Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Velocity of Hi Tech

At big outdoor festivals, sometimes parents will bring their children to me for a reading. Interesting how perceptive some kids are and what kinds of questions they come up with.

Yesterday, I read for a 10 year old boy who says he has his own website. It is altogether possible that this boy knows something about computers and websites that I don't. Kind of a stunning thought for me. When I was 10, all I knew about was baseball and bicycles. I didn't even know about girls yet. That is still in this boy's future too.

Amazing how rapidly all this changes. Just 10 years ago, IT was still a sort of prestigious job that paid well. Today, the giants in the computer industry are busy remaking it into another minimum wage job. They are paying around $10 an hour for new contractor hires. By comparison, you can get paid $10 an hour for walking somebody else's dog, cleaning houses, being a clerk in a retail store, or working in some fast food restaurants. It's all just a grind on the same income level.

Since the housecleaning, dog walking and fast food jobs can't be shipped to India, they have more job security than somebody who works in IT. Ironic, eh? People usually have the impression that I make a lot more money than I do when they hear what company I work for, but that is an impression left over from when they used to have mostly American employees and actually pay them well. Layoffs and pay cuts among the experienced, better paid people are the norm now. And there are people further up the food chain whose jobs are going to India too.

So next time you call someone because you are having trouble with your computer, if they speak English as a first language, don't be surprised if they ask you if you want fries with that. It is simply a reflexive response left over from their last job or their second job. Some of the new hires have never done anything but hamburger work or burrito work before. Initially, they think that this is pretty cool, but it takes a while for them to see the big picture. The guy sitting next to me supports his family by delivering pizzas after he finishes his shift on the glorious Global Services Team for the day. On that job, he makes more than he does here, but not many people want to spend their whole life delivering pizzas.

The thing the company likes best about the new global economy is that they can hire people in India for about $4 an hour. That is what is meant when you hear about a company called India Business Machines. We have seen IT jobs run the cycle from good paying, prestigious jobs to minimum wage whatever jobs in the space of just 10 years, the life span so far of the young man at the beginning of this story.

Who knows what the world will be like when this 10 year old Bill Gates look alike enters the world of work?

Then again, the discovery of girls may alter his course one day. Who knows what will happen then?

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