Letters

Readers share tales of woe inspired by Farhad Manjoo's "Take This Tech Job and Shove It."


Salon Staff
March 20, 2003 1:30AM (UTC)

[Read the story.]

I laughed my ass off reading Farhad Manjoo's article "Take This Tech Job and Shove It." I'm not a Web designer, but a print designer, and if you think it's rough looking for a job with a tech skill set, try looking for one when you're expected not only to know everything to do with the print world (inks, papers, die-cuts, bindings) and design fabulous promotional pieces (everything from business cards to billboards), but now prospective employers want you to be able to maintain their Web sites and post all of their new promotions online as well!

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The typical ad expects you to have mastered the usual print programs: Quark, Illustrator, Freehand, Photoshop, but also Java, HMTL, Flash, Dreamweaver, and a whole bunch of networking stuff that I can't even spell, let alone do.

And all for $25,000 a year!

Needless to say, I'm pursuing other avenues of work after six years in this industry.

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-- Victoria Frayne

I just have to say, working in the tech field myself, that I have absolutely no sympathy for people like "Justin Market." I graduated with my degree in computer science back in April 2001, right smack in the middle of the tech bust, and it's people like young Mr. Market that have made the market what it is. I would have been happy to come out of school making a decent salary, in the $35-40K range, but companies are lashing out after realizing they paid way too much for people with way too few qualifications. This is why they are now asking for the world, and not willing to pay anything for it.

He says that at his last job he was making $125K, and now he has to "settle" for jobs in the $80-90K range. Poor baby! Oh, but he's discovered yoga -- good for him. Maybe he can meditate some cash my way while he's sitting in his million-dollar house. Then I could maybe afford to wash my clothes this week.

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-- Ryan Waddell

Good article. It does a good job illustrating what passes for a job ad these days. However, I'd like to add the following about the situation in tech:

Job ads were overspecified even at the height of the dot-com boom. A lot of that had to do with convincing the Department of Labor that there were no "qualified" local candidates available. This allowed the company to hire a cheap (and also unqualified) indentured foreign worker on an H-1B visa, instead of, for instance, somebody over 40.

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Now that the boom is over, the H-1B visa program is unfortunately still in effect and (along with the L-1 visa) displacing workers. Many of the ads specifying a set of unrelated skills are tailored to fit an H-1B candidate whom the company has already hired.

-- Mike Gollub

Good enough article, I suppose, but it contained nothing you couldn't learn from 10 minutes of browsing the CraigsList job forums.

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A little bit of info from the employer's point of view would have greatly improved it. What do employers think? Are they gloating about how it's time for payback? Do the 100s of résumés any job posting generate freak them out as much as the total lack of response freak out prospective employers? How can they infamously ask for ten years of Java experience when the language hasn't been around that long?

A discussion of the legality of the unpaid internships would have also greatly improved the article. What does the law say about them, anyway?

-- Walt Roberts

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The tech work picture is not completely bleak. If you are willing to work for the federal government or for a federal government contractor, the job market is "not bad." In addition to the needs generated by 9/11, a large wave of federal worker retirements is expected over the next 5-10 years. This represents an opportunity.

-- David Finley

I'm a tech recruiter and I thought I was imagining things when I read the job reqs coming across my desk from clients.

They want developers with five years Net experience (when it's only been released for two years, at most), they want engineers who've worked in niche environments supporting 250+ servers, they want desktop help who can program, architect, design, config and have great customer service as well. They want professionals who can take the moon, make it purple, wrap it in a bow and do it for only $35/hour. Insane.

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And depressing. Budgets are smaller and firms are looking for ways to do the most with the least people. Every day, I talk with tech people on both sides of the desk and every day I feel like Sisyphus rolling a rock up an increasingly steep hill.

-- (Name withheld)

Being an ex-dot-commer, I fully appreciate the frustrations many of us are feeling right now. But I find the bitching and moaning ridiculous. The tech industry has never treated its employees that well, as Les and his net-slaves site would attest. I wrote a passionate article for the site a few years ago, documenting the mistreatment I received while working dot-coms. The most personal being not allowed to take time off to see my dying grandfather because of a launch, and being set up as if I was fired when I decided to quit. I was seen as a "traitor" of the company, and had to be removed immediately by escort. (That's in two separate companies and not by the same coldhearted boss.) Somehow I think people have glamorized the paycheck they received, forgetting the 140-hour weeks, including weekends and holidays.

I also think it's ridiculous that people are embarrassed at being in a dot-com. Some people struggle all their lives to make a living. Many people in their late 20s are scraping by. Even if they have college degrees. I never knew that here was something wrong with not making a 129K a year. If so, one should not be hanging out with those people. It has far more to do with your attitude if someone thinks of you as a "poor slob."

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When I meet people I tell them I worked in dot-coms and as they know it all died, and I have to find other means to live. We have a laugh about it. I tell them about the great parties and the glory days. I know I afforded some nice pieces of art, some expensive clothes and gathered some great travel stories. For that I am grateful.

Like Les, I truly love the Net and know that the advances we made during that time were unprecedented in the history of technology. I am proud I was part of it.

And the greatest thing about technology is that it's about change and the unsentimental view of the future. And for those in the industry who are clinging to a time past, they need to bring the driving ideology of their work life and adapt it to their personal lives.

-- Yan Sham-Shackleton

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OK, I'm a tech dude and I've been out of work for five months. And, I've been really looking for work for all those months.

Largely, the article reflects my experience. I can't tell you how many times I've heard recruiters say: "You need the exact experience wanted." However, I have one question that remains unanswered: How are those jobs designed for Superman (actually two full-time positions in the "old economy") getting filled?

Schedules and deliverables go on whether there are people at work or not. Someone needs to design the circuit, write the code, lay out the manual page, etc. Is Superman appearing just in time? Or, are employers eventually saying (like it was in the old economy), "Hey, two out of three [qualifications] ain't bad. Let's hire this dude, and get the job done. He doesn't have two heads, he's got good communications skills, and we don't have to deal with sponsorship."

-- J. P. DeFord


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