CXO

Has the economy caused an exodus in IT?

We recently asked TechRepublic members if the economic downturn had forced them to abandon IT. Not surprisingly, a few members have begun to think along those lines, and some have already made the move.


Have an unstable economy, long hours, and little possibility for glory begun to push IT pros out of IT? That may be the case, if a recent discussion amongst TechRepublic members about just that issue is any indication of the feelings of the rest of the profession.

"I thought computer guys had it made," said TechRepublic member jdoria13. "Was I ever wrong. I am heading for the hills."

Member smoke49, a network engineer for an ISP, said that she sees the early warning signs of a dying industry and plans to start her own business outside IT.

"Let's not fool ourselves," smoke49 said. "We all know the tech sector is not what it used to be. There is no prestige [or] challenging jobs, and [there has been] a steady decline in what IT professionals used to make in the job market, plus less places to pick and choose where to work."

What follows are the highlights of the discussion.

Leveraging IT skills in other arenas
Many members mentioned a run for the food-service industry, from selling ice cream in Arizona to opening an open-pit barbecue joint to working in a local McDonald's restaurant. While some of these suggestions were made in jest, others are being considered as sincere alternatives.

Lars95028 said he is currently looking in nontechnology fields and trying to leverage his management and organizational skills to secure a position. Melelio said she's actively looking for a nontechnical position, although she would consider teaching computer skills to elementary-school students.

Stress-free work
Nutjob said he had no choice but to start taking short-term positions with companies, often through a placement agency. An experienced 15-year IT veteran, he now spends his days making copies for the administrative assistant to a due-diligence department and reading e-mail.

"I don't have to wear a pager, and I don't have to fix any of the server problems," Nutjob said. "I know how to save [the company] money and make things better, but it's not my role now, and so I chuckle to myself when things are broken…"

He said he finds the folks at his new workplace easygoing compared to those in his former profession.

"The only thing I miss is the money," he said.

Staying put for now
Another member, rgaona2001, said he's still considering whether to leave the tech sector. He said that although he likes his IT work, "it does add a lot of stress to the nuclear family." He lives in the San Francisco Bay area, where the cost of living is comparatively high, with a wife and a newborn child.

"My wife and I have decided to stick around one more year out here," he said. "In the meantime, we continue to work on our backup plan if nothing changes."

I'm being forced out
Others who are leaving IT have been forced out by layoffs, downsizing, and bankruptcies. Styrer3, an IT veteran of 22 years, was laid off in July. She said she's still got the "bug for IT," and she has continued her education and soon plans to set up her own company.

Some members report that age is a major stumbling block to keeping their IT career alive. Hstock is a 50-year-old network administrator who said he feels like he has to "work extra hard to stay competitive" with younger coworkers.

Roger McCook,  who is 52, agreed and said he finds it difficult to get respect. "What's funny is that I can usually walk circles around the person who won't take me seriously," he said.

Kevin.houston is "only 43" but said he's lost jobs to people because "they're young, fresh meat, right out of college." He said he puts in an average of 15 hours of study per week outside of work to stay competitive.

It just got interesting
Despite all that extra work, kevin.houston said he thinks leaving IT now would be a big mistake. He believes that after a "dip in the market" and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, things are finally looking up.

"If you have the skills now—especially in networking/routers—this is definitely not the time to jump ship," he said. "Things are just about to get exciting again!"

What's going to be hot in 2002?
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