close this bookVolume 2: No. 39
View the documentNews -- research industry
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View the documentDiscussion -- empowerment

If you have free time, check out Forbes' 9/14 75th-anniversary issue. A dozen famous scholars write about "Why We Feel So Bad" despite the greatest prosperity in history. We seem to be missing community, stability, purpose, and social progress. Peggy Noonan comments that "There is no margin for error anymore. Everything has to continue as it is for us to continue with the comfort we have. And we do not believe that everything will continue as it is."

A survey of U.S. men shows 1989-dollar median wages for 25-34-year-olds dropping by $2,500/decade. The College+ group was the only exception, with wages constant at $29K from 1979 to 1989 after dropping $3K the previous decade. The College+ group also show slow earnings growth in their 30s, leveling off in middle age, and sharp declines in later years. The "some college" group makes $22.5K, high school graduates $20K. Dropouts make only $13K by age 25-34. If trends continue, we can expect our incomes to decrease and our children to make even less. [Gannett News Service. SJM, 9/6.]

On average, college graduates earn 52% more than high school graduates (up from 26% a decade ago) -- but that may be due to high school graduates being forced into dropout-level work. 20% of 1980s BAs work in clerical or assembly-line jobs, up from 10% before 1970 and possibly exceeding 30% by 2005. Incomes for the unfortunate fifth typically stagnate or even decline, making a college degree a risky investment -- yet college enrollment is going up even as job openings decline. [NYT. SJM, 8/16.] Good news for professors if college degrees become necessary for most jobs. Also good for the computer industry, if the clerical workforce can handle complex information tasks.

Corptech's survey of 2K software companies shows 6.7% average growth this past year. 27% of the companies grew, 12% shrank, and 2.3% were out of business. 5.5K additional jobs were created, with 7%-10% growth everywhere except NY, the Eastern Great Lakes, and the Mid-Atlantic. [CW, 9/7.] On the other hand, the computer business has lost 154K jobs since 1989. [Charles A. Skorina, SJM, 9/21.]

Many companies now encourage shorter job tenures to get fresh ideas and broad experience. Past tenures of outplacement candidates have averaged 12.5 years in 1984, 8-9 years through most of the 1980s, and 6-7 years at present. Changing jobs every few years is now the norm. Two thirds of discharged managers do not relocate. Finding a new job takes just over three months for a motivated executive, just as it did 10 and 20 years ago. (For Fortune 1000 companies near Chicago?) [James E. Challenger, outplacement consultant, (312) 944-2299. PR NewsWire, 8/27. agentsee.]

You need computing skills to keep your job, but any learning of new skills will be on your own time. Home computing doesn't give you more free time, it just lets you do more work. [Tom Miller, Link Resources Home/Office Research. Mike Hogan, PC World, 5/92.]

I previously mentioned that people have only so many good lines of code in them, and tend to run out by age 35. John Campbell (j.campbell@cs.ucl.ac.uk) reports on a 70-year-old staffer of his acquaintance who extended his programming life by padding lines of correct code with large numbers of incorrect ones. :-)

A survey of microcomputer support professionals found high stress and job dissatisfaction due to ambiguity, confusion, inadequate training, obsolescence, and lack of an advancement path. Attitude, education, and experience help, and humanities graduates were the least stressed. [Magid Igbaria, Drexel. James Daly, CW, 8/31.]

If your hobbies aren't synergistic with your work, you'll fall behind those dedicated to a single goal. It happens to most of us eventually, but we can still lead, manage, serve, or train others. Falling behind isn't so terrible.

Sally Cusack interviewed two CIOs with very different backgrounds. Nicholas Rudd got an MBA, then started an executive career that led to management of information departments. He spends much of his time understanding and supporting the needs of his corporation. Richard M. Nydick started with an MS in computer science, but with courses in business, economics, and manufacturing. He's never found the lack of an MBA to be a handicap, once he's gotten past the first interview -- but some of his jobs have required the Master's in CS. [CW, 8/31.] A business perspective is essential in the business world.

Ken and Roberta Williams started Sierra On-Line with Mystery House, a text-and graphics game inspired by Colossal Cave (aka Adventure) and by an Agatha Christie novel, "And Then There Were None." It sold 3,200 copies at $25 each. They now own 13% of a company valued at $120M, plus $4.5M they've made on stock sales. Ken is CEO; Roberta designs games and makes $300K/year in royalties. Staff has grown from 175 to 565 in just the last two years, partly to handle sales of a million Leisure Suit Larrys. It looks like success, but Ken is battling imminent financial collapse. Five years ago, Sierra could develop a new computer game in six months and introduce it for $600K. Now it takes a year and $1M-$2M, which still doesn't guarantee enough artistic quality to succeed among tough competitors. The company had a losing quarter even with 18 games out this year and revenues heading toward $60M/year. Investors are worried about Ken's aggressive bookkeeping practices, and may soon oust him for someone "more businesslike." [Roula Khalaf, Forbes, 9/28.]

T.J. Rodgers, CEO of Cypress Semiconductor, says he's "a free man" after suffering three bad quarters. He can now work on five-year plans rather than maximizing quarterly results. He spends several days each week focusing on new designs and technologies, examining marketing opportunities, and considering strategic partnerships. He's hired a VP to worry about day-to-day fine-tuning, should the company ever become profitable enough to interest Wall Street again. [Steve Kaufman, SJM, 8/17.]

Jerry White, director of SMU's Caruth Institute of Owner- Managed Business, is co-author of "The Entrepreneur's Master Planning Guide." He says that successful entrepreneurs typically have self-confidence, stamina, realism, self-motivation, and a willingness to take calculated, hedged risks. They have little need for status symbols, can see to the core of business problems, and perceive the big picture while taking care of details. Self-confidence is the most prominent trait, directed toward controlling one's own destiny. [Diana Kunde, The Dallas Morning News. SJM, 9/20.]

We are in a second Renaissance, according to Rand futurist Carl H. Builder. In the first, the church lost control to national governments. In the second, nation-states and businesses are losing control to the individual. [Robert Bellinger, EE Times, 6/15.] Depending on government policies, of course.

Author/consultant Dan Shafer has relinquished his regular column space in PC AI. He has seen a great many companies die of "competitive furor" and "Not Invented Here." A few AI techniques have entered the software mainstream, and Dan still has hopes for the field. He'd like to see AI companies support each other instead of fighting for market share. [PC AI, 10/92.]

Bernie Zilbergeld has said goodbye as a Computer Currents columnist. After seven years of trying out new hardware and software, he says it's time to quit tinkering and get on with his psychology practice and book writing. He wants to use computers "as an adult does," to help with his work. [CC, 7/1.]

Peter G.W. Keen reports that email, call forwarding, voice mail, online databases, plain-paper fax, laptops, and an imaging system (all for $30K) have helped his International Center for Information Technologies (ICIT) boost productivity and service while cutting back from 50 employees to 7, and then to 2.5 plus outsource support. Peter finds it's quicker to do non-repetitive jobs yourself than to instruct someone else. He now lives in a national park on St. John in the Virgin Islands, but customers think he works from Washington, DC. Peter is also a visiting professor at Fordham University, and managed to publish two books last year. (It used to take two years per book when his time was spent on management duties.) [CW, 7/22.]