Uncharted Waters


December 7, 2011  12:09 AM

The Jimmy Buffett Life

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

In an earlier article, I suggested that the half-life of a tech career is fifteen years.

Now that doesn’t mean that your career is over at fifteen years; it means half the people who started in technology have gone on to something else.  By fifty, that number is likely 25%.  By sixty-five … you get it.

Let’s say you like technology, and want to stay in it, or at least stay around it.  What could you do?

Here’s one option: Take a lesson from this guy.

The Jimmy Buffett Life

Imagine your life completely different.  No apartment rent, no heating bill, no car loan, no commute, no lawn mower, no lawn, no stuff to maintain.

Imagine ditching it all, and getting all of your time back.

Get on a boat and move to somewhere warm year-round — somewhere with a beach.  Get a job playing music in some dive bar for tips, free food, and beer.  What more do you need?

It turns out that all that stuff is a huge anchor, a big money-sucking machine.  The cost to crash at friends places (or the beach if you need to), to have a suit cases worth of stuff — well, you can earn that in three shifts a week at a dive bar.

And it is a choice that many people make every year.

Unless you are lucky enough to be reading this in your earlier twenties, though, you are probably saddled with the under-water mortgage, the piles and piles of stuff that you can’t untangle.  What’s more, you have real commitments; friends and family you see not as holding you back, but as partners in making a better life.  I hear you.

This blog post is for you.

Continued »

December 2, 2011  1:18 AM

Michigan Works! … Except when it doesn’t.

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

In order to qualify for unemployment benefits in the state of Michigan, you need to do a few specific things.  First, you need to walk through the doors of a “Michigan Works!” office and do some paper.  Then you need to create an account on Michigan Talent Bank.

It sure seems like a brilliant idea.  I mean, have every person who is looking for work register with their skill set, then give any employer access to the database.

Shrink job searches, eliminate all the folks in the job market just to get a counter-offer, shrink the welfare budget by getting people back to work, and, let’s face it, help companies save on employee costs by hiring folks who are the most hungry.

Everybody wins, right?

Like I said, it’s great theory.

Continued »


November 29, 2011  1:03 AM

What I learned from Google – You Get Fifteen Years

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

four years ago I was in Mountain View, California, interviewing for a position with Google.

It was an odd sort of interview.  Lots of puzzles, math-like challenges, and code.  Lots, and lots, and lots of code.

What struck me at Google wasn’t the challenges.  Nor was it the office environment, the cafeteria, or the mini-swimming pool, all of which were impressive.

No, what struck me were the people. Continued »


November 22, 2011  7:45 PM

Your Eff U Fund – Part III – Building Revenue

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

In my previous two posts (part one and two) I introduced the F(orget) U fund, and said it wasn’t enough — you need an income stream.

The income stream will help in two ways: If you lose the job, it will help meet your needs, but while you keep the job, it will help you build the fund.

Today, two things:  How to build the fund, and how to generate an income stream.

Continued »


November 21, 2011  1:52 PM

Your Eff U Fund – Part II

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

When I introduced the Eff U Fund, I suggested that the very idea was challenged.  Once you’ve saved up the three-to-six months of savings, should you tell the boss to, well, Forget himself and walk out, that money will run out very quickly.  I suggested the reader needs a revenue stream, not a pile of cash.

I’m not the first person to have this idea; why, George Costanza realizes it in an early episode of Seinfeld.

Continued »


November 9, 2011  10:47 PM

Your Eff U Fund – Part I

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

Have you ever seen or heard a conversation something like this:

This guy had eight bosses. Would an FU Fund have helped?

This guy had eight bosses. Would an FU Fund have helped?

Person: My job stinks.  My boss is a jerk.  My goals don’t make sense, and just as I’m about to have a handle on them, they change.  I report to six different people.

Comment #1: Man, that stinks.

Person: I’m worried about my job.  I might lose it.  I wish I could just quit, but I need to pay the mortgage.

Comment #2: What you need is an F U fund!

Ahh, yes.  The F U fund, which may stand for “Forget You.”  Three to six months of savings, so if things get really tough, you can bail out.  I understand.

The problem is, it isn’t enough.  Oh Yes!  The internet commenters say, you /really/ need six to nine months.

That isn’t enough either.

In fact, it’s unlikely that your F U fund will ever be large enough to solve this kind of problem – but there are other ways – which are demonstrated on, of all things, an episode of The Office.

Yes, that’s right, Michael Scott, the bumbling manager of The Office, figured this when he tried to sell the Michael Scott Paper Company …

Continued »


November 1, 2011  6:00 AM

IT Workers As Coal Miners — III

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

This week my friend Shawn concludes his rant on North American Business (see part I and also part II) and, well, I’ll pick up from there.

But first …

Today’s small companies want to offer their customers (internal or external) expanded coverage options, really attractive (to executives) SLAs, and “more bang for the IT buck” because many C-level manangement folks can’t understand why IT costs so darn much.
Hey, there, Mr. CFO, I can expand our supported hours beyond 8-5 without increasing headcount and costs.. Let me show you.”  A little wave of the pen and here’s your substantial change in working arrangements.  A doubling of the time the company wants to have you available at their beck and call, without any kind of change to the compensation structure.


October 25, 2011  10:01 AM

Considering Conferences

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser
Um ... Yeah ... about that travel budget ...

Um … Yeah … about that travel budget …

Professional Conferences give you new ideas to try, to grow your network, and can provide a chance to reflect and charge.  I can’t recommend them enough.

Yet when I mention how wonderful conferences are, one of the common responses I get is “that’s great Matt but …”

Folks don’t get to attend them because it isn’t in the budget, isn’t in the travel budget, or just plain isn’t on the radar.

If you are in that boat, well, this blog post is for you.

I’m going to tell you how to get to a professional conference in the next eighteen months.

You do the work, I can get you to a conference.

I’ll stake my reputation on it.

Continued »


October 19, 2011  10:58 PM

IT Workers as Coal Miners? — Part II

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser

Last time, my friend Shawn introduced his premise — that IT Workers are the coal miners of the 21st Century.

This time, Shawn’s back, to explain how the shift from hourly work to exempt has changed the nature of the work itself … and not for the better.

Obviously, Shawn’s comments are an analogy. Certainly, working conditions and employment opportunities looked much more dim for the West Virginia coal miner of 1897.  Where the coal miner risked a collapsed mine, lack of oxygen, and poisoned lungs, an IT worker might face a paper cut, or, perhaps, repetitive stress injury from too much typing.

Still, there are things going on in how IT workers are treated; his ideas may cause you to pause and refect.

Back to you, Shawn …

Continued »


October 18, 2011  11:14 PM

Are IT Workers the Coal Miners of the 21st Century?

Matt Heusser Matt Heusser Profile: Matt Heusser
No I will not reset your password.  I'm on break.

No I will not reset your password

A few weeks back, I introduced you to my friend Shawn.  He’s a strong systems thinker, a former soldier, someone I respect and admired from my youth.

Shawn cut his teeth in the dotCom era, becoming a programmer, then general technologist, then IT manager, now … I’m not sure.  Last time I checked, he was an account rep for an IT managed services firm, the kind that has been eating a hole in traditional IT departments.

Shawn cares about his field, and his perspective is shared by life in the trenches.  So when he kept writing about what he sees happening to our field, and asked me to publish it, I couldn’t say no.

Here’s the question that keeps Shawn up at night:  Are IT Workers the Coal Miners of the 21st Century?

From here on out the words belong to Shawn, not me.

Continued »


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