Saturday, October 26, 2013

"That Point"

I'm into "that point". The point of unemployment that I just Hate. Hate with a capital 'H'. The bit where friends and family start referring you to people who need "computer people".

I used to consider myself to be a generalist. I could do anything. Give me a platform, I'll figure my way around it. This didn't work in the least. Employers wanted specifics. They didn't want to know that you could figure out how to do something. They didn't care about your problem solving abilities. They wanted to know that you knew anything and everything about a specific piece of software (SAP, Peoplesoft... whatever). Which, given my experience, included things like "pushing" applications via Citrix, doing stuff with MS Systems Management Server, playing with Linux in order to generate configuration files for Lotus Notes (awk and sed), putting together complex solutions using VBA etc. None of which I saw as in the least bit important. The important bit was approaching the problem and finding a suitable solution. It's about fulfilling a need. Not about the solution used to get there (which I guess is why I'm so damn frustrated by society's over investment in a solution rather than keeping an eye on the aim).

This all goes to that problem in education where schools and the like are all convinced that we HAVE to teach our kids how to use MS Office - that it's a moral imperative and obviously to do otherwise would be doing the kids a disservice.... As opposed to looking at it and concluding "there's a set of problem solving skills need to use any office suite. If we taught our kids those skills rather than over investing in any one solution, our kids will be better equipped for the future".

But nowadays things are very different. I get on a MS Windows platform and I feel completely dis-empowered. Those things that I can do in Linux - those problems I can solve - I find myself looking for ways to solve it on a Windows platform and I'm stuck with what I feel are retarded (the literal meaning of the word) off the shelf, one size fits all solutions (when it's not part of the core OS - which, in the case of Windows, is just about everything). Which leaves me with trying to figure out the least evil solution. Something that does around 80% or more of what I need.

Compare that to FLOSS (Free/Libre/Open Source software) - I can change to fit the need. That's freedom. The end user may not realise this is what is happening (Manaiakalani is probably a really good example here. While they're describing problems and what I felt were half arsed solutions, I was looking at the software and saying "actually... that's not at all a problem. I can just change a piece of software to do what we need it to do.") BUT it's happening and the end user can remain unaware. The problem here of course is that you can create an unrealistic expectation. In my case, working ridiculous hours to get these solutions done and refined with no compensation.

So today I got told "you've got the foundation. I'm sure you can pick things up just like that". I was sitting there thinking "that's where I live and strive". If I'm not learning something new, I'm most likely getting very bored. BUT there's a problem here. How can I in good conscience apply for jobs knowing that those jobs are going to make me feel dis-empowered much of the time? Which pretty much leaves me with Linux jobs to apply for.

But then, what sort of Linux jobs are there? There's development (something that I don't feel - I'm not sure what the reality is here as I.T. is a strangely competitive industry - I'm all that well suited for) or system administration (which is mostly about security. Something that I think is, for the most part, done to death and at the expense of the user experience). That's it. I have 2 options if I want to work on the platform of my choice - or feel dis-empowered.

That's it. That's how the world works. It sucks and yet, I'm the one with the problem because I can't control the world. I only have power over myself. In other words, in order to work I need to sacrifice something of myself. I can't unthink much of what I've thought. So it's a case of saying "I'm going to have to be okay with being dis-empowered" or "I'm going to have to be okay with going against my own values in terms of usability and the end user and just suck it up and work to standards which I feel go against what we're aiming for - a usable experience". The only other way I can see is having to change industry. In which case, which industry would I go into?

In the meantime, I have to admit to people who are well meaning but ridiculous in finding "need computer people" type contacts that I just won't do Windows.


  1. Change your career. Natropathy or Bowen Technique will suit you well. It's hard to give up with your massive investment in desktop deployment but that window of opportunity is passing just like Internet cafes had their gaming heyday now it is very limited.

    1. I really can't tell if you're being serious or not.... I'm guessing not.... Or at least, I would hope not.