Uncharted Waters

January 11, 2013  6:11 PM

Two More Ways to Live Independent

Posted by: Matt Heusser

My friend, Peter, is an IT Contractor.  Peter’s method is pretty simple — he finds a moderate to large US City that he would like to live in for six to twenty-four months at a time, then finds the largest businesses and uses his contact network to figure out which are doing large system upgrades.  Then Peter finds the recruiter attached to the project, passes in his resume, and hopes to get a call.

By focusing on the kind of jobs that few people want – short-term and on-site, Peter often finds work.   By living cheap, he gets to take an occasional one to three month sabbatical — taking a little bit of his retirement while he’s young enough to enjoy it.  He’s also building up a resume that has a half-dozen fortune 50 companies on it; companies you’ve heard of.  Once the steam-roller of a resume gets going, it’s unlikely he’ll struggle for work.

Of course, Peter lives out of an apartment and moves every year or two.  If you are married, have children or family, car loans, a great deal of student loans, or have a house you want to keep for forty more years, this lifestyle might not work for you.

Last time I talked about runway — the time you have banked in case things go horribly wrong.  My assumption was that you’d go independent with a contract – a single, 40-hour-a-week position, like Peter. But there are other ways to do it.

Continued »

January 8, 2013  11:01 PM

Four Requirements for Independence

Posted by: Matt Heusser
career, careers, future, IT, jimmy buffet, jimmy buffet lifestlye, jimmybuffet, jimmybuffett, job, jobs, migrants, outsourcing, part-time, projects, risk, staffing, temp

Last week, my friend RobLimo asked if I would take my ideas for independence, box them up, and do a video interview for Slashdot.  The resulting video got tens of thousands of hits in two days.

Somehow, I think it was less than it could have been.

Rob called the video “secrets of independence” or something like that.  At the time, I didn’t realize that was the goal — it felt more like a simple conversation.  With a title like “secrets of of independence”, I thought it deserved more punch — like the four things you need to know to go independent.

It turns out, I do have a list of four things.

That sounds like a good blog post for today.

It all starts with a lot of financial modeling in Excel.

Continued »

January 7, 2013  11:06 PM

The Not-So-Ultra Book

Posted by: Matt Heusser
dell, enterprise, future, HP, Laptop

A few months ago I found some work that required a modern windows machine with Visual Studio, Microsoft’s programming toolkit.

Most of the time, I can just run Windows in a Virtual Machine in my Macbook, but that has a performance problem, and this would be a training role, so speed was critical.  Yes, I considered getting a new MacBook Air, running bootcamp on it, and getting Windows to run natively – but that would require purchasing a Windows 8 license.  That is, pay the premium for the Macintosh (extra money), then pay extra money again for the operating system that would come bundled it I would ‘just’ buy the ultrabook (conceptual image at right).

Hey.  That ultrabook looks a whole lot like a Macbook Air, doesn’t it?

So I bought the ultrabook.  Or … I tried.

This is that story.

Continued »

December 27, 2012  10:45 PM

The Schwan’s Solution

Posted by: Matt Heusser
career, careers, future, hiring, IT, jimmy buffet, jimmybuffet, jimmybuffett, job, jobs

At the end of one year and the beginning of the next, a writer’s mind is prone to wander to think about goals, the future, and this crazy thing in modern life we try to call a career.

We are also likely to try to draw some inspiration.

Some authors pull from sports heros — how Tiger Woods rose, fell, and may rise again, for example.  Perhaps politicians or corporate CEOs; there’s more than one story to be found in the life of Steve Jobs.

Today I’d like to draw from the Schwan’s delivery man.

Yes, the guy who brought incredibly good frozen food to your house, offered a free sample … at five to ten times the price of what is in the grocery store.

No, you didn’t buy it, and twenty-thirty-odd years ago, neither did your mom.  Okay, I get it. But someone did, or else Schwans wouldn’t still be in business.

There might just be lesson in there, after all. Continued »

December 21, 2012  7:44 PM

That Last Step to Become ‘Talent’ In IT

Posted by: Matt Heusser
careers, half-life, hiring, hr, independence, job, jobs, migrants, staffing, temp, unemployment

declaring independenceI’ve covered a lot of things on this blog in the past year and a half, but one of the recurring themes is going independent.  I’ve run interviews with Corey Haines, J.B. Rainsberger, David Hoppe, and Rosie Sherry, along with several posts about my own journey as a digital migrant.

A few people expressed concern over what I was writing.

After all, most North Americans are looking for those ‘job’ things, with the benefits, paid time off, corporate retirement plan with unemployment insurance if things go badly.  By pushing people to go against their natural instincts, I am pushing them to make an unnatural choice.

At least that’s the argument.

I’m not too worried about the person that shouldn’t go independent.  They won’t read these articles, or if they stumble on to them by some great accident, they certainly won’t do anything about it.

No, I am looking to find people on the fence, who have the inclination, but lack a little something – people who want to be inspired.

Today, I’m going to try to inspire you.

Continued »

December 6, 2012  3:21 PM

How to become IT Talent

Posted by: Matt Heusser
career, careers, future, hiring, jimmy buffet, jimmy buffet lifestlye, jimmybuffet, jimmybuffett, job, jobs, lizard brain, migrants, outsourcing, staffing, technology, temp, unemployment

America's Got Talent LogoI my previous post I suggested that the workforce is split into three general roles – ‘Labor’, ‘Crew’ and ‘Talent’ — and that it was better to be talent.

In order to be talent, you need to be differentiated somehow from everyone else.  Unique; different.  The classic definition is either a ‘known good quantity’, willing and able to do things others are unwilling, or unable to do — and you’ve got to work gigs, not that day job stuff.

Let’s talk about how to get there.

Continued »

December 4, 2012  11:29 AM

Getting People to Throw Money At You

Posted by: Matt Heusser
career, careers, hiring, hr, independence, integrity, interview, IT, jimmy buffet, jimmy buffet lifestlye, jimmybuffet, jimmybuffett, job, jobs, migrants, part-time, projects, servitute

So earlier in the week I was on craiglist, looking at gigs.

Yes, gigs. Not jobs.

Part-time, temporary, and flexible, gigs represent a different lifestyle, different risk profile, and different rewards.  You can start them with a day job, and have the best of both worlds … there is just one small problem.

They don’t pay much.  Or at least, they often don’t pay much.

This article is about how to change that — to get the high-paying gigs,  while doing good, ethical work, that you can tell your family about with pride.

Continued »

November 26, 2012  3:46 PM

The IT Department in the Sky

Posted by: Matt Heusser

The German FlagI am in Germany!

or … almost.  I started the article on the way to Germany.  Now, on the way back, I am interested in something else.

I want to talk about the plane.

Better yet, how smart IT is turning itself into a profit center on my airplane.

You see, it wasn’t an airplane.  Not really.

It was more like a flying data center.

Continued »

November 14, 2012  1:19 PM

The Petraeus Principle

Posted by: Matt Heusser
careers, CEO, choices, email, integrity, iPad, iPhone, ipod

David Patraeus sworn in as director of the Central Intelligence Agency by Vice President Joe Biden

When the director of the Central Intelligence Agency quits fifteen months into the job, that is news.

When that director is a retired Army general and former commander of US and International Forces in Afganistan, something is going on.

When the whole issue is due to email security and privacy … we are in unchartered waters.

The Quick Back Story

According to the Associated Press, general Petraeus had an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, that began shortly after his retirement.  While showing incredibly poor judgement and opening himself up to blackmail, this act was not illegal.

Again, according to A.P., Petraeus wanted to avoid a paper trail, so he and Broadwell shared an email account.  They would create draft messages and share them with each other, then delete the message, eliminating the trail of evidence.

Then things get weird.

A Tampa, Florida socialite named Jill Kelly starts receiving anonymous, harassing, private emails and complains to the FBI.  The FBI takes the investigation seriously, and, after a series of events, Petraeus resigns.  The primary theory is that Broadwell logs into Patraeus’s other accounts – perhaps they have the same password, perhaps he leaves gmail logged in – and finds email to Kelly, creates an anonymous account, and begins the harassment campaign.  The FBI works this backwards and eventually Petraeus is forced to resign.

Whew.  With me so far?

General Petraeus’s successor in Afganistan is Marine Corps General John R. Allen, about to be appointed to the position of supreme allied commander Europe … except the FBI found a bunch of “flirtatious” emails from him to Kelly as well, and his appointment is on hold.  (The New York Times referred to it as “hundreds of emails“.)

Now let’s talk about IT policy.

Implications on 21st Century Technology

When known for some time that What Happens In Vegas is unlikely to stay there – thanks to the smart phone, everyone has a camera and an internet connection.

One thing this new wave of technology gives us is the ability to melt down incredibly quickly.  Anthony Weiner, for example, sent an explicit photo and some inappropriate emails, and his political career was over.

Yes, Weiner was doing … other things, the real things that killed his career.  Twitter and the iPhone didn’t do him in, but they made it incredibly easy to create evidence in seconds – where a polaroid and a hand-carried letter might not.

A second surprise around the Petraeus scandal is the expectation of privacy.  By creating an anonymous account, our email harasser expected anonymity   Once the FBI got involved, all pretense of that was gone.  If anything you do online is trackable to an IP address, you might do well to consider it public.

There is at least one more unexpected twist to the story, because the investigation went wherever it found evidence.  By contacting the FBI, and giving them access to her computer, Kelly allowed the FBI to get access to all her email – including the records of General Allen.


I have no easy answers; records you thought you deleted have a way of showing up in system caches.

Except, perhaps, that this situation might be a good chance to take a look at your company’s policies about internet use, separation of personal and work email, about information retention and lifecycle management, or as a good story to use to encourage people into right behavior.

Or, perhaps, just perhaps, the Petraeus Principle will come to be about how to deal with failure with integrity – by admitting mistakes and taking responsibility for our actions.

November 12, 2012  3:23 PM

The Singularity Signal – III

Posted by: Matt Heusser
business strategy, career, careers, future, hiring, hr, independence, IT, servitute, singularity

 I just got into Sweden for a conference, and I am immediately struck by how efficient the place is.  My room, which might be described as a small American room, had two additional roll-away twin sides beds in it.  When I asked the front desk what they were, the one person on duty (that is the standard shift size) explained that the room is so big that it usually fits three. The hotel had some extra space available, so they gave me a free upgrade.

There is also no storage space.  No dressers, just a one-foot-wide desk-like surface that goes the length of one wall, and a space wide enough for shirts with six inches of depth, a bar, and four hangers.

Most of the lights in the hotel are motion-sensitive; they waste no power.  In order to turn on the lights in my room, I have to insert my key-card.  If I want to get back in the room, I need to take my key-card out — making it impossible for me to accidentally leave the lights on.

Assuming you made your reservation right, sign-in is with a kiosk, not a person.

All of these efficiencies  make it possible for the company to have more guests per employee, to compete on price.

In a sense, that is a wonderful thing. The Swedish people are hard-working and view efficiency as a virtue.  The waste-basket is tiny because they don’t waste — these are the people that invented IKEA.

The downside is that this drive for efficiency destroys jobs.

That’s not new either; the luddite riots, when the “machines are taking our jobs away”, actually happened in 1812.

Unlike 1812, though, I do see some  forces at work that are a little troubling. Continued »

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