Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Feeling defeated

Every time I look at a jobs posting site, I get to feeling defeated and depressed. It isn't just that there aren't a lot of jobs that fit my interests -- there are few that fit my immediate background too. Going to school for a mathematics degree took me away from programming for two years. Even before that, I did part time projects doing XSLT work and XML schema design, but got no Java or .NET coding leads. So I'm S.O.L. for most of the programming postings, where people invariably expect the applicant to have worked on a team doing J2EE or .NET development in some complete project.

The real trouble started at the telecom company. Management there was completely ambivalent about the development work, and seemed to go out of the way to avoid putting together a coherent program. We inherited scads of crap work from engineering, involving perl, oracle, pl/sql, ideo smartgl, html, shell scripts, and c code. What do you do when there's no recognition for anything innovative you are doing from management, despite lengthy explanations, obvious interest from the users you were hired to support, and concurrent validation from trends emerging in the tech literature? In retrospect the whole ship was sinking, and they were much less concerned with the purpose of the voyage than with saving their own skins. In that environment, I devoted a lot of time to doing the right thing for them -- working overtime on antiquated 4GL environments and proprietary tools -- but not necessarily what was good for me professionally.

I get to feeling like I'm some sort of invisible man. No matter how much time I invest in trying to stand out, no matter what new techie hype I learn about, it doesn't feel substantive, and I end up feeling ever more marginalized and forgotten.

I've volunteered. I've worked for nothing. I've presented. I've trained. I've organized meetings for user groups. I've networked and given leads to people. I've called, and find inexplicably that people don't return my calls. Goddamn it, my own RELATIVES won't even return my calls. Nothing new, it has been that way for years. I deal. But I have to ask myself after all these years, before I take another step, where's the payback? WHY should I care. WHAT is in it for me?

Yeah, and that attitude permeates my thought processes now when I hear about some "New and Improved" techie crap someone has going. Same old thing: get people suckered in to something which in the end is, on balance, bad for them. All these social networking sites? Look out. Yeah, I'm a member -- stupid. If you want to drink, you have to visit the watering hole, even if it means drinking where the alligators are swimming.

We are way too dependent upon technology, and it is distorting the way people think. A prospect has been dangling work in front of me for over a month. His messages, sent from a Blackberry, are always cryptic, incomplete, indecisive, procrastinating. In short, stream-of-consciousness. I point out that one time slot out of many will be busy and suggest others. He responds by not scheduling the meeting he specifically asked for. People have forgotten how to reason deeply.

Instead they react. They hear subtle cues and make fantastic leaps, instead of considering nuances. And the Web businesses that spring up to service their needs are there for convenience, to get them hooked, even if it means they lose control of their own business processes. All they seem to want to do is sell and pitch, advertise and market. Knowing means nothing. Producing means less. Excitement and action regardless of the consequences, means everything. I just don't relate to the group think.

I've also gotten inexplicably cynical about the potential employers. I was happier when they deceived me about their relative value to society. Now I see a lot of companies and wonder why they exist. One guy I know sells character outlines. CHARACTER OUTLINES. As in bits of font faces. He gets other people's design work, and converts the artwork to file formats using a program he bought for less than a hundred bucks. Then he sells the output, even has a catalog and a blog. The market is made up of people using the bits for embroidery work. So his Web site is a commercial design resource. He is selling the output of a program other people could for get themselves, if they knew better. Hey, at least he is doing something with some meaning. When I think of potentially working at a bank, insurance company, telecom (done all of those), government, or any of a bunch of other types of companies, I get to feeling singularly demotivated. I feel like they really aren't worth it.

So as a friend of mine said when I asked him what the interesting problems were, "I haven't found a way to do things that are both interesting and which pay". It is incredibly depressing to contemplate that. So far it has held true. Makes me want to just toss this laptop, throw the company in, and just give up. What's the point, if I can't enjoy what I do?

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