Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The R-Word Chronicles, Vol. 7


Mostly, a recession is a spiritual slough that threatens to drag us down, a long overcast period that seems to drag on and on. Everybody develops their own strategy for coping with woes of indeterminate duration.

Pockets of hope--some of them fleeting--exist in every slow period. For starters, everybody knows that the clouds will clear reasonably soon--in a few quarters, or at the most a few years. Generally, we fancy ourselves with the notion that this rough patch won’t be all that deep, or all that long. Hence, recent headlines such as U.S. Recession will End in Q4, which take hope from the Bush administration’s and the Fed’s recent actions to stimulate the economy and ramp up regulation over a broader swath of the securities market in the wake of the subprime mortgage mess. But, quite frankly, I find myself unnerved by overly optimistic “government will come to our rescue” statements. Such as “these interventions are bound to have a positive impact on the economy.” And “these measures along with the renewed optimism about an anticipated change in presidential administration will pull the economy out the recession by Q4.” I hope these prophecies come true, but I have a degree in economics and know full well that government can just as easily mis-time its measures or otherwise destabilize an already shaky system.

Some draw hope from the globalization of the world economy, with steady demand growth in emerging markets such as India, China and Brazil offsetting any slack in the US and other established economic powers. Also, outsourcing, especially of IT-related jobs, will likely remain a growth industry, both offshore and domestically. Hence, the recent Computerworld article, Recession unlikely to curb H-1B demand, which notes that “[US] demand for foreign workers, including skilled software developers and other IT professionals, [is] still rising as economic conditions grow steadily worse.” It also notes that offshore IT outsourcing firms are going onshore to a degree to get around US visa limits, even in the face of a recession. “Last July, Wipro Ltd. announced plans to build a 1,000-worker software development center in Atlanta. And Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. said this month that it is opening a services delivery center near Cincinnati. Tata, which has more than 16,000 employees scattered at client sites in the U.S., plans to mostly hire locals -- initially, about 500 people -- at the new facility.”

And, of course, many take comfort in their ability to leverage diverse skills in order stay employable in tough times--especially if they’re an old codger like me who has been in the workforce for decades. Hence, a recent article in Computerworld, “Opinion: Building a recession-resistant career.” This opinion piece, written by an executive in an IT placement firm, dishes out the sort of all-purpose advice that applies in good times and bad, and at all stages in your career. “Those who continually update their skills and build their networks keep themselves in high demand when employers start tightening their belts.” And then it provides a list of IT skills currently in demand, most of them in app development and system admin. The piece also stresses “soft skills” such as problem-solving, business acumen and interpersonal communication to differentiate the most promising job candidates from the sullen, tangle-tongued uber-geeks of this world.

All fine and good, but nothing you’re not already doing out of sheer habit...I presume. Which leads me to one more point to close out this post. Since we’re dealing in the blindingly obvious, enduring recession--or any other streak of stormy weather--with your spirit intact is as simple as getting out of bed the same time every morning, looking at yourself in the same mirror, and telling yourself, a la an Al Franken character, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, gosh darn it, I’m employable.”

Or, hopefully, already employed. And hanging in there. Going out for coffee.