Public sector vs Private sector IT

Discussion in 'Business & Enterprise Computing' started by PabloEscobar, Dec 17, 2012.

  1. PabloEscobar

    PabloEscobar Member

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    I've recently been given the chance to take up an IT job in the public sector (local council). I've worked exclusively in the private sector for the past ~15 years, for both small, privately owned companies to bigger listed companies.

    I'd appreciate any insight from someone who has made a similar (or opposite) switch.

    Are there any caveats to working in the Public sector? any great advantages or disadvantages?

    I've got no idea what to expect of the culture., so I'm hoping for some advice from someone who knows, rather than just stereotypical "Workers leaning on shovels" responses.

    If a Mod thinks this should be moved to the Careers section, feel free to move it.
     
  2. andyroo54

    andyroo54 Member

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    It depends on so many things.

    I was working in a smallish council in IT, and I was pretty bored. My boss was great, but I didn't have a lot of work to do, and he wouldn't really let me try things, I mean we didn't even have any way to image computers he made me do it all manually..

    And it wasn't just me, there were so many useless people there, all lovely great people, but there just was not a lot of work that needed doing.

    Again this was a fairly small town. I imagine that bigger council=busier environment, but at the same time, I think they would still have this public attitude.

    To give you an idea, if your start time is 8:15, then you get there about 8:40.. and talk and make coffee and stuff around until about 9ish. Then at 1030 it's morning tea time, which usually goes for about half an hour. I had some of the best/funniest convos at those morning teas, bloody awesome.

    So now it's 11AM, about one and one half hour of doing actual work, then it's lunch time (one hour or more, even though it should be 45). So now it's almost two, you do some work, then it's afternoon tea time! Another half hour from 3 to 3:30. Then it's 4:30 and it's home time.

    Again not every council is like this I'm sure, but I can only speak from my experience.

    So basically, total bludge, good people, decent pay, RDO per month (so awesome, that one day makes a huge difference).

    In the end I was too bored, I got an opportunity to work in a large private company, and I took it. Better pay, way more work, and I've learned so much it's amazing. Still am, and I love it. But I do sometime miss the people I worked with, they were great people.

    If I was a bit older, say 40 or so, and I had kids, then I'd probably go back to a council job, but I'd want an IT managers job. So I'm happy now to work my way to that level eventually in the private sector because this real world experience will make me a better candidate for the cushy IT manager job in the future.. You must be about 35? or so? Maybe you are already there.
     
  3. NSanity

    NSanity Member

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    Public Sector hired (i.e you're a public servant) = Winner winner chicken dinner in terms of low levels of stress.

    Contracted to the Public Sector = Fuck this. Every single demand that you ever had in Private IT land just got turned up by 15-20%. They want everything now and they will hassle you perpetually till they get it. You are not allowed to get some of their time (even if its required to move the project forward) ever. They have unreasonably high standards and accept no compromises.

    In terms of Intellectual stimulation - it really depends whether the council/department has money and/or has a CFO that will let you spend it. You can go large periods of time just band-aiding (And if you're not band-aiding, you're not really doing anything at all).

    Be prepared for red-tape. If you're not used to actually doing business/project plan's, having useless meeting after useless meeting after useless meeting and sometimes ultimately getting nowhere - then it may be a bit of a shock for you.
     
  4. Ashpool

    Ashpool Member

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    Public sector can offer some perks, not limited to:
    Training and study support
    subsidized gym,
    subsidized Public transport

    The downside is meetings and bureaucracy. The wheels turn slow, any purchases, new systems and changes take forever!
     
  5. h-90

    h-90 Member

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    This person explained exactly why I left IT in the public sector and moved to private.

    Being under worked can be just as bad as overworked, people don't believe me but its true. There is such little work to do you start to feel useless. There are only so many MMOs you can play at work before you start to get bored.
     
  6. NSanity

    NSanity Member

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    I agree almost entirely with this.

    But at the same time, i've also worked in Budget constrained private sector - and had 9 months of essentially 6-7 hours of actual work per week.
     
  7. OP
    OP
    PabloEscobar

    PabloEscobar Member

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    From the interview, I've gathered that the IT environment is not to different, numbers wise to the one I currently work in, and the team is also the same size, and consists of the same core roles. How big (users/devices) was your council Andy? and how many IT staff? What role did you have (support/infrastructure/sysadmin/all of the above)?

    Public sector hired. But stress has never been an issue for me.

    Red tape is workable, as long as it's not red-tape for red-tapes sake. I'm experienced in writing business and project plans, but they are always designed with a business bent (cost/benefit/risk etc). As long as the same justifications are accepted in the public sector, I don't think there will be a problem.

    Is this a process or a people problem? It seems to crop up a great deal when discussing anything council related. Everyone who wants to "do" seems to get hamstrung by those who just want to fill a chair.
     
  8. Tekin

    Tekin Member

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    I'm doing some public sector project management at the moment. Currently from a scheulded 15 a month it's dropped to 4-5 days a month (3 of which are meetings) due to the length of time it takes to get anything through. I spend 1 day a week updating a few slide packs and resetting decision timelines.

    Fortunatly these guys are pretty reasonable with documentation deliverables (I've had much much worse) but are just useless at making decisions. They have 2 in-house developers who basically haven't been able to do any actual work at all for 6 months. They aren't the best developers to start with, but without impetus to actually do development work, I'm worried that when / if we actually start they will be completely useless.

    I'm currently joking with the entire project team that we should just change to agile development and start building stuff....I'm not sure how many of them realise that's a joke, because they keep having worried looks when I mention it.

    Anyways.

    If you're strongly self-motivated and pushy you'll be able to get some decent training out of it (like...all the time), and in the small teams you can often do a lot of background stuff without it going through 'the process' which gives you exposure to stuff you sometimes don't get a chance to (ie: project mangement, infrastructure, documentation, optimisation etc). If it was primarily project work I wouldn't bother.
     
  9. chip

    chip Member

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    Really? Public sector is largely short term contract - virtually no-one's made permanent, and you're at the mercy of whatever political fancy strikes the government. It can also be hellishly stressful if you're the kind of person who wants to make a difference or do things well - so many rusted on mediocre individuals who are nothing but dead weight, so much bureacratic bullshit in the way, so many people who can obstruct or veto your work depsite contributing nothing to it. As an added bonus, it seems like in public sector you get all the corporate/managerialist crap that you'd find in the private sector coming down from the upper echelons of management.

    For people with a work ethic and desire to get things done, public sector can be really stressful, but for different reasons to private sector.

    The only upside I can see of public sector is flexi time, or if you're someone with a shitty work ethic and no ambition.
     
  10. NSanity

    NSanity Member

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    It will definitely feel like red-tape for red-tape's sake.

    The bureaucracy in Councils feels unnecessary because ultimately in most councils it really isn't - but they like the feeling of doing process like "real" government (e.g federal/state).

    It's both. The People you mention, make the process.

    What you are discussing here is Public Sector contracted. You need to make permanent staff (and this does exist, its just pretty rare - i've got mates in Canberra who have been on 1 year contracts, always renewed, for about 5 years now) for the gravy train to show up. But as mentioned above some people actually need intellectual stimulation and a reason to exist at their job.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2012
  11. elvis

    elvis Old school old fool

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    Enjoy your holiday! :lol:
     
  12. cyclobs

    cyclobs Member

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    public sector sounds like my kind of job! :D
     
  13. samus

    samus Member

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    OK!

    Having done both, working in small business for many years, and now to LGIT, I can probable give you a fair picture.

    Most posters above are correct, you are not as stressed, however my SME experience was fairly terrible. I was working for IT contractors, you know the ones, looking after small business IT needs. This means you are the lowest form of life for most of these business, just someone who you don't want to pay and be expected to give enterprise levels of performance. It does depend on what clients you have, however most of my clients were like this. Once you build a relationship with these people it can be different. I was on an AWA at the time, and i would work 70 hours a week with no overtime. "reasonable overtime" my arse. Again, that was my experience, when i started with the business it was OK, however as the business grew, these issues start to arise. That said I was never bored, and there was always something going on. Driving all over Sydney gets old fast though, and phone calls at 3AM from clients is never fun.

    Now fast forward to LGIT, 35.5 hrs a week, mandated OT and TIL, and generally awesome people to work with. For me, this was a no-brainer. It's not for everyone, I'll admit, but I'm not really motivated my money, the ability to be home at 4:30 every day and spend time with my family is what I want. I've got lots of flexibility in this job, i've pulled the entire system apart and put it back together, there isn't a system in place currently that I haven't put in personally. I work from home on occasion, and it's just a nice place to be. I get to do lots of things, not just IT, on occasion I dig though some old records and plans, and have to paw though old handwritten minute books, and see that someone got paid 10 shillings to dig a road for a week.

    Look, it depends what you want. If you want a faster pace and ultimately more money, you have to do it in private enterprise.
     
  14. andyroo54

    andyroo54 Member

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    Like I said it was small, I think maybe 60 users all up. Just me and an IT manager. Servers were all physical. We did an exchange upgrade while I was there, it was contracted out. My boss didn't know how to configure firewalls etc so that was contracted out too. Same with switches..

    We had a nice fibre optic network between various sites (tourist info center, library, depo etc). I think it could easily be done all by one IT manager.

    One thing I didn't mention that others have is the 'red tape', things are just more difficult/slow, everything needs approval etc.. it's quite restrictive.



    It's both and don't think you can change it!
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2012
  15. mrpats

    mrpats Member

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    I worked in a State Gov't org for about 7 1/2 years, I'm now in a private org.

    Bureaucracy was the name of the game. A lot of empire building and slow turning wheels until the last moment where everything needed to be done yesterday.

    Expect to see some dead wood in terms of people. It is really hard to fire someone in public sector for under performing and if they are an older person then they are just there counting down the days til retirement.

    Can be quite frustrating to get some things done as every purchase has to be "transparent" and "follow due process" however these rules can be bent if you speak to the right person.

    I was very busy in my role. So to all the people saying it's a bludge, I call bullshit. Admittedly you can work as much or as little as you want, but that's called work ethic.
     
  16. andyroo54

    andyroo54 Member

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    You can't work if there isn't anything to do. And don't say "There is always something to do".. If I had more freedom I certainly could have done way more. But within what I was "allowed" to do.. though I must admit eventually you do just start slacking off like everyone else.. your work ethic deteriorates.
     
  17. IACSecurity

    IACSecurity Member

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    Some private is hardwork
    Some private is easy/bludge.

    Some public is hardwork
    Some public is easy/bludge.


    Anyone that can say one or the other is easy/hard simply hasn't had enough exposure to enough places to see its all about the same. The stereotypes really start to fall apart when you spread the sample size over dozens of govt, and dozens of private, at least in my experiences anyway. I say this as a consultant that works with lots of peeps and gets to see lots of good/bad the world over. Govt/Non-Govt.

    For people not busy in their jobs...? Make work, improve systems, streamline other processes. Provide better, additional/new services. There is no excuse to do nothing.
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2012
  18. tompee

    tompee Member

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    Ultimately I believe the problem with the public sector is that amount of ass-coverage that the people at the very top want when it comes to "spending tax payers dollars". They introduce over-governance, process and procedures, red tape, audit trails for every roll of toilet paper.
    Every manager passes this need to cover their own ass down the line, add some of their own wide-ranging edicts and demands. They say "I want to have EVERY approval for purchases of arse paper come by my desk!"... and then he sits on the thousands of requests he gets per month, and then he gets sick of that authority and hires someone he can delegate it to.

    I would challenge any group of people to be efficient with such governance and accountability demands.

    Agree with this. Plenty of people work very, very hard in the public service, plenty don't because they're lazy sods, and plenty get worn down by the bureaucracy and politics and give up. They stay in their "job for life" and lose all their passion and energy.

    Agree with this as well
     
  19. IACSecurity

    IACSecurity Member

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    You mean like private 'spending shareholder dollars'?

    different justification, but very similar outcome. Private orgs are in fact possibly more money focused (ROI, ROI, ROI) where as govt, in many cases also consider the 'good' of it, or the public perception angle, not just dollars.

    Both public and private will randomly throw money around at crap. But at the same time, other areas of the same places will be tighter than a bees ass entrance.
     
  20. Joe Public

    Joe Public Member

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    I can definitely attest to all this. Where i am it just seems to be a mish-mash of people undeserving of their job title (mostly managerial-type roles - the peter principle), people who're lame ducks and hidden in out-of-the-way positions (because they can't be demoted or removed), and people with an inflated sense of entitlement stemming from the 'good ol days' of the public service - e.g, how dare you question me on why i sat on a 2 hour job for an entire day.

    There are some good people, but they get overworked and bogged down with crap work because they're the only ones willing and/or capable. It means they're stuck propping up the day-to-day instead of being able to contribute in a meaningful way.
     

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