The IT field is fast-paced and ever-changing, and companies are often looking for young blood — people who they think have a grasp of the latest, cutting-edge technology and can push businesses into the future.
Organizations sometimes forget the value that more seasoned players have to offer,
says Jim Finch, a Toronto-based business analyst specializing in business communications.
“”Firms have gotten lean, and divested themselves of employees at a younger age,”” Finch says, referring to employees in their 50s and 60s who are given early retirement packages as a part of cost-cutting measures.
When long-term employees leave, they walk out with a lot of knowledge that the younger people coming in simply don’t have, he says.
“”I’m a great believer that they (seasoned employees) have a lot to offer.””
Faye West is one such employee. In a time when not many people stick around with one organization for more than a few years, West has been with the Edmonton-based Alberta Research Council (ARC) for some 18 years. Currently the director of information systems, West started off as a systems programmer on the ARC’s mainframe system.
Though she’s had other job offers during her tenure at the ARC, she’s been happy where she is, and hasn’t seen the benefit of leaving.
“”I wasn’t unhappy with the job I had and I don’t see a lot of point in leaving just for the sake of leaving. So, I had no reason to look elsewhere or take any other offer.””
Because the ARC is on the periphery of the government, West says she has the best of what both the public and private sectors have to offer.
“”I have some of the advantages of government-like employment, which tends to be less fast-paced, but not hampered by bureaucracy.””
Need for flexibility
Another advantage of staying where she is the flexibility of her working conditions. The organization offers a good work/life balance, she says. Her hours are flexible and she has up to five weeks of vacation a year. She is also encouraged to pursue outside interests and has spent a lot of time working with the Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS) and is currently the chair of the board for the Software Human Resource Council.
“”I’m doing what I like to do,”” she says. “”Most days, I have fun doing it. I sincerely doubt anybody could offer me a better job at this point. It would require a trade-off in terms of the support and benefits I have.””
Another employee who has committed to one company for a long time — an increasing rarity these days — is Beng Ong, a research fellow and the manager of advanced materials and printed electronics materials at the Mississauga, Ont.-based Xerox Research Centre of Canada (XRCC). Ong has been with the XRCC since he graduated from McMaster University in 1978.
When he started working at the XRCC, the organization was still trying to define itself and find its own footing within Xerox Corp. It managed to do just that, and Ong is currently leading a project that has developed semiconductive ink that can be used to print transistors.
Like West, Ong has had other job offers over the years, and at one point, even decided to take one, and was ready to pack up and move to the U.S. However, the then XRCC centre manager helped him change his mind.
“”I’m very lucky that the centre manager at the time talked to me and I stayed behind. It turned out to be a good decision not to go. Even though we are working for a profit-oriented company, we still have some degree of freedom doing what we want to do in terms of our own research. Even the kinds of research we do for the company is very interesting. What I’m doing is more like a hobby than a job.””
The company encourages publication, and that is an important way for Ong to keep in touch with the outside world, he said.
Unlike West and Ong, Finch has decided, for the most part, to go it alone since the mid-’70s, working as a business analyst.
Finch has worked in the IT field since he graduated from the University of Toronto in 1955 and started working with punch card systems. Currently, he is working as a business consultant.
“”I started off working with large companies,”” he says. “”I hankered for independence.”” Working for his own company — sometimes in conjunction with other partners and employees — has given Finch the ability to make his mark.
“”When you work on your own, you can see the results of what you’re doing.””