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Tech Workers Commiserate

By Kim Hart
Monday, January 12, 2009

In a back corner of La Madeleine restaurant in Bethesda, 14 frustrated technologists gathered Thursday to lament how the poor economy has interfered with their career paths.

Most of them are looking for jobs, even if they already have one. Some are delaying plans to start businesses, because these days it's more difficult to find investors -- and customers. So they swapped tips for getting the attention of stressed-out executives and traded advice on how to catch the next wave of technology jobs.

It's become an all-too-frequent scene in tech circles.

Nearly every networking group in the region has hosted events and panels about how to survive the recession. People would offer the same advice: cut costs, focus on the core business, do whatever it takes to keep clients happy.

Last week's small, informal discussion had a more intimate quality to it. It was organized by the DC New Media Group, composed of Web developers and social media enthusiasts. The group has about 800 on social network Meetup.com.

"There aren't jobs in start-ups. They're not raising money," said Brett Halliburton, an AOL new product development manager. He's not in the market for a job, he said, but he tinkers with side projects. He just launched a Facebook application, "Football Coach," that lets friends toss a virtual pigskin back and forth.

The problem: It makes money from advertising, which is drying up across the Web as marketing budgets get slashed.

"It's good I'm not doing it as my source of employment," he said.

Andrea Rice runs Gottamentor.com, a Web site that gives advice to job-seekers.

"The job offers don't fall in your lap anymore," Rice said. "You actually have to look now."

Information technology jobs, especially with government contractors, are still abundant, Kady Chiu pointed out. Unfortunately, that doesn't help her much -- she's a social media consultant. Project managers are in high demand as well, Chiu said.

But Tania Delgado said she is having difficulty finding work as a project manager after the funding for her previous job ran out. A native of Ecuador, she said not being an American citizen has substantially reduced the number of agency jobs she is eligible for.

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