The Three Layers and How They’ve Changed

When I started out in the software business, it used to be called either “programming” or “computer science,” not this weird “IT” term which always makes me think of income tax.

For the middle class mind set at that time (1985), this was a strange new beast and the middle class never likes strange or new:

“The only job you’ll get is in the Department of Statistics in the Ministry of Labour,” counselled a particularly annoying uncle.

“It’s just typing on an electronic keyboard,” said another educated-beyond-his-mental-capacity  friend-of-the-dad.

Well, I didn’t listen to them, and you shouldn’t listen to me either for career advice. But I do want to point out something which I observed a few years ago. It comes from hundreds of interviews I’ve done, starting in 1996.

A very real example interview session started going like this:

Interviewer: “Why did you pick computer science in engineering?”

Candidate: “I was always interested in computer (sic) in school.”

Interviewer: “I’m interested in movies, but I’m not an actor. Why did you pick computer science as your major?”

Candidate, smiling weakly and thinking: “Oh hell, I got the crazy dude. This wasn’t what my seniors told me about!”

Turns out, thanks to what the industry calls “mass recruiters,” the industry has successfully managed to turn “IT” into a “secure job.” Which means, just like the older secure jobs, there’s a formula to get into it, and if you don’t play the formula, you’re the crazy dude.

So in 1985, what all those kindly “uncles” and “aunts” wanted us to do was layered thus:

  1. Secure job: Government Service. Preferably an I*S officer of some sort.
  2. Secure job, but more money: Public Sector. CMC (remember them?)
  3. Poor fellow: Works in private sector.

Today the layers are a trifle different, but the mind set is the same:

  1. Secure job: Mass Recruiter of choice. 
  2. Secure job: MNC of some sort. USA based, of course, otherwise you fall down in the layers a bit.
  3. Poor fellow: works in a start up.

And there you have it folks, the middle-classification of “IT.”

No wonder we can’t be the first to port Unix to Intel any more (Wipro in late 80s), or build a world class switching system (C-DOT), or a supercomputer worth its name (C-DAC). 

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