Can Corrective Thinking and Good Ideas Lead Us out of Recession?

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Jobs are a product of growth, so let's think about growing jobs.


In discussing whether or not Denmark was a type of prison, Hamlet asserted to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two minor actors in the Shakespearian play named after the famous protagonist, that it's all in the mind: "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so," claimed Hamlet. With this perspective, we might assume that some people in the U.S. today might actually enjoy being out of work. It's all in how you look at it. Former IBMers are most likely not among this group of happy souls; future IBMers probably have much to look forward to, however.


There is a churning going on in the economy today, and it's affecting the entire world. As with climate change, there will be winners and losers. First, let's note that the unemployment rate in the U.S. does not seem to be retreating. While it stood at 10 percent in December, it dropped to 9.7 percent in the beginning of the year. It didn't keep going down, however. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) figures show that in April, it was back up to 9.9 percent. We'll see what May's figures show when the next BLS report comes out in early June. Supposedly, there were 290,000 new jobs created in the U.S. in April--including 8,800 IT jobs (or 15,600 if you account for the March setback of 6,800)--but in southern California, businesses are just trying to figure out how to keep the doors open.


There is good news and bad news from IBM on the jobs front. We prefer to dwell on the good news, but we must note the bad as well. According to the Communications Workers of America IBM Employees' Union CWA Local 1701, AFL-CIO, the total U.S. workforce within IBM dropped from 133,789 in 2005 to 105,000 in 2009, a drop of 28,700. The union bases these estimates on information from "IBM annual reports and other sources." From the standpoint of the working person, this is good news and bad news. The good news is that 105,000 people in the U.S. still have good jobs. The bad news is that nearly 30,000 folks are collecting unemployment or detailing cars. The good news: in 2009, IBM hired some 3,514 people in the U.S. and another 820 in Canada. The disturbing news, at least to the people detailing cars: in 2009, IBM hired nearly 19,000 workers in India and more than 13,000 workers in Asia/Pacific, according to the CWA. Let's see…that's 32,000 people, nearly the same number that lost their jobs in the U.S.! I guess no one in the U.S. was qualified. If you want a job, move to India! What does it matter really? We're all equal in the eyes of God.


There was more hiring in Central Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEEMEA)—nearly 4,000; Latin America, about 7,000; and Europe, 2900. In Japan last year, IBM hired only 868 people, according to the union. No wonder iManifest is in full swing there.


What does this tell us? That IBM has a bias against the U.S.? No, it tells us that growth is happening around the world—but little in the U.S., a so-called "mature" market. Well, there are people working to fight this state of affairs, but they need help. There are a few bright spots in the U.S hiring scene, however, and one is the announcement this week by IBM that it will create up to 800 technical professional jobs in Columbia, Missouri, by 2012 to staff its new technology service delivery center there. Two other similar centers opened recently in Dubuque, Iowa, and Lansing, Michigan. The Columbia center will be the third new facility that IBM has opened in the U.S. in the past 18 months and part of a network of service delivery centers in more than 20 countries. So the future is not all doom and gloom, and clearly IBM has not abandoned the U.S. workforce as the CWA local asserted in 2009. It only feels that way if you're out of a job, which many people still are, including two friends of mine who recently lost their homes. Neither worked for IBM, I might add.


Other efforts to ramp up the job scene come from unlikely places. I attended an OCEAN User Group meeting last week, and both Alison Butterill, IBM i application development manager, and Trevor Perry, COMMON board member and IT speaker and consultant, gave presentations to the group. Butterill outlined the incredible array of new technology that IBM has dropped in the laps of IT professionals this spring; between the POWER7 systems (and coming systems) and the improvements in IBM i 7.1, it's a lot to assimilate. As one attendee said begrudgingly, "We finally just got our systems working smoothly, and now we have to upgrade again." Wait a minute…isn't that your job? Whatever.… But Perry had the interesting idea of starting a grass-roots effort to create jobs on the IBM i platform from the ground up. Work with the IBM Academic Initiative to request that your local colleges and universities offer training classes in IBM i technologies, and then work with your local businesses and IBM Business Partners to find internships and training positions for the graduates from these newly created classes.


Perry's idea was so simple, yet so bold, that I liked it. If you have ever heard him talk, you know he's a powerful speaker; he gets your attention, and he keeps it. He modeled his idea on one that is starting to catch on in South Africa that boils down to blending the experience of mature IBM i professionals with the passion of younger technology protégés. It's a time-honored formula and one that probably is needed in this "mature" U.S. market. Whether or not you can change something from bad to good just by thinking about it differently, one must agree that ideas are the genesis of all reality—at least when it comes to business.


For more information or ideas on how you can help, write to Perry at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



Chris Smith

Chris Smith was the Senior News Editor at MC Press Online from 2007 to 2012 and was responsible for the news content on the company's Web site. Chris has been writing about the IBM midrange industry since 1992 when he signed on with Duke Communications as West Coast Editor of News 3X/400. With a bachelor's from the University of California at Berkeley, where he majored in English and minored in Journalism, and a master's in Journalism from the University of Colorado, Boulder, Chris later studied computer programming and AS/400 operations at Long Beach City College. An award-winning writer with two Maggie Awards, four business books, and a collection of poetry to his credit, Chris began his newspaper career as a reporter in northern California, later worked as night city editor for the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, and went on to edit a national cable television trade magazine. He was Communications Manager for McDonnell Douglas Corp. in Long Beach, Calif., before it merged with Boeing, and oversaw implementation of the company's first IBM desktop publishing system there. An editor for MC Press Online since 2007, Chris has authored some 300 articles on a broad range of topics surrounding the IBM midrange platform that have appeared in the company's eight industry-leading newsletters. He can be reached at



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