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lucid thoughts

April 23, 2002 Tuesday

The Internet Bubble

Pretty much after getting my certificate as Web Designer from Seneca College, I'd been working as a nomadic contractor charging my hourly rate. Two months stint here, 3 months there...it was virtually waking up unemployed everyday and all you have going is your skill set to capitalize on for the next contract. That was living on the edge. But that was when work was coming out of my ears. Those were surreal times. Somebody fresh out of HTML school could be making $70,000/year (I wish it was, but that wasn't me). Chapters Online (my previous employer) flew somebody from Monterey, California (add board and lodging expenses) to do 2 days work on e-commerce programming. There just wasn't enough people available to meet demand. Dot-coms were flushed with their IPO money and Nasdaq was reaching unprecedented highs. The party was in full swing.

I would liken contract life to being a mercenary. Being good in what you do, corporations hire you to do a kill (design a site). Being a professional, you make a clean swift kill (squeaky clean codes in the shortest time possible), learn as much as you can from the project, get your bounty and you're off for the next kill. Simple as that - no politics, no loyalty, no personalities, no nonsense. Life was good.

And then the internet bubble burst. That same dude making $70,000 was holding a cardboard on the sidewalk that says, "will html for food". Suddenly, the limitless supply of contracts dried up. Web designers and developers were getting laid off en masse. What used to be a $70,000 job for a greenhorn html coder was now cut in half (granting he even gets that job), but on top of html, you now had to know database, Flash, Photoshop, ASP, JSP, JavaScript, etc., to get a job interview. Because now, you're competing with the thousands of unemployed designers out there, a lot of them offering more than what you know - the glut was simply too thick and everybody was hurting. It was like a HUGE hangover after a wild party....which it was.

I wasn't spared. After living life on a credit card (make that a handful of credit cards) for 3 and a half months, my current employer, AIM Funds, took me under its wing as a fulltime employee. Full time employee? I have to surrender my guns as a mercenary and live life as a homesteader tilling the land? The idea was alien it was frightening. But hey...it's a job. A way to put food on the table without having to slide the credit card. 3 months into the job, I was experiencing withdrawal symptoms...isn't it time to be looking for a new kill? Old habits die hard. It's been nearly 1 year now and not unexpectedly, I've grown roots. There are now human faces to the people I work with, people I workout with (we have an in-house gym) and I see the company as a whole to be a benevolent benefactor.

The paradigm has once again shifted.

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