Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Job Shock

I read with interest IT Workers Confront 'Job Shock' by Thorton A. May in the latest Computerworld. Mr. May brings up a very valid point that users have extraordinary tools in their hands to do the work that IT Professionals used to do. It brought to mind one of my first programming projects way back in 1989. I was to write a program that pulled data out of an Ingres database, sort and group it in illogical ways, and spit it out on a landscape page. The tool of choice was C and it took me six weeks to write. Today, I'd dump some summarized data in a CSV file and let the user mess with it.

Mr. May goes on to wonder "What if paid IT employment was to steadily disappear?". Good question. I can tell you the people at my first job are still employed. No, they're not writing too many C programs anymore, but web interfaces. They give their users the tools to get their own data. Last I knew, there were just as many people as when I left.

Mr. May goes on to point out how to "save" your fat IT career. All his points are well taken, but the bottom line is your career is your business. If you let you business stagnate, it will die. (If this sounds familiar, thanks for reading).

8 comments:

Robert Vollman said...

Hey, someone has to develop those smart applications and tools that Average Joe is going to use, right? There's your job right there.

Plus, are you assuming that the needs of users won't at least keep up with the speed applications get smarter?

For every task that can now be done by a user with a "smart tool", there is probably 3 brand new complex requirements that require a specialist.

Tim... said...

The other big issue here is consolidation. When I first started working in IT each site had it's own IT. Now most companies have a single datacenter, maybe two, and all the remote sites hook into that. The number of staff needed at that central site has gone up, but the jobs associated with the remote sites have disappeared. Overall, less workers in total.

It's not all doom and gloom though. As we've said before, peoples roles are just changing.

Gary Myers said...

"program that pulled data out of an Ingres database, sort and group it in illogical ways, and spit it out on a landscape page"
My first job used an Ingres database and we basically let some (trained) users loose to run SQL against the data. Saved a lot of hassle trying to predict and respond to strange requirements.
When I went for an interview at an Oracle shop, the interviewer was amazed at that concept, but then Sql*Plus wasn't/isn't as friendly as ISQL.

To bring it back to the main topic, while end-user tools have improved/are improving/will still improve, so is the quantity, range and type of of data they'll be expected to process.

And if that runs out, we can always trust government to regularly throw up a new set of regulations that have to be built in.

Noons said...

This blog entry reminded me of a few past things in my IT life.

1975:"use of assembler will be gone soon and everyone will be out of a job (EWBOOJ for short) or coding Cobol ".
1983: "use of Cobol will be gone soon and EWBOOJ or coding C".
1989: "use of C will be gone soon and EWBOOJ or coding C++".
1995: "use of C++ will be gone soon and EWBOOJ or coding Java".
2002: "use of Java will be gone soon and EWBOOJ or coding php".

2005: Assembler is STILL used, so are Cobol, C, C++, Java and php. And many, many others. The actual number of lines of code out there, if anything, is now growing geometrically.

IT finished? Yeah, right...

Robert Vollman said...

1995: "use of C++ will be gone soon and EWBOOJ or coding Java".

To which I responded, at the time, "aren't Java compilers WRITTEN in C++?" :)

Java is essentially C++ with training wheels, so it's like asking a flutist to start playing a whistle.

Jeff Hunter said...

Java is essentially C++ with training wheels, so it's like asking a flutist to start playing a whistle.
But the whistle can play 10 songs "good enough" by the time the flautist can play 1 stanza really well.

Robert Vollman said...

But the whistle can play 10 songs "good enough" by the time the flautist can play 1 stanza really well.

No argument there. C++'s major drawback is its complexity, which ultimately leads to greater time of learning and development.

But isn't that also the major knock against Oracle?

Jeff Hunter said...

But isn't that also the major knock against Oracle?
Oracle is just a big black box that people treat as a big hard disk. ;)