A perfect sphere, stymied by the agents of evil
24th May, 2004
It's a cool, sunny day. The sea glows a mirror blue all along Sydney harbour, where the moored yachts rock gently
in their moorings. Another perfect Australian day in late autumn. I have time for none of it.
I am a busy man. A positive man. A team player. I have skills: not ordinary skills, proven skills.
I have experience. Strong experience. I shine with wisdom and ability. I have technology - DCOM, C, CORBA, TCPIP,
XML, XSL, MIDP, J2EE - there is no alphabet large enough to encompass all the technology I know.
I bring commitment and passion.
I thrive on challenge.
I don't forget my sense of humour and willingness to chip in.
I am so well-rounded.
I am a perfect sphere.
I can fit many, many marshmellows into my mouth.
I can raise the dead.
"No, sorry. We won't forward your CV to the employer."
I breathed in, then out, slowly.
"They need someone with experience of Mentor."
"What the hell is that!??" Mentor. It sounded like the name of a giant, killer robot. Had it gone berserk?
Had Mentor listed its demands? Would it only be satisfied by the re-appearance of its maker who alone could convince Mentor
that it wasn't god?
"Mentor is an obscure GUI program that no one has ever heard of. It would take half an hour to learn.
But despite your ten years of first-class experience we don't think you could do it. Ha ha. Nice trick with the marshmellows, by the way."
After six months of proud independence, I was now in the insane grip of recruiting agencies once more. I could have wept.
I have never understood why recruiting agencies or HR departments exist. They don't do anything, except get in the way.
Say a company needs a new employee. All they really want is someone who doesn't drool, or smell of over-cooked cabbage.
Job skills, being different for every company, can be learnt on the job.
The technical manager knows he needs to compile a list of job requirements. He doesn't much care, but makes
up a few over drinks,
sends it round the office for a laugh, and posts them to the HR department. The HR department, made up of sociology graduates,
does not understand them.
Therefore, to be busy, the HR department rewords the requirements into recruiting language.
For example, "candidate should not eat with his mouth open" becomes "interpersonal skills required". HR could then post
the advertisement themselves, but they also have to think of their own future. All HR managers aim to leave and set up recruiting agencies
in time. Therefore recruiting agencies must be given work.
The agencies, also sociology graduates, don't understand the job requirements either, but
earn their fee by adding unnecessary extra adjectives. Therefore, "interpersonal skills" becomes "strong, proven
interpersonal skills". This is to dissuade any candidate who had hoped to claim weak, theoretical skills.
But they want a kicker as well. They need a single, defined question that allows them to disallow some candidates and therefore
earn their bloated fee (arranged with - you guessed it - HR). So they ask the technical manager to name one thing the candidate
will be expected to use every day. The manager says "Wha? I dunno - the phone?"
The final job advert asks for "Strong, proven skills including five years experience with major telecommunication company.
Must have Sound Knowledge of Touchtone."
It's all very trying. They've started calling employees Human Capital. Capital means the rounded end of a pillar. So
once again, we're the ones getting the shaft.
So here I am in Sydney.
Relocating to a foreign city is not so tough. I think many people expect culture shock, wondering what will I do, where
will I hang out, how can I find new friends.
I realised long ago that my life mostly consists of:
wandering idly along the street, between desks, along corridors or into the bathroom
thinking up quirky emails for my equally idle friends
spending more time fantasizing about interesting things (or people), than doing them (than doing them)
I reckon I can do this just as well in Sydney, as anywhere. There are other things of course. As I settle I'm going
to learn to surf, do my Rescue Diver certificate, go cycling, all the usual past-times. But all that will only occupy four or five
hours - 3% of the week.
What to do with the rest? Heavy drinking and telling improbable stories about my own prowess, I suppose. These I can do anywhere.
There's a traffic pile up in Parramarrawarra...whatsit?
A crane fell through a house in woola-err...um... never mind.
Something footie something something.
Something FOOTIE FOOTIE something!
This is Australian culture shock. I understand the words, most of them. I understand the thrust
of the argument. Yet I have no idea what they're talking about. It's a strange sensation. I watch
a serious discussion on TV where important public figures debate critical issues that grip
the nation, and it's the first time I've heard of them. I am a visitor from a different bubble.
"What's to be done to reform the State of Origin?" they cry.
"Yes!" I take up the shout. "Reform the State of Origin! Yes. Whatever it is."
I'm trying to remain unaware of local things.
If it doesn't stir any sense of fear, how can it do me any harm?
"Watch out!" People will shout, "Here comes Mentor! Run for your lives!!"
"Means nothing to me," I shall say. And continue on my way.