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I attended a meeting of the Cincinnati Hispanic Chamber of Commerce a few months ago with my girlfriend who is from Peru. I thought about my 14-year career in information technology and the number of different types of companies I had worked for – insurance, market research, drug study, etc. I couldn’t remember a single person that I worked closely with that was Hispanic.

Bill Clinton made some remarks a while back about the subject, relaying number that said a “study shows that Hispanics, who represent 11 percent of our work force, hold down just 4 percent of the jobs in information.” I wonder what the current statistics are. He also provided 5 steps to creating more opportunities, centered primarily around education, specifically a college education. I slightly disagree, because I’ve made a great career in IT with a college education, but in Jazz Music. My IT career has been made possible by my efforts to educate myself with the vast sea of resources available – books, seminars, etc. Indeed a degree from a major university is helpful, but a degree from some colleges will mean that you are up to date on technologies that will die in a couple of years. Curriculum is dated the moment it is presented sometimes. But are those other resources made available to people from other countries? Do they even know where to look? Or is it a vast sea of English?

A good American/Hispanic combination:


Why is it important that Hispanics, or any other group, have opportunity in IT? It pulls the solution paradigm in a different direction. People with different fundamental backgrounds contribute to a problem in fundamentally different ways. If three people from three different places shine a different kind of light on a problem, different qualities of that problem become apparent, and so the solution becomes almost self-evident. Another inherent value in that scenario is realizing you don’t have to be the only contributor, in fact, you need to rely on help from others to achieve a goal.

I don’t like to stereotype, but I think it’s safe to say that people from outside the U.S., especially from some Hispanic countries, probably appreciate the value of a dollar a little more. I know I take a lot of what I have for granted, things that have come to me easily that wouldn’t necessarily come as easily to others. My girlfriend really values the things she has earned and purchased that I just look at as material possessions. With this in mind, would this fundamental difference produce an individual – a software developer maybe – who is innately focused on frugality (frugalidad)? What differences in architectural options, or coding styles, would be realized from an individual with a drastically difference “human experience” background? Not that any particular choice or options would be right or wrong, but merely having the presence of those values in the discussion – can you see the value?

Si usted es hispano y le gustaría aprender más sobre desarrollo de sitios web o programas informáticos, no crea que necesita previo conocimiento, titulos o alta educacion. No deje su idea, lógrela!

Thank goodness for Google Translate.

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I was reading an article in Information Weekly by Michael Biddick while waiting in a recruiter’s lobby. In it, he provides statistics on how important SaaS has become to organization, and the reasons behind the uprise: speed, cost.

It certainly is a movement that was predicted with web services, WSDL/SOA, WCF, and cloud computing in terms of technological evolution, but what about employment. Will this mean software developers and engineers may become employed by more software companies who provide these services? Will this result in fewer in-house IT positions? Or will many of the IT positons that become available be more concerned with security – the primary concern of SaaS implementers?

I’m personally looking forward to the free hard drive space and memory when the online version of Microsoft Office is released this year, and find it ironic that it was precisely those monstrous software packages which forced our systems to require GIGS of memory and hard drive space. In this instance, it feels like Microsoft is selling the big house it built to raise the kids and moving to some place tropical. If software is leaving the company system, if software developers are migrating to software companies, it will be interesting to see what we do with the space.

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My ideal work day as a software developer would go something like this:

  1. I grab breakfast. During my breakfast, I transition from domestic life to work life.
  2. I go to work. When I arrive, I grab some coffee. It’s good coffee.
  3. While drinking the coffee, I have a conversation or two with people, some outside of my department, some inside. Maybe I even attend a weekly morning meeting and thumb through a catalog or magazine while I listen to the stakeholders discuss the health of my company.
  4. I head to my office and close the door.
  5. I spend the next hour checking out Visual Studio 2010, or reading an article, maybe a code example. This is more than likely information not directly related to the work I do.
  6. I attend a team meeting or Scrum. I don’t necessarily dig it, but during the meeting, I’m able to make a suggestion to someone with an obstacle. So that’s pretty cool.
  7. I return to my desk and pull up the tasks assigned to me.
  8. For the first task, I pull up the related use case. I read the user story and have a good understanding of how what I’m working on integrates with the system. I have a couple questions about the Normal Flow.
  9. I walk down the hall and have a converstion with a business dude and get the answer to my questions.
  10. I go back to my desk and spend he next few hours composing the prototype solution for the use case I’m handling. I start by stubbing it all out, hooking up my data connections, and maybe rolling the Repository. I may stop and scan the internet for some articles on the Repository Pattern just to stay aware of trends in practices, problems, etc.
  11. My daughter calls me. We have a 30-minute conversation about some event coming up at school, how excited she is about her soccer game this weekend, and how her sister can be annoying sometimes.
  12. Nobody gives me crap about my phone conversation, and nobody cares.
  13. I get up and go get a soda.
  14. On the way back to my desk, I notice Bob’s door is open. Bob is the CEO. I ask Bob about a idea he mentioned in the morning meeting. Bob and I talk about it. Bob is genuinely interested in what I have to say. I probably take that for granted.
  15. I go back to my desk and check in what I’ve worked on.
  16. I get in my car and go home.
  17. When I get home, I don’t even look at a computer. In fact, I go out on my balcony to check on my strawberry planter and watch the birds from my hammock.
  18. I do one or more of the following: I pursue a hobby, play music, cook interesting cuisine, read fiction, drink wine from San Luis Obispo, contemplate the dryness of it.
  19. I watch very little news.
  20. I do engaging things with my family members.
  21. I attend a speech club. I make a speech.
  22. I go to bed. I dream about pleasant things.
  23. The next day, I do it again. Nobody is expecting me to arrive at work with a volume of new knowledge I gained by spending my evening engrossed in something that causes me to lose sleep.
  24. I’m rested, at peace, progressing, and contributing. I have friends. And my family/kids don’t hate me for being a workaholic.
  25. What is your ideal day?

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I remember going golfing once with my father and a couple of buddies. I had reached the first green in three with a two-foot putt for par. This was a rare occurrence. I’m consistently good for a bogey 5 off a first-hole par 4. I don’t have the talent to grab a par and there hasn’t been enough evidence for my inevitable frustration to come forth and push me into a double bogey. As I approached the green, my mind started flailing. It was slightly uphill, not really a straight putt. I considered jamming it in vs. trying something delicate and thoughtful. It didn’t help that my friend was egging me on. “You got that! Tap it in! Come on! Clean it up!” At that instant, I attempted to fool myself into relaxing by forcing a little lackadaisical in with my routine. I took a whack at it. Sure enough, 4 inches to the right, and 2 feet beyond the other side. My buddy, who had been chanting, “You got that,” now quipped, “Nope,” and laughed hysterically. Trying to get out from under the embarrassment, I hurried the next one and tapped it off the mark. More laughter. I finally pushed it in.

Everything I needed to make that putt was right there. I had the equipment, two arms, a brain and my eyes. Some luck may have been at play, but to a much larger degree, my mental approach had made the proverbial mountain from the mole hill…albeit a mole hill with an awkward slope. This experience has me wondering about our sour economic situation. Is our mental attitude contributing to our sour circumstances, or certainly exacerbating? If an economy falls in a forest, or improves, does anyone hear it?

How many companies are pulling funding on projects simply because they’re afraid to make the putt? Afraid of failure?

How much of the economic crisis is mental?

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I often look through Rent-A-Coder, a website that attempts to marry coders and buyers through a bidding process, and I come away each time feeling…well…dirty. It reminds me of scenes from Miami Vice when Crockett and Tubbs used to roll through the alleys filled with prostitutes. “Hey, baby! I’ll give you a PHP/MySQL website for fifty!” Seriously, website bids for $300?!

It’s starting to remind me of the music scene in Cincinnati. For as long as I can remember, unless you’re in a stage act band, gigs come in two flavors: the $50 and under, and the $100 and over. Grant and Benjamin. It hasn’t really changed. The price of gas, food, clothes, and whatever will increase, but gigs will stay right at this level. If you’re making more than that, it’s because you’re doing a private party on a boat, or a wedding, but now that you can rent gear for those occasions, even those high money gigs are dying off. Musicians are willing to play for coffee if it means they can do their thing in front of a live audience of 5 people. When three digits are involved, they generally salivate and wearing a suit and tie becomes less of hassle. And if you let them drink free beer? Well, then. The music will certainly sound great….to at least them. Because of this, the rising cost of music education, unless you’re going to teach others how to become poor, is becoming largely unjustified.

This is exactly where IT is going if people don’t start valuing the services they provide, and tether themselves to a standard despite the hard times. First and foremost, knowlege and expertise are the essential component. Remember those tests in grade school that asked you to pick which thing you needed most for a football game? The referees, the crowd, or the football players? The quarterbacks are the analysts, the running backs and receivers are the developers, and testing is defense. But there is a different pay scale between high school and professional football, isn’t there?

Secondly, if someone hires you, then generally they’re going to make some revenue. I would contend it is the non-essential producers that should be trimming their margins, not the quarterbacks, running backs, and defense. So how much do you want to make? Take the net you want to earn and divide by 220 (working business days, minus holidays, etc.). $88,000 is $400 a day, $50 per hour. Charge it. Stick to it. Whatever the rate.

Why? Because lastly, who’s to say that companies aren’t going to take advantage of this economic downturn by attempting to control costs and enlarge profits for years to come after this supposed depression. Are they going to stop using the “because of the hard economic times” excuse when the hard economic times no longer exist? Heck no. You’ll be in a job making “hard economic times” rates for years. Do you think they’ll come to you one day and say “hey, buddy, the depression is over, here’s that $20,000 raise.” Heck no. It’ll be “file an evaluation request form and we’ll see if we can’t get you that 4%.”

Here’s the irony: companies searching frantically to control costs hire the lowest bidder, not the best qualified. They pass on hiring somebody who could actually provide long-term benefit to bring on Mr. Cheap Gig. In the music world, this results in BAD MUSIC. Guess what the result is in the IT world? To get over this, actually assess what the company is trying to do in numerical terms. Do the homework you’re supposed to do before the interview, golf-and-beer outing, or prospect lunch and get an understanding of the health of the company and your worth to them. If they can’t pay your per diem, pass. Yes, I said it. Pass. And stop earning $20 to design a company’s front-facing website. Unless that’s what you want all of us to earn some day.

And if companies don’t want to hire all of us at our deserved rate, well then they have assumed the captain’s position on the Titanic, we’re the musicians on the boat, and it has been a pleasure and honor to play with you on this night! What was the drinking policy for the band?

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Ran across this news article today on the genius that posted reflections on a new job: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29796962/.

I finally jumped into the Twitter waters myself as I found it neat that actual celebrities and news media people post some interesting things. A good friend of mine, a former colleague actually, told me to consider removing my account, saying its very existence “seems unprofessional.” Two thoughts come to mind.

Be Who You Are, Be Where You’re Wanted
I think it’s wrong to automatically give someone professional demerits of a sort because they have Facebook or Twitter accounts, or even if they’ve indicated certain affiliations, political or pop cultural. But, if you, the CEO, run the type of company that prefers to employ stoic types with no personality or ambitions, that’s your prerogative. But as many of us are out of work, and we go about searching for any job, I would strongly urge you, the job seeker, to go for the exact job. You will be better off in a position where you are accepted for who you are, how you are, as well as what you do, than one where you’re hiding half of yourself. You certainly don’t want to completely let loose on these social networking sites, but you also shouldn’t necessarily hide the fact that you have a sense of humor, play in a band, or even support Obama. Why would you? For the money? That’s the kind of erroneous decision many people will make in getting new positions, one that puts a job in the way of a career. If a company isn’t letting you be you, and frankly, is spending time conducting grade-school espionage on its prospective personnel and calling it “proactive HR”, it might not be the organization of which you want to be a part. Be you.

Paper Walls
I remembered James Clavell’s Shogun and the subtle importance and lessons drawn from “walls of paper and houses so small and people being what they are, stories always sped from the bed to the ballad – never the truth, always exaggerated, because people are people, neh?” As our world becomes closer and closer and more “virtually crowded,” it becomes more important that we respect each other as people and afford each other the ability to be human. I’m just not sure if we can do that. While we can pick up actual words people say in a social networking site, do we apply those words to their working lives, discounting the notion that “people are people?” Certainly, there are lines that shouldn’t be crossed. But what are they?

I think it begins here: Do you work for a company that lets you be who you are? If so, where?

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The average salary for a project manager is $96,000. The average salary for a senior application developer is $85,000. If a person is hired to do both jobs, does that person get a salary of $171,000? No. It’s a cost-cutting tactic, and in this market it’s easy to find a person willing to do anything or say they can do anything to get that job slot. We are asking our work force to be jacks of all trades, and master of none. As a result of our cutting, we really cut the “it” – the essential ingredient – out of IT.

Real-world Job Titles
• Applications Systems Analyst/Programmer
• Programmer Analyst Consultant
• Database Application Developer

Look at the job titles I’ve listed. Although the first two scream “multiple-hats,” you’re probably thinking “Database Application Developer” is a straightforward title, so you’ll be perplexed to learn that when I asked some colleagues to read the description of the job that accompanied it, when faced with three choices, “Project Manager”, “Systems Analyst”, and the actual title, most chose “Project Manager.”

So to save cost, we’ve begun to place more responsibility on a single person. If you give me three things to do, like develop computer code, analyze and define requirements, and maybe even help manage the expectations of a client, I may do all of those things pretty well. But if you let me come to work, spend an hour of my 8 learning, and then focusing on doing one thing, the breadth and depth of what I’m able to accomplish will increase dramatically. Back in the day of the Internet boom, I was typically encouraged by my boss to learn and read. In fact, that’s how I got into IT in the first place. The VP of the company I was working for walked up to me with a manual and said, “learn this.” But all I’ve heard for the past 5 years is “get it done.” And worse, only one opinion has started to matter when designing solutions, usually one based on position or title, and that title, unfortunately, isn’t often “customer.”

We’ve taken our eyes off the ball and fixated it closely on the dollar. Many of us probably believe the dollar is the ball. Who can blame us? Everyone is busy convincing each other that monetary shortage is the issue. But let me invite you back into the batter’s box, get your mind off the scoreboard, and retrain your eye to that hanging curveball:

“The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting. The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament.” – Steve Jobs

The average salary for a junior programmer, fresh out of college, is $53,000. These are young, energetic people who ideally have the latest information and a lot of confidence, perhaps too much. Do we want these people to stop learning when they leave campus? The two sentences above contain two key concepts: cost-cutting and innovation. Which do we want our freshest, brightest minds to encounter? Do we simply want them to “get it done” for $53,000?

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” – William Pollard

Innovation happens when a situation exists such that all ideas are welcome, but funneled and filtered through a guided alignment with business objectives. If you’ve got 20 developers focused on one idea and one goal constantly, innovation is dead. If those same developers get a half hour each morning to explore their solution domain – read articles, work through examples, explore new techniques – you end up with a team of well-informed people that can approach a problem collectively with greater breadth, with genuine excitement and positive attitude, and readiness to find a solution. But if they and their managers spend their morning trying to fill multiple roles, that energy is stifled. The result is a cost to the business. If you ask a programmer to be an analyst, you’re likely getting half the programmer and half the analyst. You’re also getting someone less likely to proactively contribute to the mission, and less likely to achieve a sense of ownership toward the company. I’ve seen so many developers become team leads or managers with nothing more than a modest increase or a title change. They soon learn the price of such cost-cutting. Well guess what?

“The cure for the United States is not cost-cutting. The cure for the United States is to innovate its way out of its current predicament.” – Cliff Adams (with a lot of help from Steve Jobs)

Copyright (C) 2009 Adams Enterprises, LLC

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