The Bittersweet World of IT.

Look I know I’m fortunate to be in the position that I am. I’ve taken a lot of risks and almost all of them have paid off significantly, landing me solid jobs and even seeing my pay packet go up in the midst of a worldwide financial crisis. It’s because of this I’ve been able to do many things that people told me were next to impossible and I know I have the world of IT to thank for much of my success. Still all this wonder that has been graced upon me because I managed to fall into one of the most lucrative industries of our time didn’t stop me waking up last December and experiencing one of the most dreadful yet inspiring moments of my life: I hated my job, my career and where I was in my life.

Now anyone who knows me would’ve told you it was no secret that I wasn’t happy where I was. Pretty much every job I’ve had over the past 6 years has seen me come in with a kind of enthusiasm and vigor that only young whipper snappers like myself are able to muster. However over time that feeling was soon whittled away by lack of work, over abundance of bureaucracy and broken promises. For the most part though I consoled myself in the fact that I was making quite a packet for someone who hadn’t had the experience of 90% of the people in the market. That idea kept me going for a good 3 years and saw me past buying 2 houses, getting married and maintaining that I would one day leave the rank and file employees for the glorious world of management where I could finally seek the job satisfaction that had long eluded me.

Everything changed on that fateful day back in early December. I remember waking up and feeling quite lucid but there was this nagging feeling at the back of my head, something that just wasn’t quite right. Over the course of the next 30 minutes I began to question why the hell I was doing all this, getting up early in the morning and struggling to get ready to go to a job where I would only waste time until the clock struck closing time. Whilst my blog posts don’t seem to show this moment of frustrated clarity (they’re all surprisingly normal, which is even more freaky) I began looking over every possible option I had to get myself out of this situation I had put myself into. Remembering a project I had began some months before (which was making me on average $2/day) I resigned myself to scaling it up to income replacement level and thus The Plan was born. I spent every moment of the next 6 weeks implementing, testing and refining my strategy until on the 19th of January I declared the project completed and set the countdown clock for 6 months until freedom day.

Now I’ll forgive you if you think this sounds like a call for sympathy or a attempt to grab compliments, because its not. More it’s to tell my story in the world of IT that I know resonates with so many of my colleagues. Last night I tweeted about how jealous I was of my dad and his current embracing of retirement which spurred this reply:

(Yes that was a shameless plug to use the new Twitter quote feature, which unfortunately looks god awful on this theme, go figure EDIT: I’ve replaced it with an image because their CSS inheriting code doesn’t play nice with WordPress)

I’ve long had a post in my drafts folder titled “Post IT Careers” which was initially inspired by many a conversation over lunch with my fellow IT workers. Ask anyone who’s been in IT for a while what they plan to do in 3~5 years and most of them will say something like “hopefully not IT”. Whilst I’ve never had enough to talk about on the subject it begs mentioning here as most people in IT, but especially those in the under 30 bracket (which squarely pegs them as Gen Y) got into IT because it was easy, lucrative and at the time relatively interesting. After spending years being the equivalent of janitorial staff for the realm of computers the shine starts to wear off and the dizzying prospects that once danced in your head fade into the cold reality of resetting yet another user’s password.

It’s all made worse when I hear people talking about how they’re in the wrong career and they should switch to IT. Whilst its usually just belly aching after they hear about the amount of money some of us make they usually fail to consider that they’d just be trading their current set of problems for another set of unknown problems. It only seems more feasible to them since you know, anyone can do IT, they never say “I should switch to being an anethstatist” failing to see that (whislt there’s not as much time invested to become an IT professional) they require years of training to get to the level we’re currently at. Unless you’re willing to dedicate half a decade of your life to doing this sort of thing (and then thinking of your own post IT career) you’ll just put your career back at the start. Then again some people might be looking to do that anyway.

I had a feeling that it wasn’t just IT that suffered from this problem however, more it was our generation. Whilst my friends will say that I’m the exception to the rule it appears that most Gen Ys are happy to hop jobs like crazy, looking for the next best deal or a workplace that suits them better:

If there is one overriding perception of the millennial generation, it’s that these young people have great — and sometimes outlandish — expectations. Employers realize the millennials are their future work force, but they are concerned about this generation’s desire to shape their jobs to fit their lives rather than adapt their lives to the workplace.

Although members of other generations were considered somewhat spoiled in their youth, millennials feel an unusually strong sense of entitlement. Older adults criticize the high-maintenance rookies for demanding too much too soon. “They want to be CEO tomorrow,” is a common refrain from corporate recruiters.

You’d think I’d lash back with some quip about us being the future or some other kind of dribble but I completely agree, we’re entitled and we expect the world to change for us. The job hopping I’ve gone through is a testament to me trying to change my work situation, failing and then trying to find another suitable place to try again. Whilst it’s also provided the benefit of upping my pay packet considerably I happily admit that had I got caught in the right job at the start I’d probably still be there today. I think this was why I lasted so long back at Dick Smith Electronics, I had free reign there over pretty much whatever I wanted to do and enough gadgets and gizmos to keep me entertained for hours on end. The real world of work however is nothing like that and my employment history is a testament to that.

Maybe I’m just channeling my inner Tim Ferris and Tony Robbins but after hearing so much about what is possible I just couldn’t stand to be in my position anymore. I’ve spent a good chunk of my adult life chasing the almighty dollar and now I believe its time to shift gears and start chasing those dreams that have eluded me thus far. So whilst my generation might be disillusioned with their careers I hope they, like me, have that awakening moment where they reconsider what’s important to them and start taking steps towards their ultimate goals.

5 Comments

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  1. Are you questioning all IT or just wanting to become self-employed in IT ? Most of our generation love gadgets but only a handful make it their career, are you sure its yours ?

  2. For a long time I saw IT as just my foot hold into the world of business/executive management. After spending a good 5 years working my way through the ranks it became pretty apparent that there were two ways to get to where I wanted to be, and only one of them would happen in a time span of years rather than decades. Lashing out on my own is of course the shorter path to wealth but it’s also the one frought with the most risk. I guess you could say I’m not so much fed up with IT than I am doing IT for other people’s interests, but my points in the post still stand.

    I’m still not sure if the path I’m following is going to be the right one, but I’ve got to find out. I could easily lay back and continue along my current career path for many decades to come but if I don’t take the risk and try it going alone then I’ll always ask myself what might of been had I taken the risk. So to answer your question, no I’m not sure, but I’m working towards finding out 😉

    The new Twitter thing had some funky CSS inheritance going on and the preview looked nothing like it did on the blog. I’ve replaced it with a screenshot of what it was supposed to look like. Ironically the service was supposed to avoid such behaviour but it seems screenshots are still the way to go.

  3. You keep highlighting wealth, but that’s not an end in itself. Say you won the lotto tomorrow, would you keep doing IT either as current or even private projects? If that financial incentive was not there, what would you do. Wealth is important, but i tend to believe that it’s a side product of doing well what you love.

  4. I’d still be a hobbyist at the very least and more than likely I’d continue to do IT related side projects for a long time. I’ve always got a hankering for tinkering with things and that won’t subside when the time comes that I don’t need to do work anymore.

    Wealth is an enabler for many things and as much as people like to say “do what you love and the money will come” they fail to mention the possible years of destituion you’ll put yourself through just for that. There are things that I want to do that require a large base of wealth to accomplish and whilst you might think its a side product of doing something well it’s the barrier to entry for a lot of things you will want to do with your life.

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