The Recasting of Y2kers

While e-commerce and ERP work beckon for some, others feel overlooked for high-profile IT jobs after the date change.

Some year 2000 managers and workers have parlayed their big-project skills into high-profile, strategic positions on e-commerce and enterprise resource planning projects. But others have gotten sidelined in less exciting jobs or been overlooked for promotions or perks they thought they deserved.

And five months into the new year, some information technology staffers are still doing Y2k cleanup work, such as archiving code-fix procedures and writing recommendations on how to manage similar giant projects in the future.

"It's all over the map, what's going on with year 2000 people," says David Iacino, year 2000 program director at FleetBoston Financial Corp. in Boston. "Some stay, some want to try something different."

Of 129 Y2k workers polled by Computerworld, most - 108 - said they didn't get new positions after their Y2k stints. That is, if someone was a project manager before Y2k, he remained a project manager after Y2k - just on a different project. The majority of those polled said they are content with that, especially since their new gigs are often in hot e-commerce or enterprise resource planning (ERP) initiatives.

Even so, 19%, or 24, of the 129 Y2k workers, said they plan to look for new jobs.

Interestingly, survey respondents were just about split on whether year 2000 work made them more marketable (see chart, next page).

Of the 20 who are in new positions, 11 consider themselves demoted or moved laterally, the survey found. Only nine said they feel they were promoted.

A former Y2k manager at a company in the Northeast, who asked to remain anonymous, says she's disappointed with her post-year 2000 career.

"I got a good bonus and a reasonable salary increase and excellent review," she says. "But I've been demoted, for all practical purposes." She joined the company in 1998 as a senior IT manager. When she was asked to lead year 2000 remediation, she says, her managers gave her a verbal promise that a better position awaited her after Y2k. But that didn't happen.

As for others on her year 2000 team, most have made lateral moves within the company, while a few others have quit, she says.

That's frustrating, she says, especially because the people doing the work had to stretch their skills - and did so willingly. "People were asked to do things totally outside (the IT) field, like communicating with outside clients" about the remediation effort, she says.

Happy Ending

The post-Y2k story had a happier ending for Irene Dec, the former Y2k leader at The Prudential Insurance Company of America in Newark, N.J.

Dec, an 18-year veteran of Prudential, is now a vice president in the financial giant's international investments division. She was appointed to the prestigious technology slot to help grow overseas business for Prudential, and Y2k played a big part in landing her the job, she says.

In year 2000 leadership, "I had a very large project with a global scope. It was obviously a critical business need," Dec explains. "Those same things match up to (Prudential's needs in) international investments." Dec accepted the new assignment after being offered "a variety" of jobs inside and outside the company, she says . "I was interested in more of a focus on the business side of the house."

Dec took three of the 40 to 60 members of her year 2000 team with her; the others found slots in various areas throughout Prudential, she says.

"I'm absolutely thrilled and complimented that Prudential felt (that by) what I demonstrated on Y2k, I had the qualifications to move on to another high-profile role," she says.

The smartest CIOs are redeploying their Y2k people to strategic new ventures - e-commerce in particular, says Kazim Isfahani, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.

Fledgling e-commerce projects need the know-how of successful year 2000 managers, who can do such things as set achievable goals and make sure projects get the needed resources, says Isfahani. Y2k managers had to communicate in the language of the business side while understanding IT, he says. "It's a skill that's been developed that will foster better project communication in a shorter time frame, which is very important in e-commerce," he says. "Those skills are rare."

Steve Jost, a project manager at Deere & Co. in Moline, Ill., swapped his year 2000 cap for an e-commerce helmet - but stayed put at Deere. That is, he made a lateral move into a hot field.

One aspect of Jost's Y2k responsibilities - the daily contact he had with Deere's business-unit managers throughout the company's multinational operations - gave him an edge in his new role.

He calls on those people as he works to advance Deere's online activities, he says. Those personal relationships are helping him get the cooperation he needs for technology projects, he says.

Ed Hourihan is another IT manager who played Y2k roulette and won. To tackle Y2k chores at Phoenix Home Life Mutual Insurance Co., Hourihan decided to hire programmers in India to fix the company's code. Nothing unusual there.

But then Hourihan, along with Chief Technology Officer Satish Bangalore, added a twist. Enfield, Conn.-based Phoenix formed a new company with the Indian programmers: Phoenix Global Solutions in Bangalore. So, instead of a sunk cost, Y2k became a moneymaker.

How? Through the new Indian company, Phoenix has recouped its $25 million in Y2k costs and is expected to pull in another $25 million in extra sales this year, Hourihan says. He now manages the Indian company, whose 215 employees build call center and Web applications for other companies, including Prudential and IBM.

Phoenix Global Solutions plans to hire an official sales force this year. Meanwhile, everyone who worked on Phoenix Mutual's year 2000 project still has a job at the company, Hourihan says. "Not that we weren't on the radar screen with the CEO before, but certainly we're a bigger blip now," he says.

The Morning After

Yet for most folks, year 2000 fixing was a historic but uneventful career chapter.

"I went back to my day job," says Dave Kelble, an IT manager, who volunteered in 1996 to run year 2000 duties at Wawa Inc., a chain of convenience stores based in the Philadelphia suburb of Wawa, Pa.

"I'm just starting to get down to some of the projects that I left as orphans," Kelble says. Those include adding more of Wawa's suppliers to its electronic data interchange (EDI) network. He is also charged with investigating how to add Internet capabilities to the retailer's EDI system.

Many of the 12 Y2k contractors Wawa hired from service firms, however, didn't fare as well, Kelble says.

When Wawa's work was done, the service firm - which Kelble declined to name - laid those people off. "Many are out of jobs," he says.

Meanwhile, FleetBoston's Iacino is busily archiving the key procedures the bank used during remediation. "We're archiving to show due diligence in the - God forbid - event that we are faced with a legal matter" such as a suit by a customer claiming he was hurt by Y2k trouble at FleetBoston, he notes. (Iacino says the bank experienced no significant year 2000 glitches.)

FleetBoston is looking for positions for the rest of its 18-member Y2k team, but Iacino says he knows some are considering jobs at Internet companies. "We want to retain as much talent as we can, but ultimately, we can't chain our people to a desk."

He says he hopes to leverage the extensive knowledge of hardware and software that FleetBoston has gained from Y2k. One area in which it would be useful would be in negotiating with vendors. "We know today every piece of software we have and what platform it resides on and who the vendor is, for the first time ever," he says. "We could say, for example, 'We buy $12 million worth of software from you a year, so we think we should be getting a better deal.' "

Copyright © 2000 IDG Communications, Inc.

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