As usual, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics published its Employment Situation Summary for June early on this month (7/2/2009). Though it shows no big changes from the previous month, it does show an unexpected spike in job losses: up from 345,000 in May to 467,000 for June–a 35% jump in a single month. This probably explains why US stock markets freaked out before the long Independence Day holiday weekend, with all major indices suffering losses of 2.4% or higher (Dow, S&P 500, NASDAQ, and so forth). This morning, Asian and European markets are down as well, following the US lead set yesterday. What’s it all mean for IT workers?
For sure, things are not improving much. Overall unemployment is at 9.5% as the BLS measures same, and measures that include those unemployed long enough to qualify as “discouraged workers” or “out of the workforce” could pull measures up to around 11% or so. Personally, I think that IT isn’t faring quite so badly, and that the worst of the decline has already come and (hopefully) gone. The TechCrunch Layoff Tracker shows that numbers are down from the previous three quarters, and nowhere near the bloody end of 2008. Anecdotally and statistically, IT job postings appear to be at least modestly up in most major US metropolitan areas, with DC continuing to lead that pack toward recovery.
So why the big downswing in the markets? From my perspective, it has to be the sharp resurgence in job loss numbers causing an emotional reaction. The big picture isn’t as dire and the overall trends continue along the path of “no recovery yet, but not as bad as it was before”–perhaps this is just another exception that proves the ruling that a real recovery still remains some ways off?
This blog post is just a progress report, or perhaps a placeholder. At this time, I’m waiting for feedback from my colleagues at Microsoft and SearchNetworking.com (who sponsored this contest, MS by providing the exam vouchers, and SearchNetworking by encouraging me to create and promote this online event). We received a total of 14 entries in all that break down geographically as follows:
- 6 from the US
- 2 from Germany
- 1 each from Brazil, Canada, Colombia, India, the Philippines, and South Africa
I’ve already picked and ranked my 6 winners, with 2 from the US and one from Canada in the North America group, and the “rest-of-world” group currently including Germany, Brazil, and the Philippines. This may very well change when I get the reactions from the SearchNetworking and MS folks, so I’ll wait until that happens before announcing the winners and my interview schedules to help all of them tell you their stories.
In the meantime, please stay tuned! Also, thanks very much to all of you who took the time to fill out the application. In my book, you’re all winners, even though I have a more limited number of exam vouchers to dispense.
I find myself in a very interesting work situation right now. Because of a couple of books I wrote in the mid-90s — those halcyon days when computer books flew off the shelves, and good writing work on relatively advantageous terms was easy to find by today’s standards — I find myself now tasked with reconstructing who built what bits of technology precisely when and how they did it in a period from October 1993 to October 1995. It’s been incredibly interesting and informative, and has caused me to rethink what happened back then as well as I how I conduct business in the here and now. Let me explain…
Lots of IT wit and wisdom emerges from being immersed in the current milieu. Today, for example, this might mean pondering hot topics that “everybody” knows about and lots of people are digging into. If you want a couple of for instances that are pretty right now to illustrate, think about virtualization and Windows 7. Generating plenty of buzz, attracting lots of users, and exciting ample interest from those whose job it is to plot a technology course for the next 12-24 months.
Dealing with this stuff in the here and now is pretty easy. But digging back into the there and then raises questions about how information gets distributed, who did what when, and how all the pieces of common knowledge were used to create workable production technologies upon which business activity could safely rest. What I’m learning is that although lots of people understand how information handling processes and activities work in a loosey-goosey kind of way, only a few really understand in depth how they work in detail, and can go out and build such things.
That’s why I keep coming back to the notion of learning by doing. Intuition and understanding things in general will get you only so far. If you really want to master a subject area, you have to put those faculties to work and build or make something that works. I find this insight as helpful in learning new operating systems (Windows 7) as I find it useful in figuring out what to do with virtualization (creating images of multiple hard disks in a virtual machine requires creating one giant virtual disk, then using partition management software to carve it up into individual drives of the proper size and number) for testing, rapid deployment, or remote clients to use.
Thing about what you can do with what you know, and you’ll get further than if you simply keep packing away interesting and potentially useful bits of knowledge. Only if you put that information to work can you ever know if it’s worth anything, or good for something.
I’d been wondering recently why Cisco is expanding its ever-popular CCNA certification to include CCNA Security, CCNA Voice, and CCNA Wireless. Now I get it: Cisco also offers various professional credentials, including CCDP (Design), CCNP (Networking), CCSP (Security), and CCVP (Voice), as well as CCIE specializations (many of them in synch with the other areas already mentioned). In the near future, a plain-vanilla CCNA will no longer suffice to meet prequisite requirements for the CCSP and CCVP. You guessed it: the relevant specialist versions of the CCNA will be required to meet pre-requisites instead.
Given that coverage from one Cisco Professional cert to another varies pretty widely, I think this evolution in requirements makes sense, and also provides a way for entry-level professionals to start pursuing technical specialties closer to the beginning of their Cisco cert path. I’m a little concerned that fundamentals remain well-covered no matter what kind of CCNA one earns, but Cisco generally does a good job of ensuring its certified professionals have solid and comprehensive backgrounds in basic networking tools, terms, and concepts. Perhaps this means the company is simply adding a “merit badge” program, because individuals who seek the CCNA Voice, CCNA Security, or CCNA Wireless credentials must first earn the base CCNA credential, then take another exam in the area of specialization.
Finally, given the existence of a CCNA Wireless as well as a CCIE Wireless, does this mean that a CCWP might be in the offing? I can’t help but see this omission as a gap that Cisco will seek to fill, possibly even some day soon. For more information on various Cisco certifications visit www dot cisco dot com slash go slash <certname> where you replace the final <certname> with CCNA, CCNP, CCDP,…, CCIE to get to their home pages; or simply use certification instead of <certname> at the end of that string to get to the cert program home page.
OK readers, this blog is just a quick reminder that we started a contest on June 11 in a blog entitled Share Your Certification Success Story, Win an MS Voucher. You can click the afore-cited link for all the details but the gist of the contest is this: visit the blog, click the e-mail link, and tell us about how you or somebody you know earned a cert that led to a new job, a promotion, or some other significant career boost. Microsoft has generously donated six (6) exam vouchers, each worth $125 at going prices for MCP exams.
We’re going to pick 3 winners in North America, and 3 more outside the US, Canada, and Mexico. Each one will get a free exam voucher good for any MCP exam–and hence, toward earning another certification to presumably help boost a career even further. I’ll interview all six winners and provide capsule summaries here in my blog for 5 of those 6. The person we decide has told the most compelling story will be featured in an article I will write for SearchNetworking.com.
So far, we’ve received more entries than we have exam vouchers to give away, but I’d very much like to get some more entries to widen the field of contestants, and to make sure we have some great certification stories to tell. Please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story with us. This contest ends on June 30 at midnight, so please let us hear from you soon!
Good luck to one and all,
Just for grins, I decided to jump over to the other side of the Atlantic to take a look at the employment picture over there to see how we stack up against the world’s largest aggregated economy. Given the state of global markets and economic trends, it should come as no huge surprise that things aren’t terribly different in Europe than they are here in the US, except perhaps to observe that where some of our (un)employment curves seem to be flattening out, theirs are still climbing steeply, whether viewed in terms of overall unemployment or youth employment.
To see and ponder some numbers for yourself, check out the EU employment situation and social outlook for June 2009 (click the PDF link for “Related Documents” to grab this report). The report analysis does, however, point to “deceleration in the page of the labour market deterioration” — in other words, the same phenomenon of things not getting worse as quickly as they did at the end of last year or in Q1 2009. That said, at 8.9 percent for June, EU overall unemployment isn’t quite as bad as US unemployment, which the US Bureau Of Labor Statistics posted at 9.4 percent for the same period. FWIW, it also looks like IT employment in Europe isn’t quite as hard hit as here in the US, either (see page 8 of the EU report cited above for more info). I was also a little tickled to see that the EU reports more directly on employment in the IT sector as “Computer and related activities.”
My buddies over at Planet 3 Wireless, the organization behind the Certified Wireless Network Professional (CWNP) certification program, are making a change in their entry-level certification. The current and soon-to-be-prior credential, the Wireless# (pronounced “wireless sharp”) is going to be retired on June 30, 2009, and will give way to the Certified Wireless Technology Specialist (CWTS) credential instead.
In case you’re not already familiar with the program, the CWNP offers entry-level, admin, security, advanced, and instructor level wireless networking certifications. They’re pretty highly regarded, and widely followed, as networking certifications go. Exams start at $125, are handled through Pearson VUE, and cover basic Wi-Fi terms, concepts, tools, and technologies in depth, and go into lots of important subjects related to industrial- (or should I say enterprise-?) strength wireless networking, with an emphasis on security, best practices, and a thorough grounding in hardware and software concepts.
The new program and exam has already launched, having made its debut on 6/15/2009. An official study guide is already available from Sybex/Wiley at a list price of $49.95; ditto for a battery of practice test questions at the same price. For a mere $169, you can purchase a bundle with the book, practice test, and an exam voucher (full retail price $224.90), which is actually a pretty good deal.
Hey! One of the new rites of passage in our country is joining AARP (the American Association of Retired Persons) when you turn 50. This is true, even though most of us are retiring later and later, and for some — including me — retirement often seems more like a distant fantasy than an imminent reality. As for myself, I’ve been an AARP member for nearly seven years now, as I will turn 57 in August.
The latest issue (June, 2009) of the monthly AARP Bulletin includes a couple of items of potential interest to IT professionals — at least those old enough to belong to or be interested in this organization. First, there’s an item on page 4 entitled “Men Hit Harder by Unemployment,” where they describe how men are more likely to be unemployed than women right now, especially men over age 55 (like me). Of the nearly 6 million Americans who’ve lost a job since the recession kicked off in December 2007, 80 percent are men (that’s 4 out of 5, in case you don’t like percentages). Here’s the explanation for this phenomenon, verbatim:
Experts believe me are facing hardships because they are over-represented in the cyclical industries must affected by the downturn — manufacturing, constructions, finance, and engineering. The construction and manufacturing sector alone have lost almost 2.5 million job. By contrast, female-dominated professions like nursing and education have been less hard hit. [Citation]
If you needed more proof that women are smarter than men, chew on that for a while!
The other item is the back page story entitled “The New Face of 50+ America” where the Bulletin takes a look at the demographics of the 50+ population today and by the year 2050 in the United States. This section is full of fascinating numbers, chief among which is that of all people of age 50 and over today, 77% are white, 10% black, 8% Hispanic, and 4% Asian. By 2050, those numbers will change dramatically: 55% white, 12% black, 22% Hispanic, and 9% Asian. Both Asian and Hispanic components grow by double or better. Looks like increasing racial diversity cuts across all demographics, but will hit the older age cohorts later rather than sooner. The education and finance numbers are pretty interesting, too.
|High school diploma||86%||72%||52%||76%|
|Median income (household)||$56,100||$39,200||$45,000||$72,000|
|Own a home||83%||63%||66%||75%|
I think you’ll agree that there are some interesting elements in those numbers in nearly all categories. I was surprised at how low percentages for those with BA degrees still remain (especially when compared to HS diploma), as well as the income and home ownership distributions.
Have you ever earned an IT certification? Do you know anybody else who has?
We’re looking for “Certification Success Stories,” where IT Professionals tell us how earning an IT certification has led to a big raise, a nice promotion, or a great new job. We’d like to hear from you with a brief description of how your experience, or that of somebody you know, meets one or more of these criteria. If your story really grabs our interest, we’ll want to follow up with a detailed interview by phone or e-mail. The top 6 entries will be profiled online, with the five runners-up covered in my blog, and the big winner serving as the focus for an article on SearchNetworking.com.
And just to excite your interest in participating, Microsoft has provided us with six exam vouchers that we’re going to give away: three for North America (US, Canada, and Mexico), and three for the rest of the world. These vouchers are good for MCP and Microsoft Dynamics exams, so winners will be able to use them to go after their next certification! The going price for an MCP exam these days is $125, so this ain’t chicken feed.
Please e-mail us at email@example.com, put IT Cert Contest in your subject line, and give us a brief synopsis of your success story, so we can start picking winners. This contest starts today, June 12, and runs through June 30 (extended on 6/18, to give people additional time to indicate some interest). Hope to hear from you soon!
Only one entry per e-mail address, please. May the best story not only win, but inspire others to get their certification plans in gear.
Everywhere I turn these days, and in much of what I do, green initiatives for IT are springing up like mushrooms after the rain. I recently wrote a white paper for a major messaging security service vendor that explained how using SaaS (Software as a Service) helps companies green up, and save on people costs and hardware outlays as well as reducing the inevitable “carbon footprint.”
I’m looking at the Certmag Website right now, and I see that the Storage Network Industry Association, aka SNIA, has started a Green Storage Initiative group. Shoot, even the Federal Stimulus Package includes $42B for energy-related investments of all kinds. Gartner and other analyst groups estimate that green IT is already a $5-10B business niche this year. I guess it’s a case of “spending some green to turn green,” eh?
Needless to say, where there’s cash and interest–and I see plenty of both in evidence in a search of the online universe we inhabit–there’s also hope of meaningful engagement for those looking for more, new, or better workplace situations. IT professionals considering their options will want to add something green to their lists, even if it’s too late for the famous Irish saint’s holiday in March (and no, green beer is not on that list).
If you want to dig a little deeper into this subject matter try this Google Search. Among the millions of hits that pop up, you may find these of particular interest:
- Green Technology (ITBusinessEdge.com)
- Green Information Technology Strategic Plan (EDUCAUSE/USDA)
- What is the ROI on Green Information Technology (TechDune)
- What is Green Technology (GreenTechnology.org)
Don’t worry if you don’t find these items to your liking–there’s plenty more where they came from. Might be interesting ground for learning and research, especially if you’re ready to break some new ground, and plant some new seeds for your IT career!