Stories by Virginia Robbins

Career advice from Gen Y

I feel lucky to work with so many smart young people. These twentysomethings, often referred to as Generation Y, belong to the generation behind mine. We hear a lot of generalizations about this group. My take is that they are energetic, intelligent and not too different from my own generational peers.

Seven rules for life in a startup

I'm on my first startup. My experience had been at companies that were making significant strategic changes and wanted to ensure that IT could support the new direction. They were mature companies, at one time successful but now feeling that their choices were either to change or sell. Looking back, I realize that at every company, many of my recommendations focused on the fundamentals of IT management -- project management, life-cycle planning, governance and staff development.

Comfort is for home, not work

Our plates were well picked over, but the waitress was hesitant to interrupt us to clear the table. My dinner conversation with Susan, a potential employee, was easily into its third hour. Susan's a smart, experienced technician -- exactly what we needed for our start-up. I'd answered every question that she'd thrown at me, but she just wasn't ready to change jobs. Her current one was very comfortable, she said.

What keeps management focused?

I remember seeing tendrils of fog floating in across the San Francisco Bay that July morning. It couldn't have been more than 68 degrees outside, but in the boardroom, it felt hotter than our Phoenix call center's parking lot. We were reviewing production results from the day before, and a key vendor hadn't been able to meet our customer's demands. As the business analyst spoke about the vendor's actions, I looked past his shoulder to the wisps of gray outside and wondered what could have been different.

Maximizing a Retention Bonus

The back of my new boss's black leather chair faced me as I bounded into his office; a crown of brown hair was all that was visible. My old boss had retired a month earlier, wanting no part of the project to outsource our IT department.

Standards and the IT profession

In response to my recent article "Fewer CS Majors Not a Big Concern," a reader wrote that "the systems that support today's businesses do require highly skilled, experienced professionals to design, develop, enhance and maintain them." He went on to argue that the best way to ensure that a company has highly skilled technical professionals is to hire computer science graduates.

Offshoring problems

I had only 75 more e-mails to read through before I could head home, and it looked like most of the remaining ones were spam or what I call near-spam.

Changing IT's Rep Through Small Talk

I just saw another one of those commercials that make fun of the unprofessional IT worker. I'm sure you've seen this one: The Suit comes into the Techie's work area and asks if something can be done by Tuesday, to which the Techie responds unprofessionally. The Suit offers to negotiate for the Techie, and the Techie snaps to and says he'll call a vendor, the commercial's sponsor. The Suit is left confused, the Techie gloating, and the Sponsor looking great. And IT workers everywhere are left with an image problem.

Opinion: Self-service needs a few Bradleys

On my way home from work, I stopped at the garden center in my neighborhood home-improvement store to buy a few plants for my flower boxes. For less than US$20, I found four beautiful red begonias that were perfect. The standard checkout lines were long, so I decided to use the self-service kiosk.

Opinion: Self-service with a smile

Recently, it's felt as if my entire life has been spent in airports. The airline I take most often is one of those low-cost peanut tossers that specializes in self-service. After logging over 80 flights in the past year, I remain a fan of this airline. It's been just about a year since I've had to interact with anyone at the entire company other than to give my drink order or to wish someone a good day as I deplaned. It's been great.

The ragged edge of outsourcing

As I approached my neighbourhood sushi restaurant, the friend I was meeting for dinner called. He wouldn't be able to make it; he had to take part in yet another conference call with India. But he promised to make it up to me somehow if I could please, please, pick up dinner and bring it to his place.