Even programmers get the blues

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Published March 15, 2001 8:30PM (EST)

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Boo f*****g hoo. It appears that a significant portion of the tech workforce has either forgotten or was unaware in the first place that there was a recession in the early 1990s, and that thousands of middle- and upper-management executives at companies across the nation were "downsized." Why did technology workers think they weren't vulnerable to exactly this kind of cycle -- the same economic cycle that has driven this country's fortunes since the Industrial Revolution?

When you take the lamentations of these programmers who have to work for -- gasp! -- $60 per hour rather than $100, and combine them with the excuses proffered by the executives of many failed dot-coms (like the CEO of Pets.com, who amazingly claimed that the business failed not because there was no possible way for it to turn a profit given its pricing structure but instead because his venture capitalists chickened out), you get a picture of a group of people who have little concept of economic reality.

Please keep running these stories, as they provide rich satisfaction for me and everyone else who has had to toil a little. Now if only Time would retract the Man of the Year they gave Jeff Bezos for creating a company that loses hundreds of millions of dollars every quarter.

-- Earl Humphreys

One of the problems facing the job market is that many software projects are going overseas to countries with cheaper labor, like India, Bangladesh and Russia. In order to decrease the exporting of software jobs, we need an import tariff on software.

-- Amar Lohana

I'd like to point out that there is a serious difference between a real software engineer with a four-year bachelor's degree in computer studies and someone who has "Learned ASP in 24 Hours." No offense to people who write scripts for the Internet, but the practice of software engineering coupled with a thorough academic background is a much different creature!

It's notable that most of the "horror" stories depicted here are from people who have two-year associate degrees, doing Web animations, etc. Get a good degree from a good school, have a wide variety of experience and you will never have trouble finding work. But it's unrealistic for those who have degrees completely unrelated to a technical field, or no degrees at all, to expect to earn outrageous salaries for skills that may not be necessary in a few years.

-- Finny Thomas

Have any of your technology writers been outside the California/Washington state area? I read all these reports about programmers and network engineers making huge salaries and getting ridiculous bonuses like free cars and I have to wonder: Who are these people? I've never met a single one out here on the East Coast and I've been in the tech business for over five years. Then I realize that this must be some strange West Coast phenomenon, like working for a company that doesn't make money and then complaining about the lack of job security.

It's really hard to work up any sympathy for some programmer in his 30s complaining about a $90,000 salary. Is he really suffering or just whining? As a 20-something programmer with a great salary and work environment, I'm thankful I'm not one of the people really hit by the technology bust: the first-level support techs, the guys in the factory putting computers together and all the maintenance staff that cleaned those dog-fur-filled offices in Seattle. Those are the people singing the blues.

-- M.H. Lewis

By Salon Staff

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