And the IT staff come Russian in

You think you’ve got it tough in IT. You haven’t seen tough. A deadline for a CIO in Russia means just that: go over that line and you’re dead.

Hopefully Yuri Ishanin is playing around with figurative speech, and “dead” refers to your career, but he’s serious about the consequences of not hitting project targets.

“If you fail, there is no way you can come back,” Ishanin says in his distinctive Russian accent.

Ishanin, once a CIO for a Caspian Sea shipping company who claims 23 years’ experience in IT, told attendees at a lunch put on by CIO magazine (New Zealand) last week that in Russia he would have to provide firm dates and cost estimates directly — they really are the middlemen, he says — to senior managers. He would demand the same discipline from his staff. Delays put down to personal problems are not accepted in Russia, he told the Auckland conference. Deadlines in New Zealand, by comparison, are not deadlines, he says.

A system of bonuses is paid in Russia. He can’t understand why people here are paid in advance or in full for projects.

“Bonuses are one of the best solutions” to make people work to time and budget, he says.

Ishanin, who has created a small consultancy, works at Fonterra in Wellington, alongside a few others from his homeland, from the US, Australia and the larger consultancies. Outsourcing is Fonterra’s policy, as confirmed by the company’s CIO, which means permanent IT staff are getting fewer and fewer, he says.

While contractors frequently earn several times that salary of permanent staff, IT staff in general these days have less security, he says.

When he first arrived, he had no job security, despite claiming he was invited to this country a decade ago as a C++ developer. His recruitment agent was confident, but he was less so as he waited several months. He jokes he was “a fat, old Russian man — go home, sleep, forget it”.

Perhaps as a result, Ishani also seems to be on another mission. That’s one of getting Russian immigrants from behind the wheel of taxis and in front of computer screens cutting code and running projects. He’s not suggesting you hire just anyone who — like him — crunches through the hard consonants of English and leaves out articles, definite and indefinite, willy nilly. They have to have the right IT experience. Ishanin, a patriotic Russian but one who has no intention of returning home, says he could count the number of top Microsoft .Net specialists in this country on one of his well proportioned hands. Russia, by comparison, has a wealth of experience in not only .Net but XML, UML, Oracle 9i and SAP, he says.

Sure, language problems have to be overcome, he responded to a question from the floor. But Cambridge-certified schools in Russia can quickly get otherwise suitable prospective job applicants up to speed in English.

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