A year of change and learning

Here are some of the buzzwords and techno-lingo I encountered in the year: Java servelets, terabytes, connectivity, DSL, iTV, Microsoft, Paul Swain, leveraging, hyperbolic tree technology; and for you dot-commers, cashflow problems, share price collapse and receivership.

What a year 2000 has been. Certainly one of change.

As the millennium arrived for me in Hagley Park, Christchurch, not employed and taking a tiki tour of the South Island, I stood waiting for the lights to go out (however briefly). They did not. Thanks to you clever techies out there, the world was spared the fun of economic collapse and catastrophe; and eventually you found me a job.

Now, there are those who say this column should have more/some IT in it. One or two of you kindly wrote in to say so. For others, this is why you like it so much. So for the IT lovers/haters, here are some of the buzzwords and techno-lingo I encountered in the year - the rest can cover your ears while you read the next sentence. Java servelets, terabytes, connectivity, DSL, iTV, Microsoft, Paul Swain, leveraging, hyperbolic tree technology; and for you dot-commers, cashflow problems, share price collapse and receivership.

Now we we can get back to business.

The year revealed several themes relating to employment matters, and a huge learning curve for me. I left the world of general newspaper journalism for the specialism - yes it's a word - of information technology.

First, I learnt the hard way there is no point grieving over an old, much-loved position, no matter how unfair the departing. Slagging off your old employer at interview does not always go down too well, even if he is widely recognised as a useless, incompetent tosser, with a growing history of business failure. Had I not been so bitter, I could well have been the spokesman of TUANZ, with my colleagues writing about me.

More advice: do not be overambitious in going for something a little too different in your enthusiasm/desperation for a job. Would I really have been at home test-driving 40-tonne trucks as editor of NZ Trucking magazine? While that genuinely sounded fun, the motoring guy from the Nelson Mail, who got the job, was perhaps more suitably qualified.

Despite feigning enthusiasm, I doubt I would also have gained much pleasure from the senior posts at the electrical trades and building industry magazines, where I also made the final few.

And if the sun had shone in Blenheim one dreary day in December, where I was actually offered the job, who knows? However, I eventually arrived at Computerworld and my first move to Auckland.

So what have I learnt? Screeds of technical stuff, including the fancy words I mentioned earlier. Java servelets, for example, used to sound like something you get from the butcher. In addition, I found that specialising in employment matters a raft of issues confirmed my own beliefs and experience. As a Pom, I have noticed New Zealand is obsessed with cost-cutting. This often backfires. I saw it at my former place of work, which is now shut down. Then, only last Monday, NZ Post missed out on $38 of non-postage business because they failed to employ sufficient staff at lunchtime. On seeing the queue, I put stuff back on the shelves and bought my cards and calendars at Whitcoulls.

Treating staff like slaves is also bad for business, especially in IT, as they will soon find greener pastures. Letting them have input into the enterprise works, as does flexibility. Perks like "toys" and decent coffee also helps, though I cannot imagine much enthusiasm in Freemans Bay now for Advantage Group share options.

Money is not everything, but salaries should maintain a decent living standard and not lag too far behind that offered by rivals. Flexibility, education and adaptability are also essential. I had to change to get this job. Many techies earn huge sums because they learnt the internet languages and other skills in greatest demand. And by keeping up to date they will maintain their biggest pay packets.

The "brain drain", or "circulation" if you like, is an increasingly important issue, which “On the Job” has widely covered. Our government is obviously so worried, it hopes to keep people here by letting the Aussies remove welfare benefits and free education to future Kiwi migrants and their children. Helen Clark obviously does not want New Zealand to pay these benefits anymore - which is hardly surprising since we’re now far too poor for decent defences or even Christmas lights on the big pine outside Premier House.

However, in support of the coalition, I must say the Employment Relations Act was no big deal in the end. Big business overreacted and can share the blame for the economy’s mid-winter blues. In a roundabout way, that pretty much covers this column and the issues for 2000.

And as we enter the "real" millennium of 2001, I will raise my glass to you all, wherever I am - be it the Coromandel, Lower Hutt or Vanuatu. One thing is certain, though, it won’t be Auckland for this country boy.

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