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back to article You're crap and paid too much for the little work you actually do

You’re not getting paid as well as you should. I know this not only because you’re bothering to read this, but also because most techies are crap at extracting cash from their employers. It shouldn’t shock you too much to learn that I, as a City headhunter and former contractor, focus quite hard on money - so here's a few ideas …

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Pedantry

"As a City headhunter and former contractor, it shouldn’t shock you too much..." I suppose nothing at all would shock me, had I been a City headhunter.

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Unhappy

Dominic, your articles scare me.

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Anonymous Coward

Scary in a good way

This is, bar none, the best article on this subject ever written. It is frighteningly accurate for pretty much anyone who works for a large company.

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Happy

Yeah, it should at least have a friendly "Advice Dog" image somewhere.

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Devil

Re: Scary in a good way

Yeah, it's so good I'm going to have to fake a firewall issue and block the minions' access to El Reg - can't have them learning truths like that!

On the subject of faking, we used to have a very crafty backup admin I was alwasy hearing good things about. This in itself was suspicious enough seeing as he was lazier than the average BOFH. What he did was he'd pick a bigwig to impress and then introduce a delay into the overnight backup of their desktop. Then, he'd be in just the right place in the morning when the bigwig was unable to start work because their desktop was slow. "Leave it to me," he'd say, disappear and undelay the backup, then call back in ten minutes to say; "It should be OK now, I fixed the <insert technical gobbleydegook here>." It was amazing the number of people that thought he was brilliant!

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Really?

Really? I love them.

They illustrate that there is a set of utterly incompetent companies out there large enough to keep someone like Dominic in gainful employment. This means that those of us who work at competent companies that value engineering can continue to feel fairly good about our future prospects...

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bun

Re: Scary in a good way

yeah - This article contains all of the important information I learned in my Masters in Management Information Systems.

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Coffee/keyboard

It's not every day you get to read a line like "the time I was punched at IBM’s labs was my own fault".

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Happy

Sounds painful.

Only one question: 2-ring or 3-ring binding?

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I stopped reading after the first point

Because first its "don't improve the backup process because no one notices" soon becomes "Don't have a backup process because no one notices".

We all know what lies that route. The problem _is_ management. They are lead to believe by some reasoning that IT don't produce value for a company.

This is only partially true, the same way traffic lights don't produce money for the goverment.

Without them, there would be chaos and with chaos there is a loss of income from formally reliable sources.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I stopped reading after the first point

I was going to write a really scathing note in reply to your post, but actually I'm just going to sit here smiling and hoping there are more people like you out there, cause then I'll just look even more amazing to my boss in comparison :-)

Thanks for the pay rises, Mr Socially Incompetent!

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Yag

Like it or not...

but this remains the sad truth...

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Re: I stopped reading after the first point

Are you working because you want your company to do well, or because you want more money?

Neither is wrong or right; but you need to make a distinction. When you say "The problem _is_ management" you mean productivity suffers because of management. If you're solely focused on improving productivity, maybe you have a point; but if you're thinking about your career and pay, you're off the mark.

To be honest none of us should be leaning too far one way or the other - don't lose sight of honesty and productivity, but also don't lose sight of fair recompense and career prospects.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: AC 13:19

Nothing to do with being socially incompetent, I am paid to do a job and that's what I do. Yes that means a lot of what I do doesn't get noticed but I take that as I sign that I am doing my job well making I.T. transparent to the end user.

You carry on making it look like you are working hard in front of the boss while actually achieving nothing. When I take a 2 week holiday and something fails causing it to fall down around your ears and you don't know how to make it all better I won't be remoting in to fix it just to save your job. When the boss demands to know what went wrong and who is at fault for all the downtime, I'll just point out all the time you wasted showing your face while I produce fully documented disaster recovery procedures that you didn't know about as you never bothered asking about them.

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FAIL

Re: AC 13:19

...and meanwhile you'll never get a pay rise or promotion prospects in ten years because nobody knows what you actually do.

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The problem _is_ management

The fundamental issue is that no matter how brilliant an IT-er we (all) are. No matter how many problems we fix / avoid / shift the blame for, the amount we can earn is limited by how well the employer does as a whole. No matter how many hours we work, what new applications (bug-free: of course) we implement or business processes we improve if someone above our pay grade makes a monumentally stupid decision, we're still in a sinking ship.

Sure, you can leave and explain to the next manager how all the people at his/her level in your last job were all idiots. But that won't win much in the way of sympathy - and if you make a habit of it ... well, nobody want to employ a job-hopper.

Probably the best that you, as an IT person, can do is to plant some pr0n on the relevant manager's PC and get them kicked out (the good of the many outweighs the good of the one) before they do irreparable damage to your pay prospects. However, there's only a limited amount of smut available and a seemingly endless supply of duff managers.

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Boffin

Re: I stopped reading after the first point

Obviously this article is way too subtle for all of the Gary McKinnons out there...

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This post has been deleted by its author

Re: I stopped reading after the first point

The problem is management of the sort described in the article. There is a tendency amongst some managers to "pick up and run with the ball" for only as long as more senior managers are interested, switching from one shiny ball to another, never actually completing anything. The snag with this is that whilst things like backups and security are normally uninteresting to senior management, you can bet that they will take a keen interest if backups or security are found to be inadequate and important data is lost or compromised. The only way to ensure such mundane but essential activities are addressed is to highlight the risks associated with their failure to management - if they then choose to live with the risk, that is their prerogative.

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JDX
Gold badge

Re: I stopped reading after the first point

You missed the point. The articles isn't "how to be good at your job", it's "how to get paid more". It's up to you to choose which you prioritise.

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Comprehension of English

The article didn't say "don't improve the backup process because no one notices". You used quotation marks when you were actually paraphrasing - incorrectly.

The actual quote was "No one really cares if you’ve made the backup process run 50 per cent faster unless it’s stopping work", which seems to be entirely plausible in many situations... for example, a back up made after office hours. No one will cares if it takes 4 hours instead of 2 if they are not going to be in the office for another 14 hours, hence not "stopping work".

And besides, the article's author was only using it as an example, so don't read too deeply in to it.

So whilst you're digesting that, let us introduce you to Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V. I find it useful because neither my memory or my typing is perfect.

Neither is my knowledge. So if I encounter an article or a process that runs against what I think I know, I give it thought and consideration. If I was right, no matter. If I was wrong, then I will have learned something, possibly making my job easier.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I stopped reading after the first point

> "Don't have a backup process because no one notices"

Yes; I worked at a startup where it was obvious to everyone that we needed to start doing backups, but no-one was volunteering to actually organise it. It was a case of "who will crack first". In the end, I did. Obviously it didn't improve my "Continuously Visible Productivity", but it probably did help the company in the longer term.

It comes down to this: is it better to focus on your personal "CVP", or on making the company successful? If the company is small and you have share options, it is probably better in the medium to long term to focus on making the company successful. On the other hand, if you're working for a mega-corp, you are a small cog whose contribution is negligible to the overall productivity of the company - so, it's better to focus on things that directly benefit yourself (CVP).

Most people would prefer to work for the former kind of employer. They do exist. (Or, work for yourself.)

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Ru

"No one really cares"

The problem with the notion of *Visible* Progress is that the invisible progress is still pretty damn important. No-one cares you made the backup process 50% faster... until something goes horribly wrong and all that backup stuff is suddenly a priority and Questions are being Pointedly Asked about why more time was not spent streamlining this crucial task. So you're unrewarded if you do deal with these things before they become and issue, and you're in trouble if you don't. Yay!

I suffer a lot less from this sort of issue now I'm a codemonkey and not a sysadmin, largely because the people I'm working for actually understand the issues involved (sorting out a good test framework early on fails the CVP requirement, but it can prevent months of suffering later) and this is actually the most important thing.

If No One Really Cares, it is time to polish up your CV and look for new employment, or you will forever be an inconvenient business expense and your work will always suffer as a result.

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Re: I stopped reading after the first point

The reality, though, is that nobody cares about backup processes. What counts is restore processes. (Demonstrating the need for the latter so you can fund the former is left as an exercise for the reader.)

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Anonymous Coward

@DJ Smiley - Traffic Lights

Just for the record, around where I live they installed traffic lights on three junctions that had previously had none, and the roads went from smooth constantly moving traffic (in all directions, lets you argue that side roads were not getting proper service) to one huge fecking traffic jam, literally overnight, so I'm less than sympathetic to people who claim that there would be chaos in absence of traffic lights.

Most junctions don't need them. A few do. Some than do need them don't have any. As always, it's a case of using the right tool for the right job and not just applying blanket measures in the belief that it will magically fix everything.

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Alien

Re: @DJ Smiley - Traffic Lights (@AC 16:55)

Sounds like CVP at work. Smoothly flowing traffic, smoothly flowing anything really, rarely gets one noticed after all.

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Alert

Re: I stopped reading after the first point

"I reduced the disaster recovery *risk* in the backup system"

You just need to sell your work with the right business terms. BOFHs have their own jargon and managers have theirs. If *we* do the translating then *we* have the power.

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Re: AC 13:19

Actually, someone socially skilled would probably just blame you.

If they're convincing enough, you'll be the one who loses *your* job over someone else's mistake.

I'd like to say this never happens, and I'd like to say even more that no one is really that manipulative and cynical.

But. Sadly.

Then again, all the psycho-chimps gravitate to the City. So there is still some relative sanity elsewhere in some parts of IT. And you might - *might* - get lucky.

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Re: I stopped reading after the first point

"Because first its "don't improve the backup process because no one notices" soon becomes "Don't have a backup process because no one notices"."

Actually it's very simple to ensure that people DO notice this type of thing. You just need to write a proposal first, which explains the cost benefit analysis (including ofc the non-tangible benefits), remembering to add a really scary section on the potential damage if you DON'T do the work. and send it round to everyone who could possibly have any influence on the matter.

Make sure that your name is on it and that you send it out rather than your boss to ensure that he/she doesn't sneakily change the name & claim credit. With a bit of luck and care you can turn a comparatively small bit of routine enhancement into a full on project - instant good profile for you :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I stopped reading after the first point

Sadly, whilst you're correct that it can lead to the kind of fuckwitterry I get called in to fix at least twice a week (about equal to the astounding incompetence exhibitied by some IT staff) the article is entirely correct to my nasty cynical mind.

Basically the article is saying make your managers happy and they'll make you happy in return. To do that you need to make yourself look good and nobody is going to reward you for shaving 2 hours off the backup routine or reducing the size of a database by 30% by clearing out accumulated cruft unless, and this is important, it was seen to be a problem.

Don't fix stuff that isn't broken I suppose you could say, even if it rankles with you on a tech level. If you really can't cope with knowing you can improve something then make it an issue with management first before you fix it and play the hero. Unless of course you're entirely satisfied with your reward for all that hard work being the satisfaction of knowing your systems are working fine.

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Re: I stopped reading after the first point

Of course, you are making the assumption there that people will actually read your proposal...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The problem _is_ management

lol about more duff managers that smut :)

>the amount we can earn is limited by how well the employer does as a whole.

It is also lilmited by their will not to give you more money than absolutely necessary. Their success is not yours.

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Re: I stopped reading after the first point

@Gazareth.

You just need to get the covering email and it's title right - emphasise either the massive cost benefits, or the scary results of not doing it (or both). Don't call it "Proposal to do something boring & techy" but "Proposal to prevent terrifyingly scary thing from happening and save £xxx at the same time"

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Re: The problem _is_ management

"However, there's only a limited amount of smut available..."

Hi Pete 2, let me introduce you to this thing we like to call the internet. And later, we can talk about rule 34...

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Re: AC 13:19

I'm all about integrity but the sad truth is the people who move up are often times not the biggest producers.

Why the heck would you move up someone who does an amazing job at a lower tier? If your best helpdesk tech is always productive and making the team look good why are you going to move him up and loose your most productive member of helpdesk?

Bosses never go after the culprit of a problem they go after the person who feels most guilty for the problem. This is because it is easier to try and get more out of a employee who wants to be a good employee then it is a slacker.

If you think they can just get rid of the slackers your dead wrong. Its nearly impossible to get rid of the trash with all the laws about now.

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Re: AC 13:19

Actually, in the UK it is not *that* hard to get rid of crap people, you need to follow a procedure, including actually telling them what their actual bloody job is and ensuring that you're not doing it because of sex/age/race or perceived sexuality.

As a director of my firm I have had to sign contracts where we promise not to discriminate not just against LGBT but people we think might be LGBT

My point about "visible productivity" cuts both ways...

Even at Capita most staff genuinely want to do their job well, indeed when I've seen severe workplace stress it is often caused by people being prevented from doing what they see as a good job.

However they often don't know, or worse think their job is something very different to what the firm needs, partly because they often have never really been told, or were told once years ago and senior management was too busy playing golf to actually tell each of the troops what was needed.

For the avoidance of doubt, I've been there.

When next I meet the senior Reassuringly Expensive Lawyer (tm) we have on call I'm going to pick his brains about "how to fire crap techies", might be an article if I can condense it to a short enough piece.

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No surprises, but it is a bit depressing...

That it is true. :(

Maybe we've all missed the trick, we should be taking the example of the city bankers, we should be going out and partying everytime something gets done.

If we party hard we must be successful, so we need paid more, which means we can party harder.

Oh..Wait.. Then didnt go so well did it.

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Re: No surprises, but it is a bit depressing...

Given the number of minor tweaks (read: things that users do wrong or break and I fix for them) I do in a given day, if I celebrated every one of them I would be partying so much I would be broke and/or dead in months...

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So cynical...

...it hurts. But I suspect it's true.

We all know someone who produces nothing but glossy presentations and brown-nosing the big boss. Unfortunately I have integrity and self-respect so I'm happy with a lower bonus.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So cynical...

Not cynical enough.

I know someone who got a job because he was dating (screwing) the manager's daughter. He was that kind of guy.

10 years later, he makes 5-10 times what I make, on the other hand, unlike him, I've never been stranded overseas because I got drugged and robbed by a prostitute.

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Re: So cynical...

Were the daughter and the prostitute two different people?

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Re: So cynical...

You make that sound like a bad thing!

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To thine own self be true?

I've tried some of this kind of thing in the past, but maybe I'm not a good enough actor or just got fed up living a lie, because I couldn't sustain that level of bullshit in my working life.

You have to be honest with yourself, and maybe for some of us INTJs and INTPs, constantly sucking up to PHBs and pretending to be "team players" is just not worth the (potential) extra money. That way madness (or at least major stress) lies.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: To thine own self be true?

You poor INTs. I'm an ISTP and I have both cunning and guile. Your excellent perceptive ability to see the reality of the big picture must be depressing for you. I merely ignore it, focusing on tiny details in the present moment. Such as "what can I do to make myself look good right now?". It's kind of relaxing although it can get me into some scrapes from lack of planning...

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Productivity != Profitability

IT staff don't get paid what they're worth to the company - that's almost certainly true. The sad fact is that most of us get PAID FAR MORE than the profit they bring in would support. Sure, there are other requirements: such as meeting legal/financial obligations, but for most people in IT - whether programmers, testers, designers, support people, project manglers, QA-ers, planners, or trainees there is no direct connection between what they do and their employers' income. You cannot point to a line of code and say "I wrote that, and it earns us £1,000 a year."

At best, IT people can say "without us, the business would be much less efficient and have to employ many more staff, to do things manually." However that's full of intangibles, suppositories, and guesswork. Luckily no CEO has ever challenged that theory (like no CEO ever has the cojones to go into the datacentre and press the BIG RED BUTTON to see of the D.R. plan actually works).

On the flipside, this does mean that an IT-er should be able to write a reasonably credible account of themselves. Since nothing is tangible, accountable or verifiable you can easily say "I earned the company £X,000 last year (where "X" should be greater than your salary and expenses, employers NICs and office rental). and no-one will be able to challenge it. It could fall apart if some sharp-eyed HR person spotted that the entire justifications of the IT team came to more than the company earned - but that'll never happen: they're all too busy trying to justify their own, even more tenous raison d'etre.

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Re: suppositories

We all (occasionally) want to tell the boss where he can shove it, but did you mean 'suppositions' ?

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Re: Productivity != Profitability

Actually, Pete 2, most companies do have accounting methods in place to justify HR, IT, and all of the other support departments. Some even go as far as creating income statements per department. At the very least, each major budget item should be justified in terms of cost savings or income.

If that isn't happening in your company, then it's Accounting who are not worth what they're being paid (perhaps as well as IT).

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@Steve KNox

Yes, I know about the "funny money" accounting principles used to justify projects. God knows I've written enough cost cases myself. Some - maybe 1 in 10 do turn a profit and are extremely successful. However most IT-ers can draw no link between what they have achieved / produced in any given day, month or year and any measurable income, let alone profit.

To take someone else's example: what is the "profit" from last night's backup?

I've been quite lucky in that I've spent a lot of time automating a lot of IT processes. In that respect I can make reliable statements that a given piece of AutoIT3 code saves a specific number of person*hours per year. Or that a named shell script saves so-many IT administrator-hours per week. That shows a direct relationship with money going out the door. However I can't do the same for the time spent in a weekly team meeting or project review.

As it is, companies don't run on money; they run on budgets. So, as long as you have some (imaginary) money left in your budget at the end of the project/period, nobody seems to care how you got there - or if it could be done better, faster or cheaper. The successful teams aren't the ones that achieve their goals, they're the ones who manage to wrangle a larger budget than their needs require (and therefore gain a reputation for coming in "under budget"). Those are the ones who get the rewards and recognition, not the guy who's 100 lines of optimised code invisibly saves a £million a year.

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Facepalm

Re: Productivity != Profitability

My friend you are an idiot or a recent MBA graduate. Most likely both.

Intangibles? Suppositories (haha, good one, learn English)? Yes, company websites are simply for the kicks and laughs, not for generating revenue. Yes having 15 more secretaries is good... for the unemployment statistics.

Oh, sharp eyed person? What is that- the people who pick up the most competent person for the next "rightsizing"?

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Mushroom

big red button

No, but I know a senior system administrator who did.

It took dismantling the stand-alone console on the Bull DPS-90 and a call to the tech support line to get it reset because their CSE (my dad) was only told about this process in the hardware support training class...they didn't actually do it because of the pain it causes.

On the other hand, he demonstrated that it did EXACTLY what it said it would in the manual. It was really quiet, and cold, in the data center for an hour while it was being reset because my dad doesn't curse.

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