"It's just sad that the single most important industry is also the single most inefficient"
Though I have passionate opinions about the employment space, I rarely share them in writing. However, a friend of mine shared the statement above during coffee last week and sparked a desire to jot down my thoughts.
Most of you, upon hearing the quote without context, know from experience which industry he describes. Others, because I alluded to it. For the rest, he was talking about the 'human capital / employment' industry and the acquiring, training, managing, retaining, etc. therein. Most attributes of this industry evolve at a snails pace and formidable barriers continue to be erected in the form of 'incumbent en masse'.
We all need to help change this industry and it begins with innovation on one end and a true demand for innovation on the other. As we stand today, evolution through innovation is thwarted as the actions of most industry professionals consistently defend the status quo, even when our hearts and brains desire otherwise. As a former recruiter, I was there complaining as I shoveled through resumes, posted garbled job descriptions, exaggerated the wonderful corporate culture, championed our (imaginary) 'promotion by merit' structure, and ignored the power of referrals since the company didn't really support it anyway.
At the time, I wasn't aware of any technologies there to help (though I now know some tried). So, I left the company and decided to build them on my own, unseat the status quo and expedite its evolution. It was then that I learned I was (formerly) a big part of the problem. Though my thoughts demanded innovation, my actions did not. This is what I believe continues to hurt the industry today.
We must accept our roles in this industry as champions of improvement through action. We must demand innovation by adopting it, complaining about its shortfalls and challenging developers to deliver better results. As developers, we need to build more palatable technology that encourages these behaviors. Then, together we can reshape this incredibly important industry into one whose transformation will have an overwhelmingly positive impact on society.
My experience on the development side
As it stands today, I'll inherently lose some credibility in my argument because (as a practice that is irresponsibly abused) I am championing a cause that currently benefits my self-interest.
I honestly feel this industry is in trouble, as I still haven't see much evolution in the behavioral patterns I exhibited myself not to long ago. Today, being a developer in this space, it's obvious that I have hope. But it's concerning having witnessed first hand creative talent and investors shun involvement in this 'paralyzing' industry. The support that developers require is tough to come by in a space whose history is so painful. One familiar example is access to capital (funding). When pitching, entrepreneurs consistently encounter a now recognizable chorus: 'I've got too many scars from this industry that never healed'. Translation "I've lost a ton of money championing technologies in this space".
Millions upon millions were spent backing bright developers excited to inflict a chink in the armor and penetrate the industry. The result was millions upon millions of dollars never to be seen again and inventors taking their talents elsewhere.
What does keep hope alive, at least for me, is that developers often have short memories and still crave ambitious projects. Most significant, however, is that this time around the timing may just be right to deliver exciting tools AND arouse positive action from champions of the status quo (even when they don't know they are). Actions that require seeking, learning, enjoying and spreading the word for others to enjoy.
Visual interpretation of change
Seth Godin's recent blog entry points out that 'seeking' & 'learning' (as mentioned above) always precede 'enjoying'. Thus, behavioral change will require a sincere and faithful effort on the part of industry professionals to the critical 'enjoyment' stage.
In Godin's 'How big is your red zone,' which added inspiration to this didactic (thank you thesaurus.com), he describes a 'red zone' as defined by the 'hassle' of learning and a 'green dot' as the 'other side' rooting us on. As most of us know, the red zone (or perceived red zone) is large in the employment space and the green dots, not big enough.
Despite history in the space, the red zone can be overcome and we can all meet on the other side. Like the electronics industry, employment can champion innovation and benefit from the competition vying for our collective (seeking) attention.
If the hassle (or perceived hassle) is lessened and the joy enhanced/expedited, the industry will change. To get there, it's our job as developers to ensure the 'green dots' are very large, very loud, and very attractive. For the rest us, we must enter the red zone...