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Monday, March 16, 2015

Everyone is an Expert

Thanks to Google, we know the following:

What is an Expert?

  • Step 1: Identify Your Interest. First you need to evaluate your current position and identify your area of interest for your intended expertise.
  • Step 2: Focus. Get rid of any clutter. Focus on your chosen interest. Focus on it until you know it, have done it, is recognized for it by others, in particular: By fellow experts.
  • Step 3: Keep At It. Remember that practice makes permanent. Becoming an expert overnight just isn't going to happen. Doing the same things over and over is also not going to get you far. You have to incrementally work at it day-after-day. You have to improve on it. Evolve. This can take years of dedication in study and commitment depending on the difficulty or complexity of your focus area, and take a lot of resources.
"Expert: A person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of, or skill in a particular area."

Everyone an Expert

If there is one industry where the word "expert" is worth nothing, it is the IT industry. In IT everyone is an expert, and really, as a result, no one is an expert. 

False "experts" are destroying it for real experts. In the following short paragraphs I hope to show:

  • That the IT Industry has an incentive to destroy expertise.
  • As a result, everyone is an IT "expert".
  • With everyone an "expert", where are the real experts?
  • The net result is an industry in peril, and our companies are paying for it.

Destroying Expertise

Getting qualified in IT is one of the easiest, and also one of the most difficult endeavours around. 

Let's look at a University Degree for a start. If you manage to work your way through a Degree Program in Information Management or Information Systems, you are probably well equipped for a senior assignment at the History Channel.  

Between Punchcard 101, HTML for Beginners, and Principles of Data Management, you probably have the combined IT role and industry understanding of a whistle. Often, I've sat with graduates from all kinds of Universities and Colleges explaining to them that the IT industry has specialist roles, and somehow their particular education path neglected to cover just that. 

After University, and too late, they discover the reality of just how disconnected their institution was from reality. These institutions focus on technologies - obsolete technologies in most cases. Whatever graduates master at University was most likely already irrelevant the day they enrolled for it. 

The only thing a degree in IT does, is that it shows you are committed, and have an uncanny high risk tolerance for debt. The real study starts the day you enter employment, post qualification.

The alternative is to go for a "quicky". These you can get when enrolling for a quick certification of some sorts. Some are product related, and others just general topics of the the day, that will look good on a CV, sell a course, and may just get you hired, maybe. For example: A quick PMP from PMI, a quick certificate from the local BA Institute. Type in IT Certifications in Google, and be amazed at just how many irrelevant organizations are willing to help you depart with your hard earned cash to anoint you a certified "Expert" in Cloud Computing, Security, Computer Forensics, SOA, SEO, ITIL, BI, Storage, and CV Writing.

The sickening fact of these "certifications" is that in most cases they cost you more than the above mentioned obsolete University Degree. Believe me, your certificate is not worth the paper it is written on within 6 months of you completing it, if not sooner. At least it gets you to "officially" put the acronyms in your CV. You can buzz the buzzwords. Can you do the job? Doubtful. 

I can hear all the PMP's out there whining already. Thanks to the PMI's "stringent" criteria for handing out their very profitable certification paper, forcing disciples like you back annually for another PDU driven inoculation and mandatory cash deposit, you can now get a monkey qualified as a "Project Management Professional". As long as they pay the fee, do the quick exam prep (Modest fee required. There is now an app for that.), and can "paint by numbers", they can be a PMP. I know a few. I can show them to you. They are all still collecting their PDU's to "prove" relevance, and cannot manage a project to save their lives.

Here is the parting line on education for IT. It is an inter disciplinary study. It requires engineering foundations, social science insights, management disciplines, and much much more. It is not for the faint hearted. There is no one place that will prepare you for a job in IT. It takes years.

In the "everyone can have one" PC (Politically Correct) drunk society of today, it is unlikely that the majority of "experts" understands, or is willing to do what it takes to make Information Technology a vocation. And saying that, merely distinguishing the roles within the industry alone is a topic fraught with confusion and disagreement. The majority of the reasons for this is explored further in this post.

The "Experts"

The IT industry created a business model to curtail expertise. It is a well known publicized fact that there is always a "shortage of skill" for particular topics in IT. 

Software and Hardware vendors are continually pushing new innovations, and at the same time try to maximize consulting and services revenue by locking in a small group of individuals with the requisite knowledge about the technology. These are the only "certified" consultants that is "endorsed" to consult on their behalf. 

This way, these vendors can capitalize on premium billing rates created by artificially engineered scarcity.  SAP is a case in point where for a long time, you could print money with SAP credentials. SAP constrained access to this knowledge through exorbitantly priced training, which was only available, within reason, to their own employees or a select group of "partners" that is willing to help create and cash-in on the ecosystem for the privileged. 

It is no surprise that these "partners" are blue-chip global consulting firms that uses armies of recent University graduates, put through boot-camps to demand top-dollar. If a person worked for one of these "partners" they are billed for as much as $350/hour to unsuspecting customers. When these people leave the Consultancies, they are treated as outcasts earning a fraction of the rate. Yet, by no means did their expertise diminish, or did it?

Which brings us to the topic of Consultants. How does one become a consultant in IT? 
Answer: You call yourself one. There is nothing more to be said.

The speed of change in the IT industry is constantly keeping everyone on their toes. This is both frustrating, but also creates opportunity for charlatans and snake oil salesman. 

Because the industry is always on the move, it is hard to validate expertise. There is not enough time to assess success or failure. As soon as a new tool or technology forces the prior to obsolesce, so it goes with those that gave themselves out as experts for these tools and technologies. 

The only ability to remain relevant is to quickly add a "certification" and a few new buzzwords to your CV, and voila! You are back in business. Most hiring mangers don't know Windows from their Unix or their Raid 1 from their 5, so all they do is look for the required acronyms, requisite buzzwords, likability, tenure, and the rest takes care of itself.

A good friend of mine once lunched with Bill Gates. He return from the lunch referring to Mr. gates as "The Satan of Software". On closer inspection, his reasoning for this frank metaphor related to the fact that he felt that because of Microsoft, real professionals in IT was sidelined. Good software business was killed off, and hardware vendors kneecapped. Not only did Microsoft make (bad) computing accessible to the masses, but it also made the masses "experts" unto themselves. 

Before, a C-level person in an organization had to resort to expert counsel for computer and information related decisions. With the advent of the PC, Microsoft transferred  this "illusionary expert ability" together with the PC machine, right into the C-level office, and into the executive's hands, sacrificing true expertise in the process. 

Every executive using a PC now suddenly became an expert. So did masses of under qualified geeks certified with MCSE's, MCSD's and whatever expertise Microsoft could concoct into yet another money spinning certification. 

Everyone with a PC became an expert. And, no one became more dangerous than the computer savvy Company Executive with no clue, that he has no clue. The best part about these executives is that they continue to perpetuate their own loyalty biases. They continue committing to Microsoft because: "They are not experts in anything else." They will not know future technology if they fell over it, and productive solutions if it hit them in the face. All this while real expertise is sidelined, overruled, relegated, and disenfranchised. 

Thanks heavens for the great equalizer: The Internet!

An Industry in Peril

How come am I so negative? Why is there a case for concern?

What follows are a few examples of instances where I've witnessed first hand how "Expert" C-Level Executives are not just ruining it for real expertise, but where they've put their companies' futures in peril, or is wasting millions in public funds. 

These examples will show just how ridiculous this business of IT has become, and that few to no one, is standing up and calling it out on any side.

Stay tuned for the next instalment...

Hendrik van Wyk

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Back from Hiatus and Hurting

It is the Year 2015!

... or is it?

State of Mind

The last entry in this blog was in 2013 when I called out IT Managers for the poor job they do. Naively, I was hoping for some recognition that there is a preferred practice for Management in IT, and that as Managers we should strive to do better, building on established and verified wisdoms.

Now, two years on, things are even worse. More waste, denial, and all round simpleton stupidity is as rife as always in this business of IT. Hence, a new Blog name: "This Cannot be IT!" 

This industry has no shortage of satire. However, my own career mind-space has deteriorated to the point where I am on the brink of distancing myself from a twenty-year career, to take up ice cream vending at a small beach in Mexico. Call it a midlife crisis, but I cannot fathom perpetuating the delusion one more year. It is not funny to me anymore. This is my requiem.

There is no way one can continue with another decade in the same vain: Dancing the "corporate dance", quoting the buzzwords, nodding the head in manufactured agreement, thanking the backrubbers, despising the backstabbers, sitting in endless meeting after time wasting talkfest (meeting), all while being expected to keep the seat warm and to "remain nice" (This one particularly irks me!). I once commented to a colleague that middle management acts like a troop of baboons: "Grooming each other". With this mind image, I've not been able to look at meetings in the same way ever again.

A blog post got me fired before (guess which one?), and I am probably going to upset a few people, personally and corporately, with what I am about to post. The next Blog entries may completely alienate me from colleagues, all future association, and IT related income. But, unless I call it out (removing the names to protect the innocent), I feel I am merely perpetuating the pain - my pain. It is driving me nuts! 

For You

Maybe, just maybe you will find my rants amusing. I hope to entertain you. Maybe you recognize truth in it, identify with it, and like me, naively belief it can be addressed if it is called out. Who knows, maybe you have a story of your own you may want to share in anonymity. This can be the "Snowden Files of Corporate IT Idiocy". 

Why do it, you may ask? 

Here's the answer: If one gives oneself out as an expert in a field, it is one's duty to purge the field from charlatans, mediocrity and stupidity, while contributing to a body of knowledge for all its benefactors - customers and colleagues alike. Maybe, by calling out the Emperor's Clothes, someone else recognizes it for what it is. Maybe, there are opportunities where the good can be preserved, and the sacred be restored. If not, see you at the beach...

Hendrik van Wyk