Observations on the IT Job Market

Mar 23 2009   2:14AM GMT

Riding the Waves of Change with my Crewmates

MarkHolt Mark Holt Profile: MarkHolt

I’m doing some contract work now – no more hanging out with the dog and the TV remote. Nice to be on the job, but working with this crew feels a little like signing on to a whaling ship. We’re all thrown together from the four corners of the globe for a few months; then we disband and look for the next Captain Ahab.


Call me Ishmael, I guess, the wandering neophyte who stepped aboard like a simple country lad, softened by life in a pastoral corporate IT, and hit the deck with this crew of landlubbers and scurvy dogs.

Arrrgh. Avast with the personal emails you sorry sons a’ pirates, get yur lazy bones to the meetin’.

Our crew does its best to support one another, comparing our yeomen’s wages and slim benefits while leaving unsaid how lucky we feel that we are among the few, the chosen, the re-employed. Cautious hope is mixed with an edgy wolf pack mentality, kept under a thin veneer of polite professionalism. We all know what’s at stake.

Don’t ye be caught a-textin’ while the master gives tha’ orders, neither, or you’ll be eatin’ dust balls off the data center floor, laddie.

Job security is out the window, it’s now about performing our duties well enough to keep the ship afloat. This sense of living on the knife edge of success or failure, served up by forces beyond our control…it must be similar to life below decks on every 19th century voyage. True, we aren’t risking body and limb, but still…we no longer control much beyond today’s assigned tasks.

Look sharp, it’s the Cap’n fur sure a’comin’ on the conference call so turn off those cursed ring tones!

The shipmate from the Far East is on board too, although without the exotic facial tattoos. Aggressive and skilled, brought here from overseas to serve the skipper for a few years with a contract and an H1B visa, the focus is on hard work and success. Although I sometimes wonder if, like Queequeg, there disenchantment with how the Darwinian struggle here in the West is the same as back home. But no one complains.

As if to carry the allegory along, Starbucks, named for Ahab’s first mate, is strategically placed right inside the lobby. No reason to jump ship! It works too, In place of a daily ration of grog, we grab our mugs and form up for a latte at 2 o’clock in the afternoon (4 bells aboard ship), with just enough stimulants to keep us working till nightfall. Only 3 shillings and no tips allowed.

Meanwhile Ahab, talking like a bipolar Mennonite (“With my last breath I spit at thee”), keeps a baleful eye on us as he carefully tracks our tasks by the hour. Not complaining of course. It’s kind of refreshing, how simple life is when survival’s at stake. We drop all pretense that a job is truly secure, or that we are entitled to have an income.

Maybe a new kind of pioneering spirit is kicking in, a sense of optimism and hope where none should be. Could it be that I am finding a small degree of the grit and determination my ancestors had that got me here? To survive they had to keep changing and adapting, growing and expanding, doing the hard labor.

Now I guess it’s my turn.

3  Comments on this Post

There was an error processing your information. Please try again later.
Thanks. We'll let you know when a new response is added.
Send me notifications when other members comment.
  • TNGeorge
    The wry humor is well directed. One could have also chosen to parody something from the beginning labor movement. It has always been my thought that information systems workers were ripe for recruitment in to the labor movement. Even though the pay is comparatively high all else is out of the control of the worker when maybe it should not be. Humm... I wonder what the chances of a new union are like?
    0 pointsBadges:
  • spintreebob
    A very entertaining piece of fiction. But not at all like the real world: Contracting, for example. I've had numerous recruiters email me. They phone me without my sending a recent email or resume, mostly to update their[I] rolodex[/I]. But never have they phoned back in response to a recent resume or inquiry from me. Nor have I expected them to phone me. Yet I've had no trouble getting consulting gigs. It is understood that it is my job to follow up my email inquiry with the phone call insisting on an interview. And then its my job to push them to schedule an interview with the client company. This is a useful test of a contract employee's capabilities. Would he be capable of following through on a project if her were to get a consulting assignment? Or would he sit at the client site waiting to be led by the hand? Then there's the sweat shop allusions. I've been contracting since the 60s, first in business and later in IT. I've yet to encounter a sweat shop. While Mark has been writng great fiction claiming to job hunt, I've seen numerous IT employees and contractors leave my shop. They leave voluntarily because a better opportunity was BEGGING them to jump ship. In this a game of musical chairs there are plenty of empty chairs available. But you can't wait for someone to put you in the chair like your mommy used to do in your highchair.
    70 pointsBadges:
  • Rubin
    This is a very entertaining read about the IT job market. I found it to be a little more less entertaining because it is like musical chairs with a flood of applicants. It reminds me of the housing market. It is a buyers market and the companies are the buyers who don't have to put that much effort into looking for contractors. Why??? ---when there are so many IT people out of work. It is very competitive to the point where you have to be at the top of your game to the simpliest tasks. I'm not happy but this was a nice up beat way of talking about the job market.
    0 pointsBadges:

Forgot Password

No problem! Submit your e-mail address below. We'll send you an e-mail containing your password.

Your password has been sent to:

Share this item with your network: