Taking a break from finishing up the first draft of my book,
I noticed today that Tim O’Reilly posted
a link
to an insightful discussion about today’s “hostile
tech environment".

I couldn’t help but chime in with a few comments of my own. What started as a quick paragraph turned into a small essay, so I’m cross posting here.

I like the phrase "hostile environment" in this context. The planet Earth was a hostile environment for dinosaurs before they all died, too.


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These sentiments are remarkably similar to those expressed in my upcoming book. While predators such as Lou Dobbs feed on the fears of Americans, urging them to blame their companies, their government, and their offshore competitors—anyone but themselves—as an industry we’re missing the point. There is no "bad guy". Economic forces are changing the face of the software industry. As programmers, if we continue to fail to hang on to our traditional jobs, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Jonathan Shapiro is right to doubt the viability of tariffs and other government intervention as a "long-haul" solution. His suggestions are powerful and relevant. However, I find it disturbing that his solutions center on wide sweeping political and economic change rather than change from the bottom up.

His message implies that the changes that need to take place are not things that each of us can make personally. The only individual course of action proposed is the formation of unions while we lobby against the practices of our employers. As he said, it’s in the employers’ best interest to hire at the lowest price. Ultimately, is it not also in the **economy’s** best interest?

If we’re in reinvention mode, why not start with ourselves? "Success" in the software profession can’t continue to be defined as it has been in the past. Shapiro’s message loses consistency at the end. It’s as if he’s urging programmers to hang on for dear life while the economy sorts itself out. It’s this kind of lazy, "Someone else will do it for me" attitude that has put livelihoods at risk.

We need to take control of our careers. And, that doesn’t mean fighting over pennies and trying to win our old jobs back. If the "value isn’t in the software", then fighting for your old programmer job is a sure-to-be-bloody battle over an increasingly insigificant prize.