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How To Scare Off Your Best IT People
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apiecka
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apiecka,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/8/2013 | 10:35:05 PM
re: How To Scare Off Your Best IT People
Excellent points about the treatment of IT technical workers. Putting the technical teams in the position of being collections of commodity entities is extremely poor practice. Although computer systems and software have improved the efficiency of many things throughout an organization, the job of writing software is decidedly something that resists that kind of simplification. There is simply no substitute for talented developers.

While my background is much more in software development for engineering projects, I do have some experience in IT. There are similarities and differences between the two, but as far as hiring and management are concerned I think there are more similarities.

As to the recruiting practices, there are so many cases of poorly written requirements. Beyond that, so many come through recruiting agencies where the recruiters don't have any background to evaluate resumes or job requirements. From one submission I made, I got a call from a recruiter who first of all admitted she didn't remember what kind of job the client was trying to fill and had to call the poster to find out. Then she couldn't tell from my resume whether I had any experience that would match the job. All she had was some resume screening process match and my phone number. In my opinion this indicates a practice of treating the IT workers as commodities where a simple "feature search" will yield the right IT worker to buy. Also along that line there appears to be the belief that the best hiring practice is to find a perfect match to a set of skills at the lowest price. However, what are called skills in the requirements are often not really skills at all, but rather specific software tools or architecture types. I would not call JSON a skill, but with many screening processes a junior programmer who has written something using it will be considered more skilled and a better match than someone who has never used it but with a much higher aptitude for solving problems. I consider the ability to solve problems the real skill here, but nobody seems to know how to screen for that.

I also find that the hierarchical structure of IT departments fosters the treatment of the developers as commodities. When a company as a rule values the management team as more valuable than the technical team workers, the natural tendency is for the top technical workers to try to find a way to be promoted to management. Once there, they aren't necessarily good or bad managers, but it is very likely that there was an overall loss of a valuable technical person who is now not contributing to development efforts. The new manager can then be faced with the situation where the remaining team can't perform as well as it did when he or she was doing development. Depending on temperament, this could lead to dictatorial behavior, frustration, divisiveness, or simply ineffective project management. The highly skilled tech worker who has no interest in moving up the organizational ladder is left to be lumped in with the rest of the commodities, feels unappreciated, and eventually looks elsewhere or underperforms. If you put a ceiling on your talented people, they will either get out from under it, or languish there and find outlets for their interests outside of their jobs.

Simply stating that we need to move more people into STEM degree programs isn't the answer. I have interviewed prospective students for college admission for a number of years for a school known for it's strength in STEM. The candidates always had interesting things to discuss when it came to the sciences and the types of careers they might pursue there. About fifteen years ago I started to see a shift from candidates that aspired to science, research, or engineering careers. Many rather stated that they were interested in a "career in business", which basically translated to getting some technical background, then an MBA, and then a path to some sort of executive position. They had found, in high school, that there was an impending ceiling to a tech career and were making sure they never got under it and therefore would avoid the work to get out from under it. Telling a talented student that he or she should aspire to a tech career will just be viewed as poor advice.

Faye Kane, homeless brain
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Faye Kane, homeless brain,
User Rank: Strategist
1/20/2013 | 1:28:36 AM
re: How To Scare Off Your Best IT People
==--
Nobody hires "old people", you got THAT right. And if you're female, the definition of "old" is >40. You can still get hired, but that's when you start losing points for not being as "pretty" as you once were.

When I was young and sexy, I know of at least two instances in was hired because of that (or at least, that clearly influenced the guy because he did the same subtle things guys do at bars that they don't do consciously). I was also highly qualified, but as we all know, that's, like, number three or four on the priority list.

The two times I did interviewing, I wanted to do what, for lack of a better term, I called "reverse discrimination": I wished a dwarf would apply, because all the stupid managers at other companies would have rejected him out of hand, and I could get a Nobel-prize quality worker for cheap.

Did you know that the Japanese have no word for "overqualified" or "geek"? I heard that and verified it with a Japanese coworker. They have a word for "nerd", but it's a compliment.

I wish I lived in a civilized country.

-faye
sanjaygopal
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sanjaygopal,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/20/2013 | 12:56:28 AM
re: How To Scare Off Your Best IT People
Very funny how this article mentions HCL & recruitment notices. I got this recruitment notice (see below) from HCL a few months back. The typos and grammatical errors seem to go beyond the usual differences between Indian and American English. That, along with no mention of my name directly or how they received my email address led me & others to think it was a scam.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: <k.agarwal@hcl.com>
Date: Thu, Jun 14, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Subject: Job Opportunity with HCL Technologies- Engagement MAnager/Business Development Manager

HCL is a 6.2 Bn USD organization driven by the passion of 77,000 professionals across the world who have made it one of the pioneers inthe IT space. With Global Delivery Centers and offices in 29 countries, HCLprovides a gamut of services that include product engineering, custom andpackage applications, BPOs, IT infrastructure, IT hardware, systemsintegration, distribution of information and communications technology (ICT)products across a wide range of focused industry verticals.

HCL is always on the lookout for talented, dynamic andpassionate individuals from university campuses around the world who will takethe organization into the future. HCL is well known for its entrepreneurialculture (it has produced 100 CEOs in 30 years!) and encourages every employeeto take charge. HCL festivity to nurture campus recruits is widely visible fromthe fact that the present CEO of HCL Technologies, Vineet Nayar is a campusjoinee in HCL and got an opportunity to structure his own entrepreneur withinfew years of his work life at HCL and recognized as a future leader.

As part of our global campus hiring program, we are looking for bright and passionate MBA graduates , for the BusinessDevelopment and Engagement Manager positions. Attached please find the detailedJD on the same.

We are conducting interviews at the HCL headquarters at Sunnyvale, CA on Friday June 22nd 2012 . In case you are interested, feelfree to send me your updated resumes at k.agarwal@hcl.com.

P.S. In case you are not closer to Sunnyvale, CA, HCL will take care of all your travel logistics.

</k.agarwal@hcl.com>
Greg MacSweeney
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Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/18/2013 | 9:46:06 PM
re: How To Scare Off Your Best IT People
I was laughing at the poorly written job descriptions. I've seen a great many of them, even some that came from my own company.
cbabcock
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cbabcock,
User Rank: Author
1/18/2013 | 9:26:37 PM
re: How To Scare Off Your Best IT People
Great summary: High performers seek "mastery of their craft, as much autonomy as they need and a purpose." It's the unusual boss who lends support to all three; more often, two out of three aint bad. In the worst cases, sufficient autonomy is replaced by an imposed, master/slave relationship. In truth, the employees themselves often furnish part of number three, a purpose, through their own sense of priorities aligned with company goals. Charlie Babcock, InformationWeek
MyW0r1d
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MyW0r1d,
User Rank: Strategist
1/18/2013 | 5:45:21 PM
re: How To Scare Off Your Best IT People
I see the question closing your first paragraph a direct result of the reality summarized by dbell947 in their comments. Youth has distinct benefits however only in very few, special cases have I seen it come with a commensurate level of managerial ability gained largely if not exclusively through experience and practice. It's not by chance that the military sends soldiers through dedicated leadership training only after about the 4-5 year mark. Naturally, I reference smaller SMB companies where the PM is not a dedicated resource and not your 10000 employee compartimentalized large enterprises.
MyW0r1d
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MyW0r1d,
User Rank: Strategist
1/18/2013 | 5:29:46 PM
re: How To Scare Off Your Best IT People
Unionization of IT ? With so much of IT project or consultant based, it may be difficult from an organizational perspective.
Andrew Hornback
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Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/18/2013 | 4:57:22 AM
re: How To Scare Off Your Best IT People
One of the things that I'm seeing in a number of organizations is that upper management is "touchy-feely" wanting to improve morale among the rank and file - understanding that a happy workforce is one that will get the job done and go the "extra mile". However, in IT, it's the middle managers that seem to be out of touch with the realities around them - is putting your department's project manager in a position where they have to perform Level I support on a daily basis really the best utilization of that resource?

Managers, something to consider, are you being consistent with what you are saying AND doing? Saying one thing and doing another is a great way to kill morale amongst your team. Maybe it's the focus on agility that's killing your team's productivity and morale - rowing a ship may take thousand strokes, but if they're all in different directions, you're not going anywhere.

One of my biggest gripes in the past was that management sees IT as a cost sink - a black hole that they throw a lot of money at every year and get seemingly nothing in return. However, when you consider that that same organization had at least one (if not two and sometimes three) physical systems on a knowledge workers' desk and these systems operated without major failures, all the while allowing those knowledge workers' to generate value/revenue for the organization... case in point, I had a former C-level actually make the comment to me, "The IT department is just a waste of our money... " - I challenged that C-level to try doing their entire job without a laptop, desktop, desk phone, mobile phone... any form of technology for just one day. That same C-level couldn't do it, cried uncle and finally got perspective.

Face it, point blank, without IT there are VERY few businesses these days that could operate at full strength - and the ones that can wouldn't exactly be considered lucrative.

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
TreeInMyCube
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TreeInMyCube,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/17/2013 | 8:57:42 PM
re: How To Scare Off Your Best IT People
Why did you bury the most important sentence? "Most of the high performers I work with seek three things in their work: mastery of their craft, as much autonomy as they need and a purpose." Shout this from the mountaintops! If more bosses understood this, they would not be dysfunctional. I tried to nurture these traits when I was a supervisor, and the lack of these traits contributes to my current job dissatisfaction.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
1/15/2013 | 7:25:21 PM
re: How To Scare Off Your Best IT People
"There's no ombudsman to settle disputes." I have worked on small teams where people spontaneously and unofficially took on this role of ombudsman with the team leader -- and even with higher-up leaders. It can be very beneficial for all involved. Of course that requires a leader who is open to learning from mistakes, and open to learning in general.

Laurianne McLaughlin
InformationWeek
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