Those of you who follow this blog know that I was in the DC area last week to attend my Mom’s interment ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery (to read my eulogy from same, see my blog “You have 4 minutes to speak…”). To combine a visit with the living members of my family for a little early Christmas celebration, and to help my Dad tie up and conclude my Mom’s accounts and affairs, we stayed on through Sunday, December 20.
On Friday evening, December 18, it started to snow all over the Washington DC metro area. In fact, it kept snowing through midnight the next day, and by the time we hit the road for the Baltimore Washington International Airport (aka BWI) on Sunday morning at about 6:30 AM, local weather reporters were calling it the “great blizzard of 2009” and “the biggest snowfall recorded since 1984.” Even though I checked the airline Web site at 6 PM on Saturday evening and the flight information still indicated “On Time,” by the time we got to the airport at about 7:30 AM on Sunday, we learned that all flights were cancelled until 6 PM that evening. When the ticket agent informed us the earliest they could get us home was Christmas Day (12/25!) I nearly had a cow. We hadn’t planned for an 11-day break, and there were lots of good reasons why we had to get home sooner than that.
So here’s what we did: After quizzing the ticket agent, I learned that the closest airport where flights remained on schedule was the Atlanta Hartsfield International airport. We returned to the rental car counter, engaged a vehicle for a one-way drive to Atlanta, and took off down route 95 to 85 all the way to that airport. Of course since this meant a drive of nearly 700 miles (MapQuest says it’s 683 miles from BWI to the Atlanta airport, but we made enough detours en route to eat and get gas that we topped the 700 mile mark easily), we didn’t get into our next hotel room until after midnight. Thanks to my wife’s persistent efforts to get the airline travel desk on the phone as we were driving, we scored a flight from Atlanta to Austin at 8:30 on the morning of the 21st. By 11 AM that day, Texas time, we were off the plane and into our own car, on the last leg home at long last — more than a little worse for the wear. At age 57, after 9 hours behind the wheel two days before, I’m still feeling a little hard-used even today.
During the long drive from BWI to Atlanta, I found myself thinking about how successful recovery from problems or failures is about the same in everyday life as it is in IT: assess the damage, get out from under, and create a way to get back on track and on schedule as quickly as possible. In both cases, there’s usually a lot of long hours and hard work involved in restoring order and schedule, and unforeseen expenses to absorb along the way.
On a whim, I purchased trip insurance for this journey, and will be interested to see if my solo, spur-of-the-moment response to the situation will be good enough to warrant some reimbursement for added expenses incurred (car rental, gas, meals, and an extra night’s hotel) in getting us home. Frankly, because of the travel crush traditional at this time of year, I didn’t want to take the time to contact the insurance provider to let them make alternate arrangements — as a former “frequent business flyer” who routinely clocked 100,000 air miles per year or more from 1987 until 1994, I knew what I had to do and also understood that speed was of the absolute essence. I’ll soon find out if my rapid response merits external validation in the form of a reimbursement check…in the meantime, I’ve added to my stock of lessons learned and unplanned travel adventures. And boy, is it ever good to be home again, safe and sound!
Readers interested in the upcoming release of MS Office 2010 no doubt already know that Microsoft is making various free (beta) software downloads available. This morning, however, I found a link to the Microsoft Press ebook by Katherine Murray entitled “Office 2010 First Look.” I suspect that anybody who’s interested in knowing more about Office 2010 and its capabilities will find this a good read. Go out and grab it while the link remains active: if you save it to your system, you can read it at your leisure.
Yesterday, I delivered the eulogy at my Mom’s funeral at Arlington National Cemetery where she was interred with full military honors, including a funeral service, a procession to the gravesite with horse-drawn caisson and marching band, and a deeply moving interment ceremony with the flag folding and expressions of gratitude for my Mom’s service to her country from a representative from the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The ceremony itself was impressive enough, but the level of appreciation conveyed by the nearly 50 uniformed military personnel involved was even more impressive. As I spoke with the Monseignor who delivered the funeral service and the gravesite ceremony for Mom, he told me “We have 32 funeral services to perform today. I’m sorry, but we can give you only four minutes to help us all remember your Mom.” And indeed as we moved through the cemetery I saw at least three or perhaps four other services underway and I assume the honor guards from the various service branches stay busy all day, every day. I can’t express my appreciation for the honor paid to my Mom any more than I already have.
Here’s how I used my four minutes:
Hello. My name is Ed Tittel, and I’m here to talk about my Mom. Let me start by thanking all the friends and family here for this ceremony.
Why are we here today? Let’s try two important things: to remember, and to celebrate. We’re going to hang onto all that we have left of Cecilia Katherine Kociolek Tittel by remembering what we can of her life, and we’re going to celebrate because she made the world a better place by her passage through it.
As her son, I see this woman as a very special person—my Mom—but as a student of humanity I also see that she filled many roles throughout her life. First child, then parent, then finally grandparent. Also, daughter, sister, wife, and friend. Professionally, she was a student, then a student nurse, a registered nursing professional, a military nurse, a school nurse, and finally, a private duty nurse.
Here are the things I remember best and most fondly about my Mom, Cecilia K. Tittel:
- A tremendous zest for life, with a strong appetite for new place, people, and experiences. She always loved to travel, and visited as much of the world as she possibly could.
- A fabulous cook and entertainer with a great ability to put people at ease and to fill them up with choice food and drink. Most of what I learned about food and hospitality came from her.
- A person with a great sense of humor and a love of the absurd, who delighted not just in jokes and wordplay, but also in clowning around and horseplay as well. I remember some of the crazy head gear and socks she would don for Christmas, and all I can do is laugh.
- The years we spent as a family in Germany, mostly in Heidelberg, still bring back sweet memories of travel year around to interesting places, never-ending activities, and spending time with friends and family. In many ways, I think that period represents her “good old days” as well.
How can you say goodbye to someone who’s been a part of your life since the day you were born? In my case, I say it reverently, and sadly, and with some relief that the pain and confusion that Mom suffered during her final years is finally over. I’m sorry she’s gone, but I will always be glad that I knew her and that she exercised so much influence on my life and outlook. I imagine each one of you here can say something similar. I hope you’ll join me in wishing her well and in saying “So long, it’s been good to know ya.”
That’s it for today’s blog, as I continue to remember Mom and celebrate her life with my family in northern Virginia.
OK. Here we go: a new year is coming, and with that always comes the opportunity for a fresh (re)start. That means it’s time to think about where you find yourself right now, versus where you’d thought you’d be (or where you’d like to be, if you’re less than ecstatic about your present situation). So, let’s ponder four potential IT career boosters for 2010:
One: Give of yourself, and you might receive. Volunteer. Although it might seem like a way to divert your energy from your career, volunteering is a great way to make new contacts, tackle new projects, or learn new skills and technologies to do yourself some good while also helping others. Check out volunteermatch.org or www.dosomething.org/volunteer to see what kinds of opportunities might be available for IT professionals with time on their hands in your area.
Two: Pick a technology or a certification, then pursue same. A new year creates an opportunity to renew your knowledge base. Top technologies to consider include storage, security, virtualization, and even Windows 7. Dig into the topic on one hand and relevant certifications on the other, and see what you can put together for yourself.
Three: It’s not that hard to boost your soft skills. Even though tools and technology are the meat and potatoes of IT, who wants an entirely bland if filling diet? No IT career will be harmed if you work on improving your communications skills, whether written or spoken, and likewise, nobody in IT will get hurt if they tackle the topics of project or people management. Think about one of these areas where you could use a boost, then find a support group (Toastmasters International for improving presentation skills, for example, or the PMP cert from the Project Management Institute for project management).
Four: Take stock of your current situation. Ask yourself “How satisfied am I in my current situation?” then ask “What’s missing, or what could be improved?” Pay close attention to the answers, because they can guide you into a career rejuvenation or reinvention plan, as seems appropriate. Don’t be afraid to invest some time and energy, and such funds as you can afford, on self-improvement. Such investments will almost always pay off, if you keep making them, and look for pay-offs as opportunities present.
Sure, these exercises may seem contrived or even artificial. But the more you put into them, the more you’ll get out of them, too. Give it a try, and don’t hold back: you can benefit from this career equivalent to New Year’s resolutions if you build a small clear set of objectives and then march into 2010 to execute them one step at a time. Happy New Year!
At the end of the year, it’s traditional to look back at what’s happened and to wonder about what’s coming next. For those toiling in IT — or wishing they were doing so — it’s only natural to think about the job situation and prospects, so that’s where I’m going in this blog.
2009: A Year of Ups and Downs Ends Up Just a Little
As we’ve examined the various monthly employment situation summaries from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics over this year, we’ve seen ongoing job losses across the economy every month, most at levels of 130,000 or higher. Last month (November ’09, that is) we saw a relative ray of sunshine as job losses only fell by 11,000 — down considerably from the preceding months, and way below most economists’ expectations.
If only things in IT were likewise looking up. Thus, for example, even though lots of prognosticators, from the analysts to The Economist foresee some improvement in IT for 2010 and modest 2-5% increases in IT spending for 2010, 2009 was a year in which job losses in IT outpaced those for the general economy and trailed only behind the extremely hard-hit manufacturing and construction sectors. IT professionals have watched their prospects grow dimmer, raises evaporate, and opportunities for advancement be put on hold while employers and employees alike wait for things to impove…and wait…and wait…and wait some more. For 2010 it looks like the wait will continue.
2010: Modest Improvements May Not Do Much to Change the Status Quo
As I’ve said in many blogs this year, IT folks need to chant the “Be calm. Sit tight. Wait for things to improve.” mantra to keep their bearings in these difficult times. Although I believe that some opportunities and jobs will start popping up in 2010, I’m also convinced that the jobs lost in the IT sector will not be replaced by the end of 2010, and probably not even by the end of 2011. Of course, I would love to be wrong, and even to be labeled a curmudgeonly pessimist in the face of a better-than-expected recovery and/or a boom (or even a boomlet) in the IT sector. But would anybody care to take the optimist’s side of this bet? I think not.
Thus, the need for the aforementioned IT mantra remains unaltered for 2010, and possibly even into 2011 and beyond. Everyone will be looking for signs of growth, recovery, and improvement, so we’ll all be sure to hear about them as they occur. We may have turned the corner on the recession, but there’s still a LOT of hill to climb before we get back to where we were in 2006-2007. So please: Repeat after me “Be calm. Sit tight. Wait for things to improve.”
And also the best of holiday seasons and a joyous New Year to all of you. My next blog will suggest some end-of-year points to ponder for career planning and development, as the first of a series of personal and professional tune-ups to help anticipate your 2010 resolutions.
In late November, enterprise Linux vendor Red Hat introduced its Red Hat Certified Virtualization Administrator credential (EX318). This adds a new player to the roster of organizations offering such certs, and increments the total count of virtualization certs currently available from VMWare, Microsoft, Citrix, and even the Virtualization Council’s vendor-neutral takes on VMWare; Microsoft Virtual PC, Virtual Server, and Hyper-V; Xen and Citrix; and Virtual Iron.
By itself, passing this exam qualifies individuals to earn the Red Hat Certified Virtualization Administrator cert. RHCEs who pass this exam may use as a Certificate of Expertise in their further pursuit of the Red Hat Certified Datacenter Specialist (RHSDC) or Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA) credentials.
As is typical, the three-hour exam is fairly pricey: $599, and Red Hat promises the best results to those candidates who sign up for and take related Red Hat training courses. There are a number of high-end topics for this cert that include creating data centers, create clusters, managing Hypervisor clients and hosts, configuring storage, and more, that will benefit from access to a properly-equipped training center, especially for those who might not otherwise have ready access to such systems and services. To that end the RH318 Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization course is clearly worth considering as a necessary step toward earning this certification (cost $2,898; duration 4 days).
The title of today’s blog comes from President Obama’s reaction to Friday’s November Employment Situation numbers in his regular Saturday address to the American people dated 12/5/2009. Here’s the complete paragraph from which that snippet was lifted:
But for those who were laid off last month and the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs in this recession, a good trend isn’t good enough. Trends don’t buy the groceries. Trends don’t pay the rent or a college tuition. Trends don’t fulfill the need within each of us to be productive, to provide for our families, to make the most of our lives, to reach for our dreams. [complete transcript]
I think he strikes the right tone, and hope I achieved the same balance he struck in that address in my Friday blog as well — namely, that while this is a tangible and welcome sign of improvement, it signals neither the end of our economic trouble nor the end of the current record-beating unemployment situation, both in general and in the IT sector in particular.
In the wake of the Friday numbers, plenty of experts have also weighed in to share the following observations:
- Unemployment is likely to continue to rise for some time, perhaps into mid-2010 or later.
- One encouraging result does not mean that the job situation is improving. It’s still more a matter of “it’s not as bad as it was last month/last quarter/last year” rather than a matter of “things are getting better.”
- Such improvements as are taking effect are coming from increased activity and productivity from the current workforce rather than from outright additions to the workforce (in other words, improvement has yet to translate into actual hiring, though temp and contract jobs are finally picking up).
I think Mr. Obama is very much on the right track when he closed his address like this:
And my commitment to you, the American people, is that I will focus every single day on how we can get people back to work, and how we can build an economy that continues to make real the promise of America for generations to come.
For those of us who work in IT, the turnaround is not yet at hand. We’re going to have to keep on keeping on until the improvement in employment and spending actually translates into real, honest-to-goodness IT hiring, and a tangible improvement in prospects for those seeking advancement, entry, or re-entry into the IT workforce.
It’s the first Friday of the month, and as usual, that means the US Bureau of Labor Statistics has posted its Employment Situation Summary for the preceding month (November 2009, in this case). And finally, finally, finally it shows some itsy-bitsy, teeny-tiny signs of improvement: employment fell back by 0.2% from 10.2% to 10.0% and the number of jobs lost was a mere 11,000 for the month (in the preceding quarter that same average number was 135,000 per month).
Does this mean we’ve turned a corner, or is it just a momentary numbers glitch, caused perhaps by seasonal employment for the retail shopping season? Jobs are up in temporary help services and health care, but continue down in construction, manufacturing and — you guessed it — IT. I think it’s still too early to tell if this slight improvement represents a real turning point or if it’s just a momentary pause in a continuing downward slide. I’d want to see at least three or four consecutive months of improvement (and higher rates of reversal than these) before declaring an end to the continuing downward spiral that has been the US employment situation in general, and IT employment in particular, since the beginning of 2008.
That said, the decline of jobs cut for November to just 11,000 is pretty encouraging. This is the lowest such number since the recession got underway, and a big change from the numbers for August, September, and October. Also, the BLS revised the numbers for September and October to indicate that nearly 160,000 fewer jobs were lost than originally reported.
Cross your fingers, and hope for the best: perhaps we can see the corner that we would so very much like to turn. But for IT, my “sit tight” mantra remains as cogent as it has been all year long.
I’ve been a subscriber to the British news magazine The Economist since the early 1990s. Every year in late November they release a special publication called “The World in XXXX” where XXXX is the numerical designation for the upcoming year. Thus, I received my copy of “The World in 2010” about a week ago, during the Thanksgiving weekend.
This publication includes a section called “The world in figures: Industries” that provides forecasts for 15 key industry sectors in the global economy, among which is a brief prediction for Information Technology in 2010. Here are the highlights of that content:
- Global IT spending is predicted to increase by 4.4%, and will be led by unsatisfied demand for software and services.
- PC sales should advance by 8%, with higher sales in netbook and notebook sectors leading the way
- IT spending/access is not evenly distributed around the globe, where PC availability ranges from a low of 17 per 100 people in Africa and the Middle East, to as high as 97 per 100 in Canada and the US.
- A big jump in IT spending (13.3% for a total of $80.2B) is forecast for China in 2010, which is also expected to surpass Germany’s IT outlays in 2011
- Citing the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics organization, chip sales for 2010 are expected to bounce back by 7.3% in 2010 up to $209B, and to grow by 8.9% in 2011.
- Asia-Pacific is cited as a particular hot spot for manufacturing growth, primarily because Western electronics makers are sourcing more and more of their production to that region
Will this increase in spending translate into more jobs for IT? I believe the answer is “Yes” but that the relatively modest growth (4.4%) will be matched by relatively modest increases in jobs. Given that IT employment is down by a little more than the overall national rate (10.2% for total US unemployment in October, new numbers for November this coming Friday) it’s unlikely that IT job counts will rise back to pre-recession levels by the end of next year.
Final summary from this blurb: “IT Up in 2010, but jobs will not return to pre-2008 levels.” Final conclusion: things will improve next year, but we won’t get all the way out of the weeds by that year’s end, either.
Note: The content I cited in this blog is available only to registered subscribers to The Economist. Those who do have access will find it at http://www.economist.com/theworldin/forecasts/displayStory.cfm?story_id=14888205.
As I mentioned in my last blog, with the end of the year now plainly in sight, it’s time to take stock of what 2009 has brought (and taken away, alas, for many of us). It’s also time to start thinking about what 2010 might have in store, and planning to make the most of such opportunities as may come our way.
At around this time of year, I usually recommend a bit of reflection on the recent past, and a modicum of planning for or anticipation of what lies ahead. One good way to start this process is to dust off last year’s plans and compare how you executed against them to see how far you came in meeting your objectives.
In my personal case, I scored a couple of notable wins and a couple of interesting losses. In the “Win” column, thanks to some new and very interesting customers — particularly, a couple of law firms who found my Web development books from the mid-1990s both interesting and on-target enough to seek me out as an expert witness on some patent infringement cases — I was able to reverse the horrible slide in income and activity I experienced for 2008 and get my personal and family finances back into some semblance of order. Also in the same column, I was able to revamp my current systems and network with rebuilt test and production machines all the way ’round, a new Internet gateway with cool capabilities, and a nicely upgraded/modded HP EX-475 MediaSmart server for everyday backup and extended file storage.
The “lose” column is interesting because it shows that even career advisors like me sometimes have to struggle to make progresss. Despite having signed up for the CISSP exam, I had some important projects pop up (including the aforementioned win items mentioned in the preceding paragraph) and ended up re-scheduling the exam right into 2010. I also experienced significant cutbacks from some long-time and beloved customers, including TechTarget itself (parent of this blog, who cut my monthly involvement with them by more than 50% in 2009), BestofMedia (for whose Tom’s Hardware and Tom’s Guide sites my work has also declined precipitously, along with my German-to-English translation assignments for content from the original German-language Tom’s site), and Acceller (whose video scripting work was great fun but never really paid enough to justify the time and effort that went into its creation).
I always try to enjoy my wins, and to learn from my losses. I’m developing a more lucrative and longer-term corporate client involvement right now. And I’m lucky to have a handful of (relatively new) clients who like what I’m doing for them enough not just to keep coming back for more, but also to keep upping my engagement level with them. To make that work as smoothly as possible, I’m also very pleased to report that I’ve hooked back up with one of my project managers from my previous avatar as a small-company owner/operator, and am very glad to have somebody helping me keep on the straight and narrow again.
Anyway, I hope this gives you some idea about the kinds of things you should be thinking about, reviewing, and leads you to some interesting possibilities to plan out your future in the near term. Above all, I recommend serious engagement with technical subject mattter, perhaps even in the form of pursuit of an IT cert of some kind, or a return to the classroom for some hands-on training.
May 2010 be better for all of us than 2009. I also hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are anticipating an even better Christmas/New Year season (or the holidays that figure into your personal calendar). Felicitations for that season, whatever it may be!