Monday, December 13, 2010

and now for something completely different.

Changes are afoot. Tomorrow I'll most likely have news of some new training I'll be getting in anticipation of a fairly abrupt career change maybe a couple years down the road.

As far the American workforce is concerned, we are at an interesting juncture, and I think some of the only really secure professional fields are and will remain in the service industry. Couple that with a marketplace in which fewer and fewer young folk are imbued with anything like a reliable work ethic, and I think things are really going to take a tumble in our economy. I have seen several fields where the old hands have been fired to facilitate the hiring of two others with ages halved and experience and work ethic at below ground-level. The tragedy here is that the older worker may be more expensive, close to retirement, etc., but an experienced and reliable longtime worker is worth more than the sum of their parts.

I was talking to a girlfriend who got laid off from her graphic design job a few months ago. She's been working in her field for 30 years and has taken computer graphics courses routinely to keep up with the march of technology. When I first met her - mid- 80's, she worked in the art department for a newspaper that was changing over to computer-based graphic layout/design. I remember walking through the newsroom with her, and her mentioning to me later how all those typesetter guys were an endangered species-- wondering what would become of these guys who had news ink in their blood and who had worked steadily, stalwartly for decades. People doing that kind of work went in to work in the evening and worked into the wee hours to get the paper to your door by 5 or 6 am. She and I were talking recently about her layoff, and I asked about the typesetters, asking if she remembered that. She said "I think of those guys every day." She said that after the paper set up with computers for layout/graphics, that the typesetters were all gone in a matter of months. That was about 23 years ago, and now a new cycle has come around. I think the kids they are hiring today are going to enjoy an even shorter lifespan with their current, computer-based design careers because their current skills will merit dinosaur status in a decade. Or two years. Or 6 months.

I understand that we need to march forward with technology, but I have serious reservations about an economy in which the august workhorses are put out to pasture prematurely in favor of fresh horses who may not have the backbone to hoe the row when things get really tough. I don't know where this will all end up, but I know I have to change or be left in the dust, so I'll just do what I can to adapt, react and kick some ass.

Watch this space.


Turk Turon said...

Amen, sister!

Jon said...

There's a basic requirement that technology doesn't provide: experience, which is what makes the process flow and guarantees success. Knowing how to achieve a goal is tempered by years of observing what works, and what doesn't.

In my field of work, there's a demand for experience, since the infrastructure requires this knowledge, or things aren't built correctly, cost too much and the result can be dangerous.

Experience and knowledge are powerful and you can't have too much of either.

NotClauswitz said...

In your second paragraph you very accurately describe the University situation, where the bulking-up of bureaucracy and fief-building has created some severe instabilities in actual information flow, as the older workers simply know vastly more *stuff* the the below-water youths, and more importantly how things are integrated, the *stuff about stuff* meta-information. The callow yout's have simply been brought in two-by-two to expand the budgetary power and mass of the fief-builders, who are pyramiding their way up to higher posts.
Then too (said as a graphics and publications-guy in times past), the typesetters you mention had an artistic eye to assembalge and detail that so often has to be re-learned (if that is even possible and often it is not) by the self-proclaimed brilliances at computer whizamary.
The new kids coming in have a technical ability, but they have not past-brain or history - they think that they are so much at the forefront of everything, what they are seeing is being seen for the first time - and it isn't. They don't realize everything that really matters is actually quite OLD and has been around for years and years and years.
They are like little whatshisname with the bowl hair-cut, a self-centered know-nothing dancing and prancing around - Justin Bieber - they think nobody ever did that before...?? Technical assembly equipment isn't what matters, it's the training to SEE the art and layout design as a complete entity, and more important than that the experience to communicate the information within, effectively. To teach.

Rabbit said...

Not a day goes by that I don't consider that tomorrow my team could be outsourced to Manila or Bangalore.

Right after I have that happy thought, I look at used lathes and mills and consider my 'retirement cottage industry plan' which involves building new custom ARs and suppressors. I could even move out into the wilds of Elsewhere and do that, too. Not an unattractive idea, although I have hope of a more favorable political/regulatory climate in which to conduct my business.

DBA Dude said...

Meanwhile over in the yUcK the mandatory retirement age of 65 for men comes to an end on April 1st next year.

Forward thinking government or just a device to stave off paying retirement pensions? You decide, but I know where my vote goes.

I have seen many changes in the software development industry over the last 30 years but the fundamental principles of "delivering a good application" remain the same.

Count myself lucky to have a job and to still enjoy doing what I do - even when the pesky application software that I have to use does not "play nice".

Old NFO said...

Excellent point and excellent post Phlegmmy... Things are definitely on a down hill slide. Two young pups DO NOT equal one old fart with years of experience and practical knowledge.

Lawyer said...

I think about this often. I'm approaching my 40's in a service and knowledge-based field. I am blessed to be in a position that actually makes the decision as to who stays and who goes. I'm determined to make those choices looking at the whole person. Age, experience, knowledge, attitude, etc... I'm also proud to say that any time I have let someone go, it's been purely because of attitude or behavior. My office has staff ranging from early twenties to over sixty. I have found that the work ethic of the older crowd is a great teaching tool for the younger group.

Thud said...

You even outsourced your President!

SCI-FI said...

Adapt or die: the eternal admonishment against becoming a dinosaur. Unfortunately for us, the wave of dinosaurism comes faster every year.
If your job has a generous training reimbursement policy, take it as a gift - and a warning. (My last employer made it a requirement that you took skills training each year.)