Jay Fields has a recent post “The Cost of Net Negative Producing Programmers”, in which he laments the high impact of NNPPs and the lack of any industry structure that encourages them to leave the field.

I find it reasonably depressing to find that, in many ways, I agree with his argument. Worse, I’d go so far as to suggest that a similar problem exists in other parts of the ICT industry.

Some examples from my own experience …

The Educational Institution

A nationally (New Zealand wide) recognised educational institution that promises to train anyone for a career in IT, with the boast that 100% of their graduates get jobs in the sector of their choice.

I can handle either half of that promise – that an institution would accept anyone and try to train them, or that they would run courses with standards that mean those who manage to graduate have the skills to get jobs. But to promise both – that seems to be a recipe for disaster.

The Sole Charge SysAdmin

I once worked alongside a systems administrator who ended up having his login access to our clients network revoked because he consistently made simple errors with serious consequences.

This resulted in the odd situation where several developers on our team (including myself) were trusted by the client with read/write access to critical production systems, but our systems administrator (supposedly certified in support of the software running these systems) was not granted any access at all - not even read/only access.

The Web Administrator

In another case, a company needs a vibrant website to attract new customers and provide support for existing clients. The company hired a guru web developer – someone with all the skills they needed, and more, to create and maintain that site.

Unfortunately, that person ended up spending more time updating their personal blog than paying attention to the site itself … a blog that was hosted on a poorly hidden sub-domain of the main company website.


I have more recent examples, but these examples (all dating before 2003) all serve to support my point – the IT industry seems to be oversupplied with people who have a net-negative impact on their employers.

At the end of the day, I’d suggest the distinction between those who are net-negative and those who are net-positive comes down to two key factors: Attitude and Talent.

Those who care about what they do and have a talent to do it well will contribute in many positive ways; those who neither care nor have any talent will not.

Attitude is a choice – not an easy one, but a choice nonetheless; and Talent can be nurtured and grown.

Where do you fall?


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January 2009