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Hands off? No way.

By penguinvitamins2 ·
Hands off,

Staying a techno wiz kid forever or move up to middle management or higher? But there are a few alternatives...

I think many technology professionals will be or are facing a decision somewhere in their careers to become hands off. Collecting more managerial responsibilities along the career path are par for the course, whether you like it or not. And one day, during another long debate in a staff meeting, you will realize that you no longer have real contact with the techno stuff and that wonderful feeling of accomplishment when you get it to work where everyone else failed. You are now spending your time sitting through endless staff issue meetings like this, writing performance evaluations or making decisions around finances and salaries.

Ask yourself the question: Do you like staff management or do you REALLY miss the technology? What was the reason you entered the technology arena? Was it because you were drawn in for your managerial skills or was it because you like to work with technology?

Some companies do offer IT professionals a technology career track instead of a managerial one, even sometimes with salary packages higher than that of a senior manager or CIO. But it has its downfalls as well. You might end up reporting to someone half your age. Maybe not a bad thing but can you handle it?

I??ve been with my company for over 9 years doing in-house IT, yea, a long time, looking at the IT career turnover, but up to recently I did enjoyed it. One day I too realize that I spend more time on staff than what I really love: Gizmos.

I looked back over my career: A long list of successful designs and implementations, hey some of the stuff is still running but there exists no real opportunity to become hands on again. Moving away to another company might leave me in the same situation, so what am I to do?

About 5 years ago a friend of my showed me Linux and the wonderful world of Open Source. I subsequently got so involved with it that I took my annual bonus and qualified myself as a RHCE (RedHat Certified engineer).
Since my company??s environment is purely based on Microsoft infrastructure, I started to show some colleagues Linux. This lead to a few evening interest group sessions and soon after I was giving training (in my own time) to more than 20 people.

One evening someone from another company called me and asked if I could assist them with a Linux problem. I loved it and in a short while I found myself hands on again doing consulting, training and supporting a few clients on Linux.

You may ask: What are the moral issues? What will your employer think about this and what are the conflict of interest issues? Burning the candle at both ends, how long will it last?

Yes it is difficult. But it is a choice. I got my hands on back and this stuff is really good for a stale CV.

Managing a business after hours is difficult but it is very achievable. Here are a few suggested rules:
Rule #1. Ensure that you are in no conflict with company policies. Go see your HR department but ensure that they agree to the confidentiality of the matter before you mutter away. Explain your reasons clearly. Maybe something else will also pop up.
Rule #2. Depending on your situation, tell your boss only when it is needed. Also remember you don't want to jeopardize your career.
Rule #3. ALWAYS tell your clients your situation. In other words ensure that your real job does not get influenced by private clients calling you during the day.
Rule #4. Be practical. Do not take on jobs you cannot manage in the few hours after work.
Rule #5. Take time out.
Rule #6. Set goals. Financials are but one. Another could be a long term goal to run your own business. Test the waters first, before making decisions you later regret.
Rule #7. Communicate to your clients on a regular basis. E.g. during your lunch breaks.
Rule #8. Always be professional. Ensure quality work, well printed documents and even better, register your business and use professional stationary e.g. business cards.
Rule #9. NEVER use company time, stationary, phones etc. to run your business.

Golden rule: UNDER promise, OVER deliver and always be ON TIME.

OK, what do you or the company you work for get out of the deal?

Here were my benefits:

1.I never realize, seeing I??m quite an introvert, that I could present training or even be remotely successfully doing it. Believe me, it is quite rewarding.
2.I??m learning to run finances from a point of having to manage my own business monies, not someone else??s. This, apart from learning a few accounting terms, improved how I work with company finances at work.
3.I??m experiencing the world of consulting, the difficulties, but more important being exposed to perspectives of other IT and non-IT people outside of the company I work for. This gave me insight and experience that I??m applying back again into the company. This also gave me some better insight when I work with consultants hired by my ??day?? company.
4.FUN. No point doing it if you don??t have fun. I use the money I earn to buy my wife unsuspected gifts for putting up to me ?? but also expanding my home gizmos e.g. a better quality printer for writing proposals and invoices.

Reading and watching the industry trends, the days of having a cushy ??life-long?? job are fading rapidly. I have a hunch that what I??m currently doing in my private time might also save me one day from being one of the many ??40 something?? retrenchments that we see out there today. Selling your skills is a definite.

Good luck.

Stefan Olivier

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Interesting. But check in again in ten or fifteen years.

by DC_GUY In reply to Hands off? No way.

It's a natural evolution of our personalities as we grow older that we develop a broader perspective on the world we live in. This world certainly needs millions of good detail people, but it also desperately needs big-picture people, and by definition, those can only be found among the elders. (It's called "wisdom".) I'm sorry that you're finding management to be so exasperating, but what you're describing is an organization whose upper leadership is not as astute as it could be. Many of the tasks you're engaged in should be delegated, automated, reorganized, streamlined, or simply eliminated. Perhaps some older people who have the wisdom to run the organization better made the decision to remain at the detail level because they thought it would be more enjoyable or less stressful, leaving the job to less qualified (and perhaps younger) people. You show a lot of promise. Your instincts already tell you that the organization is inefficiently run. It's fun to keep your technical skills up, but younger people can do that work. You don't need to be an expert on the internals of the latest technology to be able to make managerial decisions. Look at all the people who are "experts" yet continue to push Windows over Mac OS! They're really only geeks wearing suits! I hope that some day you'll deploy your skills where they are desperately needed, which is at the top. I once enjoyed rebuilding carburetors, but I don't have time for it any more. The same is true of hands-on technical work. You already understand that no one can work more than 40 hours a week on a regular basis and do a good job, so you have to make some hard decisions about budgeting your time.

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Here is my kunundrom...

by seasoned In reply to Interesting. But check in ...

I am an Oracle DBA. I love the DB design, and like the project management and technical implementation - in that order.
My employer (current mgmt) puts much value in the business knowledge which relates to the first 2 items. But, I believe, in order to remain marketable (outside of this company) I need to keep up my technical skills.

Now, I will be eligible for early retirement soon and am trying to figure out what to do on a part-time basis. Any suggestions?

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test the market

by penguinvitamins2 In reply to Here is my kunundrom...

I can suggest testing the waters while you still have a day job. Networking with people is the best way to test the waters. Look up for instance trusted friends and let them know what you anticipate to do. They might know of something without the risk of you getting exposed to your employer without the need to do so. (I don't want to sound sneaky, but you should not unnecessarily risk your retirement) Your PM skills might land you some part time contract to deploy DB based solutions. The selling point here is to set up a consultant profile that includes your major achievements with regards to PM/DBA/Implementations. e.g. "Implemented a $100K project which saved the company $x" etc.

Alternatively if you still want to carry on working for an employer it is time to look for another job, not necessarily DBA. It is also never too late to learn new skills and there might be another opportunity right under your nose with you current employer. Some people turn their hobbies into a business e.g. my uncle had electronics for a hobby and retired at a little coastal town. He now runs a TV repair shop from the garage, something that was not available in this town before.

Regards and good luck

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Well done

by noko In reply to Hands off? No way.

You are on the right track pal. Thumbs up

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