I’m shocked, shocked to discover that corporations hire foreign tech labor because they’re cheaper.
Seriously, who is surprised by this? And if anyone is outraged, why?
I have a pretty unsympathetic view of fellow tech workers who’s jobs have been “outsourced”, either overseas or to H1-B workers who will do the same job for less money. And I’ll tell you why.
The software industry has been headed for a necessary shake-out for years. All you have to do to understand why is turn on the radio. Chances are, pretty soon you’ll hear an ad for some tech school promising starting wages of $60,000+ to graduates. Everybody knows there’s good money in software. And as a result, a lot of kids get software degrees, not because they have an aptitude for it, but because they think it’ll get them a lucrative job. They muddle through their courses, learn just enough Java to satisfy their coursework, and graduate with the expectation that the world is now at feet.
I’ve dealt with some of these fresh-outs. On paper, they have far more qualifications than I do. In actuality, they can’t code their way out of a wet paper bag. And what’s worse, they’re often neither willing nor able to quickly absorb all the knowledge they need in order to write quality software in the real world. After all, they spent 4 years in school to learn this stuff – why should they have to learn more?
It has been observed by people who study the software trade that there is a remarkable disparity between the best and the worst programmers, dwarfing the comparable gaps in other engineering disciplines. Good programmers are an order of magnitude more productive than the poor ones. Various reasons have been posited for this, but the most plausible is that writing software is as much an art and a craft as anything else. Beyond technical acumen, you have to have something else in order to be a great coder – you have to have the “knack”. Some folks have it, some don’t. Just like some people have a photographer’s eye, and others don’t. Ultimately it’s something that can be honed, but never taught. But the people who enter a software degree programming for the easy money aren’t being screened for The Knack. Some of them get lucky, and find they have a talent for it. Many more just barely get by, and then wonder why they feel so lost when they start their first real job.
The net result is that the software market is glutted with poorly-skilled codemonkeys – but who expect to be paid craftsmen rates for their sub-par skills. It is no great leap to understand why companies look overseas when they want tedious, undemanding work done. You don’t pay a bricklayer an architect’s salary (yes, I know that bricklaying is demanding and precise in it’s own right. But it is work done to a pre-existing plan.)
The people in this industry who are truly earning those craftsmen rates are, by and large, secure in their jobs – and when they aren’t, they have better jobs waiting for them. The jobs that are being exported are the ones that require little imagination and have a budget to match. Much of the bitching and moaning you hear is from “engineers” who thought that a software degree was going to be their premanent meal ticket, and don’t give a hoot about the craft of programming.
This is underscored by a recent survey in Software Development Magazine. Every year they do a salaray survey, along with some other questions. This time they asked developers whether they felt that their job was threatened by outsourcing, as well as what was most important to them in a job. In the results, feeling threatened by outsourcing was correlated with preferring better benefits, more time off, and the similar perks in a job. By contrast, the ones who felt secure in their jobs were correlated with valuing challenging work above all other aspects of their job.
Sure, this says that workaholics are more likely to keep their jobs, which is no surprise. But I believe it also says something about the priorites of those who complain about outsourcing. They didn’t get into the business for the love of it, they got into it for the cash and the bennies they thought they’d get. And now they’re wondering why some guy in India, who will happily work for half their salary to do an equally mediocre job, is getting hired over them. Gee, I wonder why.