|06-17-2011, 10:19 AM||#1 (permalink)|
Join Date: Jul 2010
Trading for Time, not Money
My chosen career field is IT, and I've been in IT since I was a little boy, tinkering with old Apple machines, copying programs from library textbooks into them by hand. My parents fed my budding obsession with a Radio Shack programmable graphing calculator that I was inseparable from in fourth grade. I spent as many recess periods exploring the different features of that thing as I did playing basketball. I remember many cold, wintry mornings happily pressing buttons, eyes lighting up with glee as I figured out something new. Little did I know that all the hours I poured into that and other, similarly foolish technological endeavors, was excellent training for a job in IT systems. I say job and not career because nothing really prepares you for everything that surrounds the job.
I never really stopped, but I didn't start getting paid for what society considers to be real IT work until I got a job last year, initially to build a backup system for the firm's 250-some-odd servers, then later as a support tech and field work on top of backend maintenance of that and other systems I designed and built. I did it for a foolish wage, a pittance considering all the work I was doing and the many hats I was expected to wear, but I did it for the opportunity to learn the ropes from an industry veteran. I never really wanted a career, just the opportunity to do something I loved doing and get paid for it.
Obviously though, the work world had other ideas, and I was quickly thrown into the hell of the 40 hour workweek, something that I hated during my short stint in the Air Force and that I'd evaded ever since. Apparently, bosses hate it when you want to decide when to punch that clock. Who knew?
Naturally my skills enabled me to complete my work in a logical manner, meaning four hours a week rather than forty, and I dutifully spent the rest of the time posting on forums, daydreaming, surfing the web, chatting up the gorgeous security guard downstairs, and when goofing off stopped being cool, making work for myself like a normal cubicle slave. It all worked rather well, but I was still unfulfilled.
Strangely, it wasn't the goofing off but the feeling of unfulfillment that got me canned. I sensed it coming a month off and started saving cash, and took a decompression trip to Colombia to reorient and reinvent myself. I took Ramit Sethi's freelancing course, and started working for one of my old company's clients. The freelancing course helped me shore up my business communication skills, but at first I couldn't motivate myself to actually pull the trigger and start one.
So I piddled along with my one client. When I got back to Atlanta, my old company had lost another guy, so they needed me again, so I started contracting. Contracting involves a completely different set of problems, a better set than employeeship, but sub-optimal nonetheless. I finished up some big jobs, got a bunch of cash, and jumped again on another trip, this time to San Diego to see my little nephews.
I could explain the differences between contracting, freelancing, and employee-hood, isolating out the mindsets that lead to success and failure, as I've had minimal experience in all of them, but what I really want to do is share what I learned from all three.
You can find hell in all of them, and you basically will until you're able to be uncompromising to the point of turning clients away to keep your peace of mind. Small business owners have no concept of work/life balance, to them balance is a romantic dinner once every six months with their wives. The problem is not the person, whom is typically well-meaning, but in the system they've sold their souls to. The hard work of running a business polarizes their perspective, and because they're the ones with the keys to your paycheck, its up to you to figure them out, not for them to tiptoe around your needs.
When I started working for the company, I thought my friend's involvement in it would mean it's not hell to work for them, because he seemed to be the sort who wouldn't tolerate crappy conditions and he talked like he had pull in the organization. What I found was a madhouse.
Nothing was done according to sane principle. Politics ran the show, gossip was how information was passed, engineers were reduced to firemen. Attempts to address the glaring issues consisted of a company meeting where we were told not do them anymore. I slowly came to the realization that this was business as usual, and that my friend's tall talk was all hat and no horse.
After I finally admitted to myself that I was sold a raw deal, I started looking elsewhere, but the reason I stayed out of IT for so long didn't go away in the eight months I'd worked for them. Finding a company that wasn't crazy is like winning the lottery. I read Good to Great and finally gave up on it.
Reading business books when you're not a businessman evokes a particular kind of anguish. You know what the problem is but are powerless to do anything about it. You just can't change other people's fundamentals, and business books are all about fundamentals.
The only reason I haven't given up altogether on IT is the sheer joy I get from working with systems. All I want is a little bit of cash and the freedom to make decisions, and I'd go hog-wild and build the best IT infrastructure minimum wage can buy. People don't want to entrust their IT systems to a jeans-wearing ruffian without a single certification to his name, I guess for good reason, so I gave serious thought to leaving IT.
Certifications and degrees serve a useful filtering role, they're disrespected by every real engineer you can find, but loved by business sorts. If a job requires a cert or a degree, I know that a businessman is pulling the strings, not an engineer. Every industry has these filtering mechanisms, the savvy understand them, and the clueless simply toil, their fates left entirely to chance.
The real playas go through the engineers, they're harder to impress, because you actually have to know what you're doing, but they'll rave about you and protect you and fight to keep you once you do. I can't count how many times my mentor's gone to bat for me, before I started working there, while I was working there, and afterwards as a contractor. I repay him, not with presents and lunches or whatever the business world thinks passes for proper gratitude, but by never failing him, and being a decent human being.
My freelancing boss is another well-meaning chap whose been all but crushed by the weight of business. I'm not wearing all the hats, just one, but I can't be in charge, I'm only called in when he thinks he needs me. Well, he only "needs" me when there's something in his face that he can't figure out. Engineering, though, involves seeing not just in front of your face, but the entire apparatus. He's a great programmer, but such a terrible engineer that the great relationship he enjoyed with my mentor has withered down to PITA status. Getting a email from him is a Pain In The Ass, one that my friend does not need.
I recently sent him an offer, swinging for the fences. He can't afford a full time guy, but I offered to do it for him anyway for basically nothing, subsistence farming, slave labor. I just want time. I could care less about money. But since money buys time, I can't do it for free.
And that's what all my future efforts towards gainful employment will look like. Going through the engineers, hoping to God that I can make my unique requirements manifest in the real world. I'll have fun, I'll make a little money, I'll earn my freedom.
Ultimately it's about deciding that you're a better arbiter for where your time goes than any employer. Just like impressing an engineer, it relies on something you can't fake, real passion for both work and life. Passion, however is discovered, not manufactured. I never thought of myself as being passionate, it simply came through in my dealings with people. Your passion might not be as easily marketable as IT, but the right people can help you market it. And deal with all the other stuff you can't. My skill in office politics is total shite, but my mentor went to bat for me every time my uncultured tongue failed me.
Just lead with passion, not marketing. Passion is the truly valuable asset, not marketing or politics. Because the world doesn't know how to deal with passion, how to nurture it and encourage it. So you have to become the expert in your own growth, because only you know your passion. My mentor's been amazing, but he can't create a career for me single-handed. Those days are long gone. Now it's my responsibility.
Passion == career. Get used to it.
Last edited by VinceG; 06-17-2011 at 10:32 AM.
|06-22-2011, 08:34 AM||#2 (permalink)|
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Davis, California
I was an IT contractor for 17+ years. It beats working for the same, stupid, nepotistic management that most companies, at least the US have. The corporate culture struck me, early on as the most vile, bitter, backstabbing sub-culture to avoid at all cost. The reality is that contracting is no better but there you faced with the finality of the project or environment. Many time I quit projects as they were CLEARLY set up to fail, just to have moved on to a worse project that I quit (there is a lesson in there somewhere!). It was very stressful lifestyle and valuing my life I quit the whole IT shtick. (I was a mainframe assembler programmer who went into Unix, OO, client/server DB expert.) I have criss/crossed the US at least two times, but the nomadic, gypsy lifestyle was also a drag on my social life and personal happiness.
My clients were IBM, Sybase, Visa, Microsoft, Sun and many more IT shops.
Outsourcing and H1B visa scams(!) made sure that it was an uphill struggle, not worth doing with post dot com wages/hourly rate.
My Home Business Blog
Last edited by Andras; 06-22-2011 at 11:13 PM.
|06-22-2011, 10:05 AM||#3 (permalink)|
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Surrey, England
A friend of a friend was into computers. He had some fairly unique skill, so his company kept him on. Every once in a while, he would threaten to leave, so they'd offer him more money. He had decided he wanted to retire about 35 and have 'X' in the bank. That's what he did and he hand enough to retire on.
What if getting certification would get you a well paid consultants post? You could work here and there and just enjoy yourself when you're on a mini- retirement. Some effort now could repay you many times over in the years to come.
|06-22-2011, 10:33 AM||#4 (permalink)|
Join Date: Jul 2010
|06-22-2011, 11:32 AM||#5 (permalink)|
Join Date: May 2011
I'm an IT contractor, was perm for about 7 years and been contract for the last 4. Was absolute hell during the recession but things are back to being good again now.
Obviously the 9-5 stuff is less than ideal but it pays well and is tax efficient (I work through my own UK LTD company). It serves my purpose of building up a stack of cash to trade with and I'm very aggressively looking to break into becoming a business analyst which I see as the most fulfilling direction for me in this field.
Becoming a BA will tick the following boxes:
The contracting rates are rediculous - varying from £400-£650 - even £1000/day depending on skill/experience and sector (I'm looking to specialise in finance and investment banking). So this I see as the quickest, most solid and reliable way to build up my trading equity.
It's interesting and fulfilling - learning how to make organisations more efficient by developing business systems and IT systems symbiotically is to me what IT is really about - not figuring out tech problems.
It crosses over into other entrepreneurial ventures - My other business interests will benefit greatly from developing kick ass cloud systems with good outsourcers running the business over them. Even my trading business will benefit from good automated systems that can be executed either by software/scripts or outsourcers using cloud resources.
It can develop into a consultation business on my own terms, I can work with small, medium or start ups, even charities for free if/when I'm financially independant. I can even invest in new start ups by inputting a bit of cash and building their business and IT systems from the ground up.
I am fully focused on developing into a BA now, even paid a mentor to help me identify what duties I do in my current role and what duties to look out for and do that I can later call on as BA experience. I'm doing a cert in it as well and networking with other contractors and Linkedin people as much as possible. This contract is up in the next few months so I'm looking to get into a junior/PM/PM assistant type role next.
|06-22-2011, 01:49 PM||#6 (permalink)|
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Davis, California
Let me tell you this, anything that you'd need a "certificate", there have people gnarling at your behind 3-4 deep with 2-years of community college or more. The only TRUE skills are EE, tech. admin, security/DB experts (with preferably EE/MBA), or true hackers. All in all experience in years and education trumps certificates. Most good developing jobs are on the micro circuit level and everything else is outsourced to India or some other place. If you borrow money to finish your Masters/PHd - I would be very picky to choose a field and I would not like your chances. IT, with the old skills is not as good as a EE or technical admin.. Just my two bits.....
Last edited by Andras; 06-22-2011 at 01:55 PM.
|06-22-2011, 02:05 PM||#7 (permalink)|
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Davis, California
Peter, I presume this is in London's financial district where cost of living is also very high. If you work for trading desks, (I have done that at for a bank in San Francisco) you can make very good money indeed.
Good luck with a new gig....
|06-22-2011, 03:31 PM||#8 (permalink)|
Join Date: May 2011
It is an IB but I don't have anything to do with trading desks. I'm in the Windows 7 migration project working on discovering/packaging all of their 3000 applications. It's nice project work and I'm getting myself involved in producing reports for the PMs and going on con calls with the customer.
I was a support monkey not so long ago but now hopefully never again This project is dragging on a fair bit so might extend for a few more months. We'll see what happens after, I'm going to try and get the ISEB BA foundation cert and maybe some ITIL and Prince 2.
I know certs aren't actually that useful on the job but for getting my CV noticed they're worth theri weight in gold.
|06-24-2011, 12:08 AM||#9 (permalink)|
Join Date: Sep 2010
Passion - True desire from heart
I don't know... I studied IT for 4 years...... What's that make me? a no body! No difference.
You have invested much time in this field.
*You can't count how many times your mentor's gone to bat for you....
but at least Friends you have!
*A pittance considering all the work I was doing and the many hats I was expected to wear, but I did it for the opportunity to learn the ropes from an industry veteran. I never really wanted a career, just the opportunity to do something I loved doing and get paid for it.
Sometimes... life is not fair...
*You just can't change other people's fundamentals......
You can't change people period!!!!!
*Certifications and degrees serve a useful filtering role----
Look, how many people are out of jobs with a Certification and/or degree.
* Contracting involves a completely different set of problems, I finished up some big jobs, got a bunch of cash, and jumped again on another trip, this time to San Diego to see my little nephews.
Good on YOU!
*You can find hell in all of them, to the point of turning clients away to keep your peace of mind. The problem is not the person, whom is typically well-meaning, but in the system they've sold their souls . The hard work of running a business polarizes their perspective, and because they're the ones with the keys to your paycheck, its up to you to figure them out,
What are you willing to wage for time and money?
*Naturally my skills enabled me to complete my work in a logical manner, meaning four hours a week rather than forty!
Hello!*arrow up* I see brain ahead
* gossip was how information was passed.
& so are roomers..... humans love roomers
* I could care less about money. But since money buys time, I can't do it for free.
Was this not the topic?
* yeh, this sounds like you! .... never failing them, and being a decent human being. WOW! *BOW*
*you can't fake, real passion for both work and life. PASSION is not manufactured.
No fake it to you make it?
*it simply came through in my dealings with people. Your passion might not be as easily marketable but the right people can help you market ......
BELIEVE Me....There is a PERSON for all of us whom will put us in the right place at the right time.
again.. Good on you!
*tongue failed = Words are containers for power' just as.....Passion = True desire from heart!
*** Now it's my responsibility.
ABSOLUTELY....FAR MAY YOU GO!
Go Far May You Aways~!
|06-26-2011, 08:07 PM||#10 (permalink)|
Join Date: Jan 2007
I'm in IT since I was a kid. I was never a genius programmer but I wasn't bad either..I've quit contract work recently, which I was doing for about 1 year(and lots of various things before that, projects that someone invested in etc). But I was always "the IT guy", not the one holding money.
So instead, I decided I want to develop my business skills - got tired about being the one who needs financing and feeling the "hand of power" above my head. Now I'm trying to create and sell my own solutions. It was pretty hard to resist the urge to get a new contract job when I saw no sales for few days..but 2 months in, it is making me enough to get by and seems to grow, so I think it was a good decision.
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