[Gllug] [Long] Down-under response. Was: File On 4 on waste in Govt computing projects

David L Neil GLLUG at GetAroundToIt.co.uk
Fri Mar 5 00:48:04 UTC 2010


On 03/03/10 15:45, JLMS wrote:
> I have a Kiwi colleague, working in London, he could not find a job
> down under and had to come back to the UK for work, he said the
> situation down under for IT professionals is dire (or do you think
> they are immune to outsourcing to India and  other economic pressures?
> They even are in a similar time zone as the Philippines, Singapore and
> other "next generation" outsourcing hotspots which makes things
> particularly challenging).  This friend is no dumber, has worked in
> top companies in the UK for several years.
> As for economists predicting how the UK (or Aussie or Kiwi) economy
> will do in the next 10 years, phwa!, like if they really knew what
> they are talking about (have we forgotten how little foresight about
> their own field of "expertise" these fellows have in general terms?)

I think the last is the first point I would like to tackle. What may not 
be apparent, is that the financial crisis that has been the center of 
attention in the UK and US, has had an effect on, but was not replicated 
in other parts of the world. This is why it is worth paying attention to 
the Asian economies, because they have been growing this entire time 
(the last one~two years) whilst those parts of America that were not 
previously owned by the Arabs are now held as financial security by the 
Chinese... (you know the picture in the UK better than I, as my absence 
increases my out-of-datedness)

New Zealand, specifically, has always run with conservative mortgage 
regulations, so the idea of a 100% (or more) mortgage, is almost unknown 
and the risk of negative equity (a la 'Maggie' and now 'Gordo') a rare 
consequence. Thus personal finances are (perhaps) in better shape 
(personal savings rates are still nothing to boast about). Economic 
slow-downs and suchlike have had a major impact on jobs, but to my 
observation, much less than in the UK.

Australia had a much better idea to keep the money flowing (per money 
multiplier effect, and 'consumer confidence'): their government simply 
handed out chunks of cash to all?various members of the general 
population (out of which New Zealand also did rather well, when young 
Aussies decided to visit Kiwi-land on vacation or for better skiing). 
Compare this with the UK and US governments giving wads of cash to the 
merchant bankers, who instead of passing it on (even to their 
oft-sacrificed retail brethren), simply held on to it and used it as 
fuel for the bonuses they are paying themselves today.

I agree with another correspondent here, that the business of offshore 
and even out-sourcing generally is being re-examined. The general 
problems of contract definition and contractor control (refer back to 
Rich's original msg and podcast) when one shifts work 'outside' are 
hugely magnified by differences in language, culture, value systems, 
education, work ethic, modes of doing business, ... (How many people do 
you know who grind their teeth/have given up dealing with Dell, simply 
because every call requires one to endure a phone conversation with some 
script-jockey in Bangalore?) This impact has been largely 
under-estimated and glossed-over even more than the necessary effort of 
explaining to folk outside the organisation how the insides work...

Aside: over here, the major cell phone provider 'lost' half the country 
last week. They have recently changed to a new 'it works perfectly 
everywhere else' GSM set-up (American style - no comment necessary from 
those who know that the very words "cell phone" are transliterated from 
the original scandiwegian. Perhaps Chris Carter (the UK MP) shouldn't 
have taken a role at Alcatel/Lucent?) This fiasco was sadly, not the 
first. The Consumers' Association weighed-in on national TV news with 
the (?legal) opinion that if one has suffered three or four losses of 
service in recent times (and many have) such is a valid means of 
claiming breach of contract/failure to supply, and thus trumping the 
telco's contract term (as in, duration: 12, 18, 24 months) to claim a 
(rapid) escape clause. I can't imagine that happening in the 
?consumer-friendly? UK environment. Interestingly the company had to fly 
staff from Auckland (where the system was working) south, because so 
many customers 'invaded' retail stores having refused to call the 'help 
line' because it lands in Manila (Philippines) - a message that has not 
passed unnoticed! (so did its competitors who needed extra staff to 
assist clients to transfer-in to their service!)

Back to the topic: Your colleague may have been correct. Certain skills 
seem to 'get the chop' ahead of others, and contractors before in-house 
staff when it is imagined that the work can be 'brought back'. (etc) 
Therefore he may well have done the right thing - for him - and when my 
family considerations are settled (don't ask me how bad a plumber I have 
been! I trust I'll do better as a realtor...) I may yet do the same!

The other point is that the situation here is v.fluid - whereas the news 
that I have from London is that change/improvement is not so noticeable 
(mind you, some didn't noticed anything 'wrong' - so back to the 
previous paragraph). Thus the situation a few months ago, and the 
state-of-play today are quite different - I can see that just from 
talking to people and keeping a speculative eye on the adverts.

Another point is that as the economy picks-up, things will change for IT 
staff rather rapidly, and quite literally from one week of nothing to 
the next week of plenty. Such is happening here, and in (at least parts 
of) Australia.

Thus I suspect (and may well test more deliberately) that Project 
Managers and others who are 'in' at the start of projects, are becoming 
sought-after, indeed are in rather short supply. Certainly with folk 
coming back to work after their summer holidays, schools and unis 
re-commencing, the number of ad pages has certainly increased - and 
presumably the online services accordingly. Coders and programmers may 
find that their turn comes a little further down the track...

My fear is that there is more of an age-related bias over here (spoken 
like a true grey-beard and fully-fledged curmudgeon), in comparison to 
Europe. For relevant roles there is the same issue that people have 
experience with the given software, application, language, whatever... 
rather than taking on fresh graduates or training-up others. However 
there is also (generally) a more adventurous/entrepreneurial attitude 
when it comes to stepping into the future.

Unfortunately whilst there are solid moves being made to utilise open 
source, eg government/civil service policies, and I have spoken to 
people involved in projects using FOSS in some form, I can't say that I 
have seem more than one advert that specifically mentioned Linux - to be 
fair, I probably don't do more than glance at technically-oriented 
adverts, (eg those typically seen on GLLUG) so will not pretend to have 
sensible comment.

Contrarily I have found the two FOSS/LUG email lists to which I have 
subscribed, rather technical in content (with more of the 'how do I 
firewall/wireless/netbook...' type topics than seen on GLLUG, both as 
percentage and in absolute terms), yet at the same time there have been 
plenty of comments about ACTA (and success in persuading the New Zealand 
government that the 'rule of law' (presumption of innocence) comes 
before the avaricious interests of Hollywood and record studios, et al) 
and injecting FOSS into schools either by replicating a brand new school 
that is running 100% 'free' and/or by working on a package to fulfill 
the needs of schools in reporting to the Department of Education...

I haven't seen many conversations about HPC, clusters, or server farms; 
so another (?crass) generalisation is that I see technical 
discussions/individuals dominating the list, rather than perhaps those 
stalwarts of GLLUG who moved from there to become larger scale 
systems/network administrators... OTOH I know that the university-types 
have their own and similar lists (the air there is definitely too 
rarefied for me!) and thus research projects and their needs are likely 
discussed there. There are fewer ISPs and web hosting operations, which 
would also shape the employment (and list) landscape. etc.

If I were off-shoring from the UK or N.America, I would consider New 
Zealand over the others mentioned. The language and sociological 
arguments apply, as above. Many kiwis have done their "OE" (overseas 
experience) in the UK and returned, and thus have a v.good understanding 
of how things are (expected to be) done. I mentioned that last week I 
was working for a client in Durham. She thought it was great that she do 
'real work' during her day, and 'only' have to worry about web-dev first 
and last thing - we were both putting in some long hours to maximise our 
real-time,though. What proved to be the clincher was that she was 
thrilled by the idea that we could agree a list of tasks one evening, 
and the dev site would be updated 'overnight' and ready for review while 
she munched her breakfast - and nary a mention of "agile" or "continuous 
integration" - nor "scrum" or "sprint", unless the All Blacks are 
playing the Lions or Wales... Meantime back at the coal face (or was 
that Newcastle?) I would work on the site during our day, and then sit 
outside enjoying the sunshine until our next 'window'. I could get used 
to this!

I think the India, Singapore... opportunity is for coding tasks and 
self-contained projects* where things can be carefully and 'completely' 
specified in-advance. In other words one is pretty much stuck with the 
water-fall model of development. Rapid/Agile/XP is becoming 'available' 
but so much of the (limited) success that I've seen in such practices 
requires teams who can reach out and (physically) grab each other, ie 
co-operate in real time. So on that note, I'll shut-up.

*hmm hadn't given much thought to the idea of combining this with SoA 
module development...

Lastly (and your parting comment), please don't fall into the 'trap' or 
take the bankers' bait! During the 'financial crisis' the financial 
community has been very coyly hoping that people will continue to use 
the term 'banker'. The 'great British public' sees a 'banker' as someone 
working at the local branch of Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds... Wrong! The 
villains of the piece are investment or merchant bankers. They are the 
ones who have built a house of cards (on (tissue) paper), taken their 
fees up-front, and dragged entire economies down - and thoroughly 
deserving of your scorn. Similarly economists operate at a different 
level from merchant bankers, and operate from data made available. Many 
have sounded alarms about the way things have been going, eg levels of 
credit (both individual/corporate and inter-national). However the 
previous Republican US Administration listened to no-one except their 
own 'pets' who eschewed traditional economics/economic wisdom in favor 
of continuing to ignore today what could be loaded for payment 
tomorrow... Your average journo isn't going to penetrate either of those 
thickets, so the labels will still be used fatuously (and erroneously) 
and the average politician is seduced by associating with fame, power, 
and/or money, so...

With apologies to those who might feel we're way-away from LUG topics, 
but trust this is helpful (to someone),
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