Riding Out the Bumps
With the economy full of potholes, it’s the resourceful, the tenacious and the sociable who will enjoy the smoother road.
- By Em C. Pea
- June 01, 2001
Remember the good times, when employers showered
us with stock options and BMWs as hiring bonuses?
Well, the bad times are what you need to gauge
the good times. Auntie’s no Al Greenspan, but
even she knows that the economy’s hitting a rough
spot and things are getting a little bit bumpy.
Plus, you know it’s bad when your 401(k)’s value
is now less than what that kid at the McDriveThru
window makes and your options are so far underwater
that the Cousteau Foundation won’t mount an expedition
to find them.
When you think about it, good times are as inexplicable
as bad times. Can anyone really explain why the
last few years of the old millennium went so well
for the U.S. economy in general? Nah. We can describe
the symptoms and the effects of good times, but
no one (except for a few daring individuals who
make infomercials and will provide you with The
Infallible Path to Wealth for six easy payments
of $73.64) has all the answers. That’s why macroeconomic
theories are theories, not laws.
This ex-supermodel humbly suggests not wasting
time thinking about the “why.” Stuff happens;
live with it. Instead, let’s deal with realities
and the effects of economic potholes on all of
us humble—yet surprisingly attractive—MCPs. So,
what happens when good times aren’t so good?
If you’re an IT staffer at a company affected
by the recent downturn, the so-called “efficiency
experts” may be lurking around cubicles. And they’re
most likely targeting IT departments that haven’t
successfully made the case for IT as a revenue-generating
source rather than simply “overhead.”
If you’re in management, Auntie says now would
be a really good time to pull out all the stops
to save your job. And if you’re an IT grunt, find
ways to show management that you should be the
last person to lay off. This often means not giving
management any excuses to dump you. Keep your
customers happy, your credentials and skills current,
and pay more attention to the soft skills we often
neglect while we get the job done—you know, interacting
with colleagues? I’ve seen too many cases when
the ax falls first on those who haven’t a clue
when it comes to human interaction.
What about when resource-intensive projects get
shelved? This is a big hit to contractors. A project
like a Windows 2000 migration or a Web portal
launch can produce dozens of opportunities for
consultants. But if large projects are put off
for a quarter or two, the local consulting population
takes the hit. What to do?
Well, there are two types of contracts: project
work and staff augmentation. Project work pays
more and is more interesting than system admin
or user support work. But as project work dries
up, contractors have to decide whether to ride
out the low demand or suck it up, take staff augmentation
contracts and make less.
With IT an integral part of how businesses make
money, we may be facing a period where there’s
less work to go around. If you have to lower your
expectations, remember that reduced options are
a lot better than none.
Em C. Pea, MCP, is a technology consultant, writer and now budding nanotechnologist who you can expect to turn up somewhere writing about technology once again.