The drain of New Zealand year 2000 skills to the United Kingdom is accelerating, says Daniel Jackson, who returned recently after working in the UK for nine months as project manager on Europe’s largest banking Y2K exercise.
“Project managers earn $10,000 to $15,000 a week,” he says.
“When I left, every man and his dog was turning up. I was meeting people from year 2000 projects in New Zealand, and they were indicating many more were planning to come.”
Jackson’s employer tried to persuade him to stay. He was offered a house, a car, private schooling for his son, an allowance for his wife and a basic pay hike. However, business interests in New Zealand dissuaded him from staying.
“In England, the gloves have come off. They’re really focused and running scared. Wages are going up all the time — I don’t know how New Zealand will compete because wages seem to have shifted very little here.”
On his first day in England, Jackson was offered a permanent job at £100,000. He chose instead to contract. “The project I was working on was typical. It had begun 18 months before but had been mismanaged and mis-run. They’d gone in and remediated code without planning. There was no testing, quality assurance or documentation, and the original people had moved on with the information in their heads.
“People running Y2K projects typically work for the organisation. It’s quite career-limiting if you have to ask for more funds or provide bad news, so the bad news is withheld.”
Jackson had worked on four Y2K projects in New Zealand, most recently at the Bank of New Zealand, so probably has as good a handle on the issue as anyone.
“I still don’t know what will happen to the world,” he says. “However, for the financial institutions, I believe it will be as bad as the press makes out.
“There’s going to be a lot of mopping up work after the millennium and I think that will absorb IT budgets, so there won’t be spending for a few years on new technology. We may see a world recession.”
He says the European Monetary Union is as big an issue in the UK as Y2K and another drain on budgets. “They have to have it in by the end of this year.”
With business soaking up skilled people, government departments are suffering. Jackson says the major issue is in health organisations. “Wages are half — they can’t afford it. There are some big issues with embedded chips.”
That, he says, is also likely to be a major problem in New Zealand. “People may die.”