Dot-coms are crashing and burning all around us. Yesterday's "hot"
companies are seeing their stock values plummet, triggering massive
layoffs. Even "sure bet" companies seem to be going out of business
everywhere you look.
This dramatically changing, high-tech landscape is causing
fear and confusion in Java engineers. What sensible, intelligent
person wouldn't be shaken by the current state of affairs in the
As a Java engineer, what are your options? What does it all
mean? And what should your next step be?
For example, on the consulting front over the past few years,
many skilled engineers took a cut in their usual contracting pay to
join a dot-com in exchange for huge stock options. They took the risk
in exchange for a shot at huge rewards - and the chance to be in on
the ground floor of the next eBay.
Now many of those start-ups have crashed and burned, leaving
engineers with thousands of worthless stock options - or no job at
all. From their perspective, they were taken for a ride.
What's the solution now? Some engineers who were burned in
the dot-com crash feel it would be best to join a huge corporation,
such as Sun, HP, or Cisco, for the sense of security working for a
large company can provide.
Maybe I won't make as much money as I did contracting or get
as many stock options as I did at that dot-com; at least I'll have an
inner feeling of security knowing the company won't go belly-up at a
But ultimately no position in high tech is totally secure.
The days of getting a job at General Motors and knowing that you'd
work there for 30 years are long gone.
Even at large companies major projects get scrapped, groups
get reorganized or eliminated, and the door to job security keeps
Those familiar with the Web generation of technology know
that technology changes every 18 months, ways of doing business
change, and your skill sets can quickly become obsolete.
Before totally discounting opportunities at smaller,
entrepreneurial companies, look closer at what can be learned from
the current dot-com meltdown:
The illusion that every high-tech company is failing is just
that: an illusion. The percentage of new companies that have failed
is the same as it is in any given year. The difference is in the huge
amount of new companies that went into business, which resulted in a
higher amount of total companies that failed.
- The internet isn't going away.
- Companies that support and do business on the Internet are
here to stay.
- B2Bs and infrastructure companies are faring better than B2C
companies, which became overvalued based on market share versus
potential for real revenue.
- Venture capitalists that once invested like mad in brand-new
start-ups are now focusing on third rounds of funding in companies
that are more secure deals.
- Venture capital funds are at their highest levels, and VCs
still have plenty of money to invest. However, we're starting to see
larger amounts of VC investments going into a smaller number of more
- Pre-IPOs in their post-second round of funding with solid
business models and management teams are still a good bet.
But what's the bottom-line result of all this for Java
engineers? Rates and salaries are likely to go down from where they
were in the crazy dot-com "boom days," but should stabilize as the
market gets healthier.
Across the board, sensible Java engineers will consider being
flexible about their current rates or salaries in exchange for
long-term opportunities in a market that's headed for increasing
- Senior engineers will always be in demand and aren't likely
to see significant changes.
- Intermediate engineers may see some changes in their rates,
and it may take about two weeks for them to find a job (as opposed to
- Junior engineers are most likely to be laid off first and may
see pay rates go down (after all, there are a lot more junior
engineers). This is an ideal time to enhance your skill sets with
recent technologies that will increase your marketability.
Bill Baloglu is a principal at Object Focus (www.ObjectFocus.com),
a Java staffing firm in
Silicon Valley. Prior to ObjectFocus, Bill Baloglu was a software
engineer for 16 years. He has extensive OO experience and has held
software development and senior technical management positions at
several Silicon Valley firms.
Billy Palmieri is a
seasoned staffing industry executive and a principal of ObjectFocus.
Prior to ObjectFocus, he was at Renaissance Worldwide, a multimillion
dollar, global IT consulting firm, where he held several senior
management positions in the firm's Silicon Valley operations.