% fortune -ae paul murphy

Things are looking up

As regular readers know I'm a big fan of the tea party and deeply concerned that the people in control of the Democratic party prior to the recent election hate everything good America has stood for over the years. Now, things are looking up: Pelosi is out; Obama arguably headed for impeachment and removal; there's a sane majority in the house committed to curbing the worst excesses; enough balance in the senate to prevent more hyperpartisan judicial appointments and anti-science adventures like carbon taxes; and the Obamacon's net neutrality proposals are never going to make it through the house.

Basically, the American constitutional system of checks and balances has been restored, sane democrats have a chance to take their party back, and only things holding back recovery are the debt and policy hangovers from four years of Pelosi -two of them unchecked in the Senate or Whitehouse.

These are huge problems requiring principled and courageous solutions - but if the new majority in Washington gives the Federal Reserve enough cover from Whitehouse pressure to stop the QE2 attack on the currency, we should see confidence recover and the recent minor jobs recovery, now fueled by holiday retailing and electoral anticipation, turn into something much more real and lasting.

If this happens I'm predicting a kind of bull whip effect on private sector IT employment - specifically

  1. that, outside state and local agencies where cutbacks will drive rapid change, we'll see an explosion in obsolete technology hiring as many employers hit the limits of what existing staff can do with the technology they've maintained during the recession. Basically, what these guys are going to do is respond to the uncertainty still present in the political scene by hiring people they can easily lay off if prospects for 2012 start to dim.

  2. but that growing confidence and a few examples of public sector success in doing more with less, will gradually lead to a boom in replacement technology buying - all of it needing need fewer, but better qualified, IT people per revenue dollar.

Now if this happens, and of course nothing in politics is ever a sure thing, the newly rehired will be at a natural disadvantage in terms of keeping their jobs during the rethinking and re-architecting stage that has to follow.

Hence this bit of advice: watch the American political scene and their national economic numbers: if you see the bull whip cracking, don't just take advantage of the new dollars coming your way to buy a new car or 3D TV: invest heavily in personal growth. Become an expert in whatever your users care about; dig deep into any non buzzy technology - particularly HTML5, Unix, Appliance/Smart display computing, and large scale bundled applications - you find interesting; and, above all, use your job to push your own boundaries on taking responsibility for user service.

Basically the bottom line on the bull whip is the usual one: many people hired in response to an incomplete economic signal, followed - either way - by a rapid winnowing process: one in which the winners will be the people best prepared to meet the new opportunities half way.

Paul Murphy wrote and published The Unix Guide to Defenestration. Murphy is a 25-year veteran of the I.T. consulting industry, specializing in Unix and Unix-related management issues.