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18 July 2006 @ 04:46 pm
One Step Toward Warding Off The Dumb  
The following is not meant to be a sweeping generalization. I'm not about to claim that my limited experiences apply to anyone else, but they are a big part of my personal decision-making.

So, what's the decision? I'm never taking a state job. Or a city job, or a federal job, or any government job. Yeah, the benefits are top-notch in a lot of cases, and the pay is often inordinately large for the type of work they expect you to do (Work? People work at government jobs?). But there is one glaring problem with them that I was previously aware of, and have only become more attuned to lately. More on that after some pertinent lead-in.

I used to train state employees a lot. The state is also a client at my new job. One thing I learned about the state (as a trainer) was that the state is, shall we say, set in its ways. "We've done it like this since 1974! Why should we have to change now?" This is especially true of anything IT-related. State workers learn to do things one way, do it like that for twenty-odd years... then the state finally gets a clue and updates their hardware or software or something. And when they do that, everyone now has to learn it the new way.

The longer someone's been with the state, the more set in his ways he becomes, and the more he tends to hate the idea of change. Learning something new isn't seen as an opportunity to expand one's knowledge, it's viewed as a disruption, or a threat. To the extent that, when trainers are brought in to teach state employees new software, said trainers often become scapegoats. I have been chewed out on several occasions because [New Software] doesn't do something that [Old Software] did. A fellow trainer had a student walk into the classroom, march up to him, and declare, "I like [Old Software], and you're not going to take it away from me." Our evaluation scores were often low on these courses too, no matter how well we taught.

Small side rant: Seriously, WTF? We were there to help you guys out. We weren't the ones who wrote the software or decided that you needed to switch to it. CHILL.

So yeah, I knew that and dealt with it a lot as a trainer. There was one other thing I knew as a trainer that hasn't really hit home until now, as I attend a three-day training course rife with state employees. It is this: that the learning process for a set-in-his-ways state employee, even if he is making a goodnatured and valiant effort to learn something, is often very difficult. That's the problem with doing things a certain way since 1974. You stagnate. Your brain stagnates. If things don't change, if you're not encouraged to learn, you forget how to learn, given enough time. The past two days, I've been able to do something in this software program I've never used before after being shown once. If by chance I forget a menu command, I can find it either after playing around a little bit or by looking it up in the student manual. The older state people, however, have to have their hands held, have to be shown again and again and again how to do the dumbest thing, and you know they still don't get it. All I can do is thank Whoever that I'm not the one that has to explain and re-explain things, for once.

The lack of learning is what scares me most about a state job. There's also a nasty offshoot of it, too: you become unemployable in the private sector, because the state is so behind the times that your skills aren't relevant except to the state. But I think the brain-rotting is far worse overall, because that's the sort of thing that'll stop neurons from firing as you get older. Alzheimer's, and all that. Granted, being an epileptic, I can afford to have a few neurons stop firing, but I sure don't ever want to stop learning or go senile. No amount of salary or pension is worth that.
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Angeldeathslilsister on July 18th, 2006 10:05 pm (UTC)
Isn't it scary? Jason always tells me he feels like he sold his soul for early retirement and a pension :)
Miusherimiusheri on July 18th, 2006 10:59 pm (UTC)
Well, if the retirement is early enough, it might just have been worth it! He could always backpack through Europe (taking you with him, of course) and pick up a language or two to keep his brain active ;)
Ellieellie on July 18th, 2006 10:11 pm (UTC)
That's actually one of the things my father has to battle. He often tries to change policy and proceedure to deal with the changing needs of public health. Used to be you dealt with keeping water clean, camps and pools safe and raised disease awareness. Now you're preparing for bio-terrorist attacks, terrorism in general, plagues and flu and nuclear fall out.

Of course, sometimes if it ain't broke, don't fix it....
Miusheri: bluescreenmiusheri on July 18th, 2006 10:53 pm (UTC)
Of course, sometimes if it ain't broke, don't fix it....

Oh yes, of course. But often, with IT at least, it's not that the old way is "broken" so much as it is effort-wasting/inefficient, outdated, incompatible with more recent systems that other companies have adopted, etc.

Good luck to your dad on being a reformer!
Ellieellie on July 18th, 2006 10:55 pm (UTC)
The great thing about being in charge, people have to listen to you. And if they don't you get to yell at them or assign them elsewhere.
Jeremyindigoboi76 on July 19th, 2006 04:06 am (UTC)
it is like that in the federal sector too i have gotten soo mad at my fellow rangers esp the long time ones when i suggest something that makes sense and they look at me like i have three heads if i ever get that indoctrinated into the system shoot me