Techies Take Roads Less Traveled

Ask people what they think of the better-than-expected earnings report from Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO). Your informal poll may drum up more ho-hums than hoorays.

Analysts heralded Cisco’s favorable earnings numbers as a beacon for a resurgent technology sector, and this may be true. But many former Internet and technology workers are too busy to hang their hopes on market prophecies. They’re neck-deep in brand new careers.

You can’t pick up a newspaper or sit in a cafe these days without hearing stories about 180-degree career shifts. A software engineer labors happily at his new carpentry business. A marketing executive celebrates the grand opening of her flower shop. A CTO tries his hand at organic farming.

Will these kinds of career moves number high enough to be felt on a macroeconomic scale? Probably not. But the longer this downturn persists, the more likely it is that unemployed technologists will find new paths and be reluctant to return to high tech next year.

Closed Door Policy

So far in 2001, a reported 95,000 jobs have been lost at Internet companies — and some say rock bottom is still ahead. By sheer necessity, many of these laid-off workers have sought revenue sources outside the technology sector.

At first, dislocated workers might lean on unemployment benefits while they dabble in new professional endeavors. But as each passing month yields more dead ends for tech job seekers, many of them will opt to seek salaries elsewhere.

Some opportunistic workers have greeted their layoffs as chances to pursue long-postponed passions or alternative careers.

Future Perfect

Fast-forward to the fourth quarter of 2002. You are chatting with the owner of an outdoor recreation store as you gear up for a winter vacation.

The conversation naturally flows to career paths, and you learn that the store owner was laid off from his technology vice presidency two years before.

You tell him about your new job at a wireless Internet service company and ask him if he ever thinks of getting back into technology. He laughs.

Many technology professionals will hit their strides outside the technology industry and find new fulfilling ways to make money.

Funny Money

Will a beefier paycheck be enough to lure some leaf-turners back to high-tech next year? Perhaps.

But 2002 and 2003 salaries will pale in comparison to their 1999 and 2000 counterparts, and many workers will be too entrenched in newfound careers to consider another shift.

Besides, they might be happy with their new careers and proud to have mustered the gumption to dive into them.

The longer this technology slump lasts, the more idle workers will explore new avenues and the more time they will have to reorient their lives around new careers. And with domestic terrorism and overseas military activity spawning rampant uncertainty, the timeframe for an overall economic turnaround is uncertain at best.

Employer’s Market

Clearly, next year’s employers will still be able to recruit seasoned technologists, as there are plenty of thoroughbred techies who will ride out the slump.

Skill sets may stagnate and resume gaps will abound, but the supply of eager workers will be ample. Employers may have to indulge interviewees who will tell tales of tangential adventures taken during their time off, but in the end, talent will be there for the picking.

Just don’t be surprised if some of your former colleagues take a bit longer to respond to e-mails than they used to. They might be busy raising the walls of a new house or selling sleeping bags and hiking boots to re-energized former colleagues.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.


Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.


1 Comment

  • If we learned anything between excess and recess, it should be that doing what you love to do is THE work to pursue. While the moment has given us a glimpse of the future it will truly be what we make of it. Made to be, by those driven by care or commerce, what we want it to be. The dawn ” Information Age” is only now beginning to show it’s light. The big bang of the new age is just ahead of us. The history of the railroads as an industry shows us the lesson before us now; They were a huge boom and bust in the beginning, before we figured out how they really should work and by survivorship the profitable business model evolved. When it did, the railroad business boomed like never before imagined. This is about to take place in the Internet, world wide web, e-mail, v-mail, e-commerce, web-publishing, video conferencing, distance learning, telemedicine, downloading, telecommuting, fiber optic, instant messaging, universal messaging, wireless, data-enhanced, digital world. Knowledge is the ultimate resource, and the only inexhaustible resource.The irony is that the world will only be improved by those individuals willing to champion an idea, dream, cause, commerce or community.

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