Comment On Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

If you’ve worked at enough companies in the IT industry, you’ve probably noticed that the most talented software developers tend to not stick around at one place for too long. The least talented folks, on the other hand, entrench themselves deep within the organization, often building beachheads of bad code that no sane developer would dare go near, all the while ensuring their own job security and screwing up just enough times not to get fired. [expand full text]
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Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 12:10 • by aweofajfjifwa (unregistered)
Yeah, I learned this a long time ago. It's too bad that the IT industry is so far behind in worker management. Like, we're decades behind. We're barely past having whips on our backs while we turn the wheel.

Thing is, most people in IT don't even realize they're being reamed, until you change careers and then suddenly learn that being ambitious, smart and doing things the right way actually advance your career and make you more money.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 12:22 • by KludgeQueen
Good article. Another way to look at the "curve" is from the employee's perspective - are you learning or teaching? At the bottom, it's 90% learning, 10% teaching. As you get up to convergence, it approaches 100% teaching, and going over the hump at the top is analogous to getting more and more frustrated having to explain things to people! Sometimes you need to move on to a job where you can learn from others again.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 12:25 • by Numeromancer (unregistered)
> This growth continues exponentially

The curve in the picture does not grow exponentially. Looks more like a logarithm to me.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 12:31 • by boheme (unregistered)
I agree wholeheartedly with you, but I feel as though you may have overlooked that jumping from job to job greatly diminishes your chances of retiring with a comfortable pension. Yeah, I know that it's not our father's job market any more. But when you have consider other benefits as well, such as health care plans that may not carry over from one employer to another, it's a scary place for employees who aren't, or may never will be, putting away the big bucks. I understand your desire for a more stolid approach to employee retention, but I think that at the same time, even employees who are able to find other jobs might want to marry and have kids, and settle down into a position that will afford stability. After all, you home is one of the biggest sources of equity in your old age, and unless you're extremely wealthy, moving around every few years to accommodate that new job isn't easy on your kids, your wife (or husband), or your retirement savings.

That's my two bits. =)

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 12:32 • by gabba
Nice article -- I agree with it almost entirely. But ...

'What was once “fresh new ideas that we can’t implement today” become “the same old boring suggestions that we’re never going to do”'

How about just foster an environment in which both fresh new ideas and suggestions based on experience are respected and considered seriously for implementation?

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 12:34 • by Gamma (unregistered)
This growth continues exponentially while the employee masters the business domain and shares his ideas with coworkers and management.


FYI, a graph for exponential growth would have a positive curvature, not a negative one like in this pic.

I am tired of people misusing phrases like exponential growth. Are you trying out for management, Alex?

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 12:35 • by Lev
Very very very good article.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 12:39 • by loe (unregistered)
192084 in reply to 192082
Maybe the exponent is -1/2?

I too hate that "exponential growth" has become colloquially defined as "lots"

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 12:41 • by Kuba (unregistered)
I don't know whether this whole value apex really works that way for every position out there.

If you're a musician in a reasonable orchestra, for example, there's really no way for you to go up. You can perhaps move to a better orchestra, but that's about it. Or you may start your own group, but that's really more of the same, just a bit more responsibility, but most of the job is the same: you rehearse and perform.

Same applies to some technical jobs. If the company grows with you and you gather more responsibilities and experience as you go along, you pretty much occupy the same place on the ladder -- somewhere close to the "top".

Same goes with relatively lowlish jobs -- say that of an assembly technician. Suppose you're an experienced assembly technician, and have dealt for most of your life with production or prototyping of various electronic assemblies. I don't think it's in anyone best interest to really have that person either become a manager or leave. If they are doing their job and are just fine, why the heck let them go?

Same goes for someone who is content being a good coder. That person may be perfectly OK with a salary of the position, and whatever raises are given for his/her "years in business". If a coder stays on top of technology and is good at whatever coding he's doing, should he automatically be considered for management, or be told to leave? Why the heck? In the place where I work, we have a very experienced guy (2+ decades) who surely is paid commensurately with his experience, but he's a developer and we simply don't need to have anyone "under" him because he does the job we need done, and that's it. We're happy, he's happy -- it'd make no sense whatsoever for us to get rid of him, or to "promote" him because there is simply no need for another developer to be under him (for now, at least). If we hire another developer, most likely we'll want them to have equal experience and be a "horizontal team" to get most of our money.

This whole "up or out" thing applies to a fairly limited scope of jobs where actually "moving up" is a sensible thing to do. I personally like a horizontal structure where people with essentially managerial-level experience have a day-to-day hands-on experience with the nitty gritty. It kind of keeps you in reality check. Managers too often depend on marketing and fight with the "underlings" simply because they are constantly exposed to flowery picture by the vendors, while the teams in their department are fighting the reality day-in, day-out.

That sort of a picture prevails in many a WTF posted here. If all those dumb managers had to closely interact in the nitty-gritty of say one team, that team's leader would quickly notice that they are technically inept and should be on their way out, not up. Of course, a way of going around said manager to report problems higher up is needed too, in this case. But with just a few rungs on the ladder that's trivial, and I'd listen very closely to what people under a particular manager say about that manager.

Cheers, Kuba

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 12:42 • by akatherder
I'm married with a kid. My primary goal is job security and making a living. Anything above and beyond that is nice. I did the rockstar 80 hours/week coder thing, but now I just can't be arsed. I don't live for my job. I'm just here for my paycheck, man. It's an ends to a mean.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 12:44 • by brettdavis4
This was a very good article.

I've had an idea on how I would handle employees if I get into management.

I would try to implement a "high school sports program" mentality.

The "freshman" level would consist of interns and people right out of college.

The "JV" level would be people that have around 1-2 years experience and are good, but are not great.

The "Varsity" level would be the senior level developers.

The idea behind this mentality is kind of like high school, you come in and you move up and then you get out.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 12:45 • by Schnapple (unregistered)
192088 in reply to 192073
Alex:
But imagine if the justification for documentation was different:

I need you to document this process in detail so that any yahoo can understand it a year from now after you’ve left.

I’ve never had a manager or higher-up ever put it that way.


I would imagine this is for a few reasons other than denial. First, this phrase can easily come across as:

I need you to document this process in detail so that when we fire you and hire a cheaper replacement you will make our lives easier

Second, it comes across as borderline insulting

I need you to document this process in detail since you're an easily replaceable cog and we'll probably use someone from Sales or an Intern to do this once we're done with you

Really though it comes across as

I need you to document this process in detail since you will soon tell us to fuck off and so we want you to work harder while you're here so that our jobs, the jobs of people you won't care about later, will be easier.

I agree with most of your article but I don't think that being honest on this phrase will have the intention you're thinking.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 12:46 • by Buffled
FYI, a graph for exponential growth would have a positive curvature, not a negative one like in this pic.

Actually, look closer - he said that there would be exponential growth while the employee masters the business domain and shares his ideas with coworkers and management - and if you look at that point along the tenure line, growth value /is/ shown as exponential. It becomes logarithmic only after the apex

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 12:47 • by ehhh (unregistered)
lol, great stuff, i see many WTF there. Now you should explain why being messy is a good thing.
I think that work in IT is not for somebody that is getting bored very easily. Plus what do you want to learn? j2ee/c#? its very easy and you will learn that very soon. do you want to learn business side of it? how to count some taxes? that is boring and if you like that maybe its not the programming that you should be doing. Enterprise programming is boring and if you cant understand that you should do something else.

The truth is that people leave only because of the money, bad working environment or not being appreciated. You try to pretend that there is more, but ... sorry, not here. People stay at the same job for a long time because they are lazy and they know that in next company only money can be better. In the next company they might use flash instead of lets say jsp or asp, but .. it not that different.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 12:50 • by BobB (unregistered)
The article is very good in my opinion. I saw much of this at my previous place of employment. One person in particular would hoard knowledge about obscure systems like was described here. I did my best to document everything I did and explain it so when I left (as I knew they weren't going to fill my position quickly. It's not that I'm special, it's just that the company is SLOW at that) my friends at the company could read the notes and figure out what they needed to do to make something happen.

There was one person who would not share knowledge. This was maddening because we suspected her of keeping that knowledge so when she went on leave she would break a small thing in one of the systems and use these bits of knowledge to fix it. I found one by accident the morning of one of her leaves (the expected input delimiters for some data had been changed from a ';' which everything in that system used to a ','. It was an easy fix but maddening if you didn't know what was going on).

At my current job my official title is 'Business Systems Analyst' (or was it Administrator?) but I am mostly keeping some financial software up and going (babysitting). However, I am learning about other systems in addition to the ones I was hired for and getting to learn from others in my smallish group. I am also teaching others in said group about how my systems function. I really enjoy my job (for now?), as I feel like I'm contributing instead of putting out fires and playing Spy VS Spy like the old job felt. I have more time to sufficiently document things as well as research and learn other areas of the system I was hired for. Of course, I could just be easy to please.

There were other reasons I left my last job for my current one (things other than the fact I was being paid 30k less than the previous person in my position but with more responsibilities), and I felt hurt that when I handed in my two weeks resignation that I was not scheduled or given an exit interview.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 12:50 • by FredSaw
This is true to some extent, and would be all the more so in an industry where technology/knowledge did not change much. In IT, everything changes rapidly and the "Value Apex" is a fuzzy and shifting point determined to a great extent by how rapidly the company embraces new technology and how rapidly the "skilled developer" learns it.

For example, if you hit a Value Apex in the summer of 2001, then you were right on the crest of the wave that swept away VB6, ASP and VBScript and ushered in .Net. You could leave looking for a different place to apply your skills with VB6/ASP, or you could stay and advance with the company into the world of .Net.

Later on down the road, perhaps the company embraced web services, and eventually BizTalk. Perhaps your original company intranet was retired for a Sharepoint portal. Where's your Value Apex now? Well, that depends... did you learn web services/BizTalk/Sharepoint?

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 12:52 • by Buffled
192093 in reply to 192090
ehhh:
do you want to learn business side of it? how to count some taxes? that is boring and if you like that maybe its not the programming that you should be doing. Enterprise programming is boring and if you cant understand that you should do something else.

The truth is that people leave only because of the money, bad working environment or not being appreciated. You try to pretend that there is more, but ... sorry, not here.


Spoken like the young 80-hour-a-week rockstar ;)

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 12:53 • by mark (unregistered)
great idea with graphs, it really makes you look like you know what you are talking about. however i think every kid could understand those graphs, so maybe you are not so smart?

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 12:54 • by Sa (unregistered)
Ah yes. the ADHD approach to IT. Make me a partner or I'm out of here.

Thank goodness there are a few of us non-ADHD IT people left to come in and clean up the messes that you leave behind.

We get a real kick out of submitting the funniest pieces of your baggage to TheDailyWTF for the whole world to see.

It is interesting, however, how you define skilled -vs- unskilled in terms of how (un)committed one is to one's job. Maybe effort, quality, and commitment don't count any more.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 13:02 • by Barf 4eva (unregistered)
Well, glad I read the rest of the article. Nonetheless, the theme that only good programmers quit and look for other work is not always true, and this attitude was sort of bothering me because of experiences I've had in the past with a few coworkers. There are some programmers who seem to find new work regularly and still write shit code. Perhaps all they need is a break, a different learning environment? Some on here will instead say "no, they need to find a new career". I honestly would rather not say.

I do think it is important to recognize the value of staying at a company for a long time. For me, personally, I can learn a lot about the business, how it operates, and how to best implement systems to fit those operations. When the employees are excited about learning new technologies, implementing those technologies with an ever-growing knowledge of the business that they support, and actually has half a brain to do the basic research themselves, the ones who can't keep up DO GET TOSSED OUT.

The proposed culture of quitting is a very good one.. I always hated the "what if you got hit by a bus tommorrow?" analogy, whereas I think the "well, you'll quit in a couple years in all likelihood, so we need you to document this" attitude is definitely more proactive.

See, I never got hit by a bus, but I did quit... Had I understood they'd want the documentation regardless of whether I was hit by a bus...

"stolid"

2008-04-29 13:04 • by Jfruh (unregistered)
I do not think that word means what you think it means.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 13:05 • by WhiskeyJack
192100 in reply to 192088
Schnapple:

Really though it comes across as

I need you to document this process in detail since you will soon tell us to **** off and so we want you to work harder while you're here so that our jobs, the jobs of people you won't care about later, will be easier.

I agree with most of your article but I don't think that being honest on this phrase will have the intention you're thinking.


When I started at my current job, one of the guys on my team took it upon himself to mentor me, both in technical skills and the domain knowledge, and in career development. He was the one who helped me read between the lines, interpret company politics, do what I needed to do to get noticed, etc. We got along well because we are both fans of clean, well-documented, "do it right the first time" code.

He would repeat the above statements, paraphrased of course, many times. Do it well, now, so that in 3 or 4 years when you've moved on to bigger and better things, the next guy can take it on easily. And we both saw that this was true, as I worked on all kinds of legacy code that were written by the Paula Beans of the company, code that made me go to him and say "WTF?" and he'd say "Yeah, that was Joe. Joe doesn't work here anymore..."

Ironically (or not), this coworker of mine has recently moved on to another company, leaving me with (I feel) fairly big shoes to fill, but having left me with invaluable advice for a new grad straight out of school.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 13:17 • by Jay (unregistered)
I'm thinking about whether or not I agree with this. I'll certainly grant it's an interesting idea. But some obvious rebuttals come to mind.

My biggest objection is the "up or out" philosophy. For someone in management, this might make sense. If you're good at managing one store, maybe as your skill grows the next logical step is to manage a region with ten stores. As you learn more, you move up to manage a division with a hundred stores. Etc. To at least some extent, each step up the ladder is a similar job but with more responsibility. If you were good at managing ten stores, it sounds plausible to suppose that you would also be good at managing a hundred.

But in software development, there's no such obvious progression. Moving from "programmer" to "team leader" to "manager of software development" is not a series of steps up in responsibility, but an entirely different job. Being a good programmer requires technical skills; being a good department manager requires people skills and budgeting and negotiation. That's like saying that now that you have proven yourself has a violinist, you are ready to be promoted to diesel mechanic. The most likely result of such a promotion is that we would lose a good violinist and gain an incompetent diesel mechanic. It's possible, of course, that the violinist just happens to also be a good diesel mechanic, but if so it's a complete coincidence.

Every job I've ever had, I've always started as a flunky programmer and eventually become some sort of team leader. And that's the highest I have any desire to go at this point in my life. Maybe someday I'll decide that the technical stuff is getting boring and I want to pursue a completely diffrerent career as a manager. But if so, it would be a completely different career.

Another objection: Maybe others have worked for better-managed companies, but I've routinely found in my jobs -- present employer always excluded of course! -- that people leave because management has policies in place that punish people for staying. Like, one place I worked we had a meeting where the boss said they were starting some exciting new projects using new technologies that would have high visibility etc etc and just generally made them sound like great projects to be on. So I naturally asked what I had to do to get transferred to one of these projects. He calmly replied that they would be hiring new people for these projects, because the existing employees didn't have the skills and were needed where they were. So ... I'm being penalized because I'm doing too good a job where I am, and because you have deliberately stuck me in a rut and won't let me out. Gee, thanks.

Or: Try getting a substantial raise at your current job. If you want a raise, you either have to move to a new job or at least get an offer and ask your current employer for a counter-offer. If retaining good employees is such a goal, why do you tell them that the only way to get a pay raise is to quit?

One thing that impressed me about my current employer is that when they realized that their employee's skills were getting seriously out of date -- many have been doing COBOL since, well, since I used to do COBOL -- they offered them training in newer technologies and opportunities to work on new projects. I've only been here a few months and I was brought in as a "Java expert" to help with the transition, so it doesn't apply directly to me, but I see it as a good sign for the future. They're already talking about giving me an opportunity to work on a dot-net project, despite the fact that I've never done any dot-net.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 13:18 • by Otto (unregistered)
Nice article overall, but you completely lost me at the end when you said we should become like lawyers and accountants. There's a reason I'm not a lawyer or an accountant, and it's not because I make more money as a programmer!

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 13:21 • by tezoatlipoca (unregistered)
This article was very good - it put a name to what I've been feeling in my current job.

I started at my previous employer 10 years ago as an intern. I moved from peon to team lead to project manager, but with a relatively flat, large company org chart, and banks of 'tenured' old-timers the opportunities for upward advancement just weren't there (and I had several managers apologize for the lack of promotion due to this, several times.)

Then, two years ago we received notice that our whole engineering organization would be overseas'd. The six months heads-up caused a few to jump ship immediately; they were the super-skilled who already had standing offers - a few of us opted to stick it out to document and train our (overseas) replacements. I stayed for a few reasons; I wanted to put off the job search having not gone through it in over 7 years; a (still) stable well paying position helped with the new baby that had just arrived. Also, I have an unusually high sense of completion; I hate leaving loose ends. The impending downsize (and the fact that we weren't being given any _new_ work) was a good motivator to finally start cleaning up 7 years of loose ends and unfinished "we'll get to it eventually" tasks.

I found my new job relatively quickly - it was actually a freakish "experience with long dead legacy system mentioned in passing on my resume" that provided me with a cold call to administer the same system. IT systems administration wasn't really on my career path but the pay was better for less work.

I just passed my 1 year mark at my new job and my attitude is remarkeably different. Im continually planning for the eventuality of leaving - how long I stay depends on what, if any, role I can find here, after I've finished cleaning up the mess I inherited when I started. I've almost finished, and now Im starting to actively seek out new work from other teams and departments. But from day one I've been maintaining a suite of documents that describes essentially what I do and how I do it, and all the undocumented things that I've encountered that a newbie shouldn't have to figure out for themselves. One of the documents actually starts with "If you're reading this, then.."

So should the day come that I get 'hit by a bus', I would have no hesitation to give my notice. Everything's documented, itemized, alphabeticized and ready for the new guy.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 13:23 • by Bruce W (unregistered)
Having spent the first 7 years out of college working in IT for a global accounting firm I saw the "up or out" mentality first hand. And the alumni from my firm was a very powerful network (in fact, that network was helpful when I was laid off later on). In one office an HR person was responsible to maintain a small-scale alumni network particularly with the "rock stars".

Personally, this article strikes home since I just gave my two weeks notice and I am watching those on my team scurry to fill the hole I will leave.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 13:32 • by some1 (unregistered)
excellent article i have know some of the things you wrote about and i thank you for opening my eyes further more. I have nothing to add.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 13:36 • by Michael L. Gooch, SPHR (unregistered)
“The human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can bear a crushed spirit?” Proverbs 18:14 All managers know that turnover is expensive. However, as managers, we have not done our jobs very well. Ask any managers if they believe turnover is costly, and they will get to sputtering and slinging words yet not be able to quantify the estimated costs. Don’t believe me? Go out and survey your top managers. If you research this area, you’ll find a wide array of answers ranging from the ridiculously low to the outrageously high. The cost of turnover can vary greatly—estimates of turnover costs range from ten percent to two hundred percent of annual compensation. The hidden costs are more difficult to estimate and include customer service disruption, emotional costs, loss of morale, burnout/absenteeism among remaining employees, loss of experience, continuity, loss of “corporate memory,” workers’ compensation expenses, relocation costs, interview time, advertising, recruitment fees, lowered quality standards, poor community image, etc. Indeed, I don’t believe you can ever capture all of the true costs of turnover. At best, it is only going to be an educated guesstimate. I personally like the one-third rule, that is, turnover costs about a third of the annual salary of the person you are replacing. This is probably too low, but we have to start somewhere. Michael L. Gooch, SPHR Author of Wingtips with Spurs. www.michaellgooch.com

Re: Alumni

2008-04-29 13:40 • by Kyle Butt (unregistered)
I think one of the things that has been underplayed in the above comments is the alumni network. I got my current job because of an alumnus from my current workplace. The alumni network that you build is useful not only for helping people afterword, but it can help channel talented new hires back to your company.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 13:45 • by Brooks (unregistered)
Well, there's a third option to explain the reason why documentation is needed, beyond "if you get hit by a bus" and "if you quit" -- "when you move on to something different".

And that encompasses both the possibility of quitting, and the possibility of moving up, and the possibility of moving to doing something different in the same company. Even if it's doing sysadmin on the email boxes -- what if the company grows to need two sysadmins? What if we roll out a Web 3.0 project and you're seriously involved in that because you know our systems, and it's easier to hire an email admin to do the well-defined stuff? And so on and so forth....

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 13:48 • by Alan Shutko (unregistered)
192112 in reply to 192088
Schnapple:

Really though it comes across as

I need you to document this process in detail since you will soon tell us to fuck off and so we want you to work harder while you're here so that our jobs, the jobs of people you won't care about later, will be easier.

I agree with most of your article but I don't think that being honest on this phrase will have the intention you're thinking.


Why do you assume "being honest" means that management hates their staff and wants to get rid of them?

My job is all about documenting so someone else can take things over and I can move on to something else. I like doing new things all the time, and I really don't want to get stuck doing some standardized process just because I can't be bothered to tell someone else how to do it. I'm good at figuring out new things, and other people are better at polishing and refining a production process. I want to stick where I'm having the most fun and adding the most value, and my bosses want me doing the same thing.

Just remember: "Never be irreplaceable. If you cannot be replaced, you cannot be promoted."

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 13:56 • by Steve (unregistered)
What about those of us who don't want to move "up"?

It's not that I'm complacent and I don't think I'm incompetent but moving "up" would mean moving out of a job that I love -- working with bright young people on challenging projects -- and into management. I've looked elsewhere on occasion and for all the faults and failings in this environment, I wouldn't want to go elsewhere -- certainly not some ratty cube farm with insane development schedules for products of dubious utility or social value.

I certainly don't want to manage -- at least not full time. I've done a bit of it on and off over the years and would rather not deal with the hassle, thank you very much.

I've had the same job, more or less, for the last 18 years and hope to continue for at least the next five or maybe ten, if health and the knees hold out.

Of course, I'm not in the corporate world, I'm in a quasi-research position at a University (but not an academic), so that may make the difference.

There are times when I walk into the building and start giggling with glee, thinking "they let me work here. . . and I even get paid!".

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 13:57 • by Matt (unregistered)
192115 in reply to 192103
Otto:
Nice article overall, but you completely lost me at the end when you said we should become like lawyers and accountants. There's a reason I'm not a lawyer or an accountant, and it's not because I make more money as a programmer!


You sure don't. Most lawyers I know earn multiple six-figure salaries.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 14:00 • by talking pie (unregistered)
Has anyone else noticed this is effectively the system universities have been using for... quite some time now?

Undergrad student->postgrad student->postdoc research fellow->professor->alcoholic.

You can quit at any point during this, and come out with a formally recognised qualification, and your value goes up until you snuff it after spending a week straight in the lab.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 14:07 • by Stewie (unregistered)
Amen to that!

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 14:10 • by Iago (unregistered)
"Ambition and skill go hand in hand"? Nonsense. The two are both useful to have, but they're completely orthogonal. How else do you explain why so many clowns end up in politics and upper management, while so many brilliant programmers are content to give away work worth a fortune for free?

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 14:11 • by Farmie (unregistered)
Normally I don't like the preachy soapbox articles, but this one is good and relevant

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 14:13 • by TunnelPound
192121 in reply to 192092
FredSaw:
This is true to some extent, and would be all the more so in an industry where technology/knowledge did not change much. In IT, everything changes rapidly and the "Value Apex" is a fuzzy and shifting point determined to a great extent by how rapidly the company embraces new technology and how rapidly the "skilled developer" learns it.
(...)


You fail at reading. I find it obvious that the "Value Apex" discussed here is *local* to the company.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 14:13 • by Question... (unregistered)
On the first minute of the first day, an employee’s value is effectively zero.

However, once an employee shares all of his external knowledge, learns all that there is to know about the business, and applies all of his past experiences, the growth stops.

If that employee continues to work in the same job, his value will start to decline.


Is there any basis for this (particularly the last quote) other than anecdotal evidence?

Someone's value declines... compared to what? Compared to someone who has been there less time and knows less about the domain? Compared to someone with less experience with the requisite technology?

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 14:15 • by Question... (unregistered)
192123 in reply to 192119
"Ambition and skill go hand in hand"? Nonsense. The two are both useful to have, but they're completely orthogonal. How else do you explain why so many clowns end up in politics and upper management, while so many brilliant programmers are content to give away work worth a fortune for free?


Agreed. How many of us know someone who is brilliant (non-Paula style), but would rather spend all his/her days playing video games?

How many of us know someone who has zero technical skills, but has ambitions on being company president/CEO?

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 14:18 • by Valacosa
I took something else entirely away from the article; a reflection of recent events on the University of Waterloo campus.

We have both a student newspaper and a campus/community radio station. They are both technically external organizations, but both were started by students roughly 30 years ago. They were also both supported by student fees.

Also, they both are supposed to have a revolving door when it comes to leadership: the editor-in-chief and the station manager are supposed to change every year. For the newspaper editor-in-chief this has been the case. However, seven years ago the manager of the radio station finagled the Board of Directors into letting her keep her job on a permanent basis.

Last term one of these organizations lost the majority of their funding in a referendum, in a 2-to-1 decision to axe the student fee. Guess which one.

Alex's article doesn't just apply to low-rung employees. It also applies to to the leadership, too - from time to time organizations need a fresh infusion of new vision and ideas from the top.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 14:18 • by lookaround (unregistered)
I do see some sense in the article but there are some things I disagree with. I work for a small company and do mostly web programming on very small sites so things might be different at a larger company. My experience with large companies is too short and disorganized for me to get a good feel. Here are some of my problems.

Paula Bean changed jobs all the time.

I have stayed at my company for 10 years because they have been changing tech and advancing (VB6 and Access, then cold fusion, then sql server, then asp, then asp.net with c#) and I have no interest in anything but programming. I have been offered manager roles and turned them down. I have the opportunity to learn. They provide training and books.

I am not entrenched. The stuff we write where isn't around long enough for anyone to master it. It lives for a few years and is taken down and gone.

I stay because I have variety, I can help create change and advancement so things don't become stale and I can work my 8 hours a day and go home to my family. I thought I would have switched my now but they give me reasons to stay. I know there are people better than me but my code is organized, maintainable, commented, and runs fast enough to do what it needs to do. (Others have taken my projects without too much pain so I assume it's not just my delusions)

I also know people who were forced from jobs they were very good at and liked very much because management thought that if you don't advance, you aren't ambitious and therefore not as good. They quit.

Oddly enough, my company has actually told me they know I'm likely to quit and move on so this might actually all be an arguement for this article.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 14:24 • by wre (unregistered)
I'm confused - you're solving the IT Turnover Crisis by ensuring constant turnover? Also, some of the worst code I've seen has been written by people who didn't plan on supporting it. And having good documentation helps but it certainly doesn't fully replace the person who originally wrote it.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 14:25 • by dlikhten
The article forgot to mention:
In a culture of quitting, companies can begin a "employee exchange" program, where companies create opportunities for employees to move around and be productive and they know the employees are good because they come recommended from a company they know and trust.

This way the transition is beneficial to employees in that they don't need to spend time and secrecy searching for work, and employers don't need to spend time and money looking for talent.

I wonder if that will work out.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 14:44 • by CygnusTX (unregistered)

After ten years of programming, I got a wild hair and decided to go to law school. After graduating, I spent a few years at one of the largest firms in the nation.

Regardless of what one thinks of the merits from the outside, a model based upon Cravath or any other large law firm will be fatally flawed.

There is a reason why attorneys are some of the least happy people in the nation. It is not the work; it is the environment.

Tread carefully.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 14:50 • by Gamma
192132 in reply to 192089
Buffled:
- and if you look at that point along the tenure line, growth value /is/ shown as exponential. It becomes logarithmic only after the apex


No, the curvature is negative throughout. It is never exponential.

loe:
Maybe the exponent is -1/2?


An exponential growth curve has a*x as the exponent, where x is the independent variable, and a is a positive constant.

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 15:01 • by SomeCoder (unregistered)
There are definitely arguments for and against this article. However, this article rang particularly true at a previous employer. I spent time working and learning and eventually hit the apex. Then I found a new job.

But I agree with some other people in this thread. While I have no problem moving around a lot now, when my wife and I have children that is a different story. I'm going to want to find a nice stable job and stay there for a LONG time. It doesn't mean I'm unskilled, it just means that at some point, you have to settle down (at least if you share the same goals I do).

Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 15:02 • by Mike (unregistered)
Nice job on using "myriad" correctly. You don't see that often. Good article too.

Brightsizing!

2008-04-29 15:02 • by Cooksey (unregistered)
I was a longtime manager in the video game industry and we called this process "Brightsizing".

Upper management would make stupid decisions or expect excessive kickbacks (free overtime) and everyone who was bright and employable would roll the dice and leave the organization.

I used mentoring as a standard practice and my employees tended to follow me from job to job as I brightsized my way across the industry.

Finally I got sick of it all and am hiding in my garage near Silicon valley slinging code for myself. Its nice and quiet and I dont have to deal with legacy code written by folks who need more help before getting near a project.

heh!


Re: Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

2008-04-29 15:08 • by FredSaw
192139 in reply to 192121
TunnelPound:
FredSaw:
This is true to some extent, and would be all the more so in an industry where technology/knowledge did not change much. In IT, everything changes rapidly and the "Value Apex" is a fuzzy and shifting point determined to a great extent by how rapidly the company embraces new technology and how rapidly the "skilled developer" learns it.
(...)
You fail at reading. I find it obvious that the "Value Apex" discussed here is *local* to the company.
You fail at something--either reading, or comprehension, or visualization, or communication. Whatever the case, your comment has no connection with what I said.

No doubt you'll feel obligated to argue the point. Knock your lights out. I, however, have no interest in pursuing it further. What I said is clear enough and needs no elaboration. So you'll be able to gleefully have the last word and shore up your sagging ego by throwing more derogatory remarks at me.
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