I just got a phone call from a perfectly nice woman who proceeded to ask me about my company's IT needs. While on the surface this could have been any number of solicitation calls that I get on a regular basis; this one really struck a nerve from the get-go.
I just got a phone call from a perfectly nice woman who proceeded to ask me about my companys IT needs. While on the surface this could have been any number of solicitation calls that I get on a regular basis; this one really struck a nerve from the get-go.
The gist of her pitch was to tell me how the company she works for reduces the costs of software development for many Fortune 500 companies. I politely asked her if her company was an offshore IT outsource setup. Well yes, she answered. That is all I needed to hear. I have some pretty strong opinions (as many of us do) on the whole outsourcing thing and started to tell her them. After all, she called me. I clearly indicated that I was definitely not interested in using their services, but she continued to ask me if Id be interested in arranging another call so she could tell me what they could do for my company. What part of Ive got perfectly good engineers and IT staff working for my company and Im not interested in your services didnt she understand? Thats when I just flat out hung up. But is it really enough to just hang-up on these folks? I think not.
Im fortunate enough that I actually own my company so I dont have to deal with the political sewage that frequently seeps down in many companies. The entire situation in this country dealing with the outsourcing of our high-tech industry boils my blood. I am a true believe that the legislation currently being proposed to lower the H-1B and L-1B visa quotas will not go far enough. I think these visas should be abolished until all of the unemployed and laid-off IT workers and engineers who are US citizens are back on a payroll. The fact that a US company thinks that hiring a barely-English-speaking worker in India or the Philippines is going to solve their competitive problems is just absurd. This is such a shortsighted solution that it makes me sick to think that the people in these corporations actually think that they are making sound business decisions. When the high-tech people being displaced by these policies dont have the income to purchase the products being made off-shore, who exactly, Mr. and Ms. CxO, do you think is going to buy your stuff? You think the worker in India is going to run out and buy it? I doubt it. Im not speaking as a disgruntled engineer who has been laid off; Ive avoided that fate which makes me, unfortunately, unusual among my friends. Im speaking from experience, both as consumer and as a developer dealing with offshore companies.
As a developer, Ive worked for a company that thought it was just the greatest idea to hire half of our development team from an Indian outsourcing company. The PR on the Indian developers was that they were fully qualified and were less than half the price of some of the members of our engineering team. Sure sounded like a plan. Well in reality it was, and continues to be, a terrible idea. The fully qualified engineering team was not even close to qualified. They not only completely screwed up the code base, but they cost us more work in the end to fix their mess. Then there was the 2-day turn around per incident because of the time differences between them and us. Every little thing was an email, wait a day, another email, and wait a day. Things that should have taken minutes to resolve took days. It was a complete fiasco. When the emails just ended being a waste of time, we had to schedule conference calls at all hours of the night, again to take the time differences in the locations into account.
Are all outsourcing companies a total waste? I doubt it, Im sure there are some stellar engineers working at some of these companies. Just as there are stellar engineers all over the world. Do I want, or need, to work with them from my office in the US to successfully complete a project? I dont think so. Will using an offshore development team save money? I can tell you from my experience, it was exactly the opposite.
From a consumers point of view, I recently needed support from Symantec Corporation because of a serious problem I was having on my machine caused by one of their products. I bought and downloaded a virus checker, which completely roached my machine. First I got the email support, which was clearly a form letter, of things to try from Manjunath C, Symantec Authorized Technical Support. I can only assume that my complaint was handled through an offshore call center. Ok, I can deal with that, but what annoyed me no end was that I had initially emailed very detailed symptoms and a description of the problem. I am, after all, an engineer.
When the suggestions sent in their form letter didnt work, I emailed back (again) very specific symptoms, and got the same exact email back. As you might expect, I was quite annoyed since I wasnt even able to boot my machine because of their product. After more than 5 days of this because they wanted me to pay to be able to talk to a person, I uninstalled the product, demanded a refund, and switched to another vendor. I believe that had Semantic support been here in the States, I could have dialed them (I wouldnt even ask for a toll-free number at this point), spoken to someone and either have gotten a fix for the problem or resolved it some other way. Perhaps I still would have had to remove the program, gotten a refund and switched vendors, but Semantic sure would have understood the problem that I doubt Im the only person to have had. Was this just a case of bad technical support, or was it because the training the offshore worker got was focused only within some predetermined parameters? Thats the difference between having a worker, and having an experienced worker. The price that I paid for Symantec having just a worker was 5 days of downtime for my business. And note to anyone from Semantic who might read this: I wont be using your stuff again for a very, very long time, if ever.
This same sort of difficulty in dealing with customer support happened to me too in dealing with HP recently where a conversation that should have taken less than 5 minutes took more than 20 because of the heavy accent on the part of the offshore worker handling the Accounts Payable for HP. I was able to tell where he was located due to the hp.india.com return address of his email.. Why should I be forced to lose money (my time is money also) while other companies think they have a right to save it? And by the way to HP: having an AP rep on the phone for 20 minutes from India to Colorado is not, perhaps, the cost savings you folks intended.
I want to be very clear; I have no problem working with anyone of any nationality. In fact, most of my career has been spent working with teams located around the globe. What I do have a problem with is working with people who are being hired as cheap labor who clearly arent qualified or and can be very hard to understand to handle the business situation or transaction required. While many of us in the industry feel like we are being dragged through the wringer and have no choice when dealing with the whole offshore situation. Id like to suggest that we, as an industry, have a number of choices. Here are a few:
When you are asked to train the foreign worker to do your job or to support your product line because in 6-8 months they will be doing your job (or the job of a co-worker), simply refuse. And if you must, quit the job. No two weeks notice, just flat out quit. While this might seem like a drastic measure, youre going to lose your job anyway so does it really matter? At least youll leave on your own terms and not be labeled as a disposable worker, not to mention leaving with some dignity. Let companies understand the value that we bring to the success of business in this country.
When you are about to buy a product, call the company and ask them if they outsource their IT and their customer support before you make the purchase. If they do, then simply dont buy the product. But make sure you write an email or letter to the CEO or President and let them know flat out why you didnt buy the product. American companies will listen when their wallets are being squeezed. Maybe we should start industry-wide and consumer aware boycotts of these companies and publicly supporting those companies that support the American high-tech worker. If enough people stop buying the products that are built and/or supported by offshore companies, then I think that American companies will start to listen.
Last but not least, write your congress-people, your Rep and your Senators. Im sending a copy of this blog to mine right now. Let them know that the issuing of foreign worker visas in the high-tech industry has to stop. Either that, or make it financially unattractive for companies to do so by hitting them with a were screwing the high-tech American worker and we know it tax. At least well have it all out in the open for what it is.
Yes Sue! It's great to hear an owner of a company, or upper management if you will, espouse these views. American companies are being completely short sighted and completely focused on the bottom line when they choose outsourcing. They should instead be focusing on creating a better product and hiring better people to do so. The better people you hire the less people you'll need. There's your cost savings (among other benefits).
Rod Schmidt infiniteNIL Software www.infinitenil.com
I just checked your company's web site and you are offering outsourcing services yourself. If I may quote: "Overall, you are getting a highly experienced engineer for less than it would cost to hire him or her."
Which could well put someone employed at your client's company out of a job. But that is ok because you are a US company? Is it perhaps that you are displeased by international competition?
Actually, if I may correct your incorrect use of the quote from my website. My company is not an outsource company it is a consultancy. We are hired to do short (or long) term specific projects for clients. We are not hired to replace a worker currently employed by a company because we offer a 'cheap' labor rate. The quote you are pulling from my website has to do with value of having a temporary worker vs. having to hire someone fulltime to work on a specific project and then find other projects for them to work on, not to mention medical benefits and other corporate costs that are also associated with a full time employee.
BTW, I have people of all nationalities working as consultants for my company.
Hi Im an indian(so my bias should be clear). However since you do claim that "you are after all, an engineer" and logic is something that i associate with engineers, some queries that you can perhaps clarify for me
a. I think these visas should be abolished until all of the unemployed and laid-off IT workers and engineers who are US citizens are back on a payroll - So effectively an incompetent US citizen counts more than a competent person of some other nationality?
b. Before call centres / projects etc. were offshored was the US programing world some utopia? all the problems you describe that you faced as a consumer/developer were all present and satirized in dilbert and its ilk way before . What makes you think that these problems go away if offshoring is stopped?
c. When you are asked to train the foreign worker to do your job or to support your product line because in 6-8 months they will be doing your job (or the job of a co-worker), simply refuse. Oh great teamwork. I sincerely hope everyone follows this in your company. Even if the people they are asked to train are not foreign , this problem still exists that you may lose your job to him. This is great consultant advice.
d. When you are about to buy a product, call the company and ask them if they outsource their IT and their customer support before you make the purchase. I hope people all around the world follow this. for all products. especially for those with a made in us tag.
Im not going to argue about the pros and cons of outsourcing.Enough has been said about that. However i would ask you to perhaps take a look again at what you have written. The mandatory "i have nothing about foreign nationalities , i work with all nationalities, i get along well with them etc tec " sounds hollow in your post
The universe is bigger than the earth and the earth is bigger than the US of A. This poorly speaking barely qualified indian recommends you study some geography and some history.
I fear you have misunderstood, Deepak: there is a careful distinction to be made here. Many Americans are as closed minded as you suggest, but I don't think the author is.
The author does not object to people from other countries being skilled, and being paid for those skills. She does not object to foreign companies working with American ones, nor to foreign contractors working on American projects.
She objects to companies using cheap technical workers from another country, because in the short term it saves the company money. This is not the same as hiring a truly skilled person who happens to originate from elsewhere. The problem is that foreign workers are seen as a cheap, easy short cut to save money on this month's balance sheet, and the actual quality of the work is too often overlooked. It's the skilled equivalent of much abuse of third-world workers by American companies: money above all else.
Her suggestion to abolish all foreign work visas was a step too far, and I disagree with it. Being English, i hope that working in America would be as viable an option as working anywhere else. What is needed is discretion, not a blanket ban.
Hi Um let me see - As far as i know all outsourced labour (to india anyway) IS cheaper(as skilled or not is a matter of opinion) ,when you do a straight rupee to dollar comparison. so when the author objects to cheaper labour she is in fact objecting to all outsourcing. The author does not seem to mind hiring expensive us labour which may be unskilled as seen from her suggestion that there should not be a single unemployed US citizen before hiring out foreigners(not to imply that the unemployed are unskilled but it is a possibility).
I have tried to be extreme in my arguments to match the authors tone.
And i agree, that discretion is needed which is what this author doesnt seem to get. See for example the title of the blog. Does it say no outsourcing to cheaper places or no outsourcing at all.
As to whether i have misunderstood/misjudged the author let us wait and see her reply (if at all). regards deepak
Also being on of "them incompentent f'urners who can't even talk 'merkan right", I felt the same protectionistic bias as you did. Whether or not the author intended it, the article is quite disrespectful of non-americans.
The idea of boycotting and complaining to the government about companies that use foreign labor is just a revival of national protectionism. It is a very simpleminded solution to a much more complex problem. If using foreign labor is a bad idea, won't the market sort it out better?
It is sad that this article is so short sited and built on trade protectionists fears. No wonder we are so hated around the world. We tell people of capitalism and open markets as long as its convenient for the U.S. No wonder we are despised the world over.
Tell me whats the difference between outsourcing the labor to produce software and the outsourcing of the manufacturing that produced the PC that you used to create this article? its all in how it impacts you. as a skilled professional manufacturing job loss has no effect on you, but when the role is reversed its a different story.
With cheap computers and cheap communications that makes consulting and outsourcing possible (no longer do you need a $5 mil. mainframe to compete like EDS did in the 1960's) you it inevitable.
Ultimately outsourcing many projects for saving cash will fail. not because of the "skill" but because of the lack of immediacy in communicating requirements from the "customer" to developers. This is why Agile methods work, everyone is on the same page and in the same room all the time. With a 10-14 hour time difference its hard to communicate/convey changes in the environment to deliver the right product. any design is outdated the instant its written to paper. when the outsourcing collapse occurrs (and its going to happen) things will return to normal. if not, then its time to get better skills to cope, after all with front page etc. there are very few snowboardin' dudes getting $120/hr designing websites any more.
And you should also check out the India Institute of Technology (IIT) probably the most elite school in the whole world. 3000 students accepted a year out of a population pool of 900 million. The kids going there start studying non stop to take the entrance exam from the age of like 8. Those who dont make it often end up having to go to lesser schools abroad like MIT, CMU, Stanford, the Universiy of Waterloo.
If I may address and clarify my views on the points you raised. I've included your comments as is using Deepak and responed using Sue
Deepak: a. I think these visas should be abolished until all of the unemployed and laid-off IT workers and engineers who are US citizens are back on a payroll - So effectively an incompetent US citizen counts more than a competent person of some other nationality?
Sue: No where in this blog do I say that. What I do say is that if an IT worker has been displaced because their job has been sent overseas because the price tag comes at a cheaper rate (in the short term), until all of those diplaced workers are brought back on the job there is no need for additional visas to be granted. Part of the issue of granting the H-1 and L-1 visa arose because of a shortage of IT workers. This is no longer the case and the quotas should be reexamined. This is a different issue as to whether they are competent or incompetent. If no one can provide a qualified skill set, then sure, go fill the slot with whoever can fit the skill set at that point.
Deepak: b. Before call centres / projects etc. were offshored was the US programing world some utopia? all the problems you describe that you faced as a consumer/developer were all present and satirized in dilbert and its ilk way before . What makes you think that these problems go away if offshoring is stopped?
Sue: I've been in this industry (and on this planet) long enough to know that no place is perfect. I never said that the same issues might not rear their heads without outsourcing. I stated that in my personal experience I couldn't even get someone on the phone that could provide a solution or for that matter even paying attention to the details provided. If the call center wasn't offshore, I could have made a phone call located in the States. I have no intentions of paying for a wasted 20-minute phone call (not to mention my time) to India to have an issue resolved. This is an example of poor customer support that will become more and more prevalent with more and more companies. And I will continue to take my business else ware until I find a company that provides quality service.
Deepak: c. When you are asked to train the foreign worker to do your job or to support your product line because in 6-8 months they will be doing your job (or the job of a co-worker), simply refuse. Oh great teamwork. I sincerely hope everyone follows this in your company. Even if the people they are asked to train are not foreign , this problem still exists that you may lose your job to him. This is great consultant advice.
Sue: If someone is working for my company, and they think that I am making a blatant fool of them for some reason, than yes, I expect them to refuse to comply, not that I would ever intentional make a fool of anyone. Let me clarify my statement: When a company asks you to train your replacement who is being brought over to this country for a time period and then returning to their native country (who might or might not be as qualified as you) and teach them everything you know about this product and organization because they are going to have your job in 6 months, you are being made a fool of. Any self-respecting person would refuse to do such a thing. Teamwork is about being focused on a common goal and completing it as efficiently as possible. Teamwork is not about getting screwed by your company at your expense. So yes, I do feel that having self-respect and standing up for what you believe in is good consultant advice.
Deepak: d. When you are about to buy a product, call the company and ask them if they outsource their IT and their customer support before you make the purchase. I hope people all around the world follow this. for all products. especially for those with a made in us tag.
Sue: I agree, I hope people all around the world follow it also. I never stated that I felt this was purely a US specific issue. I think countries should always try and patronize products and services that can be provided locally or within their own economy. It helps the local economy, no matter what country you hale from.
Deepak: Im not going to argue about the pros and cons of outsourcing.Enough has been said about that. However i would ask you to perhaps take a look again at what you have written. The mandatory "i have nothing about foreign nationalities , i work with all nationalities, i get along well with them etc tec " sounds hollow in your post
Sue: I still stand by my viewpoints. Many have read into this blog in a negative way because they imposed their own misconceptions and prejudices on it. I do, and always will, have a great respect for nationalities around the globe for all the diversity that is provided. I've traveled to over 20 different countries and have a first hand appreciation for many places on this planet. Im not sure I understand what you refer to as hollow, but I can tell you that unless you know me personally or have worked with me professionally there is no judgment that you can or should make about me just as I did not make any judgments about others in my post. My post was based on personal experiences.
Deepak: The universe is bigger than the earth and the earth is bigger than the US of A. This poorly speaking barely qualified indian recommends you study some geography and some history.
Sue: I agree that there is a big picture, but the picture has to start locally first before you can move to greater pastures. I appreciate and respect your comments as I hope you appreciate and respect mine. Namaste.
Wow. For the first time I wish we had kill-files on Artima. Sue's weblog is just inane and inflammatory. I'm not even going to argue with all the misconceptions and racist bias within it. I have only one thing to say to Sue:
Software development jobs in the USA are a dead end. Deal with it. In the fifties the textile industry was really the place to be in. In the sixties it was steel.... Guess what, in the nineties it was software development. It now has as bright a future in the USA as the textile industry. Too bad you're still in denial about that. Hopefully you'll re-adjust because it is going to happen no matter how many weblogs you post your ramblings to. Such is the nature of corporate America. As soon as it discovers a way to cut costs on labour, the jobs move abroad never to come back to the US again. It happened with textiles, steel, automotive industry and now it's affecting IT and software development. Nothing is going to stop that. Period.
> As an "Intellectual" it is important that you seperate > logic and emotion.
She called herself an "engineer" not an "intellectual" -- there is little overlap between the two (especially after the title inflation of the dot com boom!). Anyway, logic shouldn't and cannot always be separated from emotion. Nevertheless...
Sue, do you apply these same rules to everything you buy? Look at some labels on your clothes, your car, your china (er, dishes), etc. and I bet you'll find "Made in Dominican Republic," "Made in the Philipines" and on on. Also, you've mixed up the visa issues with offshoring, when really they are completely different things. I think other countries should object more to the H1B visas then America should, since they are the ones undergoing the "brain drain" as a result.
As far as this current "offshoring" craze, I imagine a lot of foreign workers here in America are victims of it, too: corporations tell them that their sponsorship will not be continued and they must return home -- and by the way, you can do training at the new office in Bangalore when you get there. Thank you, good bye. (For those who wanted to return home, this is great, but for those who didn't, sorry).
I think there are problems with offshoring (mentioned by others in this thread) and the free market will decide whether it is good -- I'm sure the answer will be it is good for some things, but certainaly is no silver bullet. Trying to enact protectionist legislation is ridiculous, unnecessary and simply bad.
Finally, if it's really true that you can cut costs by offshoring expensive employees, then why not start with the most expensive employees? For the cost of one American CEO, you could probably employ the entire population of some third-world contries.
Hi Sue a. Any quota system is illogical and has always had negative effects. b. You seem also to imply that IT workers were displaced because someone somewhere provides cheaper labour. I believe it is possible that in some cases the labour was cheaper, was more skilled, worked harder and got things done better. I cannot see your post make any distinction between the two cases. c. As someone has pointed out america touts itself as the "greatest" capitalist economy. What is happenning in your country now is also capitalism, live with it. If as you keep pointing out outsourcing costs more in the long run and provides lesser quality -then dont worry about it . The market will sort it out. On the other hand you may be wrong, in which case you do have something to worry about and if you cant get competetive , you will need your government to pass laws to protect you.This is what part of your post seems to be about. d. Please continue to take your business to those that provide quality service. Just dont let the location of the call centre or the accent of the person speaking influence your definition of quality. e. As far as training your replacement goes(cheaper or whatever else the circumstance), my sense of ethics is different from yours, so i disagree with what you say. I dont see if you lose your job to someone who is capable as you and provides it cheaper as "getting screwed" even if you did train him. If your replacement is not competent enough , it is the company that gets screwed. If i am being paid for a job , be it training for my replacement i do it to the best of my ability. Anything else hurts my self respect.
f. I think consumers should buy the best quality product that satisfies their budget. The country it originated in is irrelevant(This from the guy coming from a country where the concept of "swadeshi" was present years back). Economics as a subject is too complicated for me to comment about whether this helps the local economy or harms it. It however does help the consumer for sure.
g. Ill let you reread your post and mine and decide whether the misconceptions/prejudices were mine or yours. (On a personal note , out of a group of 13 friends who passed out of engineering together in india,I am the only person who did not apply for further studies to the USA , i also do not work for an american company, i do not like the jobs that get outsourced to india but not for the reasons you mention , and have no intention of ever coming to the US)
Also reread it to find out if you have made "any judgements". I believe you have done so in more than a couple of places I have passed no judgement on you, I do however pass judgement on the views expressed by you. And no i do not respect your comments.
PS-This will be my last post and my last visit to this particular weblog. apologies to all people i dont reply to and apologies to anyone who considered this a flame.