Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Skinny Times Are A'Coming

I am sitting at the dining table, pecking away at this post while wolfing down some instant noodles. I just got back from company enkai where I really understood for the first time how grave the situation is at work. What with the grim economic circumstances unfolding worldwide, even here in Sapporo, skinny times are a'coming.

It is time to bear down, re-evaluate your skills and knowledge, tap your social networks, and plan for the worst. With the sinking of Lehman Brothers just the tip of the iceberg, soaring fuel and food costs and the coming winter mean that I will have to work a bit harder and a lot more smarter to protect my family.

S0, just how do I know that my company is in for some skinny times and stormy weather?

Tonight's party menu, that's how. Or rather, the lack thereof.

Normally, an enkai for welcoming new employees should be a fairly filling affair. It is fall, so that should mean a nice, hearty nabe hot-pot, with extra dishes of skewered meats or sashimi, salads, and the like. But tonight? There was only:

  • a small nabe hot-pot, 1 serving per person, with cabbage, mushrooms, and ground chicken dumplings
  • 1 yakitori skewer
  • 1 tsukune ground chicken skewer (very tiny)
  • a sparse green salad
  • tiny, tiny fried chicken nugget-lets (I mean, tiny!)
  • vinegared sushi rice (w/out much in the way of anything added to it)
  • a dry piece of cake for dessert
Granted, it was an all-you-can-drink-for-2-hours sort of deal, but after a hard day coding, I was looking forward to sitting down to a real meal. Seeing as how such a meal could not be afforded given the financial situation, I fear that expanding the staff at this point is probably folly. And any grandiose ideas for transforming the company from a software sweatshop into a real service-oriented enterprise should have been put into execution last year.

Already, there is blood in the water for IT in Sapporo. A local Sapporo IT company called Den-nou (電脳, but their website is already down) just sank last week, and I reckon that it will not be the last. As far as I can tell, practically all IT in Sapporo have the same weak business model (bid as low as possible on jobs in Tokyo or Osaka, agree to unrealistic schedules, and work the crap outta your staff; lather, rinse, repeat). With practically nothing to discern one company from another, I expect that the same fate that befell Den-nou is what await many other Sapporo IT shops, including the one in which I am stuck.

But I am a chameleon when it comes to careers, a trapeze-swingin' kind of guy. I think it may be time to reinvent myself. Of course, I love coding way too much to give up that easy. But extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

Be prepared. Skinny times are a'coming.