Posted by: peterhact | December 19, 2012

brave new world

Another year has nearly ended and the new year is about to bring a new crop of ICT professionals, new, young and probably wet behind the ears into the fold. There seems to be less takers of this industry than prior years showed us – You have to ask why? Why is the ICT industry not seen as a great direction for a career? What is creating a negative aspect for a vibrant, ever changing, innovative, diverse industry?

1. staff layoffs / retrenchments / cutbacks – call it what you will, but any industry that seems to have a large number of these types of events is never going to attract the new blood that the industry needs. Firstly, kids entering university are usually guided by their parent’s advice – if their parents are mixed up in the industry and have seen or been effected by these events, they will be far less willing to allow their children to go through the same pain. They will advise their kids to take safer options, often leading to someone becoming an architect, even though they have exemplary animation skills, can strip a server to nothing and then rebuild it, design and implement a complex solution from a basic drawing. The kids entering university don’t often seem to think about becoming a sysadmin, a developer, designer or system integrator – we have conditioned them into believing that ICT is a very tough gig, one that advancement may take years, and that you may find that you are in the same job for many years until the opportunities improve.

2. Technology adoption – Technology that is being released is cutting edge, potentially prone to bugs in its first release, which means that there are many businesses, departments and schools that notice it, but don’t act on it. If you have adopted the new technology, and it is working fine, great. The FUD factor (Fear Uncertainty & Doubt) seems to be rife – there are many organisations that cannot see the benefits in new technology, ranging from VoIP, through to social media, and they will do their best to discredit these new forms of communication, primarily as they themselves don’t understand it. It is far easier to say that a specific technology is the devil than to invest time and money in coming to grips with it. If you are a new uni degree graduate, entering the current work environment, skilled in new technologies and eager to learn, it may be a huge slap in the face.

3. Landscape change – Back in the olden days, there was a beast that roamed the Australian Government landscape that effectively and efficiently killed off innovation. It was called the Panel Contract, or PExx. These contracts were supported by a piece of innovation that enabled businesses to identify their skills in the ICT environment, called the Endorsed Supplier Agreement (ESA). The ESA wasn’t a case of filling in a form and gaining access to government, it was a semi Tender response that had many people up late at night to ensure that they got in. It enabled the ICT industry to be regulated in a manner that ensured that organisations that had skills or products of value could be approached by departments, for all forms of RFx business. When the ALP lost power, the PE contracts were disbanded. This created a time of plenty, as ESA providers were able to be approached for business, without the restriction of the panel agreements. The ESA became the MUL (multi-use list) under the Liberals, which opened the floodgates to all resellers of ICT (Communications became recognised as a part of the IT landscape) and there still was a land of plenty for opportunities and companies. This ended after the Gershon report was commissioned.  The biggest killer for opportunity occurred when Technology was commoditised. This was directly caused by organisations entering the market that had more or less traditionally worked in the consumable space, not the systems, server, storage or peripheral patch. Where before, margins could be as high as double digits, these new players had lower overheads and could gut their price. Others needed to do the same to retain the business, which led to the paradigm shift from Technology products to Services, and ultimately, solutions.

4.   Women don’t seem to be interested in ICT – This is, in fact, incorrect. Many women are working in the ICT industry, some of which are in high power jobs, in design capacities or solutions providers. They are in the industry, but we seem to throw platitudes at the feet of men, whilst the women seem to be less recognised, even though in some instances they have had to fight much harder to get where they are today.  One of the standout examples of a success story is Diana Ryall. When  I was selling Apple products, she was the Apple Australia Managing Director. She had a reputation of being tough, probably started by people who really did not recognise how hard she had worked to get there. I know of several other women in the ICT industry that have clawed their way through hard work into senior positions, but how many young women know about these shining examples of success? How many young women go to uni for a degree in computing, or project management, in comparison to men?  Why?

5. opportunities in other fields are far more lucrative – as long as retail isn’t a part of that equation, probably true. Retail is the most amazing example of getting it wrong. Retailers are blamed for bad customer service on a regular basis, but who has stopped to see how much the staff actually earn? Would you be interested in giving your all if you were on $30K per year, as a middle manager, who lost weekends to two days off during the week, and maybe 1 weekend a month to spend with your friends and family? Private industry usually pays better. Government roles pay better. Real estate agents receive high commissions and low retainers, but they are geared to being able to be supported by partners. How many roles are advertised for one specified job, yet turn out to be more than was mentioned? At least in the Government, a job description is as it states, not filled with ambiguous terms like “other duties as required”. working in ICT may be lucrative, but there is a lot of sacrifice that goes into the roles, from designers to executives, there are some instances that require extra hours work for no pay,  as the end result is the completion of a project, a job or a response.

in order for the ICT industry to reach a level of Research and Development that was once held in Australia to ensure the rest of the world would watch us closely, we need to change a few mindsets. Embrace diversity. Embrace change and have no truck with the notion that a person’s sex, religion, age or race has anything whatsoever to do with their creativity, their innovative approaches, their ability to get the job done.  We need to see investment in youth, investment in technology ideas and start developing the thinkers and the dreamers to a point that they will be creating the new future for us tomorrow, not next week, not next year. Create a reason for people to join the ICT industry with Passion, drive and commitment, not see it as a male only industry, but one that will accept the ideas of all for the common goal – To increase the  efficiency and usability of the technology that we create, meet the needs of all and have a reason for business to remain in our country towns and cities, creating employment, creating community and creating a future that has ICT firmly in its sights.

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