A Tale of Two People

Originally published 7 January 2010

Everyone knows that a recession is not good. And the recession of 2008-2009 was no exception. Among other things, the recession showed that banks were playing a shell game when it came to real estate. The assumption was that housing was going to go up eternally and that even if a bad loan were made, by the time the house was in foreclosure, it would have risen enough in value that the banks would be OK. The recession also showed that crooks like Bernie Madoff – full of arrogance – belonged in jail, not in a penthouse.

But the recession has stories about ordinary people that hit even closer to home. Consider two people – both smart competent people – who have been in information processing in different capacities for many years. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. One person we will call Hal and the other person – a lady – we will call Pat.

Hal worked at a west coast company that, among other things, acquires and protects intellectual property. The company is well known, large and listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Hal has been a specialist in SAP implementation. He has headed up the SAP installation effort for a number of years now. And all in all, the implementation has been a great success. Hal has risen to the rank of a corporate director. Throughout Hal’s career, he has been known as the go-to guy for getting it done in SAP.

Hal is a likeable person. He doesn’t agitate people and gets along well with almost everyone. When you make out Christmas cards, you always include Hal.

Then one day, the stock of the company Hal works for drops precipitously. On a Friday afternoon, Hal gets the news he has been laid off.

Now let’s talk about Pat. Pat is an experienced professional. Pat came from a finance background but for the past few years she has been implementing Basel II at her bank. She is a project manager, and the highest levels of the company know and appreciate the work Pat is doing.

Pat is acutely aware of the importance of passing Basel II compliance for the bank. There are a lot of obstacles to processing data suitable to Basel II. The bank has never done anything quite like this before. It is not sure how to build a data warehouse and has some hard deadlines to meet in discussing progress with the bank officers and the preliminary Basel II auditors who occasionally come around and look at the progress the bank was supposed to be making.

Then one day – out of the clear blue – the bank Pat is working for falters and is acquired. It happens so unexpectedly and so quickly that no one can believe it. The bank that Pat had been working for was a true pillar of the community and, suddenly, they are out of business.

Fast forward a few months and Pat has a new job. At the newly merged bank, she is like a drill sergeant with a challenging new project. While Pat probably has not materially advanced, she has landed on her feet. She has sidestepped the merger with great agility. She is in a respected, well paying position.

So what conclusion are we to draw from the experiences of Hal and Pat? One obvious conclusion is that recessions are unpredictable and brutal. But anyone could have told us that. There is another somewhat more subtle message. And that message is that in times of recession, the closer you are to the business of the company, the better the chances that you are going to land on your feet and survive. And the closer you are aligned with technology, the greater the chance that you are a candidate for a layoff.

When you are aligned with a technology and the time comes for a general layoff, you are prime Grade A meat. But when the officers of the company ask who they simply cannot get rid of, those people aligned with the business of the organization are deemed to be the most essential.


SOURCE: A Tale of Two People

  • Bill InmonBill Inmon

    Bill is universally recognized as the father of the data warehouse. He has more than 36 years of database technology management experience and data warehouse design expertise. He has published more than 40 books and 1,000 articles on data warehousing and data management, and his books have been translated into nine languages. He is known globally for his data warehouse development seminars and has been a keynote speaker for many major computing associations.

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