Hard to find good help these days

11Dec08

I may have written about this before, but I feel like it needs to be written again.  I remember back when you hired a contractor for a project and they knew their stuff inside and out.  There was no doubt that this person knew what needed to be done to complete the project and complete it correctly.  I’m not sure such a person exists anymore.  I like to think that during my consulting days people saw me as this person.  Don’t get me wrong, I stumbled along the way, but I never delivered half-ass results to a client.   There have been two instances recently where I have been disappointed with contractors that we brought in to work on projects.  Both are “experts” in the field, have the certifications to prove it, and came highly recommended.

First we had a simple traffic filtering installation and configuration.  This was a project that I originally was going to do myself but my bandwidth was limited and the price and promise of getting an expert to do it and train the group made it an easy decision to outsource. I had everything in place so it should have been about 4 hours to configure and another hour of training.  Short story, 7 hours passed and the expert was back at step 1.  I could not take the incompetence any longer and asked them to leave.  I decided to go it alone and after a few hours and some basic troubleshooting we were up and running.  What was so difficult?  Why could this expert not get things working?

Second we had some Cisco configurations.  There are a couple components to this so stay with me.  I worked on the initial design and planning but because the implementation had high visibility we wanted to run it by an expert.  In came the CCIE to the rescue.  He wasn’t too keen on my design and although he thought it would work suggested some alternate ways to do it.  We went back and forth about whose design was better but I finally gave in because, well, he is the expert that does this every day.    After talking, whiteboarding, and documenting the failover plans for this new network he goes away and confirms his design will work with automatic failover of routes to provide three redundant paths to where it needs to go.  He drafted up some Visio docs and some rough configs for me to review.  I was a little skeptical about his config working but again, he does this all day every day, so if he says it will work I should believe him right?  Well we went on site Monday to implement and the results were not as expected.  We got connectivity up which was good but then I started talking about failover and he says, “Yeah lets go over the manual failover.” WHAT?  We talked about this numerous times, it needs to be automatic.  The network diagrams reflect auto failover, the rough config I saw a few weeks ago was all about auto failover, so why now is he talking about manual failover. He didn’t really have an answer.  So back to the drawing board…..it should not be this difficult!  Another component to this was a simple firewall config.  I provided the base config for him to review and update where needed, making the device pretty much plug and play.  He sent me the final config for review before putting it on the device, all looked good.  The device shipped cross country and I scheduled for install today.  The remote technician (not a Cisco person) plugged in the firewall but no dice.  So I walked them through accessing the IOS and troubleshooting the config.  The config looked good except for the fact that it had no routes….anywhere.  I thought maybe this is my fault for not catching it on the final config review, but I verified they were there.  So he must have had a Doh! moment when loading the config and missed the routes.  This of course means he may have missed other stuff so I had to do a full config review today.

So here are two people who have 10+ years experience focused on what I hired them to do, things they do every day of their lives to make a living, that could not get the job done right.  Is it lack of knowledge?  I don’t think so as nothing that we were implementing was incredibly difficult.  Lack of effort?  Possibly.  Lack of focus?  Possibly.  I think the problem is bigger than that though.  I have two theories of what is happening but I’ll save that for another post.  I welcome your thoughts.

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One Response to “Hard to find good help these days”

  1. 1 Jeff

    Great post, where have you been? We experience the same issue with not only external consultants but also with internal employees. I manage about 35 people in the IT department and over the past 2 years have had to let 12 of them go. Of the 35 there are really only 4 people that I can rely on to get things done from start to finish with me hanging over their shoulder. People are lazy, and are more interested in getting a paycheck for doing as little as possible. During interviews most people ask about vacation time and benefits without asking about the environment or job expectations. Slackers I say, lots of slackers.


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