To My IT friends

How many times a day or week or month does your phone ring from a family member or friend and when you answer that phone the sentence starts out with, my computer…. what does it mean when…. what software …… and the list goes on?

Do you ever get tired of not hearing a hello, how are you doing?

For thirty odd years this has been my life. I am sure that you too have heard this from everyone from your friend to you mom.

Here is the thing, if they were doctors and you called them up with “what does it mean when I have this pain….?” How would they respond?

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and value my friends enough to overlook their lack of manners. Here is the problem as I see it. My time and expertise is my “stock and trade.”

I have invested thousands of dollars in books and equipment and classes to get to where I am. I have spent thousands of hours of my life learning what I do. Unlike a doctor or heart surgeon or dentist my craft is incredibly dynamic! It changes daily. You snooze for one day you may not learn about the latest threat or the newest bug or what have you.

A heart is still a heart and a tooth is still a tooth. Am I saying that their fields are not dynamic? Of course not! They are however more static than ours. Breakthroughs in medicine don’t happen all that often, do they?

My point is that just because I am not cutting into someone’s chest are my skills any less valuable?

Why am I assigning a value to this?

If you give your skills away, you are by definition cheapening what you do in the mind of the person receiving it. If I don’t have to pay something for your efforts I may very well expect them again and again for free.

How often do you think your doctor or dentist would put up with that?

Thirty four years or so ago the internet was not as you see it today. Using the internet back in those days was a command line system consisting of commands like “telnet, gopher, ftp and so forth” Knowing Unix was a plus as a lot of the commands were similar like ls.

Bill Gates and later Steve jobs came up with a Gui or Graphical User Interface that made what we have today possible for everyone. Actually Xerox came up with the first GUI and the first mouse and when Bill saw it he quickly went to the college that was working on the “open source code” and came up with Windows.

I don’t know how Steve came up with their GUI and I am not sure how IBM came up with their idea of a GUI with OS2.

Xerox lost out because their system was way too expensive and some bean counter was trying to get all of their development dollars back on the first sale.

IBM lost out as everything that they did was costly and proprietary. Even their NIC’s which were the first real solid networking card lost out to a less efficient method as IBM licensed their software and technology with each card. One card could cost upwards of $500 odd dollars. That might get your 4mbts of speed.

Ethernet using a different transport method was much more cost effective and as the software improved by 1983, became a standard through the cooperative efforts of several companies; Xerox, Intel and DEC and of course 3COM which was formed by the inventor of Ethernet, Bob Metcalfe.

My point to this little divergence into history is that it was not too long ago that you had to be a geek to use this stuff. In order to “network” computers you really needed to understand what a datagram was and how it worked. The OSI model was something that you studied and understood each and every layer so if there was a failure you would know where to look.

Not long ago I was consulting with a company where the head IT guru was trying to convince me and a few others that this computer was conflicting with itself. He was convinced that this computer had somehow had a duplicate IP address and was conflicting with itself knocking itself off of the network.

Now this guy clearly has never heard of the OSI model and has no idea what a datagram is and for that matter never heard of a sniffer or protocol analyzer. I knew he was clueless but not to make him look stupid I loaded up WireShark and tried to show him how some of it worked.

When he was still lost, I shut off the PC in question and showed him a simply ping to the offending IP address which responded. There was another device with that same ip address as someone had loaded another DHCP server, and it was handing out addresses as well.

When you don’t have a change control or change management committee, or some sort of method for controlling what is on your network you get the Wild West.

How many of your phones ring when you are in bed and it is the office, something is not working?

We are in a global competition for our jobs and our lives revolve around this stuff. Companies are trying to convince the powers that be that we need more H1B folks as there is nobody in America with the skills that they need!

Ever been to a job fair Mr. hiring manager? 5000 folks will show up for a half dozen jobs.

The fact is that there is plenty of talent here in this country right now. I know because I talk with them daily. A lot of them can’t find work as they are too old, (over 50.) Once you get seasoned you are at the top of the pay range and you expect to make decent money. Companies don’t want to pay you for what you are worth so they convince someone in Congress or whoever makes the laws regarding H1B employees and they drag them in by the thousands!

Much like the illegal’s taking non-skilled jobs; we have the H1B people taking the skilled jobs because they will work cheaper. They can also be terminated more easily.

I ran into a programmer working behind the counter at a hardware store the other day. He was surly and I could not let that go. I kept making conversation with him until I learned that he was a DBA and could not find work. He was good at what he did and after a few more minutes I figured out that he had reached the top of his pay scale and once you do that, companies look for cheaper labor. Still want that raise?

I know too many in similar situations, and as long as we have H1B folks and we have Peggy type folks with call centers in parts of the world that no one ever heard of, nothing will change.

The talent is there; they are just under employed and if they stay that way for too long they will never regain entry in to the work force in the capacity that they were.

If it is not with H1B workers it is companies outsourcing things to different countries. We are creating hostile environments for companies in this country so why not take it overseas.

I sell a product made here in this country that if it were made in China, I could get it for a tenth of the cost. Those are tough dollars to overlook. I like selling things that are made in America and those things are hard to find.

So what is the value of your education, your time, and your personal time being interrupted by family and or friends needing computer help?

I am actually thankful that their computer is broken so at least I hear from them. When they start the conversation with “my computer is… I reply with I am fine, how are you?”

-Best to you and those that you care about!

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