I don't claim to know precisely how pervasive the phenomenon is, but I do know that there are way too many U.S. workers who feel a sense of entitlement when it comes to job security, and that includes IT workers. That fact begs an uncomfortable question: Does that sense of entitlement cause U.S. IT workers to be less driven than foreign IT workers?
I raise the question following a fascinating interview I did last week with Dr. Tracey Wilen-Daugenti, vice president and managing director of the Apollo Research Institute and author of the upcoming book, "Society 3.0: How Technology Is Reshaping Education, Work and Society." Wilen-Daugenti has held global management positions with Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard and Apple Computer, so her tech industry credentials are solid.
What was probably the most intriguing part of the interview for me was our conversation around IT skills and what it takes to make it in today's IT work force. For starters, Wilen-Daugenti stressed the importance of keeping current with advances in technology:
I think the challenge for engineering and IT people, which is becoming the reality in any sector, is that you have to go back to school and keep learning, because your skills get dated very quickly. You can't expect your 1980s education to get you through to 2020-you have to keep up. A lot of times what I see is the reason why companies are bringing in people from overseas is that [those people] have advanced skills, they keep up their education and they keep current with the technology. They view that as part of the job-learning every day is integrated into your life, just like keeping up your health. You have to take care of your skills and your education every day.
He was born in India, his family had nothing, and now he's a very successful technology entrepreneur in the U.S. And he said, "Now I'm raising my kids, and I want them to be engineers like me, but they don't have the fire in the belly." He said, "I don't know how you recapture that fire in the belly when you don't know what it is to be poor, to scramble for survival, to try to make a life, vs. when you grow up with a really nice life, which the U.S. has." So I don't know. That was his comment.
Corporations need to create an environment for people to be successful, so that they can achieve what they need to achieve to keep their jobs and to move ahead. Each corporation has to decide how much of an investment it wants to make in that. That's really up to the corporation itself, and it's up to the individuals themselves to determine how much they want to invest in their own educations to remain viable and competitive.
The past few years have been very tough for a lot of people in this country. A lot of families have suffered, and a lot of people who had never experienced it before now know what true hardship is. Hopefully, the hardship we as a nation have suffered will rekindle the fire that can be too easily snuffed out in a satisfied belly.