one thing, no matter how large or small, grand or pedestrian--what would it be?

Turns out to be the toughest question for me: I'd rather fly first class instead of coach, but these days my travel is pretty much within a 20-mile radius. The coffee is always good and the cafeteria does very well, chairs are comfortable, parking close. I think I'm counting my blessings here. We have some challenges, but that's what they pay us for, so I'm not sure I'd change that either. Ah, I did have that one issue where local technical support and corporate technical support never did agree on whose problem it was to solve. Let's change that.

At cocktail parties these days (that's a bit of a fib--I can't remember the last time I was at a cocktail party, and I hope it's at least as long until I have to go to the next one), everyone's talking about RFID. Is it a world-changer, or a worthless and overhyped solution in search of a problem? Is your company thinking about it, exploring it, deploying it, or ignoring it? Do you care? Should you care?

RFID is a tool and it does address a specific set of problems with a specific approach. Seems to me that it is already in the production use stage (security badges, EZPass, etc.) However, like all technical solutions, it will primarily make certain tasks easier and faster, certain data more routinely available in real or near-real time. It will catch on in a stepwise evolutionary fashion (steps 1 and 2: Wal-Mart and the government) and be commonplace in three to five years. It won't change the world, but will make inventory-intensive areas like retail, warehousing, transportation, etc., a step-change more efficient. There will also be other innovative uses. We are exploring and deploying.

As the economy picks up, would you recommend to your children that they pursue a career in your field? Why or why not?

My wife and I both studied math and ended up in the computer business, with no regrets about the choice. All three (now adult) children are fully capable users of computers, but not one would consider it (or math) for a career. I wouldn't push it on them either, not because of the economy or offshoring, but because they need to do what their hearts are into. The oldest is a philosopher and writer with an American history degree and definitely should make his living by writing. The middle one is studying film production with strengths in art and design; the youngest is in a liberal-arts program and plans to teach at the college level.

Paul Pinson
Accenture Wilmington Delivery Centre
Wilmington, Del.



Keep in mind that the work done by intelligence agencies is still mostly an art rather than an exact science. Financial-services companies perform basically the same work in almost the exact same manner, and they've got it all down to an exact science (out of necessity--a penny here and a penny there adds up over time). These intelligence agencies have, unfortunately, over the years crafted their skills in secrecy and shared little with each other. This is especially true in the area of intelligence, where they are asked to gather and then piece facts together to create a complete picture for a scenario. They can and will learn much from each other once the veils are taken off, but it will take time. The actual integration of their intelligence systems is but a small piece of the pie that can happen only after they decide how to best integrate them. They're working with an unbelievable amount of information that is comprised of bits of facts gathered in numerous ways. Simply looking at the ontology of the information doesn't work without factoring in the reliability, currency, and sensitivity of each piece. There's more to be lost by doing this effort incorrectly than there is to be gained by doing it in half the stated time.

Take it from someone who spent eight years helping the FBI design a couple of its national systems and give them a break on this one--they've got a huge task ahead.

Bradley R. Dunkle
Corporate Technology Planner
Office of Strategic Technology Planning
Business Support Services
City of Charlotte, North Carolina



Right answer in bold below:
What do you think of Infosys' recent announcement of its plans to hire 500 U.S. consultants over the next three years? Is it (a) a move aimed at placating an American public that feels victimized by the rise of India as a business-technology power; (b) a sudden and unexpected indication that India's rapidly growing economy has pushed incomes in that country so high that Infosys can now find qualified talent in the United States at lower wages; or (c) another example of a highly efficient global economy aligning resources and capabilities with business opportunities?

Anuj Setya



If you had the power to change one thing about your job--just one thing, no matter how large or small, grand or pedestrian--what would it be?

I would make it a tenured position.

As the economy picks up, would you recommend to your children that they pursue a career in your field? Why or why not?

I am a programmer analyst. I told my daughter to get a job that is unlikely to be outsourced to the Asia-Pacific, such as ski instructor. I didn't recommend stripping because there is so much competition on the Internet.

I am the "girl" no matter what I accomplish. So I told her to get a traditionally female job like teacher or cleaning woman so she does not have to fight stereotypes - just be one. Then you don't have that whole proper image for a businesswoman thing to worry about and you can have whatever hair color you want.

Unfortunately, she really likes working on her Web pages. I told her that there are 6 million English-speaking technical workers six seconds away who will work for peanuts.

That inspired her. She got a job correcting papers for an online English-as-a-second-language university-level class. She celebrated by buying a big bag of Reese's Pieces.

Deb Mathis



OK, Bob, I'll bite (he says, working through lunch):

Least fave: MyDoom dude (and his ilk)--I'm tired of technovandals. Close second: Those who litigate rather than innovate.

Infosys item: mostly c; a little a, perhaps, but that's part of the game.

IBM: Services (including consulting, etc.) leads revenue, and IBM should hope this doesn't change any time soon. IBM is in a winning groove for now, and if it ain't broke, the company won't likely fix it. I work for IBM's only major systems competitor, and we're very clear on how we position ourselves to customers versus IBM. I care, as I should.

Job change: Seems trivial, but I hate PCs and E-mail as they exist today. The human/machine interface is suboptimal, and don't get me started on lack of effective E-mail tools, including spam filtering ...

RFID: No cocktail parties ... Closer to retail-world changer, but until I can use it to, for example, find the lost tool that I know is somewhere in the garage, it won't transform my personal life. I have thought about several innovative uses for RFID technology that aren't retail but are very practical. It is being embraced at various levels in my company. I'm not personally affected yet, but I'm intrigued by the possibilities.

Kids: If they show aptitude in the basic skill sets required for various technology careers, I encourage them to check it out further. All four of my kids are tech users at some level (all are gamers, all use PCs, one has built a PC, most have taken various classes, etc.). Technology is not going away, and even if you don't work *in* the field, technology affects everything from music/art to banking to agriculture. Technological proficiency expands opportunities in all fields.

My $0.02, tchotchke or not.

Calvin Olsen



Your question:
As the economy picks up, would you recommend to your children that they pursue a career in your field? Why or why not?

My answer:
First, the field I'm in: On the outside, my resumé would be IT/help-desk manager. Under the covers, however, it's also contract negotiation, relationship management (with vendors), project management, R&D, PR, logistics, and, of course, cost control. What's great about technology is that it's constantly evolving. The help-desk-management aspect stays the same in that you'll always have to deal with people, problems, and the fact that things break and need to be fixed. I'm always playing Let's Make A Deal with some gray area of responsibility. I'm also in charge of leading 15 people and dealing with all of the incidentals, egos, and issues that accompany personnel management.

Some people say, "Geez, I could NEVER do that! People whining all the time, always dealing with people who don't want to help themselves!" Yes, I run into those, but that's just a very small price to pay. I think I have the best job for me. And why? To answer, let's look at what I actually do. Best put, I spin plates on sticks. I solve problems. But this is a good thing, as I'm intelligent and get bored easily. And technology is the perfect vehicle to keep the answers, ideas, and combinations thereof fresh and interesting. It's never the same job two days in a row.

But would I recommend it to my children? I think it depends on the child. While I don't think I'd recommend it for career aspirations for my kids, I think it's a GREAT starting place. In IT, you can have a great springboard for almost whatever else you want to do. Today, technology touches EVERYTHING. It has enabled me to have security, flexibility, and lack of boredom. Now that I have kids and my priorities have changed, I'm really seeing its merits. No one else wants my position because of erroneous perceptions of what it entails (above). However, I do a great job, the pay is pretty good, and I have a fantastic boss. The good thing is, my kids are 2-1/2 and 4, so by the time I am hearing of their dreams, IT will be totally different. Hopefully, there will be more women in technology by then! I know that the people-skills aspect of it will still be there, though. Although I started out studying biology and journalism and fell into IT, I'm really best categorized today as a businessperson who likes technology. Most of my co-workers are techies who have been forced into the business world, so it can make things VERY interesting. Of the 30 people in our segment of the organization, there are three women. We're quite outnumbered. One thing though: If my kids can get along with technologists, they can make it anywhere in business.

I sometimes think that landed short of my aspirations. It was a fine place to land though, and my career isn't over. Who knows what the future brings. I may be doing something totally different in another year, and still be in IT.

Judith A. Farrell
SEI INVESTMENTS
TSU-Corporate Information Technology



Who gets your vote for your least-favorite person: (a) SCO chief ambulance-chaser Darl McBride; (b) the hacker who created the MyDoom virus; (c) Donald Trump; or (d) the juror who tanked the Tyco trial?

A or B. I dislike people trying to get stuff they don't deserve, whether that's the SCO idiots who are trying to stop the open-systems movement for their own dubious reasons (and I don't think they own Unix) or unscrupulous executives who think they are above the law and the idiots there who agree with them.

The hacker isn't the first nor will be the last or greatest we'll see thanks to the wide openness of the Net and code from the west. Donald is just a Donald. He doesn't affect my life.

What do you think of Infosys' recent announcement of its plans to hire 500 U.S. consultants over the next three years? Is it (a) a move aimed at placating an American public that feels victimized by the rise of India as a business-technology power; (b) a sudden and unexpected indication that India's rapidly growing economy has pushed incomes in that country so high that Infosys can now find qualified talent in the United States at lower wages; or (c) another example of a highly efficient global economy aligning resources and capabilities with business opportunities?

I would hope (b), so that the flood of jobs going overseas because of cheaper labor would stop flowing, but I think it's more (a) to keep us happy and stupid until we have no jobs left here in the United States; (c) is what the businesses doing the offshoring are already telling us.

From which line of business does IBM generate the most revenue: (a) hardware, including all servers, PCs, mainframes, storage, etc.; (b) services; (c) software? Is that leading revenue-generator in decline and likely to be supplanted soon, or in ascendancy and likely to become the company's dominant offering? Will this affect how the company goes to market? Will this affect how other companies-whether in category a, b, c, or all of the above-position themselves and relate to you? Do you care? Should you care?

I don't know if (c) is their No. 1 generator yet, but I know it's growing and probably will be soon. I think it's a good direction for them since they don't dominate the hardware and operating-system markets any more, and hopefully with open source no one will. Services on how to get it all to work will be a valuable commodity.

If you had the power to change one thing about your job--just one thing, no matter how large or small, grand or pedestrian--what would it be?

For management to actually value and listen to the technical expertise they pay me to cultivate.

At cocktail parties these days (that's a bit of a fib--I can't remember the last time I was at a cocktail party, and I hope it's at least as long until I have to go to the next one), everyone's talking about RFID. Is it a world-changer, or a worthless and overhyped solution in search of a problem? Is your company thinking about it, exploring it, deploying it, or ignoring it? Do you care? Should you care?

We aren't dealing with RFID yet, but I think everyone eventually will.

As the economy picks up, would you recommend to your children that they pursue a career in your field? Why or why not?

No, with the current environment toward offshoring, I would not recommend my children go into a technical field, even though both I and my husband are in the tech industry. When I was in college, technical fields were the salvation of my generation and the place to go. Manufacturing jobs were going overseas to lower-paid labor, so you couldn't depend on having a union job all your life with which to support a family, as many in my parents' generation did. Now I would recommend management or government service. During layoff periods, they always get rid of more actual doers than managers, and we'll ALWAYS have government officials. They did in Rome and ancient China, and we will in the future.

Barbara Koenen



There is one risk of outsourcing that you don't hear enough about. A company loses vital experience in some of the business processes that are vital to its operation. Think about how a company is disrupted if a key individual in a department leaves. Now think about the disruption if that department was an outsourced service. Think about how corporate relationships can go sour over some perceived ill.

Now imagine how much knowledge of key business processes that American companies are "exporting" with those offshoring activities. What happens if one of those countries that we are offshoring to decides to nationalize businesses as happened in Portugal, Mexico, Saudi Arabia? Read the book Debt Of Honor by Tom Clancy. How much control does an offshored operation have over things that happen in "headquarters"? What kind of loss of core business knowledge can a company afford? What happens if a company has to restart those processes anew in its stateside operations?

I would love to see a column that explores these questions.

Michael F. Stanton
Unisys
Roseville, Minn.



Well now... let's just see what we have here.

Least favorite person: Assuming the "The Donald" and Darl are actual distinct individuals (have you ever seen them together?), I'll go with Darl (despite the Trump's worst haircut that obscene amounts of money can buy).

Infosys: Oh, please! While I'm sure that there are those that will lovingly attempt to convince us that what we have here is the investment in a global economy finally paying off, let's go with A.

IBM revenue: Services (more than hardware and software combined).

Harry Lewis

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