Opportunity Costs

[photocommons file=”Altaner.jpg” width=”300″] The nolug mailing list has been taken over by the perpetual whine again: “New Orleans Sucks.” Even though I still love the city and sometimes dream of living there again, when it comes to crime or politics there are many ways that it does, indeed, suck. But the thing that got me to move away — before Katrina came and made the problems worse — was opportunity. I had to post my experience with New Orleans and opportunity.

TL;DR: Even freetards need people skills.

I am telling you why I love and miss New Orleans. It has nothing to do with tech or politics. I don’t live in NOLA because of opportunity, remember?

I should clarify. I did post about politics. And even while living there, I was bothered by politics. But politics didn’t make me move.

Even rampant crime — my wife and I were robbed at gunpoint once — didn’t make us move.

It was opportunity. At the time, I was working as the “anti-spam” guy for McDermott. When they replaced my Solaris MTA with a Barracuda appliance and terminated the contract, I really wanted to continue working as a fairly-well-paid person working with Unix.

Most of the readily available jobs that met my criteria in NOLA at that time required an Oracle certification. I did think about getting one — the cost-benefit ratio for an Oracle Certification is pretty good and demand was there — but I am too much of what Fake Steve Jobs calls a “freetard” to get one. The GPL really does mean something to me.

We sold our house in Carrolton, and, for a few weeks, I worked as a Perl subcontractor for a guy in San Francisco on a mod_perl project he had.

After that, I went to work on a presidential campaign in Little Rock.

Even though the campaign was a flop and the pay was abysmal, it was one of the best decisions of my career: I made a number of friends from around the country and worked closely with them over the course of a few months. Those relationships led to more opportunties than I would otherwise have, living here in rural Pennsylvania.

So, yes, NOLA sucks as far as opportunities. Any place outside of a major metropolitan area like New York or San Francisco probably sucks a similar amount, at least for Tech jobs.

Which brings me to my point: It isn’t WHERE you are or even WHAT you know so much as WHO you know and HOW connected you are. You can have great tech skills and still be stuck with a job in a New York City bodega if you don’t know how to leverage them.

Yes, a person in the right place with the right set of technical skills can do amazing things. But if he doesn’t have any way to build and maintain some relationships that will help him when his current situation is finished, he’ll be stuck.

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