More Than the Dress Code Changes in Shift From Dot-Com to Government Work
government sector is heating up. In fact, federal agencies that defend the
nation and the for-profit companies that serve them are the most active sources
of jobs these days.
some career experts wonder if D.C. area employees are prepared for a return to
the buttoned-down lifestyle after a few years in the breezy space of Internet
and telecommunications start-ups. Their refrain? It's a different world in
not going to be a simple matter of taking people from the private sector and
putting them to work for the government," cautioned Dave Tittle,
co-founder of the Paul-Tittle Search Group, a McLean recruiting firm.
that do business with federal agencies and military units often operate with a
precision that clashes with the foosball-playing environments so many dot-coms
promoted during boom times. What's more, the culture shift is likely to be
expressed not only in terms of wardrobe (casual is out), but also in the
relative age of one's peers and the scope of the work projects. It's a lot
easier to get your hands dirty in a company of eight than in one of 8,000.
contracting shops sometimes attract folks with previous agency experience who come
to the private sector as a second career. Elements of the military culture,
from chain-of-command style leadership to the frequent use of acronyms,
prevail. Leave your dog at home, but feel free to bring in the dog tags.
almost as if there are two different cultural shifts," said David
Langstaff, chief executive of Veridian Corp. in Arlington. "One, it's
almost moving from the old dot-com culture back to reality. The second is
moving from commercial to government clients."
should know. In one Veridian division alone, 30 employees have boomeranged back
to the firm after forays with start-up firms. Dozens of former dot-commers
reside throughout the 5,000-person company. Langstaff said he looks not just
for technical savvy, but also teamwork and customer-service savvy in his
workforce, about half of which operates out of client offices.
what many refugees really have trouble getting used to is the difference in
Levin, employment manager at McDonald Bradley Inc., a McLean firm that provides
data analysis and other high-tech services to the Department of Housing and
Urban Development and the Justice Department, among other clients, recalled
that not long ago, a technical candidate told her he wanted to earn $110,000 a
year. Levin parried with a maximum offer of $80,000 and talked about the
benefits and flexible schedule her company offers.
candidate took the job.
dot-com is the first boyfriend and we're the husband," Levin explained.
experienced workers who apply at contracting firms may be surprised at the
reception they get. Many companies require employees to have security
clearances, which grant workers access to protected client sites, documents and
computer systems. Such clearances are costly and usually are arranged with the
sponsorship of an employer.
recruiter Tittle noted, foreign-born employees are ineligible for top
clearances. A not-insignificant slice of the programmers and technical analysts
who work in the country are here on business visas and do not hold U.S.
citizenship, which rules them out for many security-focused jobs.
clearance process can drag on for months, if not years, depending on backlogs
at the Defense Security Service, the agency that handles clearances, and the
level of security a project requires.
for that reason Northrop Grumman Information Technology in Herndon started a
program last year to move electrical engineers and computer science graduates
through a two-year rotation while their clearance paperwork is pending, said
Jeff Shuman, the company's vice president for human resources.
don't happen overnight," Shuman said. "Getting a young person to go
through a very rigorous clearance process is not always the first thing they
want to do when they finish their education."
Grumman's IT unit, which employs 9,000 people in the greater Washington region,
aims to hire 800 engineers, information assurance experts, software developers
and network administrators over the next year for its offices around the
country. Its security unit alone received 18,000 résumés in the month after
Sept. 11 -- a pace that Shuman attributes to the flagging economy and renewed
interest in more government-oriented careers.
shift toward government work couldn't be happening at a better time, as
thousands of employees have soured on emerging companies and even more have
received pink slips, Tittle noted.
this had been an abrupt cataclysmic event a year ago, it would have been more
difficult," he said.
The Washington Post