bynkii (bynkii) wrote,

Book idea

So with some of the posts I've seen from Le Scoble and Shelley Powers, an idea has been bouncing around my head: for a book about the downsides of working in the tech industry from the POV of well, my generation. By "my generation" I mean the people who got into the tech field when it was still really new. For example, I graduated High School in 1984. The Mac was barely six months old, Windows didn't exist, and my first computer courses were Fortran and Basic on a Univac that took up most of the fifth floor of Primera Casa at FIU's Tamiami Campus.

There were no real degree requirements for being a sysadmin, because no one knew wtf that was. A lot of people wandered into it from other fields. I always had a thing for fixing stuff, which is what drew me to it. Well, it drew me to "computers". What we were using for "networks" were lots of serial and/or parallel cables. I don't think a lot of kids graduating college today have spent much time building ethernet cables, much less serial cables, and learning the joys of pin crimpers, or why you were so happy when you were able to use Zmodem regularly for file transfers.

The tech field was this wide open place where really, anyone who wanted to put forth the time and had a bit of a knack for it could be incredibly successful. There were no job requirements as long as your arm. Hell, I think Novell had the only real certification program at the time, and even that was waiveable if you could show you knew your stuff. Self-taught? No problem, everyone else was too. Most companies hired you expecting that they'd have to train you for a few months before you were truly useful, and that was okay. On the other hand, it was expected that you'd figure out some bizarre way to get things done that no one had thought of yet, because there was no concept that anyone "knew it all", because we didn't even know what "all" there was to know.

But like everything it's changed, and in a lot of ways, for the worse. It's become a place only for people with the right college degrees and initials after their initials. If you can't walk in knowing almost everything, you don't even get in the door. HR roundfiles resumes and applicants because they don't fit the right checkboxes. Finding a new gig without knowing people inside is damned hard if you're too far over 30, and god help you if you're over 40. At that point, they just give you some hemlock and a comfy chair on an ice floe. Businesses summarily reject thousands of people who can do the job, then whine to Congress they need more H-1B's.

Of course, that's because for what they want, people from my generation are poison. We've been around long enough to know at the start when a project's deadlines are so much fairy dust and cloud farts. We're going to have lives outside of work. We're willing to work long hours when needed, but "when needed" is not "every damned day of the year". We recognize that a company willing to pay for tons of services on site is also saying "we never want you to go home". We also aren't going to kill ourselves for a crap salary and promises of benefits. Let's see...canny, experienced workforce, or disposable, cheap foreign workers that you can send back home when you don't need them, and who daren't piss you off, because you control their ability to stay in this country. Gee, I wonder why Bill Gates keeps begging Congress for more H-1Bs instead of training existing people here?

At some point, the tech industry stopped being an unlimited opportunity, and became what it is today: a place that only wants you young, ignorant, and desperate for approval.

This isn't just my opinion. There are far too many people out there who's only crime is being over 35, and not having the right paper from a university. Dori Smith has talked about the fact that she hasn't been able to land a "real" job since 1998, yet she's one of the best people out there for Javascript/AJAX/etc. Don't take my word for it, google her name, and see the reams of info you get back. Shit that people want and need. But no one wants a middle aged woman who can pound out code with the best of them. Everyone my age is realizing that experience doesn't matter. You don't fit the right checkboxes, you don't get interviewed much less hired. That's the worst part. It's not that you can't compete, it's that you're not allowed to even try.

Obviously, I think it's crap. Yes, college is important, but in a field that as it stands today, is not even a half-century old, the stratification, and unbending degree/certification requirements we're seeing is just bullshit, and I don't think it's just a few people who think that.

So here's the deal. I think this could make a good book, but I don't want it to just be me doing the writing. If you're in the same relative generation I am, (since we have to pick a number, let's just say, if you were born around 1972 or earlier), and you're really not liking where the tech industry is going, and if you've had to deal with the bullshit of it that a lot of us have, then comment here. Let me know what you think, and if you'd be willing to send in your stories, even anonymously. If it looks like there's some real interest in this, then I'll see about the next steps.

It doesn't just have to be stories about trying to get hired either. Give me what you've got, anything from "our" POV, as the generation that really saw networks and computers go from oddity to ubiquity, and how you've seen things change from then to now. Tech is not just a young person's game, and it's not just for people who have never done anything else but computers. One of the best network administrators I've ever known went to college for graphic design. The only degree I ever ended up completing was an A.S. in Avionics Tech. My first post-military boss barely went to college at all, yet was one of the best tutors I had in this business. Yet today, they'd be thought of as fit for naught but working out of a strip mall computer store.

So, let me get opinions on this, and we'll see what happens next. (Oh, the title that popped into my head on this was "Working in the Tech Industry: How doing what you love can eat your soul" I'm open to better suggestions.)

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