Back in the 90’s I got my first job in the information technology industry as a desktop support technician. I was specialized in the Windows platform, but my boss insisted that I learn and support all of the other core infrastructure technologies that were present in our environment in order to maximize labor expenses. It was good thing for me to do at the time, and I with my hunger for knowledge of all kinds, and my rather inquisitive, tinkerer nature, I happily complied. I was highly successful learning and applying it to various situations and I eventually moved into engineering, accomplishing the creation of new and innovative services by integrating different technologies into seamless and effective business tools.
In the 2000’s I moved to corporate IM and became involved in investigative IT. I loved my job because I was always working on something new and different. I could break things to learn how to fix them, get a feel for the supportability aspect of each new technology, how well they would work in our enterprise, and what would be required to fit them in if the company decided to use them. I took on some age-old disputes in the networking infrastructure arena and settled them, saving the company millions of dollars in the process.
Today, however, I find myself with lack of opportunity. It rather amazes me that with more than a decade and a half of hands-on, successful technical enterprise engineering and architecture experience, there is simply no one who is interested. What is being sought now is a high degree of product specialization, which of course leaves me in a rather precarious position having talent with just about everything and specialized experience in none.
This is an illustration, I think, of the changes in the labor market place with a glut of people looking for employment and the downward pressure on wages, it is now possible to staff up with people who can do only one thing and do it very well. In the past it wasn’t cost effective to have too many specialists, and that is where I found the sweet spot.
I am not really complaining about it, because things do change and I have to change with them to have something other than what I can scrape together. I have a feeling that this is likely only a temporary condition because things do indeed change, and all these specialists are going to be in a world of hurt, like when the automobile replaced the horse and buggy. It happened to my husband who is now in an entirely different field, and many people I know. This is one reason why I always resisted being pigeon-holed into doing just one thing; it gave me the flexibility to be able to pick up just about anything and be successful at it. I will probably have to do it now, just to survive, but I don’t really want to.
From the corporate point of view, having done this is going to hurt later on when the economy finally adjusts and labor prices come back into equilibrium. They will have a pastel of specialists on hand who can’t change with the technology, and they will either have to retrain them and have them start from the beginner level, or let them go only to find that the specialist market is too expensive to deal with. It will start to bite them in the butt probably by the end of 2013 or 2014, or sooner if ObamaCare isn’t struck down. Nothing is free, guys, and you will either pay for it now or pay for it later. Either way, we are creating an entire labor force of unemployable retreads that will have to be dealt with sooner or later.