Friday, July 04, 2014

Non-Technical People Should Not Be Allowed To Work In IT

I've been saying for years "I can't wait for all the Baby Boomers to die off or retire so we can actually get some work done."

I don't know what it's like to be an IT Professional in other industries, but from people I've talked to, it's pretty much the same everywhere.  Aaron Cleary's writing about his work in the banking industry sounds exactly like what I deal with working in IT in my industry.

Like many other people in my generation (Gen-X), my career has been hampered by those in the Baby Boom generation. We have these old people who are afraid of change who won't get out of the way so we can move up. Many of them are inherently corrupt, lazy, or incompetent. Those with little IT experience (or interest) have worked their way into IT management, then hooked their equally incompetent friends up with jobs in IT management. Those who actually have some IT experience are "old Unix guys" who can't or won't adapt to a modern Windows environment. If they do, they're still stuck in the WinXP days.

Windows XP


Case in point: around 2008, Microsoft announced it would end support for Windows XP in 2013. In 2011, they extended this to 2014. That date came and went. Even with 6 years notice, there are still systems running with Windows XP. The United States Navy (an employer I have worked for in varying capacities over the years), was absolutely shocked when XP support ended. 6 years is simply not enough time for the Baby Boomers running the Navy's IT to plan for, research, STIG, and upgrade to a newer Windows Operating system. So the Navy got a contract with Microsoft to extend XP support yet another year.

But I'm not just picking on the Navy. Many hospitals and doctor's offices are still using XP. Like the Navy, they bought a shitload of applications that were literally hardcoded to work only on Windows XP. The developers of these applications are either out of business, or staffed by the same incompetent Baby Boomers and simply cannot create or modify these applications to work in a newer operating system.

Even though we're now on Windows 7, there is no "roadmap" for how we'll deal with 7's end of life. None. They seem to plan to let the road run out and scramble to catch up or hope they can cut a deal with Microsoft to ensure support past end of life. Windows 8 has been out for a while, and Windows 9 is due to come out next year. I doubt Microsoft will be stupid enough to leave an operating system in service as long as they did for XP.

Telework


This is another topic that annoys me to no end. Despite the fact that I have the technology and discipline to work pretty much anywhere in the world at any time of day, I'm stuck in a heuristic where "you're not working unless your ass is in a chair at a physical spot in space and time where I can see you."

The ONLY thing I can do while I'm physically in the office that I can't elsewhere is bullshit with my colleagues. And have lunch together. But thanks to the proliferation of cubicles and open plan offices, when I'm at the office, it's much harder to concentrate. There's a lot of activity and noise. I've taken to keeping a set of earplugs at my desk so that when I'm on a conference call, so I can cut the distractions coming into my other ear out and actually hear what is being said.

I sit next to a supervisor with 6 needy employees who are hovering around all day long. I personally like most of them, but it is very hard to work when 3 or 4 of them need attention and direction. There are few offices which only go to the politically connected Baby Boomers, and there's only one conference room for the entire organization, so this is the only option we have.

Conference Calls


We have the technology to run meetings through our computers. We have that Adobe conference software (whatever it's called) that allows voice and video. But Baby Boomers aren't comfortable with that, so every time we have a meeting, we have to get teleconference lines. We still use the Adobe software for Power Point, but we also need phones.

Outdated Browser and no Wi-fi


Our work laptops don't have Wi-fi. At my last job, I had a telework laptop with a wi-fi chipset. But not on my current job. There is no intention of providing a wi-fi chip. They remove them when the laptop is delivered. When I telework, I have to put my work laptop in the bedroom next to the router. Alternately, I have another router I can plug into. I share the Internet connection from another Windows laptop to the router and plug the work laptop into the router. That way, I can use my work laptop for work specific stuff, and sit right next to my MacBook Pro that solves another problem, namely, IE8.

My organization still uses IE8. Period. There are no other options. At least it's a step up from IE7, which was had just a year and a half ago. The lazy, incompetent Baby Boomers who run our Cybersecurity (used to be Information Assurance, but now everybody wants to be a "cyber-warrior") won't go to the trouble to research what it will take to STIG a newer version of IE. I know, another problem is a lot of the internal web applications we use are also not compliant with a more current browser. Again, the idiot lazy Baby Boomers. When we went from IE7 to IE8, there was no end of trouble getting web applications to work.

Whenever I bring this up, I'm told "everything you need works". Yeah, it's not just that. Hardly anything works on IE8 anymore. Gmail, Netvibes, etc. don't support it anymore. Some sites won't work entirely.

When Google Reader shut down last year (I am still willing to trade gmail to get Google Reader back), I started looking at alternatives. I had to go with one that still worked on IE8 and wasn't blocked. I settled on Netvibes. Netvibes has developed an unforgivable refresh. I'll be in the middle of a post, and the page refreshes. I'm going to switch to Feedly, but it doesn't work on IE8.

Workforce


We recently had a "Town Hall" for IT people in our organization. I presented our network unification plan at that town hall. Another speaker got up to give his presentation. He addressed workforce. He said "I don't think we have the right workforce." I mumbled "No shit" under my breath. He also said he wants to be able to attract people from Stanford and MIT. I talked to him later and said "You'll never be able to." See, in my industry, they bring in these bright young minds, who take a look at our setup and leave immediately. They discover we're still running Windows XP and Windows 7, Office 2010, Internet Explorer 8. They discover that many of the great collaboration tools they want to use are blocked. We block Evernote. We block Google Docs. We block Prezi. We still allow Gmail and Facebook, but performance on those are drastically hindered on IE8. And so these bright young minds say "to hell with this" and leave.

They also find out that telework, while officially encouraged in organizational policy, isn't unofficially encouraged. Most Baby Boomer managers are not comfortable with it. You might get one day a week, or telework is situational, like during snowstorms.

A lot of our management is incompetent. I can sometimes accomplish work on my personal systems, which I will do when I telework. But our Outlook Web Access isn't configured to support anything newer than IE8. I can't read signed messages on my personal system. I have to take my work laptop out of the bag, connect to a router, connect VPN, and use Outlook whenever I get a signed or encrypted message. I asked the manage in charge of this "when can we expect OWA to be compliant with newer versions of IE?" and he gave me a blank look. He didn't understand what I was talking about. And this is supposed to be his job.

I was so looking forward to the Exchange 2010 upgrade, but they botched it so bad, I want to go back to OWA on Exchange 2003. At least I could read signed messages on IE11.

Gen Y


In addition to the Baby Boomers, I almost laugh at Gen Y. The few tools the Baby Boomers have approved, Gen Y hates and mostly refuses to use. We have a clunky Jabber client that works OK. Most of my Gen Y team refuses to use it. They'd rather use Gchat (blocked) or Facebook Messenger (not blocked, but bogs my work laptop down dramatically). So I have both a Baby Boomer boss and a team of late 20's/early 30's people who refuse to use Jabber.

Conclusion


We need to get Baby Boomers out of IT so we can get some work done. But they're not going anywhere. I'll probably retire before they do.
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