Alarming News: I like Morgan Freeberg. A lot.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: We were following a trackback and thinking "hmmm... this is a bloody excellent post!", and then we realized that it was just part III of, well, three...Damn. I wish I'd written those.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: ...I just remembered that I found a new blog a short while ago, House of Eratosthenes, that I really like. I like his common sense approach and his curiosity when it comes to why people believe what they believe rather than just what they believe.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is an intriguing guy...[he] asks great questions and answers others with style, flair, reason and wit. On the blogroll he goes. Make him a part of your regular blogospheric reading. I certainly will.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is brilliant.
Common Sense Junction: Misha @ Anti-Idiotarian never ceases to amaze me. He keeps finding other good blogs. I went over to A.I. this morning for my daily Misha fix and he had found this guy named Morgan Freeberg in Fair Oaks, California, that has a blog, House of Eratosthenes. Freeberg says its "The Blog That Nobody Reads" but it may now become the blog that everybody reads.
Jaded Haven: Good God, Morgan, you cover a topic from front to back with a screwy thoroughness I find mind boggling. I'm in awe of your thought proccesses, my friend, you're an exceptional talent. You start by throwing in the kitchen sink, tie in someone's syphilitic uncle, bend around a rip tide of brilliance and bring it all home in a neat, diamond dripping package of an exceptionally readable moment of damn fine wordsmithing. I love reading you.
Mein Blogovault: Make "the Blog that No One Reads" one of your daily reads.
Philmon: When Morgan meanders, stick with him - he's got a point and it'll be worth it in the end. He's not a hit-and-run snarky quip kind of guy. The pieces all fall into place like tumblers in a lock and bang! He's opened a cognative door for you.
Rightlinx: Morgan at House of Eratosthenes is one of the best writers out there. I read him nearly every day because he manages to provide an interesting perspective, even though I don't always agree.
Poetic Justice: Cletus! Ah gots a laiv one fer yew...
There are a lot of ways to look at this:
The real problem behind the skills shortage is that many companies don’t keep IT professionals for the long stretch.
CIOs keep complaining that they can’t find workers with the skills they need. In fact, two recent surveys on top issues among IT executives—one from the Society for Information Management and another by Robert Half Associates—rank finding skilled IT professionals as the No. 1 issue.
Many IT executives gripe that universities are not producing a stream of IT graduates who are prepared to function in the business world. Some worry about the unflattering image of technical professionals as socially awkward. But no one is more to blame for the skills shortage than CIOs, especially those at large companies. The reality is that IT executives are creating the skills shortage they grumble about.
Point one: …about which they grumble. That’s the way you do it, about which they grumble. What’s so hard about that? It’s not awkward at all. “…they grumble about” is just plain wrong. Anybody who’s seen Beavis and Butthead Do America knows, a preposition is not something you ever want to end a sentence with.
Point two is best articulated by blogger friend Virgil:
Funny thing about us americans.
We want everything yesterday and when we’re done with it.
We throw it away.
Appears to me that we have now reached that point with employee’s if I read this article in CIO – Insight correctly…Perhaps it is time to look in the mirror and realize that the problem is in fact us as we are reaping what we are sowing.
My take on this is slightly different. I believe in things like mentoring, friendships, setting up the “two way street” and so forth. To the extent that is voluntary and not a mandate from on-high from some busybody politician telling real businessmen how to run their businesses, sure I can get behind that.
Point three is mine: We are very confused — and I think the blame for this does fall somewhat on the CIOs — about what it is we mean when we use the term “skills.” What do we mean by that? The problem is, as I see it, that we’ve just finished undergoing the most insidious and extremist flavoring of thought-replacement possible, and that is the thought-replacement that is achieved by means of word-replacement. Skills, skills, skills…think about it. Your sink is busted and you need a plumber who has skills. What does “skills” mean in that context? It means, plain and simply, someone with the ability to fix your sink.
There it is, no ifs, ands or buts. And yet — that isn’t what CIOs talk about anymore when they use the word “skills.” They mean something very different. This is proven easily: You can be “more skilled” or “less skilled” than another plumber. There are plumbing problems some can fix that others can’t. This is an ancient tradition dating back to Roman times and before — apprentices, journeymen, etc.
We’re getting rid of that ancient tradition. “Skills” is becoming a pass-fail thing. You have it or you don’t.
Blogger friend Buck and I got into another one of our friendly disagreements about this:
…from Business Week:
The controversy over visas for high-skilled workers from abroad looks like it’s about to get even hotter.
The program for what are known as H-1B visas was originally set up to allow companies in the U.S. to import the best and brightest in technology, engineering, and other fields when such workers are in short supply in America. But data just released by the federal government show that offshore outsourcing firms, particularly from India, dominate the list of companies awarded H-1B visas in 2007. Indian outsourcers accounted for nearly 80% of the visa petitions approved last year for the top 10 participants in the program. The new data are sure to fuel criticism of the visa program from detractors such as Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.). “These numbers should send a red flag to every lawmaker that the H-1B visa program is not working as it was intended,” said Grassley in an e-mail.
Critics such as Grassley and Durbin charge that the outsourcers are abusing the U.S. program. The work visas, they say, are supposed to be used to bolster the U.S. economy. The idea is that companies like Microsoft, Google, or IBM can use them to hire software programmers or computer scientists with rare skills, fostering innovation and improving competitiveness. Instead, critics say, companies such as Infosys and Wipro are undermining the American economy by wiping out jobs.
A clash is likely in the coming months. Durbin and Grassley are pushing for more restrictions in the program, even as tech companies are advocating for a sharp increase in the number of visas handed out each year. The senators want to tighten the program’s criteria, by requiring participating companies to try to hire American workers first and to pledge that visa workers will not displace American workers. U.S. tech companies, meanwhile, want Congress to increase the visa cap from 65,000 a year to at least 115,000.
I agree with Senators Durbin and Grassley… it appears the Indian outsourcers are abusing the program. But I also agree with the corporate IT guys in that we—the US― need more H-1B visas, not less. Finding qualified American IT workers was pretty danged hard in my day, and I can only imagine the situation is worse these days and not better…given the growth in the IT industry. I had a bunch of database administrators (primarily Oracle DBAs) working for me in the last job I held. Out of the five DBAs on my team three were Indian, one was Russian, and only ONE was American. And these are six-figure jobs we’re on about, Gentle Reader. The financial incentives and rewards are substantial in the IT field, particularly for DBAs, so why don’t we have more native-grown talent in these areas? That remains a mystery to me…
And how, exactly, was I supposed to pass that up? I couldn’t move on without turning that rock over…
Durbin, et al, are correct just like you are, but their motives aren’t as pure as yours. They’re just beating up on eevyl korporashuns to keep themselves in good graces with the watermelons (green on outside red on inside).
This word “skills” is very seldom explored meaning-wise. It needs exploration because it’s a Yin-Yang thing, and has two different meanings in the two worlds. In the world of Yang it is demonstration that you have completed coursework, and in the world of Yin it is aptitude. I have skill pumping gas into my car. Now if the time comes where there is certification handed out for pumping gas into a car, and I don’t have it, the inquiry “Does Morgan have skill pumping gas into a car” will elicit a definite yes from half of us and a definite no from the other half.
So in my world, when Bill Gates goes to Congress and says he needs more H1-B’s to address this lack of “skill” he must have a different meaning in mind of what “skills” are than I do. (In fact he does, because his statistics have to do with number of graduates from computer science courses.) That, or else America has gotten really atrophied at the “there’s [a way] to do this and I’m gonna find it by cracky” meme that used to be our defining characteristic, what made the country great and wonderful.
I like my world a lot better and I think Mr. Gates should [too]. It has to do with getting the job DONE. On time, under budget. Not following rules…not showing you have the right letters after your name. PERforming over CONforming. Not to badmouth my accredited, and sometimes overly-accredited, brethren in I.T. since having those kinds of “skills” is not mutually-exclusive from being able to do the job. But it isn’t synonymous either.
And the fact of the matter is, if we all agreed on what the word “skills” meant, and we were all concerned about getting the contraption built on-time, under-budget, so it stays built and does what it’s supposed to do…and if America had the kind of spirit it had in the John Wayne days…this wouldn’t be an issue at all. We’d see what needs to be done, pick the most capable from among us, and get ‘er done.
To which Buck, former manager of database administrators, said…
You bring up some good points… but it takes more than just will to “git ‘r’ dun” these days. You can’t just pick up a book and figure out how to optimize a database, or worse: fix one when it goes belly-up. Same thing where sys admin (in general) is concerned. It takes a lot of study or natural talent (similar to that “talent” for languages), coupled with experience, to be effective in tech. But you know this…
Yes I do. And Buck is absolutely right. Right, anyway, about the subject immediately under discussion, which is database administration. And with very few exceptions, I would broaden that floodlight out to shine on anything in Information Technology with the word “administrator” in the job title: E-mail administrator, access administrator, etc.
Your needs here aren’t at all like having a plumber fix your sink; not by a damn sight. You have anything you’ll be using that interfaces with a larger network…a car that needs to be registered…a phone that needs to be plugged in…you really want the work done the way anybody else would do it. Otherwise you embark on this technical-support tumbling-dominoes nightmare — we’ve all been there, haven’t we? “Sorry, Mr. X, I have another call to make and I’m going to have to come back to this…I don’t know who did the previous work on this, but it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before…it’s just weird…”
But then there is the job I held when I was a “Sr. LAN Administrator.” The name of that job was converted when I got a new boss who didn’t have a technical background and couldn’t understand what “Sr. Network Systems Engineer” meant. That job had a very simple definition, both before and after the name change: It was at the top of the ladder of escalation resources for technical problems that could not be resolved by others.
Hence my comments about PERforming versus CONforming. When problems are kicked upstairs to you, it really doesn’t do you or anybody else an awful lot of good for you to do things exactly the same way others have done them. If that worked, after all, the problem would already be solved wouldn’t it?
Yes, it would. So Buck’s comments have a validity to them; the validity extends well over what he has in mind. That validity does not extend to what I have in mind. Information Technology is a big world, in which you need his type of skill as well as mine.
So through this word replacement game, what we’re doing is eradicating, completely, PERforming in favor of CONforming. We’re making entire IT farms scrubbed clean of anybody who does anything outside of the box. And we don’t even have the vocabulary necessary to reverse this if we choose to, because now the word “skills” has been re-defined to infuse all IT farms with more of the same: Bright, golf-shirt-and-goatee wearing “engineers” richly skilled in Step 1 Step 2 Step 3, who, if the previous guy didn’t work that way (or something’s just plain busted) may not understand enough about how things work to fix little bits of it.
They are valuable people. We need them. But they are admins, not engineers.
I think the vision of the CIOs makes sense on some level. The assumption under which they’re operating is that when one of these unorthodox problems comes up that requires this escalation to guys who can think outside of the box and do things differently than the way the next guy might do them…it was probably caused by one of those guys. Speaking as one of those guys, I do have to say I can see the merits of this argument. I have seen this happen many times. Someone didn’t follow rules…someone who has an “admin” job and wants to have an “engineering” job and acted as an “engineer” when he was expected to act like an “admin”…and now we have a mess.
But I still blame the CIOs for that.
I blame them because it’s simplistic thinking, the kind of thinking they’re paid good money to avoid, to say this is the cause of all IT woes. This drive to expunge IT of anybody who colors outside the lines and saturate it with the “step 1 do this step 2 do that” mindset, makes sense only if you presume this is the only type of technical problem we can have. And after twenty years in the biz, I think I can provide my assurances that this is not the case.
I further blame them because it’s an avoidance of responsibility. This thing we talk about now when we use the word “skills” — it isn’t like the olden days when you’d talk about someone’s skills after spending years personally witnessing his use of them — it’s decidedly a third-party definition. You have skills, I point out you have skills, and what I mean is there is some third party esteemed accreditation institution that has put out a piece of paper that says you have the skills. Nobody expects me to know anything about the details, I’m just Player B. And, of course, if we’re talking about another guy who also has these “skills” it is logically impossible to compare the two of you. It’s strictly pass-fail.
You know, in IT and outside of it, we have a need for pass-fail jobs: You’re qualified to do them, or you aren’t. My point is that all jobs are not like that. If you’re going in for brain surgery or heart bypass surgery, you aren’t going to be satisfied with a surgeon who went through a pass/fail and got his piece of paper saying he’s got “skills.” You’ll want to know a bit more than that. You’ll be throwing around the word “skills” with the spirit in which we used to use it. You’ll want to talk to someone who’s worked with your surgeon, preferably for years, with a big ol’ saga of war stories to tell.
And I think people need to understand that with all the services they use, Information Technology is not going through a process of confining that kind of talent to the very top. It’s going through a process of cleaning it out. Everybody in our data center, top to bottom, is here to follow rules, to CONform and not to PERform. If something pops up and nobody can figure it out…well…nobody will figure it out. We’ll end up replacing huge things at great cost instead of smaller things at reduced cost — and don’t even ask what that will do to the delivery schedule involved in the repair, you don’t wanna know. We are making it into a bureaucracy — it only works if everybody follows the rules. Nothing Invented Here.
…here, where we expect things to be invented.
A lot of people don’t see an issue with that. I think I see a big one. Time will tell if I’m right.
Update 3/24/07: Run, don’t walk, over to Phil’s place to see what he has to say about this.
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