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Michael Jennings – your questions answered

My friend Michael Jennings is looking for a job. At the top of his CV it says:

OBJECTIVE – Find a position taking advantage of my advanced quantitative and computational skills, business and financial knowledge, and expertise in telecommunications and media and use my ability to explain complex subjects to non-technical audiences.

Michael is a one man research department, which is a very cost-effective and useful thing for a person to be. If your company or enterprise is thinking of expanding into new areas, to take advantage of newly emerging trends, technological and/or political, you need someone like Michael to answer your questions, which are liable to be complicated and which must be answered correctly. Answering complicated questions correctly is what Michael does best.

Michael is the sort of person who is easily mistaken for a useless geek, but actually he is a very useful geek indeed. There are several reasons for this. First, he speaks geek. If you want someone to translate to and from your geek department, he’d be excellent, but he hasn’t gone native. He will listen carefully to the questions you are asking. He does not insist on deciding his own agenda and then spouting irrelevant facts all over you that you didn’t want to know, on a subject of no interest to you. On the contrary, he will seize on your question like a dog who has been thrown a bone, and gnaw away at it until he has the answer.

Second, unlike an actual dog, he is a man of broad education and wide interests. He does not suffer from tunnel vision. There is a big world out there, and he knows a great deal about it. In one key respect, the quote from his CV above is deficient, because it implies an ability to function effectively only within his existing intellectual comfort zone. But on the contrary, when I have a question concerning some issue which has both a political complexity angle and a technological complexity angle, Michael is always my first port of call, whether he already knows all about it or not.

The obvious hostile question that has to be dealt with is: If he’s so smart, how come he’s unemployed?

Well, first, he can afford to be, at any rate for a while longer. In the aftermath of 9/11 he lost his previous job. (In an economically hesitant world, businesses become less curious about the big wide world out there.) But he’d been well paid and had received a generous financial settlement, so he could afford to do what he has done since, which was basically to travel and to learn.

What Michael really needs is for the world to be seeking him out with its questions. He needs to be head-hunted. He is not so great at getting out there and begging the world to ask him questions if it is not already bursting with the desire to do so. Nevertheless, the above process, though unwelcome, is under way, and he has already had one very juicy job offer. However, accepting it would mean working in Australia’s rather dull capital city, Canberra, and Michael would prefer to work in (in descending order of preference): London, New York, Tokyo, another big US city like San Francisco or Los Angeles, Hong Kong. Although Michael is presently based in London, he is very keen on the idea of living in the US at some point in his life, and would be very interested in talking to American as well as British employers.

Answering the private questions of profit seeking enterprises is one obvious use of Michael’s talents. Answering the questions of the general public, in public, by being a journalist would be another. Of all the writers I am personally acquainted with in the blogosphere, Michael strikes me as the one most likely to make the switch to becoming a paid writer. Once again, the key quality is his ability to focus on other people’s questions, and not just his own. Someone with a great nose for a story but who is too busy or otherwise engaged to actually chase it up himself. That’s the sort of boss Michael needs, and would handsomely reward.

If you want further evidence of Michael’s powers of analysis and explication, you need only brouse through this list of his Samizdata postings. I think he writes particularly well for Samizdata. As a journalist, Michael would make a great “Your questions answered” columnist. Indeed, one way to get some more excellent Samizdata postings would simply be to email him with technical/political questions. Of the pieces he has already done here, I especially liked the ones about airline regulation, on supermarkets, and on mobile phones.

He also did a good piece on Transport Blog about the Channel Tunnel, and for Ubersportingpundit about the scheduling of international test cricket, and about the format of Rugby World Cup.

My experience of what happens when a network of friends makes a fuss of one of their number with a view to getting someone to help him in some way is that the most help usually then comes from the existing friends. The fuss helps, but only because it gets the minds of the friends focussed on what they themselves can do. However, if you are one of those ultra-well connected, super-highly paid, super-influential, silent readers, of the type who, we here like to think, reads this blog from time to time, in among all those commenters and other lesser mortals whom we inevitably also attract here, and you have or you know of a job which might suit Michael Jennings, please get in touch with him. In other words, please go ahead and prove me wrong.

5 comments to Michael Jennings – your questions answered

  • Michael should write a book. Seriously.

  • Dave The Australian

    I wish I had a geek…

  • anglosphere2003@hotmail.com

    On an unrelated note, have you seen who the Guardian’s latest columnist is?

  • Michael couldn’t possibly work for the Guardian. He has standards.

  • Andy Duncan


    If any of those ultra-well connected readers, of yours, also need a highly expensive Ludwig von Mises fanatic cum highly depressed Sheffield Wednesday football supporter, for speaking engagements, and other chinwag events, involving cocktails, pots of cash, and lots of very well dressed ladies in very expensive suits, then I know just the man. And even better than that, he’s available March 1st, 2004. I thank you.

    Two bags of nuts and a packet of pork scratchings ought to do the trick! $-)