by Douglas E. Welch
October 22, 1999
© 1999, Douglas E. Welch
There is no denying that the past several years have been very
good for technology companies and most technology workers. The
blistering pace of innovation and the creation of new companies
has led to unprecedented opportunities for many people. However,
looking back on these same years I find myself wondering if we
haven't missed one important aspect of this entire upswing. While
I have seen great things come from technology companies and their
employees I have also seen a great amount of waste. Wasted time;
wasted energy and wasted talent.
A new company every minute
As we all are aware, never before have there been so many people
abandoning the typical corporate workplace for life on their own.
Whether this is an individual deciding to work for themselves
or a small band of entrepreneurs forming a startup, the country
is flooded with small business as never before. Along with this
increase in startups is a corresponding increase in failures.
Never before has so much time and talent been thrown at projects
only to have them come to naught. Never before have so many people
slaved so hard for so little.
Wasted effort has always been one of my pet peeves and is just
one reason why I don't do web development for anyone but myself
anymore. I produced too many detailed presentations and mockups
that never did anything more than take up space on my hard drive.
It is very disheartening for anyone to toil over a project only
to have it killed or worse, ignored. Due to my own experience
I have begun to wonder just how much damage this has done to people
who are caught in the endless cycle of one startup company after
What have we done?
I believe this constant industry treadmill has an underlying effect
of which we should be aware. Think of all the technology projects
you personally know of or have worked on. Now consider the number
of those projects that never saw the light of day. Now consider
how many hours were spent on each project. How many of those hours
would have been better spent elsewhere?
For years the business mantra has been to "worker smarter, not
harder", but this seems to have been ignored in the Internet world.
Instead, startup companies generate project after project, service
after service, throw them all against the wall and pray that something
sticks. I find this a waste of time, energy, money and, above
all, people. Isn't it about time we gained a little more respect
for people's time?
The major problem that arises from the current job situation is
that of burnout. How many people can take disappointment after
disappointment before they decide to remove both themselves and
their talents from the marketplace? People only have a certain
amount of love and energy that can be poured into the latest greatest
project. If it is used up on poorly planned and poorly designed
ideas we have all lost something extremely important. Companies
cannot continue to use up people's talent. Eventually we will
run out of other's to take their place.
What could we do?
Watching projects such as these makes me wonder what could have
been. What new technologies and services might have been developed
if so much time and energy wasn't wasted on failed projects and
incremental improvements to existing technology? Once again we
need to fall back on a popular business concept, faster failure.
Too often, the sheer will of developers cause them to pour more
time and energy into a project even though it has significant
flaws. All I ask is that companies treat projects realistically.
We all need to learn to objectively analyze our projects and make
better decisions about which to continue and which to halt.
The people are out there
There is an ongoing discussion in technology circles about the
lack of technical talent. My own experience makes me wonder, though,
if the talent is not available or merely tied up in projects that
will never come to fruition. How many programmers and web designers
at this very moment are devoted to projects that will disappear
without anyone ever hearing about them? If companies were more
selective of their projects there would be plenty of talent available.
Instead they squander the talented people they have.
Instead of generating endless projects that go nowhere, it is
time to judge the merits of each project. Companies should continue
to develop all the ideas they can, but fewer of these projects
should be implemented. There is plenty of talent available for
every technology company that wants it, as long as we stop wasting
the talent we have.
Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant
in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with
other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on
Douglas' web page at: http://www.welchwrite.com/
He can reached via email at email@example.com