Thursday, June 07, 2007

What Should I Do?

There's been a lot of that thought running around in my head. Monday I worked from home and took a 1/2 day of personal time so that I could attend a field trip with my first grader. The field trip was wonderfully entertaining. We visited Roseville City Hall, the police department, got to see the detention center, toured the fire department, got to climb on the fire truck, visited the public works department, and then had a picnic lunch.

I got home to wrap up some work related things, check email, and return a few phone calls. While I was talking to someone, I see on the caller ID that one of my coworkers who works from her home in Fergus Falls, MN was calling. Always happy to lend a hand and help her out, I wrapped up my current call before calling her back. When she did answer the phone, I believe her question to me was something along the lines of:

"Have you heard what happened?"

Well, based on the rumors of how the corporate world is redoing the expectations of just what it is that we as programmers should be capable of (such at 1770 billable hours per year) I was fully expecting to hear of a reduction in work force. But, I couldn't believe my ears. I have been working for the same woman for my entire 10 years at my current employer. She's been my mentor for work, very wise and very challenging to work for. She was recently promoted to handling the custom code department for our "premier" software product, so was forced to "promote" someone to the position of our department manager. In the process my boss J picked T to step up to only the title of my manager. Well, the news was that both J and T were let go. WOW! This is a HUGE loss to our department and our customers.

I've suspected the demise of my position for some time... but Monday really set into perspective of just how imminent the end is. The rest of this week has been very interesting. We've learned all about how our corporate global strategy is to move all of the programming to Mexico. They don't have anyone hired or experienced yet, but they will in the next couple of weeks and then we can start training them in on how to do what it is that we do. Then, we can move up to "Business Analysts" who perform all of the customer interactions, provide estimates, do the testing, QA, installation, and project management. The pitch is that we'll be capable of so much more and able to take credit for all of the programming services that are conducted by the people in Mexico.

Well, sounds good if you are fresh out of college with your masters in business and don't understand jack-shit about technical stuff. But, in reality... how does a business analyst come up with an idea of what it will take to perform a task unless it's been done before and has the experience to draw upon to understand what it will take to do? The best way that I can understand this is by analogy. I'll look to the automotive industry that has an extremely good system for estimating what it will take to perform a series of repairs on a car.

The concept as I see it is to take an extremely skilled diagnostic mechanic and have him step aside to orchestrate the efforts of a bunch of kids out of high school or college what the theory of tools is and how wrenches work. Let's get this right, I'll look at the car and provide detailed specifications of which bolts to turn and step by step instructions of how to perform the repair. I'll then demonstrate and train the inexperienced new person on how to do what I've provided as specifications, then follow up with a test drive to make sure that they have performed the task to my satisfaction. Then, I'll pass the car back to the customer who will pay a premium for my skills in being able to document the repair that has been performed as well as the labor for the person that has actually performed the work.

Okay, lets suppose this training is EXTREMELY successful. (any of you out there who have EVER worked with someone who performs a service understands that there is a difference between people who perform the task. Some do a good job, others don't.) If this whole corporate strategy of having business analysts in the US and the technical people in foreign countries does work, what's the point of the middle man? Any way I look at this, I really don't have much opportunity for success, I mean... I could do it, but there are some other factors that come into play that make it very clear that my particular job is not long for this world.

I work on a legacy software package that is no longer being actively sold. Our existing customer base is very loyal and will likely continue to use the software for years to come, but the needs for customization are dwindling. I work with a language called UniData which despite its many merits isn't exactly the database or programming language that is running the world. I came to this job almost 10 years ago knowing nothing about the technical side. I learn extremely fast. I'm one of our best programmers. I'm a really smart guy, loyal, hard working, and very interested in building long term good solutions to make people's lives easier. I can learn to do anything... what is it that I should learn, where should I go to work, just what should I do?


whitehonda said...

Read Tom Friedman's The World is Flat. I do not agree with everything he says in that book. He believes that it is a good thing that jobs are being outsourced. He does cover a number of reasons why the world has become flat and he breifly lists the types of jobs in which the incumbents are protected. The World is Flat is a large book and can be a little tedious after while. Try to find a synopsis on the internet. That should suffice.

Pete said...

We went to a similar model at my company a few years ago. It's harder, and testing takes a lot longer because we find more defects, even though I spend twice as long detailing requirements and explaining them up front. It's very frustrating. Good luck to you.

midway cyclist said...

It's a tough situation. I'm not as much of a programmer as you, but i do a mix of programming and project management. In my company, we've used Indian vendors for some projects, and while their rate is cheaper, there is definitely more overhead managing those projects than for local vendors. It's not so much a language issue, it's doing everything by email and spending a lot of time explaining seemingly simple things.

I'd send out a few resumes and see if anyone bites. You might be surprised at who is still using some of those older systems, and better to look around while you still have options.

If you're happy doing database work, there should be good opportunities in that area, and your knowledge should map over to other db systems pretty well.

-d said...

I was in a meeting a couple months ago and was asked by my boss if I was happy when I was at work. I said, "no, not really." It hit me like a ton of bricks. I sent out three resumes and had two offers in under two weeks. I start one of those jobs in two weeks.

If you find you are not happy or comfortable, move on. Talk to your children, they (all children) have an amazing insight.

Greg Alan said...

Smile at work and keep your eyes open.

Take it from someone who left their dream occupation because it was no longer fun. When my job was eliminated (I was making too many waves by actually caring about the product), I tried something totally opposite of what I was doing. So far, it's worked out. My family is healthy, bills are paid, and I get evenings and weekends stress free.

In the meantime, I'm developing a couple of avenues that would eliminate the need of a "boss"...

Start your own business and do things right.

Greg Alan said...


Start by adding some Google Adsense commercials to your blog. They pay you a nickel every time someone clicks an ad and they're relevant commercials targeted to the content of your blog. Bikes for example.

Last month, I cashed a check for $138 dollars from my blog.

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