Half of IT professionals are useless | IT Contractor

Half of IT professionals are useless according to Paul Knapp of Aussie contractor site Brainbox.

IT Professionals

People in IT often complain about recruitment agencies and third-world professionals, but rarely raise a voice in protest at the real blight on our industry. That is, the many useless people who work in it. Half of IT Professionals are useless.

I’m talking about the developers that can’t program and the network engineers that can’t design a topology. At a guess, I’d say half of those working in IT are completely useless.

They’re good at making themselves look useful by producing documents and calling meetings, but really they’re just dead weights. These are the people who’ve killed off business interest in IT and given the rest of us a bad name.

I bet 90% of the failed IT projects you hear about have these con-artists behind them.

The Worst IT Professionals

The worst IT Professionals are Business Analysts, Project Managers and those above them. Some are knowledgeable assets to their organisations, but the vast majority haven’t even bothered to learn the basics of their trade.

I’ve met people in charge of internet projects worth millions who don’t understand the basics of web development. I’m talking about guys who don’t even know what HTML is, let alone how it works. Yet they’re the ones calling the shots! No wonder so many projects fail.

Project Managers

Most Project Managers and BAs are little more than internal middle-men. They know less about the business than the business client and less about technology than the techies. Yet they’ll make damn sure the two sides never meet face to face.

IT professionals like Project Managers rarely invite the techies who built the product to demos, preferring to pretend that they produced the entire thing.

The amazing thing is that many of the useless millions are university educated in IT.

Never Written Code

There was a story in the Australian about a woman, who was an IT professional, who’s had a successful IT career at one of Australia’s largest companies openly admitting that she’s never written a line of code.

Can you imagine a partner in a law firm bragging to the national press that he’s never bothered to learn about reading and writing legal documents? How about a Chief Financial Officer admitting that she’s never been bothered with arithmetic?

Yet at all levels of IT management it’s a badge of honour to admit that you’re not technical.

Taxi Drivers

Ms O’Connor uses the typical excuse of the non-technical “technical” person: “She is interested in how technology can get users to where you want to go – the technology is not the end in itself.”

If I got into a taxi and the man behind the wheel told me he’d never learnt to drive because he was interested in discovering “how the taxi can take you where you want to go – the driving is not an end in itself”; I’d have to restrain myself from becoming violent.

Isn’t offering to solve customers’ technical problems using a limited understanding of technology a little like offering to operate on a patient using a limited understanding of anatomy?

Cutting Staff

In the same issue of the Australian, there was a report that Telstra will be cutting 10,000 staff over three years. Presumably this is because they’ve been disappointed with the return on investment from IT. I’m not surprised if they employ people who think that knowing the basics isn’t important.

The people making the big decisions about technology in business have no idea what they’re talking about. In fact they admit as much! Then senior management wonder why their IT strategies aren’t working.

If IT professionals and their customers made real efforts to cut out the 50% of con-men (and women) that have infiltrated our industry, we’d go a long way towards restoring confidence and growth.

Unfortunately, in the present environment, admitting that you’ve can’t be bothered to learn the basics is likely to get you promoted.

Greedy IT Contractors Have had their Come Uppance. An Agent

Greedy IT Contractors

I don’t know what prompted this, but we had the following email sent to us out of the blue from an agent (or at least someone purporting to be one). It is not one of our usual agents who are good enough to give us their views and job market information. Here it is:-

Too Greedy

It wasn’t too long ago that greedy IT Contractors were cock-a-hoop. They were getting huge rates.

The rates were going through the roof, and so much so that the costs for the companies that they supply (or their clients as they like to call them) went through the roof and made them internationally uncompetitive.

This was sheer greed on the IT Contractor’s behalf, and their own greed suffocated them as they piled more and more cash into their already stuffed-full mouths. It was their own greed that killed them.

It had reached such proportions that the Government had to introduce the Fast Track Visa system in order to bring down the costs of IT to companies that the greedy IT Contractors had pushed up.

How the greedy IT Contractors were cock-a-hoop in their fancy new cars and their lascivious lifestyles.

Proud Cockerels

The trouble with that is that one day you are a proud cockerel and the next you are a feather duster.

If IT Contractors had been less greedy,  their profession might not have got into the state it was in till fairly recently.

Many companies have decided now to bring in good professionals from outside the EU. They are much cheaper, and they don’t start getting greedy when the market is good.

Many companies won’t employ UK-based IT Contractors again because they were badly bitten by them last time

As the market picks up again, my advice to greedy IT Contractors would be to not be so greedy and keep their rates at reasonable levels.

They’ve got to start wooing the customer back again. It may be some time before customers have confidence in them again.

IT Contractor Comment

When rates were going up you said that IT Contractors were greedy. When rates were coming down is that because IT Contractors suddenly became not so greedy?

No, of course it isn’t. That’s just nonsense.

The rates that IT Contractors get isn’t normally driven by them, but by the market. If there are more jobs than IT Contractors then the rates go up. If there are more IT Contractors than jobs then we see the rates go down.

This is called the Laws of Supply and Demand, and it is one of the basic tenets of economics.

It is nothing to do whatsoever with greed.

Dodgy Agents | Golden rules for spotting them

Dodgy Agents

This article on Dodgy agents was posted to our Agency Affairs Forum by an honest recruiter who is ashamed of some of the tricks that his dodgier brethren get up to.

Golden Rules

Some golden rules to spot the dodgy agents:

1. You shouldn’t have to give any of your referee’s contact details until you have reached interview stage with a client.

Referees are usually line managers, i.e. hiring managers, i.e. someone a recruiter would call and try to sell to, instead of taking a reference from.

2. Do NOT give specifics to any recruiter about interviews you are going to. This is a golden lead to them and they will normally try to call the hiring manager and feed them more candidates, creating competition for you.

3. If you find a recruiter you can trust and work with, stick with them and build a relationship with them. It can work both ways.

4. If you have two offers to choose from, get the offer (in terms of length of contract, £, duties, hours – and whatever else is important to you) – in writing before you decide.

Barrow Boys and Dodgy Agents

Dodgy barrow boy will push you into making a decision with bull**** hard sell/guilt factor/ “you’ve wasted my time stuff”. You must stand up to the dodgy agents.

As soon as anyone starts making you feel bad, drop them.

And before anyone starts whingeing, I’d just like to point out I’m a recruiter – and detest what I’ve seen some of my colleagues get up to.

ITContractor Comment

It’s great to get some inside information from an honest recruiter. There are many honest recruiters around. It’s just that the dodgy agents get more publicity and get remembered more.

It must be difficult for the more honest agents to operate amongst the dodgier ones.

Remember that it is not only the IT contractors that the dodgy agents are cheating – it is the other, more honest, agents as well.

Getting a Good Rate from the Agency, Part 3

This is the final part in a 3 part essay on getting a good rate from the agency when getting the initial contract.

Good Rate From the Agency

The IT contractor has negotiated a good rate from the agency, and has been ‘stringing him along’ since Tuesday, as he had interviews to go to on the Thursday and Friday.

The agent, of course, knows exactly what is happening, i.e. that you have other interviews and are holding back to see what happens there, but their chess pieces are completely surrounded, and they have no more moves.

They can hardly call you a liar. You get the contract on the Friday morning, but you have the other interview then.

Don’t Worry

Don’t worry about the end client, as the agent will be keeping them ‘sweet’, telling them that everything is fine, and the client has a million other things to do anyway.

You would, of course, have told the other agents and clients that you would need a decision by Friday afternoon.

If you get turned down for both jobs, you should get your contract signed, phone up the agency saying that you have, and they will probably arrange for a courier to pick it up.

Desperate Agent

If you get a better offer elsewhere, you will, of course, be a bit nervous about telling the first agency about it. The best way to do it is to examine the contract that they have sent you, to see if there are any clauses that you don’t like.

An obvious one is the clause where they can give you a month’s notice, whereas you are not allowed to give notice at all (there will always be something that you don’t like). Tell them that this is the reason that you are turning the job down.

By this stage, they are desperate and will take anything out of the contract (it’s good to remember this), and will suggest that you cross it out and send the contract back.

Good Rate From the Agency – The Choice

You have the choice of either coming clean and telling them that you have another job, or of telling them that the fact that the clause was in the contract at all left a bad taste in the mouth, and you were not going to sign with them.

If I were to choose, I would go for the first option, as they knew you were doing this all along, and this will end the conversation quicker, which is all you want now. The chances are that the agent will suggest (if you do this), that they will go back to their client and try to get some more money from them.

Chance Your Arm

The chances are less than 50/50 here, but if you are interested, you might as well add 50-100 a day onto your rate and see what would happen.

Most times, you will not get away with it, but you are in no-lose situation, and sometimes it comes off.

If you go the other route and say that you are not signing because of the contract, they will badger you, as they’ve offered to take out the offending clauses. They are also less likely to hire you in the future.

Although the first method will annoy them, they will consider it fair game (most of them anyway).

The second method will be considered outside the rules of the game.

They don’t mind ‘subterfusion’ (they do it all the time), but they don’t like outright liars (sic).

Even if you indulge in ‘subterfusion’, the rules of the game are that you always finish up by admitting the truth.

Those are hard and fast rules and they respect that when you are trying to get a good rate from the agency.

Getting a Good Rate from the Agency Part 2

Getting a Good Rate

This is the second in a 3-part essay on getting a good rate from the agency when getting the initial contract.

In the first part, the agency has quoted a figure of 500 per day for the job, whereas the contractor quoted a range of 500-575 per week. This is the contractors opportunity for getting a good rate.

After passing the interview, the contractor has now asked for the higher rate, and the agent has gone back to the client.

The contractor also has a couple of other interviews to go to as well.

Getting a Good Rate – Negotiate

In the first circumstance, where the client offers 535 per day, then you tell the agent that although you’ll come down to 560 per day, that’ll be your bottom line.

You are only 25 quid away from an agreement, and it is too tantalising for the agent. They will go away ‘to see what we can do ourselves’.

It is now up to you as to whether you accept their new offer when it comes of either 545 or 550 per day. You could stick to the 560 per day, but that would be rubbing their noses in it. I would go for 550.

You can always get a bit more back at the renewal. If the client sticks at 500 per day, then go for 535 from the agency and settle for 525-530. It’s all part of the game.

The agent will not be very pleased when you first put the proposition to him or her, but when the deal is sealed up, then they will be pretty contented.

Getting a Good Rate – Making Them Wait

Once you’ve got the job, the agent is desperate to tie it up straight away. You may have one or two other interviews to go to, and would like to be in the position of choosing between several.

That will be the last thing that the agent wants.

What the agent will say is that the client wants to tie it up by the end of the day.

That will almost certainly not be the case. It is the agent who wants to tie it up by the end of the day.

The client will almost certainly be happy to wait for a few days. If it is a Tuesday, then the client will almost certainly wait till late on Friday afternoon, and will simply keep the second and third choices at bay. You have to keep your nerve when getting a good rate.

Getting a Good Rate – Buying Time

You have to buy time with the agency though. They won’t give you much time if they can help it.

You could probably say that you’ll give your decision late on Wednesday.

You will also call up your other agents and tell them that you have had a job offer, that you would prefer to have their job, but you are being pushed to make a decision on the other one, and would it be possible to bring the interview forward, or, if that is not possible, to have a phone interview with the client.

If they ask how long you’ve got, tell them Friday lunchtime.

Most clients will bring interviews forward, especially if they have someone who is much in demand with other companies, but who would prefer to work at their site.

If you do set up further interviews, say one for the Thursday, and one for the Friday morning, then it might be an idea to go out on Wednesday when your agent is trying to get hold of you.

He or she will have left a plethora of messages for you on your answerphone. Getting a Good Rate is going to be easier now.

Juicy Morsel

When you come in on the Wednesday evening, phone the agent back (who will have gone home by that time) leaving a message apologizing, saying that you had to go out for some reason, but that everything is OK.

You will get a call first thing on the Thursday morning, possibly before you get out of bed. The agent will be getting a little nervous and agitated by this stage, at the prospect of a juicy morsel slipping from his or her grasp, and will want to get things sealed up.

They will want to get the contract across to you as soon as possible. You do not have a fax of course. You do have email, but you do not have a printer in order to print the contract out.

They could send it over via courier, but you are going out soon for the day, so it would be better to send it in the post. If they insist on sending it to a neighbour that would be fine, but of course the neighbour would forget to give it to you till the next day.

The third part on getting a good rate will appear shortly.

Getting a Good Rate from the Agency, Part 1

Getting a Good Rate

This is the first in a 3 part essay on getting a good rate from agencies, when getting the initial contract.

Don’t Quote Rate

If you can avoid it, try not to quote a rate to the agency in the beginning. If you can do this, then you’re really in the driving seat to get a good rate if you go for a job interview and the company wants you.

Once a client has decided on the one that they want, they don’t usually like to take second best.

The agent will press you hard to quote a rate though, before he or she submits a CV. Before they have got you an interview, you can get away with it by saying that there are too many intangibles for you to be able to say exactly.

You would need to know how many hours that you would need to work, where the location is (there’s traveling and even living away from home expenses), and what the skills were at the company (you might take a lesser rate to learn new skills.

There are just too many imponderables, and the agency will normally accept this, especially if you tell them that you will come up with a more accurate figure when they do put you forward to an actual job with an actual location.

This’ll normally satisfy them.

Rate Range

When they actually put forward your CV, they will usually need to know what kind of rate that you want.

To get a good rate, you should still try to avoid it at this stage by saying that if the job is right, then they’ll find that you are in range.

If they really insist on having a rate, otherwise they won’t put you forward, then give them a range where the low figure is inside the range for the job and the high figure is outside.

If they tell you that the rate for the job is 500 pounds per day, tell them that your range is 500-575 pounds (500 if you don’t get the job and 575 if you do), but that if you like the job, you’ll be easy to deal with.

The agency will normally put you forward now. Most usually, there is not a set rate for the job from a company, although there often is.

Getting a Good Rate – Holding the Aces

If you go to the interview and don’t get the job, it is immaterial anyway. If you do get the job, then you now hold the whip hand and can now get a good rate.

The company wants you and not the people that they have rejected.

The agent wants the commission, and doesn’t want to risk losing it, even if they might get somebody else in.

The agent is at his or her most vulnerable now.

He or she now wants no other result than for you to take the job.

Now you must bargain.

You now say that you want the high side of your range.

If you have quoted a set price, you then say that there are one or two aspects of the job that will cause you more expense, e.g, there will be extra traveling expenses, you didn’t know it would be a 37.5 hour week, you won’t be learning any skills etc. etc. etc.

The agent is very vulnerable here, and will say that they will go back to the client. You can rely on the agent not to screw this up.

A Good Rate and A Bit Extra

What you will usually find is that the agent will talk the client into giving a bit more.

They will then get back to you to say that the client will only go up to 535 per day. The agency will not have made any concession themselves at this stage.

They may also come back to say that the client won’t budge. In both circumstances you say the same, i.e. that it is not enough for you.

Please believe me when I say that there is no way that the agent is going to let this one go.

They will move hell and high water to keep this one.

The great majority of individual agents have less than 20 contractors out.

They can’t afford to let one slip away in a highly competitive market.

You now must make them dip into their own percentage to make sure that they get you out.

It is just too risky for them to go back to the client to try to get them to take someone else – and they just won’t do it.

Now you are on for a very good rate.

Two of my senior people are having an affair. What should I do

Having An Affair

This feature will run every so often, answering questions about Running Projects and Office Life in general.

Having an Affair – Question

I am currently managing a team of 4 people on a mission critical project with tight timescales. Three months ago my senior technical guy (married with a toddler) started having an affair with my lead business analyst. I was aware of this but as it didn’t affect their work I passed no comment.

Two weeks ago they split up and cannot bear to be in the same room together. He has left his wife and they have both hit the bottle. Needless to say productivity has dropped significantly. There isn’t time to replace them as the project is due to go live in 6 weeks. What should I do?

Having an Affair – Answer

The first thing that I would say is not to say something like, “You two and the split up of your affair is going to cost us getting the project in on time. You’ll need to buck up”.

I would presume, that as most people like to keep office affairs secret, that they don’t know that you know about it. I would also presume that everybody else in the office know about it. This is the normal course of events.

As this is likely to be the case, you cannot even bring it up with them at all, unless they bring it up with you (which is unlikely). However, you still have to regain their previous productivity.


Some sensitivity is called for here. I think that you have to speak to them both separately, pointing out their lack of productivity, but in a very gentle way. You can ask what is the cause of it.

They’re unlikely to tell you, but they’ll know themselves. You have to get them, to throw themselves into their work to take their minds off it. You need to get them to re-focus on the project.

You should tell them that if you can do anything to assist, then they just need to ask. You will need to keep your eye on the situation on a day-to-day basis.

Having an Affair – Keep Them Apart

It might be an idea to keep them apart as much as possible, so that they can concentrate on the task in hand. I wouldn’t do anything as obvious as to move one of their desks to keep them apart. You could of course reorganise the office, making up some excuse for it.

You could also get one of them to spend some time at another site, e.g. to work more closely with the Users, testers, operations or some other excuse depending on the phase of the project.

If one of them is due for a promotion, then it might be the time to mention that it is on the cards, providing the project (or their part of it) is delivered on time.

Like Golf

The last thing you want to do, though, is suddenly promote the two of them. People that work for you are always looking for any indication of what gets you promoted, and if they work out that an office affair will do the trick, you may find you have the same problem but on a massive scale.

This isn’t a definitive answer, but I hope that it helps. Project Management is a bit like golf. You can teach someone how to do it, but if they don’t have ‘feel’, then they are not going to be a champion.

Be sensitive and supportive to the two having an affair and use your instincts.

You’ll usually find that they’ll get you through it, if you have true Project Manager ‘feel’.

Don’t get into the Financial Trouble I did when I started Contracting

Financial Trouble

Avoid the Financial Trouble I got into when I started IT Contracting.

I was as pleased as punch when I got my first contract. I was 25 when I started contracting and I’d worked out that I’d be out of it by the time I was 30.

I would then be able to have as much fun as I liked, with a fancy car, a nice house, and I wasn’t sure if I would have a yacht or a motor launch. The French Riviera might be the place to hang out after I’d hung up my program listings.

I was, after all, earning twice as much money as I was as a permie. I was just hoping that the 4/5 years that I calculated would make me rich wouldn’t be wasted years. I was hoping that 30 wasn’t too late to still have fun.

There wouldn’t be much point in having all that money if I was too old to enjoy myself. That was the only worry though.

Good Money

I suppose that I was on about the equivalent of £1,700 a week at today’s prices. I couldn’t wait to get my first monthly pay cheque. I couldn’t see the financial trouble ahead.

I wasn’t going to go crazy in terms of spending, although I had allowed myself to spend a little more a week than I used to. That wouldn’t make much difference as I was now earning twice as much.

I had been told that cars were tax-deductible and that the petrol could be claimed as expenses too. I should get a car then.

I could get it out of the first month’s pay. I knew that I should really put some aside each month for tax, but as I was earning so much I could just save a little bit extra in each of the other 11 months of the year.

Crazy Thing

The crazy thing was that I couldn’t even drive. However, I felt that the important thing was to get the tax-deductible item first and THEN learn to drive.

It was a convertible car and I often got my friends to drive it around. A lot of the time it just sat outside my flat in Maida Vale though.

The car cost me the equivalent of £5,000 at today’s prices.

I hadn’t realised that the insurance would be so much though and that you had to pay just to park it outside your own flat.

It wasn’t a great problem though and the second month’s pay arrived without me spending it on any big item.

Make Your Money Work for You

The third month’s pay arrived.

I thought that it seemed a shame that the money should just sit in the bank account waiting for the end of the year. It could be earning money for me.

If I made my money work for me then I could be out of the business before I was 30. When I was calculating when I could be out by, 4/5 years didn’t seem that long. After 3 months in my new contract it started to seem an eternity away.

Cheap Share

Therefore I stuck the equivalent of £7,000 (in today’s money) in one share in the Stock Market. I based my selection on the basis that it was the cheapest share in the sector at only 8p. It therefore had further to go up I thought.

It was a recovery share. I was willing to take a bit of a gamble. I didn’t do any analysis on it. I had a system. I didn’t expect Financial Trouble.

It didn’t seem to move much, which was slightly annoying – perhaps half a pence up or down. I would have liked more action than that

Financial Trouble – Shock News

I still remember entering St. Paul’s tube station having bought an Evening Standard at the entrance. I opened the paper at the financial section. It said in the headlines that my share had been suspended.

I was stunned!

I almost forgot to get off the escalator at the bottom. How could I have had such bad luck with my very first share? This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. I didn’t expect ths financial trouble.

All my money had gone on this damned share and a car that I couldn’t even drive that was sucking money out of me. I couldn’t even afford any lessons.

Between them they had even taken all of my savings from before I went contract as well.

I had spent everything and had saved nothing for tax. This was just the start of my financial trouble.

I’ll let you know what happened next in a coming article.

IT Contractors marched into car park for bollockings

This article about IT contractors marched into a car park comes from the now defunct www.ComputerContractor.net

Hated Contractors

I worked for a defence contractor who had quoted too cheaply to win the business and then when behind schedule they used IT contractors to deal with the overload.

They hated using contractors and were pretty offensive to them. They made all sorts of silly accusations of the IT contractors, such as that their contract tech architect was delaying the project to milk fees from the company.

This was complete and utter nonsense!

The project was in desperate straits and the management were on the ragged edge of their sanity. The project management team used to have ‘stand-up rows’ over various issues and once even did that in front of the customer, which was pretty amateurish.

Car Park March

These idiots used to march their contractors out into the car park to give them bollockings for perceived misdemeanours.

It was quite lunatic behaviour. That’s what happens when mediocre people are put under too much pressure.

Of course, I didn’t get a good reference from them.

Working there was a nightmare. It’s funny now though.

I didn’t laugh at the time.

Big Problem Not Solved in Car Park

It’s a big problem in IT departments, though.

The IT Contractors generally have much more experience than the permies, many of whom have only 2 to 3 years experience or less.

These permies are pumped up about being the ‘boss’ and don’t want their underlings (like the contractors) telling them what to do and how to do it.

As a result, decisions are taken that are completely idiotic but the idiots will not be told.

They reckon that those ‘cheeky’ contractors need to get taken down a peg so they have those car park bollockings.

So, the contractors know that the project is going to go down the pan but dare not tell the young project manager.

This is happening at sites all over the country.

Contractors, how you can help us help you, by an agent

This was given to us by one of our regular agent contacts.

Help Us At Finding Clients

A lot of contractors don’t realise, when they turn up their noses at agencies asking them for details of contacts at previous sites, that a lot of their contracts come about this way.

Do they think that clients go out looking for agents?

No, it is the other way around. Agents have got to find the clients in order to furnish the contractors with work.

So how do we, as agents, find those clients and those contracts?

Of course, we do a lot of cold calling. However, this is not a particularly effective way to operate. You can make several hundred phone calls just to get one lead – which may not even lead to anything. This isn’t helping contractors to get work much. Contractors need to help us.

Help Us Find Hot Leads

A hot lead is worth a lot more – and this comes from asking IT contractors who they previously worked for. At least we know then the names of people who actually take contractors, or have done so in the past.

This is far more useful to us. Remember that the more successful that we are, the more contractors there are who get jobs. It’s a win-win situation. You help us, we help you.

Contractors are being a little selfish when they refuse to furnish us with leads. After all, they could help us help out their fellow contractors.

Small wonder that some agents resort to telling contractors that they have jobs for them and that they need references from previous employers in order to be put forward. If contractors were more open and more helpful the agents wouldn’t need to do this.

How You Can Help Us

Contractors could help their fellow contractors a lot more if they:-

1) Volunteered the names of their old bosses to agents

2) Whenever they actually got a job, they told all the agents who are working for them that they have got a contract, and then give them the names of all the places that they have been put forward to.

3) They gave agents that they know the name of their client at their new place of work

This would help us help other contractors, who may have been out of work for some considerable time, to get some work.

I think that this is a time when we should all be mucking in together.

This has been a long downturn and every bit of help that you give us can help some other contractor.

Remember, that it could be information that some other contractor gave to us that enabled us to get you your current contract.

ITContractor.com Comment

So, what do you think IT Contractor?

Should you help out agencies in the way stated above?