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Geeks should 'outsource themselves' - Mongolian BoFH

Can do spirit ordered in China

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Servers? What servers? Oh, those servers

Panic was starting to set in. I rounded up some of the people from telephony (next door), got some rolls of black poly tape, and gave them some quick lessons in how to twisty-splice CAT5. While the pedal-powered server convoy lumbered toward my server room, we cut patch cords and cobbled together a dozen or so of the highest loss cables you might imagine.

The servers arrived, and the cab peddlers carried boxes, cables, monitors, and such to the server room. I got the servers slapped together in short order, and mostly up. A few all-nighters later, things were more or less running normally. I got all the parts for my whitebox server, put it together, and started the process of centralizing from 6 different servers to 2. One primary and a backup.

A couple of weeks later, I got a shiny new set of crimpers and replaced the last cobbling. A couple of months later, my servers are up all the time. My users are amazed at the speed and reliability. I no longer spend all my time responding to little emergencies.

The server room story is not really an example of "normal IT" here. It is an example of what I did to establish myself as someone who takes responsibility and gets the job done. A person can still do that sort of thing here.

Jobs? What Jobs? Oh, those jobs

Now, back to the question of outsourcing. In my opinion, yes, many jobs in Western IT are likely to be outsourced. I think it is because Western IT has been taken over by marketing departments and plug-and-play experts. Most people involved in IT in the West are either specialists of one sort or another, with very specific skills; or they are generalists to the point where they no longer have any specific skills at all.

Here in China, they teach IT students how computers operate. Students learn about ergonomics, and they learn where to find specific information and how to apply it to the real world. They learn how to do their jobs, but they don't learn about "can-do," or self-reliance. Those are Western things that don't fit on a curriculum.

My drive to get the job done comes from "Western culture." I don't mind getting my hands dirty, and I think it is still the case that many Westerners have a "can-do" attitude that makes them well suited to handling quick decisions and getting things done. If a Chinese IT manager were in my position, there would still be 6 servers, and they would still be in the university server room. The network would still be slow, unresponsive, and inadequate.

The "can-do" of Western culture is slipping away, being replaced with "no-can-do." Western IT professionals have had their hands tied more and more over the past couple of decades. Middle management and marketing departments control IT departments now. Mediocrity is the order of the day. MCSE replaced common sense, and IT professionals are now a "cost unit."

IT is hot in China now. Sort of like it was a couple of decades back in the Western world. Mediocrity is showing signs of creeping in, however, and soon IT workers will be churned out by post-high school trade schools. Then the outsourced jobs can be re-outsourced to India. Then maybe to an African country. Then somewhere else.

On the other hand, there will always be a job for someone who can get things done. If you want job security, give up on the idea of specialization and a comfortable life of sitting around making up new acronyms. Get off your butt and diversify your skills. I don't mean go to college and learn plumbing theory; I mean learn how to actually do things. Meet people. Go outside. Then consider a management position in one of the "hot new places for IT."

Don't sit around being depressed by a threat of being outsourced; outsource yourself! If you are a native English speaker with IT skills and a can-do attitude, you are hot in the world IT market right now. The IT world needs your maverick spirit and can-do attitude! ®

You can reach Doctor John here.

Doctor John has been in China for the past four years. He has worked in a variety of IT positions and taught at BaoTou Teacher's College, Zhejiang University, and Inner Mongolia University for Nationalities. Doctor John was born in Spain, studied for his doctorate in the US, and has worked in many places worldwide. He now lives in Inner Mongolia.

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