The Great IT Pro Trade

Sara Peters, Editor in Chief | 2/21/2014 | 38 comments

Sara Peters
Don't you have some staff you just wish you could trade? Someone who is a totally nice person but just doesn't fit your needs? How cool would it be to just send them directly to your competitor, who is incredibly happy to have them (even asked for them by name). And instead of having to wait weeks for your new employee, while they give notice and relocate, you could have your new employee on the job the very next day.

If you’re a hiring manager, it sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? Well, if you managed a the sports team, this would be the normal order of business. Yesterday afternoon, the basketball community was on tenterhooks waiting to find out which NBA players would be traded before the season trade deadline at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time. As of that moment, no more trades can be made for the rest of the basketball season.

As I listened to learn who would be changing teams that day, I got to wondering if such a thing might work in IT. Surely all IT personnel would like to be on a team that wanted them and needed them. And surely anyone would prefer to have that handed to them instead of grinding through job applications. And wouldn't it be nice to go through that entire process out in the open, with your company's approval?

In theory it doesn't sound so bad, but in practice, sports trades can be stressful, messy, and often painful. Players rarely have any say over whether or not they're going to be traded, and where it is they're going to be traded to. Sometimes they don't even know they've been put on the market until they hear the rumors in the media. Then they have to keep performing at their best, trying to ignore all those rumors fluttering around them. Sometimes players don't know that they were put on the market until the deal goes through. Some players hear about it on the news before they get the call from their management.

Yesterday, one player was in the middle of warming up before a game when he was told to change, hop on a plane, go to a new city, and get a new uniform, and tonight he'll be playing for an entirely different team, hoping his family will be able to relocate to his new home soon.

These aren't rare situations. They're quite common, and it's really rather horrid. However, if we could make the trade system more humane, and make the people being traded more a part of the process, could we make something like this work in IT? There would be a few challenges.

First, sports business people have half the competitive season to watch and assess the entire league's talent on TV. IT people aren't always on display in this way, so first we'd need a way to properly advertise our team's best work. Developers would have a rather easy time showing their labors in their portfolio, but other IT jobs -- database administrators, help desk associates, network architects -- would find it a bit harder to show off.

The sports world is also very keen on statistics. So we'd need plenty of standardized metrics. Perhaps in lieu of the Wins-Losses column, we'd use Money Made-Lost. Instead of points scored we'd count sales made (with online shops and new PoS solutions). Instead of assists we'd measure help desk tickets cleared. Instead of rating defense, we'd rate compliance. We could measure things like time to deployment, or user satisfaction rating, or energy efficiency, and the like.

It would certainly make the task of creating meaningful metrics more fun. Heck, maybe people would start a Fantasy IT League.

Maybe I'm crazy. I often am. But I still think that there is merit in the idea of putting together the very best team you can by collaborating with other companies. What do you think? What kind of things would you want to know about your competitors' talent before you accepted a trade? Would you ever allow yourself to be traded? Let us know in the comments below.

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SaneIT   The Great IT Pro Trade   3/3/2014 8:39:29 AM
Re: I don't want to play
If I could teleport to work I'd work anywhere.  I wouldn't even need an office since I could just teleport in for meetings then teleport back home.
SaneIT   The Great IT Pro Trade   3/3/2014 8:38:17 AM
Re: I don't want to play
In the past the company relationships were not always friendly and at least two of the relationships felt very forced so yes when I went down to help them with anything I felt like an outsider raiding their castle.  Other companies that were folded in a bit better didn't feel that way and there was much more cooperation.  In every case I had "ownership" of their infrastructure but they were very protective of their data and their processes.  
Sara Peters   The Great IT Pro Trade   2/28/2014 10:44:42 PM
Re: Re ; The Great IT Pro Trade
@SunitaT  You say you wouldn't like to be traded to a "less competitive and less comfortable working environment." Do you mean "competitive" as in the business is a successful, competitive business, or as in the employees are competitive with each other?

SunitaT   The Great IT Pro Trade   2/28/2014 1:17:19 PM
Re ; The Great IT Pro Trade
All this trading thing is tricky for many reasons. Some of the reasons are mentioned in the article like the difficulty of showcasing the trade potentials. Besides this, without having any say in trading, few people would like to become part of it. It is not always all about money. I would never like to be traded, however beneficial it might be, to a company with less competitive and less comfortable working environment.
Sara Peters   The Great IT Pro Trade   2/28/2014 12:19:09 PM
Re: Like buying a used car...
@Curt  I think I like this idea:  "Another situation in which trading professionals could work is the increased reliance on short-term teams as part of an Agile development environment. A pool of talent that can be re-formed as team needs change can lead to high-value development and lower turnover."  It wouldn't be right for everyone, but I think some people would thrive in this set-up, as long as they knew that's what they were getting into when they took the job. Or maybe this would be good for people who were technically independent contractors.

Sara Peters   The Great IT Pro Trade   2/28/2014 12:12:02 PM
Re: The Great IT Pro Trade
@zerox  "Regardless of which one it is, if their really is a 'better' way to get people into the right role, why aren't we using it?"  Great point. I tend to think that most companies hire someone for just one position and don't ever consider that maybe a team needs some reshuffling
Sara Peters   The Great IT Pro Trade   2/28/2014 12:05:52 PM
Re: The Great IT Pro Trade
@tekedge  Thanks! We love you too!
Sara Peters   The Great IT Pro Trade   2/28/2014 11:58:42 AM
Re: I don't want to play
@SaneIT  Question for you. As you say, "I'm working for multiple companies that are part of a larger parent company." When you work for multiple brands, does it make it hard to feel like you're part of the team? And do you think it's necessary for IT people to identify with those brands, or is it okay to just be part of the parent company?

Sara Peters   The Great IT Pro Trade   2/28/2014 11:51:57 AM
Re: IT Free Agency
@Pedro  "May be if you are employee who wants to change job they could place a request to get traded."  Yeah, that's what I was thinking. I'm sure it would still make for awkward relationships while you're waiting to be traded, but it could be a good thing.

Sara Peters   The Great IT Pro Trade   2/28/2014 11:45:57 AM
Re: I don't want to play
@SaneIT @ThePhil  I enjoy being in other places, but I hate the flying. I'd travel all the time if I could just teleport. Let me ask you this: would you like traveling for work more often if you were able to spend less time working, hustling, and bustling? I just came back from RSA, and I was dismayed that I didn't find time to do my two favorite things in San Francisco: getting a banh mi sandwich from the Saigon Sandwich Shop and riding the carousel next to the Moscone Center. There simply wasn't time. If there was more time to soak in the scenery, I'd enjoy it more.
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