The government shutdown is causing a real disruption to the lives of technologists in and around the federal government. While this is especially true in the Northern Virginia area we live and operate in, it is also impacting US federal government technologists and their contractors around the country. We empathize with you all.
This note is meant to provide some food for thought for technologists in this situation.
- Remember that the most important thing to do is to deal with reality. Don’t dwell too much on what Congress or the President should have done. Just know what they did and what the situation is. Then decide what you should do about your situation.
For Government Technologists sent on furlough because of the shutdown:
- We have love and empathy for you. You did not deserve this. It is only natural for you to think about changes to your career path at this time. But please remember the nation needs people like you, and please keep the faith for as long as possible.
- The rules on what you can do associated with your job seem pretty strict. You cannot even volunteer to do things associated with your job. As crazy as that statement sounds, and as much as you love your agency and your country, you will need to focus your attention elsewhere for a little time.
- As you make your personal choices on what to focus on you might want to dwell on some technology subjects. Please by all means catch up on your reading here at CTOvision.com but you can also aim your Kindle at Tom White’s “Hadoop: The Definitive Guide.” You can also order Kevin Smith’s latest book, “Professional Hadoop Solutions”. I just got my copy yesterday and will be diving into it ASAP.
- If you have not already asked your supervisor if it is ok for you to conduct outside work it is probably too late to do that. This means there is little you can do to make up for your lost wages.
- There is something you can do that might help with future wages. You can start writing the book you have always wanted to start. Writing is a personal/private thing and if you have ever had the bug to do it you might have a good excuse to focus on that right now.
- Another thing that might help you with future wages: Check out the courses at Cloudera University.
For Government Technologists still on the job:
- Your service to the mission is what is important here. Your primary functions at this time are probably to “keep the lights on”, right? You know how to do that and there is nothing we can do to help except tell you we empathize with you.
- Our only advice at this time is to have empathy for your fellow technologists in and out of government that were told they are to go without pay during this period. Things are very hard on you right now, but it is harder on some others.
For the contractors out of work because of this shutdown:
- It is very likely that you are under less restrictions that your government counterparts regarding outside work. The bad news is that many others are in your situation and are very likely looking for any part time work they can get to make ends meet. I would advise looking internal to your company first (if you work for one of the big guys).
- You may also want to start writing. If you have a book in you, start capturing that during this downtime. But you may have other outlets for your writing that government technologists do not. For example, you may be more free to publish in journals and blogs. If you have a technology piece you are ready to write on, please get it to me here at CTOvision. We love submissions from enterprise technologists.
- We empathize with you guys too. This is hard and crazy. If you are able to find other jobs far away from this sector that may be the best approach at this time. I hate to say it, I know you are in this sector for many reasons and that may include a deep love for the mission you serve, but the many trends in this sector are not working in your favor (for example, see: Ready or not, software is eating the government contracting world). This may be a good time to consider a shift to totally different activities for your career.
For technology vendors and the great creators of innovation in American industry:
- If you were reading the above you saw multiple uses of the term empathy. This applies to you guys too, but in a different and bigger way. Now is the time for you to be incredibly understanding and empathetic with those in and around government.
- The government still needs you. In fact, they need your innovation now more than ever. So this sets up a contradiction you should be aware of. Although the government needs your advanced, innovative technologies now more than ever, since the government has stopped all business they are not able to pay for it. The law says they can’t accept it for free either in case you were thinking of that! The way to deal with this contradiction: stay polite and empathetic but persistent. Continue to get information into government but keep it very succinct. No one has time to read a tome now. And few people will want to meet with you. If you seek meetings, ask for very short, 15 minute discussions.
- Consider offering webinars or webex meetings to people in government or the integrators instead of face to face meetings. This can be far more efficient for the technologist in government or industry.
- Tech vendors should also understand that the integrator partners you are working with will have a lot on their minds for a few days at least. The leadership teams you work with are probably very busy trying to get coverage for people who are now not generating revenue from government contracts. I would recommend continuing to get info to them about your capabilities but there to be succinct.
- Stand by for continued disruption of schedules, on very short notice.
For everyone let me repeat the word empathy. We should all feel for each other right now. But let me close with the thought I started with. You should understand reality. Know the difference between what should be and what is.
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