OK, the stock market is falling like a rock. Big banks are being bought and sold like overripe bananas. The masters of the financial universe are looking like suckers at the horse race track buying tip sheets printed after each race. And now, even the venture capitalists of Silicon Valley are telling their captive companies to skip the party, tighten the belt and get yourself sold.
So, with all the highly educated financers showing that they have no clothes, what is the corporate techie toiling away in the server room or the help desk supposed to do to keep a job and pay the mortgage? Here's my 10-step program.
1. Heads Up!
Don't think that just because you are doing a really good job at your one task that you can avoid the corporate grim reaper. You really need to understand not just your little corner of the IT world, but all the technology tools that keep your company running. The more you know about all the parts of the machine, the more valuable you become as the company looks for utility players rather than specialists.
2. Take a Hike
That's right, get outside of your cubicle and spend some time visiting other parts of not just your company's technology universe, but also the business brains. This is not easy, but after your first small forays, you will be surprised in just what regard the company holds the techies. You'll learn the language of business and soon find yourself in the ambassador-at-large role, able to form your own opinions about what tech projects are seen as valuable outside the world of the techie cubes.
3. Make Friends
This is foreign territory for lots of techies. It is a lot easier to deal with your computer than a real person. But unless you want to see that e-mail that puts you on the goodbye list, you need to build some sources in the company who can give you an early storm warning. Without access to the corporate radar, you will be flying blind. Become the unofficial computer help desk, and you will soon have the chance to make lots of new friends.
4. Lose Friends
You are trying to keep your job, right? You know how much corporate time is being taken up with fantasy leagues, Web surfing, non-business e-mail, IMing, YouTubing, etc. Someone is going to drop the dime to the higher-ups on the huge waste of time taking place as employees run eBay stores and exchange photos of the party the night before. Might as well be you.
5. Protect the Boss's Wallet
Make one of your corporate walkabouts after hours. How many terminals are still glowing, printers are running and computers are sitting idle? Take a good guess at how much power is being wasted and let the boss know. Pick another simple target: printer supplies and costs. All those printers add up to a lot of supplies and paper being wasted. Wade through all those software license agreements to find out exactly what your company is paying for. You can become not only the boss's favorite cost cutter, but you can fashion yourself as an eco champion as well.
6. Watch the Cloud
It used to be really difficult to learn a new application or programming environment. You had to get access to a system and attend a class or certification seminar somewhere, and, after all that, you were never quite sure your new knowledge could stand the corporate computing environment test. Now, you have a computing cloud you can tap into. Take some time to understand Google's corporate offerings, Salesforce.com and Amazon's cloud. The corporate cloud is one of the hot topics these days, and you need to be the one who can explain why or why not the cloud is right for your company.
7. Keep the Boss Happy
How many times has the mystery of why one corporate geek keeps his or her job when the layoff scythe is swinging been solved by figuring out who really is the one that the boss uses to keep his or her system running? Who makes sure the boss has the latest laptop or makes sure the boss's BlackBerry is always up to date and tied into corporate apps? And who is the one whom the boss uses to keep the family computers running and is the one who acts as the help desk for the boss's college kids? Enough said.
8. Tune Up the Old Engine
In downturns, companies hang onto their old servers and network equipment far longer than the equipment's warranties. Someone has to be the person who knows the ins and outs of the sputtering server, the dying disk drives and the flaky network router. It should be you they call when the system conks out.
9. Kill an App
Somewhere, maybe many somewheres, there are apps running on servers in your company that haven't been needed in years. No one knows who created those apps, who used those apps or why they are still running. Killing an app means you can usually kill a couple of servers, save some money in the server room, free up resources and generally look like someone who knows what's going on. Good for you.
10. Pull a Plug
Keep track of the servers you take offline, the printers you turn to off instead of putting on idle, the computers you shut down instead of putting on standby. Those acts alone will put you in the green cost-saving category. Now, take on the bigger task of sitting down with the bean counters and HVAC and figure out how much that data center is costing each month. You find out this information and you have the keys to the castle.