Hindsight on Y2K and Global Finance

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As I read the New York Times' articles on capital liberalization policy, there appears a common thread with Y2K I've felt taking shape for quite a while in my reading and musings.

The article mentions "the importance of 'sequencing' - meaning that countries should liberalize capital flows only after building up bank supervision and a legal infrastructure."

Part of the reason we're in the Y2K hot water we're in is because corporations never directly thought of IT as the foundation of their business, so instead of investing in the minds and their permanency within an organization, spiraling salaries and retirement lured away the personnel. Having been in IT for many years, I'm always amazed at how much is invested in re-learning existing systems and procedures by new people (the replacements) for so little return.

As much wings as money can have (from short-term loans in one country to the next "big" emerging market), even more ethereal are the minds that build the infrastructure for the flow of finance. Yes, they leave code behind, but programmers expend a lot of unappreciated effort simply comprehending the history and the why and the methods and often soak it all in too late to be greatly useful.

To summarize, the problem in both arenas has been building on foundations that are not yet set. Too much fluidity... and compounded by the fact that we have little accountability as we reach farther for more. Will Robert Rubin be held to the fire for his shaping of US economic policy as applied to Asian nations? No. Instead he's part of the "Committee to Save the Planet" (see Time's cover).

But even more hidden, companies have come late to investment in their IT people and make it too easy for mobility, particularly governments, who can least afford the loss. And I don't just mean money spent on salaries, but even the inclusion of their ideas and warnings on issues they see that upper management cannot. Those ideas too often leave the very sphere where they would do the most benefit.

While I know Y2K and global finance will take their toll on our world as we know it, I regret that little will be learned about why we got in this mess in the first place. So for those pollyannas who think we will make it through, be warned that the same thinking that brought us here, even if things turn out passable, will encourage the next big "uh-oh." The Y2K bug is just a symptom, not a disease.

-- Brett (savvydad@aol.com), February 16, 1999


Dilbert Lives!!

Companies aren't even willing to pay programmers to document in any detail what they did and why -- or to get a tech writer to sit with them to document it.

Stupidity lives. In a low- or moderate-tech society, there is a lot of room for error. Problems don't usually propagate. A village or a tribe or a even a small country can go down the tubes, but elsewhere things go on with no effect. Not so in a high-tech interconnected world. Average people are what makes a society work. If the technology and processes are beyond the capabilities of the average person (as they are today) -- then "We're doommed. We're doomed, I tell ye." (My recolletion of someone else's favorite quote on this forum.)

-- A (A@AisA.com), February 16, 1999.

Right A! Dilbert indeed. savvy is *also* right. Good software engineers don't have to worry about going hungry.

I remember the day I quit my last job. After months of hassles and problems with the vp "CIO", I went in and quit. The sequence went something like this:

"I quit. My last day is 10 working days from yesterday." VP "I'm sorry to hear that. Where are you going?" ME "I don't know. I haven't looked for another job, yet." VP "You mean you quit without lining something else up?" ME "Correct, I can't stand it here anymore. I'd rather be unemployed than work here another day." VP "Well, are you going to hit the ship date for the maintenance release?" ME [incredulous]"That isn't scheduled for release for 3 months. And you haven't given my project enough resources, testing or otherwise as it is. How the hell is it going to ship in two weeks?" VP "Well, I thought as long as you don't have anything lined up, you can stay on until it ships." ME "Haven't you heard anything I've been saying? I just resigned because I cannot stand working with you or this chaotic company. I don't need the aggravation!" VP "Come now, I know how much pride you take in your work. You can't leave it undone." ME "We just shipped the first release. You then reassigned me to the dungeons, and then you decide that I can do a maintenance release concurrently. Don't you see a disconnect here? Why would I take pride in the dungeon?" VP "Well, we need more than two weeks to find a replacement for you. Give us enough time to do that." ME "We started our verbal sparring matches over this project 8 months ago. You questioned my commitment because I wasn't willing to sit in my cube for 80 hours each week. I had to do the work of four people and I did it in only 60 hour weeks. Instead of trying to extract the last drop of blood from me, perhaps you could have figured out how I was so 'efficient' and propagated to more projects." VP "Well, actually, there *is* a perception, ahh, still, that you are not committed to the company." ME "Then fire me!" VP "But you've already resigned!" ME "So you *DO* believe me after all." VP "Well, I don't have time for all these political gymnastics." ME "Neither do I. Which is why I'm leaving."

The VP then yanked some poor bastard off another project, and had me do a "braindump" - in the last 2 days I was there. I was given no time to document my project (500,000+ lines of code). I spent most of my last two weeks sojourning from one "goodbye luncheon" to another.

They eventually replaced me with three other people, and dropped one of the target platforms - for "marketing" reasons.

This is typically what happens to IT engineers and engineering managers that actually ship products.

I think he was most surprised that the engineer reared back and bit him in the butt.


-- Jollyprez (Jolly@prez.com), February 16, 1999.

Welcome to the club! I have a friend who was included in his company's remediation efforts, then transferred out due to a shortage of programmers in another section. They have 106 IT personnel on staff with 85 focusing on the remediation effort. OF those 106, they have turned over 90 people in one year. Care to guess how much documentation they've compiled? Care to guess the status of their Y2K tests? DUH! And the funny part is, as each module is completed, as they call it, they don't test them, they put them into storage until "all modules are remediated". To save money they imported personnel from India to help with the effort and of the 23 members of the staff that wrote the original legacy code, that's right, legacy code, 10 years ago, only two remain. I guess those two will be very busy Jan. 2, 2000.... Chuckling at the foolishness of the masses... John

-- John Galt (jgaltfla@hotmail.com), February 16, 1999.

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