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back to article How IT bosses turned the tables on our cushy consultancy gigs

I think I’ve been through enough economic cycles in my life to say that the nature of employment, at least in the financial-tech industry that I’m most familiar with, has changed fundamentally in the last few years. If you’re a technology worker and your job suddenly seems unusually precarious, that’s because it is: fear of …

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Anonymous Coward

You think you've had it bad ???

Damn I'd give both of my testicles to have just about any halfway decent IT/Computing job.

However having osteoarthritis since the age of 23 rather counts against you. The constant need for painkillers & walking aids etc and now at 29, no one wants to know, you can even see the faces of interviews drop when they see you walk in with a walking stick or when my joints make some rather nice nausea inducing 'crunches'

Having skills & qualifications have all been absolutely no help what so ever as of yet & I cant see when they will help

Of course Atos considers me fully fit for work. Total joke, even my GP & the surgeon who tried to fix my hips cant understand their decisions

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Go contracting

Seriously. About 50% of my contracts result in an offer based on just a telephone interview, and being a contractor the client generally doesn't care too much about your health anyway - you only get paid for the days you work. You may not get the benefits or the illusion of job security but it sure beats being on the dole and sitting on your thumbs.

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Bronze badge
Windows

Re: Go contracting

@AC 14:04 Gordon has made a good suggestion there. If you have not had time yet to get a track record/skillset under your belt that would appeal to those seeking contract workers, consider getting involved in an open source project. Just for the experience. They work online, don't have interviews, and tend to manage things through a bug tracker that breaks tasks down into small parts so sudden absence for a day or two is not a big deal.

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One thing that would help, I think, is if software was held to reasonable standards. Of course your only concern is driving down costs if you can sell broken and insecure software with no real worry and customers either can't get refunds or find it so hard they don't bother. Why should a manager worry about making anything other than the cheapest product.

But also by doing that, quite frankly I would say it's hard for anyone to feel loyal and why should we even if the constant changing of people probably makes development harder. I could be let go now but that means my employer is giving up on certain products. I could leave but that means making their life hard and maybe seeing thew death of those products. I like the place but I've learned it's best to pay attention to how things are going and if you think someone might end up on getting the axe start looking because it may be you. It's actually good I think to always be looking. Hell you may end up making more money sooner than you think and loyalty is dead.

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Black Helicopters

Here we go again

Chronic middle management killed British industry and now the same mind-set is killing IT.

I'm not sure the country will have any means of survival after that.

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Anonymous Coward

What's bad for the tax-dodging "consultant"...

... is good for everyone else in the industry, even the entire country. If you'd been less concerned about dodging PAYE and tried building a real career, you wouldn't be in this mess.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What's bad for the tax-dodging "consultant"...

Do you read Daily Mail too much or are you merely too lacking in ambition and self-motivation and so reduce yourself to jibes out of jealousy?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What's bad for the tax-dodging "consultant"...

Contractors the problem? We still hire them if they've got the right skills and attitude.. on good money too,

What's even worse is the under-performing permie who thinks they should run the company. Their woeful productivity, endless chats at the coffee machine about how cr@p the company is today, costly to sack....

Why would you permanently employ anyone else when you can rent someone in Poland with more get up and go than your "sad sacks" have ever possessed? Cheap and skill full, great for adding the bodies needed to shift projects nowadays. India? Pah, yesterdays resource.

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Meh

Layoffs

Getting laid off from a big company is never personal, not for an ordinary worker. The share price drops and the CEO needs to be seen to be "doing something", so he decides to make "savings". The CFO will also be involved, and also the head of HR to make sure it's plausible (e.g. if all your COBOL programmers happen to be women, then laying them all off could be misconstrued). All this is happening at a level well above which anyone knows or cares about individual workers. The decide that the site at X is to close, or division Y is going to be sold, or that activity Z is going to be outsourced, and everyone who happens to work in it just gets thrown out with the bathwater.

But there's only so much you can outsource to India before the Indians realize that they can actually run the whole business and start appointing their own CEOs.... Cold comfort to all the workers, since the CEO will have made sure he'll be taken care of no matter what.

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Unhappy

The unrealistic job requirements made me laugh when I first ran into them... then cry when I kept running into them. I moved to a new area a few years back, and my savings were in a crappy state after the cost of moving, and the job I had lined up disappeared into the government maw (deciding to do a two year "study" on the project that was just about to start... killed that company) so I started looking around for anything...

Even retail IT... a small computer store offering $28k a year wanted people with at least 5 years experience (got that), multiple certs (got those... no idea what a computer store wanted with some of them though), extensive programming experience (got that but retail it????)... and it kept going... all for $28k working in a store fixing malware infections and updating browsers...

I went in and asked "this is a joke right?" turns out, no he wasn't kidding...

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I don't mind the laundry list of silly requirements per se. I've always considered them the requirements for the "ideal candidate", where the ideal canididate doesn't really exist. So they've never stopped me applying for a job (within reason) if I felt I had enough experience/ability to do it.

Same applies when I'm on the hiring end of things. When we've said "At least 5 years in X", we'll call in someone with ~ 2 or 3 years provided the candidate looks good in general

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This post has been deleted by its author

Great article

Yep, it was 2001 when it all changed.

IR35 and India coming online about the same time. Quality and speed of delivery went down the pan but industry didn't care - they'd all done the projections and seen the size of code and man-years of effort that future projects would need and swiftly realised that the current way of working would never deliver it.

Well, nice while it lasted.

I was lucky enough to leverage all the diverse experience I'd gained in 15 years of working to re-position myself to be useful today - I guess everyone on here has done the same; evolve or die trying :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Great article

That is so true....especially IR35 - I could see Gordon Broon was fucking up the economy so got out to NZ just in time....have had enough work ever since, and at rates which were as good (if not better) that the UK..

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Great article

I agree that 2001 was the year when I noticed IT had changed.. I think it was partly down to the Telecoms companies spending £18 billion on 3G licenses the previous year at around the same time the dot coms crashed. You cannot take that much hard cash out of the economy and not cause problems. We noticed that all the old IT bosses who had been dyed in the wool engineers were replaced with stoney faced accountants. IT went from something I loved to something I hate with all my heart pretty much overnight. My plan B is taking time ( upskilling, becoming a manager etc - you can never be overskillled or overtrained )but I'll get my joy back eventually! In truth it was good while it lasted, but there was a cold hard lesson that you cannot take anything for granted in this life.

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Unhappy

You can't fix stupid, and you can't outsource it either

It's true. How many management morons, how many politicians, how many backstabbers held on while ITers were flushed? These are people who are typically worth two regiments to the opposition, but they persist until they have driven the company they infest into bankruptcy (as a certain large company in Rochester NY found to its cost).

It seems the only thing companies really want to hang onto is deadwood.

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Bronze badge
Windows

"not a top performer, would have been too valuable to sack"

Management do not think that way.

Been there, got the t-shirt, watched from afar as the lucky ones who retained their positions realised that they had three times as much work to do and all the real talent had been let go. Quality drops followed quickly by revenue. Those of us who were let go have gone on to bigger and better things. Those who remained in position are on a slow donkey ride to hell and they know it.

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Too True

I had a long life as a consultant / contractor in the US and UK. Always chose the better money for what I knew than less money for to get experience in new technologies.

In my thirties, went back to Uni for an MBA. Pretty much the kiss of death for tech positions.

Did pursue new tech on my own time but they are a very tough to sell to employers.

Employers will always take the kid out of school over the old hand. They are cheaper, much more likely to do what they are told (regardless of whether it is right or not) and regardless of whether they know what they are doing. (Um, that's how we all got started, right??)

Ended up doing databases for marketing companies (talk about going back to the Stone Age) and rode that for a while.

Am now basically retired (on the corporate scrap heap).

So, lessons for you cocksure young 'uns?

1) Don't grow old.

2) Never miss an opportunity to add content to your CV, collect acronyms as if they were gollie badges (or Pokémon cards, if that’s your thing).

3) Always, without fail, whenever you leave a gig or project, put everything in your CV. You can always cook it down later.

4) Get physical reference letters from you bosses and coworkers. Get them signed, yes sonny, on paper; even if it means printing linked-in endorsements and bringing it to them with a pen. Make scanned copies available. Bring the originals to interviews.

5) Actively solicit Linked-In connections and endorsements. If you are too shy to this, you are in the wrong line of work.

6) Don’t grow old; and if you must, don’t show it.

If I had my time again, I would never leave tech (you can never return from the Dark Side), and would have kept the tech skills sharp. I ended up in senior non-tech positions. Management is a thankless treadmill where you work a lot of unpaid hours, you will lose your personal life and lose your perspective. When the company spits you out and you recover your free time, it is like waking up from sleep walking.

Sorry for the rant, I could write volumes.

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Unhappy

IR35

IR35.

Yes, that was the bullet in the head. Murdered the contract market overnight, through the politics of envy.

So now, instead of HMR&C collecting £1000s a year from me in corporation tax, plus Income Tax and NI, they collect... absolutely nothing.

Very clever. Not.

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Silver badge

Re: IR35

Not envy from individuals (that's just how it was sold to the public), more the politics and donations of large IT corporations who didn't want to have to compete with small contractors.

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Mushroom

Re: IR35

IR35 hardly effects anyone. It is very easy to plan around and avoid.

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Happy

Here we go again!

I left school at 16 and went to work for BP as a marine engineer!

1984 and we were all made redundant, every last one of our years intake.

As someone said it's not personal.

So goes to University gets a degree starts working in IT.

I'm 49 now and if my job goes and there is nothing in sight I will just have to look at something else.

Jobs for life went in the 1970's it's sad but it's a fact of life, just deal with it the best you can.

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2001 and long lists of skills...

Just because you didn't have the skills they were asking for doesn't mean there weren't people out there with the skills. I started in IT back in 2001 and the world was full of people with outdated skills who didn't want to update them, I was constantly winning out against people twice my age who didn't want to tear up their howto and learn something new.

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Unhappy

Down under anyone?

I'm currently in University myself, I'm seriously tempted to work abroad if no opportunities are available to me here when I graduate. Today's economic climate It is truly depressing.

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Re: Down under anyone?

Oz has been pretty bad this year too at least in my sector - I've been looking at things back in the UK.

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CDD
Alert

An IT Manager's view

Here we go again, lots of contractors complaining about how harsh the world is,

Thing is, if they stayed around long enough for us IT managers to get some benefit, and stopped trying to hold us to ransom every time they fancy a pay rise, then contractors and consultants might not be the first ones out of the door when times are hard. Every time you try and train up your own staff in particular skills, then they realise they can earn more in the contract/consultant market and leave, so we feel that contractors have no loyalty, are greedy, and are only in it for the money - a view which some of the comments above would seem to underpin.

One comment accuses management of ruining the business. Personally, I think consultants are like premier league footballers, acting like prima-donnas whilst bankrupting the IT budget. Politics of envy - very probably. If our contractors didn't show off their Porsche's in the car park whilst doing the same job as the people sat next to them, the rest of the staff might not be so pleased to see them go. You earn a lot more than your permanent colleagues, but do you have to rub their noses in it?

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Mushroom

Re: An IT Manager's view

Then sack the bad and keep the good like you were paid to do instead of killing your business out of pure spite and frustration at your own lack of ability.

I'm a contractor who tried the greasy pole but I just ended up looking like a porcupine with all the daggers in my back from the likes of talentless lard like you.

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FAIL

Re: An IT Manager's view

As an IT manager, if you are taking on contractors long-term, maybe you are not doing your job right...! We contractors usually accept we are just temporary additions to the workforce, to be 'let-go' as soon as feasible. I think the people complaining are permies who feel they are being sacrificed to profit and managers bonuses...!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: An IT Manager's view

Lazy IT managers hire 'contractors' long term. I can appreciate there is a need if the skills are not necessarily available or if it's a one off project but do not see much justification in hiring a contractor for more than 6-12-18 months - unless you can pay them not much more than the equivalent full time member of staff (after factoring in all the extra costs of employment like holidays, benefits, unemployment etc.).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: An IT Manager's view

"Every time you try and train up your own staff in particular skills, then they realise they can earn more in the contract/consultant market and leave, so we feel that contractors have no loyalty, are greedy, and are only in it for the money - a view which some of the comments above would seem to underpin."

That's the way of the world - as you train them up you need to make sure their pay is keeping pace or of course they may move if they can earn significantly more.

Really you should have been progressing your full time employees - training them up and paying them a market rate for their skills. Employ the consultants to fill in, where you do not have the skills in-house or for short term requirements (as in 0-6 months).

If people did that there would be less demand for consultants / contractors apart from 'short tem' and rates would probably drop as the market finds equilibrium again - but pay your full time staff a fair rate - it's more expensive to lose them after all that training and trust built up.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: An IT Manager's view

IT Manager - pretty much an oxymoron in itself.

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Re: An IT Manager's view

CDD, are you accounting for the fact that in the case of permanent employees the employer has to pay an extra 12.5% national insurance, the typical paid holiday entitlement of 5 weeks and paid bank holidays accounting for another 8-9 days, and at least some sick leave should someone have the misfortune to fall ill? Those easily account for at least an extra 25% in cost and lost productivity.

If accounting for that doesn't quite reach the parity point, you should also consider that contractors are a flexible workforce with which you don't have to go through the rigmaroles of consultation when downsizing, severance pay, risk of expensive unfair dismissal litigation and if you are unlucky enough to have a heavily unionized workforce, strike action?

Contractors are a cheaper option when you add it all up.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: An IT Manager's view

So, another IT "Manager" who resents over paid contractors.

After 30+ years of contracting (by chaoice not necessity) I have a long list of people who I have trained and montored many of whom have never ventured out into the contracting world.

I also know a bunch of hopeless IT Managers who happily abuse contractors, never give them credit, spend all day making sarcastic anti-contractor remarks - and generally fuck up the IT departments they are supposedly running.

There is no real competition between contractors and permies - we do different jobs. Contractors are short term or specialists - or sometime Project based (like me) where the skillset is not covered by permie staff.

Get real Mr. IT manager - and grow up...

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Re: An IT Manager's view

@AC 10:05

Sometimes the managers don't have a choice - if permanent staff with the correct skill set aren't available, frequently you have no choice but to hire contractors. I worked for several clients that were in that boat. In one case after about a year they finally hired somebody permanent to replace me. That person ended up not getting through the probation period, and I was back there a few months later for another 6 months.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: An IT Manager's view

Completely agree.

I had 18 years contracting and the majority of the companies I worked for were universally sub par to awful, I've now seen the light left the UK after the deluge of ICT's over the last 5 years destroyed the contract market for the area I was in and I couldn' t be happier; funnily enough my current employer uses very few contractors and has very high staff retention rates, the moneys not much less once you deduct what would have gone to the accountant, taxman etc.

Every so often I get a call from an agent saying his client was totally sick of seeing useless Intra Company transfer staff looking to jump ship and get something long term in the UK, my usual reaction is to laugh and tell them "well you wanted cheap, now you have your wish!!"

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Re: An IT Manager's view

Three words

Opex vs Capex

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Hi, my name is Bob, and I am a data processing programmer

The primary goals set forth in the boardrooms of the 80's were: reduce the cost of techies, and shed the long-term employees to reduce retirement benefit liabilities. Since I entered the IT arena in 1981, I have been shown the door roughly every 10 years either due to buyouts, outsourcing, or downsizing. During this time IT shops methodically moved from creative development shops - which incidentally, requires more expertise and therefore, expense - to operations and maintenance type shops, with the effort concentrated on installing, configuring and operating pre-built vendor software as the legacy in-house systems were retired. As those systems were retired, so too were the old-timers who built them.

So now most IT jobs seek merely tools for tools, and the IT execs have traded dependency on certain key IT employees to dependency on some 3rd party vendor's sale and support force, a definite loss of control when attempting to match business requirements to the capabilities of the existing software, and while the average salary may be lower, the number of employees required has increased due to the care, feeding, and burping that most IT software products require.

It's kind of fitting that they are now beholden to the same sort of dollar squeezers they have been. Hope they enjoy the ride!

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Bronze badge

Get yourself into the security cleared jobs market...

There's no shortage of work for those of us who have achieved the right security clearances... can't outsource or insource those jobs...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Get yourself into the security cleared jobs market...

For now - then after a while everyone will have them and you are back at square one.

This is just market economics - when prices / profits (wages) are high people will enter the market - more supply which will eventually erode prices so not at all surprised.

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Re: Get yourself into the security cleared jobs market...

Not for the lack of trying. Unfortunately advertised roles state that candidates must already have clearance. It's chicken and egg, I can't get a security cleared role because I don't already have it, but I won't get it unless someone is willing to take a chance and wait and that's a rare thing when start dates are invariably ASAP or by the end of the week. I also know you're not supposed to advertise roles which insist on SC candidates only but all agencies do it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Get yourself into the security cleared jobs market...

Exactly the problem, Security clearance is a chicken and egg situation and it's not like you can pay for/sponsor yourself, also as many of the jobs are for the Government or companies working for them rates are not stellar anyway, that and having to find the next job in a role which is also cleared to the same level at least in order to keep it means it's not a universal panacea

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Anonymous Coward

I'm fairly happy with my situation at the moment. I'm in an industry where my skill set is sort after, but I am also good at it. Though I've learnt not to sit on my laurels, just when your comfortable in a skill set, diversify. I doubt I'll ever get into .NET programming except to drop to a junior grade to do so, but I've got plenty of proven experience in Front End work, and Sysadmin now to get a mid level job if I couldn't find anything for LAMP based things.

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Anonymous Coward

* SOUGHT after

and please don't talk about my comfortable.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: * SOUGHT after

Thanks there, way to come off not looking like a total cock

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Anonymous Coward

Re: * SOUGHT after

No problem, just trying to help you not come off looking like an illiterate moron.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: * SOUGHT after

Maybe you should learn to capitalise before you criticise.

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Silver badge
Boffin

This wouldn't work in practice.

"Now I wasn’t so sure I’d sneer at these people. And if I were ever laid off again I’d most likely have to adopt the approach I’d learned from colleagues of mine who’ve also spent extended periods “on the beach” in the last decade: I wasn’t unemployed, I was “in transition” — or better yet, “doing freelance consulting”. My list of clients? I’m sorry, but that’s confidential information. ®"

So your client list is confidential. Ok, been there done that.

But what can you tell me about your projects. What was your role in these projects and what technology did you use?

The point is that I can within 15 mins figure out if you're real or full of sh$t.

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