Staffing the constantly churning world of the data centre is becoming increasingly tricky. Not only is the technology moving fast, but many key IT workers are reaching retirement age. When they leave, decades of experience leaves with them, a problem that looms large among the concerns of many CIOs, according to Symantec’s …
Train your own staff?
Radical idea I know...
Yeah, right, show me a job spec that is multidisciplinary on any of the UK job sites and which commands at least the same as a specialist in each of the fields. At best a person with a multidisciplinary CV is sentenced to a demotion in his next job because he has failed to "specialise" in a particular new and shiny gadget and has 20 other gadgets instead. At worst - he is long term out of a job.
While blaming the recruitment agencies is a good way to start here, it is actually the companies which are doing that.
Even the great G00G talk about "multidisciplinary" is complete and utter dross. I still vividly remember a dialogue I had with their recruitment in 2006. They asked me what would I like to do servers or network and I answered "Sit on the fence, I have 10+ years of top notch Unix and networks experience and _LOVE_ problems that fall onto the boundary". I was told in extremely clear and succinct terms to chose - networks or servers and that there is no such thing as sitting on the fence (so much for the great G00G being radical).
Ditto for most other companies out there. You are labeled as something at the entrance and you proudly carry that label for the rest of your employment and don't you dare making your CV multidisciplinary. That will actually _DAMAGE_ your career prospects.
Whoever has written this utter dross has never ever had to try to apply for a job with a CV that has network, sysadmin and software development on it. I suggest he tries that for a couple of years before talking.
Me coat, the one with BOFH printed on the back, Halaby in the left pocket and Knuth in the right.
Polyvalent skills are needed.
Myself I am in charge of a 7 man team dealing in datacentre ops. Had it not been for my polyvalent skills across networks, servers and apps, those specialised personnel would have have been in catfights up to the early hours of the morning trying to sort out problems. Its a bit like being a general in an army.. you might not know how to drive a tank, but you do know it can blow down a building.
My CV is multidisciplinary as well. I've had years of software development in a variety of common languages (C,C++,Java,C#), and a similar number of years (more recent) doing Network and Server Admin, with VMWare stacks mixed in the bunch. Compound this by tacking in Web Development and UNIX/Linux experience. To top it off, DBA credentials too. I very much consider myself a jack-of-all-trades, but master-of-none (the last bit being my likely downfall), and if there's a multidisciplinary recruiter out there, I will call their bullocks of "hiring" people like me. The BOFH situtation is likely where I fall into: being THE "IT guy" and perhaps having a similar for a co-worker/assistant. Those are the only positions that are truly hiring multidisciplinary employees. You try to "branch out" at any other organization and you'll get kicked very swiftly.
/mines the one with "IT" on the namebadge. Why no accompanying name? Because there's only ONE.
I have significant interdisciplinary experience, and I am basically the only one in my department who can provision a complete virtualization environment from storage up, and yet my formal title still contains a specific operating system. Organizations past a certain size don't generally recognize the capacity to generalize as a virtue because it's not a quantifiable skill, nor does it easily fit into "industry standard" labels.
Yup - Multidisciplinary IT carrys poor prospects...
I whole heartedly agree. I started out in Electronics and migrated to computers and eventually into software development with a small company where I helped grow the business, taking on and managing various staff while also continuing to develop software and taking on the job of implementing and supporting the IT infrastructure, which took ever increasing amounts of my time. When I saw the writing on the wall for that company (a real shame) I jumped ship and spent 9 months looking for another job. Ended up as an IT admin for another SME for considerably less money and no real prospects of getting back into software development other than as a hobby...
My tip: Ditch recruiters AND headhunters.
Also don't bother having the HR office peeps do your technical screening for you. In fact, involve them in the process but don't let them do any communication before the interview and certainly don't let them touch the job specs. None of them are qualified for that.
So I have like, serveral unices, system administration, network administration, a dash of WAN technologies, even some development, a pinch systems integration, and open source development and community participation.
And no recruiter wants to talk to me. They lie glibly and copiously about that, though.
Oh well, then don't. I'm done and through pandering to people who claim to know about "it recruiting" but fail at the most basic technologies. Or even have trouble doing anything with any document that doesn't come in the latest redmondian proprietary format. Or ... well, I'll stop now.
how to I find an excuse to earn my salary
Nobody knows the trouble I've seen
Nobody knows but Jesus
Nobody knows the :)
Oh, so now you want generalists? Screw you!
Specialize, specialize, specialize! That was the drone of HR wonks for years. "Jack of trades, master of none" was a career death sentence, relegated to shitty help desk jobs to be canned as soon as the next Indian call center could open. Lofty specialists looked down their certificated noses at those of us who knew more than one area.
Now you realize that you need generalists who can bring it all together? Go soak your head, scumbag, unless you are willing to pay at least twice what a specialized insect commands. You belittled us for years, now when we are rare, we will hold your damned feet to the fire, payback for decades of derision.
Sure, money doesn't ease the pain of loosing possessions, friends and teeth to chronic unemployment, but it can at least buy dentures and booze, which will help get new friends.
So where do square pegs go when all the holes are round?
I got all these skills, and more, but work remotely from home office over ssh/vnc etc since 1989.
I run a linux cluster, have a few long term clients and have spare capacity to take on other interesting stuff, but where are these jobs? I registered with a few contract agencies, but never found anything suitable - they always want bums on seats jobs, and I don't live in the UK anymore.
I am most productive on my servers with my tools, and with a 120 mbit fibre connection, location should be irrelevant.
... we worked closely with our consultants - Fujitsu for the hardware, Computacenter for the VMWare consultancy and Symantec and EMC for the backup and disk technologies.
We hosted a four day VMWare/vSphere course which we all attended and started the P2V process the following week.
As we were all ICL/VME former users, we 'got' VMWare and what it was trying to do.
We have 85 virtual servers, have consolidated our SQL onto one big physical cluster and have the SAN-attached VM's to p2v when we alter our fiber infrastructure.
Don't talk about it - do it!
On the bleeding edge!
As a Head of Dept, with a multi disciplinary background, in a telecomms software shop, I see the result of this day in and day out. We are a small organisation, so I prize (and absolutely must have) people with multidisciplinary backgrounds.
There seems to be a huge gap in this area between small/medium companies and large organisations.
It's so bad that when we install into a customers site (tier one UK Telcos) that they have to have rooms of people (firewall team , network team, server team, virtualisation team, DB team and so on) to implement a straight forward 3 tier web app. I turn up on my own and can talk rings around the lot of them!!
In my experience outsourcing also increases this problem by an order of magnitude.
"There seems to be a huge gap in this area between small/medium companies and large organisations."
Total understatement. I've had to sit on the phone for hours with big businesses with multi-tiered support groups, each with a different 'domain' they support. If the issue doesn't squarely fall under one of the groups you are screwed, at least for a while until you can get a conference call going where they all talk. This is after talking to each group in isolation for an hour or so each.
So F U AT&T. Outside of each group, no one knows shit about anything else. (sorry, still very bitter at them in particular).
I deal with this kind of stuff quite often, mostly because by the time I get the call everyone else is out of options.
big company, who ya gonna call
The users have no idea there's more than one flavour of geek, hence DBAs being asked to look at why the printer's jammed, which is always fun to watch.
I was at a small company, and moved to be head of dept for a large company, and I feel the pain there- how many geeks does it take to do x, where x is anything other than switch it off and switch it on again? All of them.
I settled for a small group of specialists, to be the gurus for their topic, and the main cohort of IT folk to be able to do "most" things in our remit, barring a couple of desk-bound call-takers. If it gets too tricky, go ask the specialist to help. If it's really tricky, or you just have no idea, ask them to do it. Mostly worked OK.
Not everyone can be a generalist, judging from the grud-awful wiring jobs and evil server builds we got whilst learning who needs a bit more training. You did learn who to give certain jobs to though.
The advert said they wanted a generalist, someone who was "flexible", and didn't have to know all the specific buzzwords. I do have an avalanche of other buzzwords, and the experience of being dropped in on the deep end on no experience whatsoever and holding my own for a good while. They wanted someone to care for unices free and commercial both; I've done that, and scripting and development and other things. So I thought, what the hey. Pretty sure I can do it, always nice to fill up the old CV a bit more.
On the upside, the answer was quick. The downside was the answer: "Oh no we're a small shop so you have to have those technolgies or I can't believe you'll be up to speed quick enough". This was a small spinout of a financial. Maybe that's related, maybe not.
At any rate, my main experience with large shops is like the one that wanted applications through a ie-only webinterface on their sap system (complete with creating a new username. yes, connected to the public internet), that promptly ate my password and needed HR help to reset. Wonder if they ever managed to fill their unix positions. If they can't take email and PDFs, they're shutting themselves out. If their internal systems can't interface with the rest of the world, well, they do run the risk of losing touch with reality, without noticing. But that was a telco, so no surprises there.
Medium shops do things like having me fly there on my own expense and telling me afterward they read my CV again and didn't want me after all. Is it really that hard to phrase your lies such that you're not implying you've been wasting a lot of my time and money? Or at least pay me for the privilege. The dole isn't up to regular flying tickets and I wasn't even getting that at the time. That was an information and datamining specialist. You'd expect they know about the importance of and pitfalls in presentation and phrasing, but maybe not.
Governmental shops send letters starting with an empty introductory paragraph, ending with an empty closing paragraph, insert a standard paragraph that they therefore really regret having put my CV through the shredder, and apparently forgot to make up the second paragraph with their reasoning entirely. Seemed apt somehow.
Recruiters offer the same face to everybody from small to large: Lots of fast talk, and the certainty that whatever they say, they'll only get back to you with an entirely unsuitable offer years later. Some have one year "refresh" cycles, others up to five years.
There is exactly one shop that I ever interviewed at that didn't want me --and I didn't want to work there, to be honest-- that I'd nonetheless recommend in heartbeat. The interview was that good.
The rest gets a meh at best, and some, well, it shouldn't surprise if it costs them business. I do have a little list, oh yes. Why they're still in business is a good question. Probably there isn't enough "free market" pressure for anyone to shape up.
Do not slag off the big boys so fast
Very good observation. Seconded. From within.
Even if they hire some multidisciplinary people the statistics show those do not really last long (sub-10% of the average UK Telco employment term).
You also missed the product management and that all of these teams have only 50% say in what happens, the other 50% are reserved for the procurement team.
Forked tongue recruitment
I notice these people wanting multi-discipline staff *still* want lots of very specific experience of the exact products they use, and certificates in specific things. Being a generalist means I picked this stuff up on the fly, not sitting in classrooms 80% of the time, which is what I'd have had to do if I wanted certificates in all the products I am expected to fix. It's because I'm a generalist that I get given these weird things to fix, because there's no specialist in that.
Smells a lot less like "we want generalists" and a lot more like "you will be doing the work of the three specialists we just canned, so here's a list of their proficiency badges to make sure you are as 'good' as them in the eyes of the HR droid."
The twenty year cyle returns....
Corporations are the most bipolar Alzheimer's two faced entities to ever get created. Twenty years ago (or so) the cry went far and wide for generalists. Three years later, after fixing all the silo specialists cluster ducks, specialists were the only employable talent again. Generalists were "right sized".
Now corporations want generalists again. Not without a guaranteed, unbreakable, 23 year employment contract -- at 150% of my current wage -- to compensate for the last 20 years --paid up front in an escrow account.
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