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Are you better off now than you were 5 years ago?

By Lumbergh77 ·
I hear a lot of talk on how far the IT has fallen over the past 5 years. It seems that salaries are down, jobs are down, and thousands of new graduates are being thrown into an already oversaturated field.

Five year ago, I was working for a large corporation as a web programmer/help desk support (hired with ONLY 4 months experience and was 3 months from an Associate's degree in CIS) but was laid off last year. I am now working for a small company in a similar position. While I have obtained a Bachelor's degree in that time, I am making about the same amount of money as I was 5 years ago (in the mid 30 K range), and less benefits.

Seems to me that a B.S. degree now is worth as much as an A.S. five years ago and I'm thinking that certifications are necessary in order to get ahead. Or maybe it would be better to get training in something else to go along with my generalized IT skills (jack of all trades).

What about the rest of you? I'd like to see some personal examples on how you're faring now vs. 5 years ago. Do you regret your career choice? If you had to do it all over again, what would you have done?

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Not better off

by JPCalka In reply to Are you better off now th ...

5 years ago, I was working for a large company
supporting applications on Windows and Unix
boxes. I got laid off 2 years ago and since than the
only work that I can find in IT is project work making less money then I did before.

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I took a hard hit - recovery? ... jury's still out on that one!

by rAllcorn In reply to Are you better off now th ...

In 2000 I was a full-time independent Computer Consultant. I worked through other agencies a lot as well and worked for various Fortune Companies like IBM, Motorola, Tivoli, FirstUSA BankONE, Origin, Polycom, etc. and was paid very, very well! I had no real certifications (sorry guys, had to spell it out), mainly because I didn't have the time to get them - I was toooooo busy working!

After 2000, especially with 9-1-1, the bottom dropped out. Since I've worked as a Realtor (very BAD time to do THAT!), selling Nextel, and various other things along the side ... I even got to do some computer stuff (rarely) on occasion ... but it never was the same again!!

Now, having just ended 2004, I feel the computer industry "appears" to be picking up, but as of yet I'm NOT getting responses to my resume's! Used to , they were CALLING ME! Now it appears that I'd have to PAY THEM just to return my call. There is hope! I interviewed for HOME DEPOT who is opening up a CALL CENTER here in the Austin Texas area. They promised to call me back in 7-10days ... just like the others, I've yet to hear anything.

So you ask me, is it better? NO! But then, we're starting 2005 ... the jury's still out on this one! But I BELIEVE ... (and THAT keeps me going ... for now)

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Much better

by TjD In reply to Are you better off now th ...

5 years ago I was a process engineer in a large manufacturing facility for a larger corporation. Great pay and benefits, horrible hour, worse working conditions, horrible location, not so great co-workers. I was getting certs in hopes of a career change. A few months later I took a 35% pay cut and took a sys admin/help desk job at a dot com in a city I wanted to live in (my wife's hometown). Even with the big pay cut it was a great move for our psychological and marrital well being.
Of course the dot com only last so long... I last two years to the day there, when I walked out, they shut the doors for good. Month and a half (and the birth of a second child) later I landed a back in manufacturing, only this time with a small local company and on the IT side rather than engineering. My pay was back where it was when I was an engineer (an has gone up each year since), benefits are decent too.
I'm a one man shop, doing everything. ERP, CRM, manufacturing system (think computer run machines/robotic machines), planning, budgeting, implementation, contracting and everything else even remoting IT related. My days are full, my tasks are varied, my work is challenging and fulfilling.
Just this morning the Pres referred to me a the VP of System Admin. Funny cause I'm gonna hit him up (for the second time) for a better title in a week when we have a lunch scheduled.
The company is doing great, I'm eligible for quarterly management bonuses, which have been good because were experiencing double digit growth.
I'd say thing are a heckuva lot better.
Big thing for me right now is looking to the future. Though thing are good where I'm at, there is no room for vertical growth at this company unless we have some major aquisitions. I've been here 2.5 years and need to move to a bigger company with more management resposibility in the next 2-5 years. That's the big challenge: how do you position yourself to stand out against others for that next job? I beat out 500 other applicants for this job, I need to build on the assets I have that got me here and aquire new ones that will move me further.

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Wide variations in responses

by ericw In reply to Are you better off now th ...

I'm interested to see the wide variations to responses to this thread. Some people are much better, some are about the same (which to me is bad), and others are going great. I wonder how this would compare to other professional fields.

For myself, in 2000, I was a senior level consultant for a small firm in D.C. The firm was doing very well and my bonuses made my total compensation quite high. That company was bought by a very large consulting firm, where I became a mid-level consultant (with no bonus). I was designated to be laid off in 2002, but took a horrible assignment and a pay cut to keep my job.

Then I proposed a supply chain solution to a large client that won, I led the team that delivered it successfully, which led to a very large amount of business for the firm. While there was still no bonus and hardly any recognition from my consulting firm, I WAS noticed by others. I was quite surprised when I got a call from an executive head hunter.

I am now the CIO of a medium sized company in the logistics business. I enjoy my work every day, and my compensation is considerably more then it was in 2000.

So, the question is, what's the difference between a good story and a all the bad ones that are in this discussion. I think the difference isn't just how hard you work, but recognizing how the field is moving and positioning yourself ahead of time. Not just with training, but forcing your way into positions where you can establish a track record with "the new thing".

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Neutral Position vs. 5 years ago

by cswearingen In reply to Are you better off now th ...

I guess I'm neutral vs. 5 years ago.

I too got hired in my first IT job with just an A.S. from the local Tech College. Actually I got hired before I graduated. That was seven years ago and I'm still at the same place. My job is stable and I make decent money (gotta love government jobs ;-).

However there were trade-offs. There is no tuition reimbursement, no 401k investments, no stock options, I don't have the funds or time to complete my BS, etc.

However my boss does send me to training courses to upgrade and/or hone my skills. Since coming here I've gone from a COBOL Y2K patch programmer to learning SQL Server Administration, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, ASP/VBScript, VBA, VB and next month will be VB.Net.

So the pros outweigh the cons in my case and I'm still here. I know it doesn't help answer your question but maybe it'll give you hope for a brighter future?

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Me too....kind of

by Larry.Johnson25 In reply to Neutral Position vs. 5 ye ...

Your technical past is VERY much like my own.

But, in my case I took a great job in 2000 doing software implementations, customizations, design, training, etc., and my career was moving up. Problem was, the company couldn't sell enough software to keep everyone around. I got laid-off in 2002.

Back then, I found that my development skills had deteriorated and that what skills I did have were a dime a dozen, regardless of how good I thought I was.

Getting back into strict development was a step back for me, but again, I'm gaining experience in a new business, and having an impact on future architecture.

Next, I have decided to go get a Master's, because I don't see any other way to move my career beyond strict developing. I'm trapped without some background other than developing, and taking a chance that it will help me to learn more and move on.

And if it doesn't work that way, I'll look into buying "some" kind of a franchise and move on by getting out. Either way, the education should come in handy.

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More qualified = less chance of being hired

by Hebe5775 In reply to Are you better off now th ...

I was laid off from an 11.5 year IT support position with a plant last spring. What I have learned where I am living (Baton Rouge) the more qualified you are, certifications, experience, etc., the less of a chance you have to be hired for the available IT jobs here. Unless you are applying for IT management positions (which I am not qualified for), an experienced tech is overqualified. Most of the businesses here are hiring newer & younger entries to the field; they are more inexpensive to pay, regardless of how effective they are professionally. Certification/Training sales people I have talked to over the last 4 months are stopped cold in their sales pitch when I tell them that the more certifications I could attain, the less attractive I become to a company's bottom line. On the other side of the issue, many of the newer hires are padding a resume on their way to another job somewhere else, leaving the company with the reality of hiring several, "inexpensive" tech's for the same position over a period of time. I may have to leave the state or get into another profession. As of late, I have been lucky to get involved in contract system upgrade projects in the area while searching for permanent work.

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It's a hard road.

by burger_alan In reply to More qualified = less cha ...

I have been working in the Tech. industry for many years and have had little success since the .com crash in 01. I have years of hands on desktop and server support but no degree or certs. I am at cross roads in my life one direction is be patient and live a meager existence till something goes my way, the other is start new and find a new line of work. Both seem to be a long haul. If I could go back and do it all over again I wouldn't have gone this way. The easy road would have been to get involved in Real-estate in California. But you know what they say about hindsight.

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by connelld In reply to Are you better off now th ...

No, much worse off. Have been unemployed for almost a year.

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Same education, different results

by theisey In reply to Are you better off now th ...

I also went from an associate's to a bachelor's degree during the last five years. I had been offered an IT director position with one of the colleges at the university, but state rules require a 4-year degree for that title. While earning the degree, they did promote me to manager and held the position open, but we also saw a total change in management. Once I earned the degree, they had neither the will nor the funds to promote me.

Luckily, I had built a good reputation and found a new home. While the title is lower (Coordinator), I'm now in a univeristy-level position supporting academic computing across campus. (Big fish in a little pond to a medium fish in a big pond.)

I'm very happy with the results, though it was a struggle to get this far.

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