Outsourcing is a sticky issue lately and programmers are concerned their high-paying jobs will be going out the window. To be honest, they should be. However, us North Americans have a few advantages over our international brothers and sisters that may or may not bring you comfort. Here are a few:
1. The language of high tech is English. Bleeding edge work in technology is often in English and that gives us a (admittedly unfair) head start. Use this to your advantage.
2. No matter how cheap the labour, sending work offshore costs money. Communication overhead multiplies. Managers love it because now there needs to be more of them to facilitate that communication, in North America and in the other country.
3. Speaking of English and communication: there's nothing like speaking to a native (North American) English speaker, especially about technology. English spoken around the world has local differences, not only in the way it's spoken but also with local jargon, expressions, etc. When you have to process broken/different English before you can digest its contents, communication slows down. In the high-speed technology industry this costs businesses money. Some people are easier to understand than others depending on thickness of accent, and that goes for England, Scotland, Ireland and Australia not just India.
3b. ... and that communication is not just inside the company. Ask Dell how much their corporate customers liked tech support from India. Customers will demand they can speak to someone they understand, not just in management but also at the lower programming levels, so they can get their problems fixed as quickly as possible. If there are communication issues in engineering your customers will dump you because you're not responsive enough. Time is money to them and it should be to you too. Dell learned the hard way.
4. Time zones are a huge communication issue as well. Something that might take an hour to fix in Virginia could take a whole day to fix in India because your engineers aren't even awake yet and by the time they fix it you'll be at home watching Who's the Boss reruns on TV.
So besides those points, software engineers have a distinct advantage over traditional computer scientists in that we often deal with software process rather than straight technology or implementation. CompSci's usually end up learning process on the job rather than in school. North American businesses might be able to outsource quality assurance or programming internationally but the head brass (C_Os) will probably feel less warm and fuzzy about exporting their process -- essentially their control over the software.
The best we can do as software engineers and programmers is to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing. Don't ignore this issue because it ain't goin' away.
Anyway, that's my personal take on it. If you have points to add or corrections please use my comments. I don't know much about this stuff either -- I'm learning just like you guys. Let's discuss it.
Update 3:04PM Nice timing: the rumour mill says IBM is considering "offshoring" almost 5000 jobs to Asia.
Posted at December 15, 2003 at 11:07 AM EST
Last updated December 15, 2003 at 11:07 AM EST
To be honest, I blame opensource software. Its not the cause of outsourcing, but it ain't helping either. If there wasn't any opensource software then we (software engineers, programmers, IT personel etc...) would be having more jobs. Some idiots on IRC dismissed my view as lunacy. I'm not sure if they have a point or not.
If the U.S.A. is suffering from this outsourcing problem, then Canada will too. If its their problem, its ours also.
If you can't beat them, join them! We should start our own outsourcing companies.
I think open source software actually allows for more opportunity for developers. They can learn good software development and coding style for free.
Companies can invest in open source by paying developers to customize the software for a specific use. Then when these changes go back into the community everyone benefits.
I wouldn't be surprised to see more developer positions customizing open source software in the future. Especially for enlightened organizations like governments, where open source software can save taxpayers money in the long run and allow for more customized, easier to maintain and truly open (to the public) solutions.
There can only be so much customizing.
Its the same argument as "there will be a lot of jobs for maintaning and developing robots that will replace many human jobs."
Also, really few people actually read through open source code. See "Myths Open Source Developers Tell Ourselves"
"Myth: New developers interested in the project will best learn the project by fixing bugs and reading the source code.
Reality: Reading code is difficult. Fixing bugs is difficult and probably something you don't want to do anyway. While giving someone unglamorous work is a good way to test his dedication, it relies on unstructured learning by osmosis."
"Myth: Publicly releasing open source code will attract flurries of patches and new contributors.
Reality: You'll be lucky to hear from people merely using your code, much less those interested in modifying it."
Users aren't interested in code, developers are. You'll get orders of magnitude more users than developers on an open source project. Just because most people don't read the code doesn't mean that one person won't go into the code and find bugs for you.
"There can only be so much customizing."? Huh? You can turn a browser into a car if you want ... that is the beauty of open source. If you release the car, you release the code because it's based on the browser code. Customization is only as limited as one's imagination.
BTW, that essay you link to was interesting for sure but it's someone's opinion, not fact.
We actually did it to ourselves.
First we made information networked and portable so that anyone is capable of working with it at any place.
Then we actively promoted "free" software that we work on for no pay. We actively promoted others to use "free" software and to produce it themselves.
Now we act surprised when others are capable of writing software in other countries and are willing to do it for low wages.
Survival of the fitest in this case means we ACTIVELY WORKED at making our jobs less valuable and our presense less nessesary. I'm not saying this is a bad thing; we just reap what we sow.
Silence Or Compliance
Raymond Donald Pairan Jr.
Copyright (c) 2004 All rights reserved.
This paper is just a further elaboration on some of the topics that I presented in my work entitled “The Economy” which I hope has inspired the moral, the passionate, and displaced future working slave class to start inquiring about their ultimate condition within the hands of the business/political elite. It is absolutely wonderful that certain members of the media have started to question the direction and motives of the business/political elite and have beat the bushes where they’ve been hiding thus exposing their true motives to the clear light of day. But make no mistake the business/political elite will stop at nothing to eliminate any opposition be it ethical government, the media, or any other encumbrance that inhibits them from achieving their goal of creating a subservient working class and a contrasting unencumbered business/political elite power base.
At this point in time the media has the business/political elite (forgoing referred to as the controllers) on the defensive at least within the United States, which is in the mist of a presidential election year. Make no mistake the controllers would like to and will eventually silence all media dissent against their planned worldwide domination of all elements that can negatively effect their goal of sucking every last drop of revenue from the world into their realm. If this means devising a means of quelling dissent from those within the media that don’t wish to go quietly with the controllers view – so be it. Keep in mind that money and power are the driving force of the controllers and everything and anything that inhibits their eventual control over these elements in their eyes must be eliminated. This could mean the off shoring of media jobs to compliant outlets such as India where in the case of the English speaking world there exists a future working slave class that speaks English rather decently. The controllers could then eliminate media disseminated descent to their plans of complete global control over all the factors of production including the eventual working slave class. This means that no job is safe from the plans by the controllers to evolve all jobs into mere subservient, compliant, malleable factors of production. Time is limited for the controllers and others that support the free trade (code word – free) subjugation over all workingmen and women. The ideologue's within the future working slave class will blindly follow one another lock step onto the slave ship that will set sail for their future of no dissent, compliance, no morality, no freedom, no future but one of subservience. The time is very near at hand so those within the media that are the moral voice of dissent must take our case to a fever pace in order to expose and keep all rouses from becoming the new molded distorted facts that can be espoused by the controllers. For the controllers their religion is money and power because for them nothing else matters. If they can gain control over not only you the educated working, the hard factory working, the service sector working, then they will be free to build a truly worldwide free market economy where they are free to do what they wish when they wish it.
BEND THE TRUTH LIKE LIGHT THROUGH A PRISM
If you say something enough and if you change the dynamics and distort the facts to your liking then eventually it will be believed by enough people to become the truth. Basically, the controllers just prior to taking complete control over all media dissent will be hard pressed to dispute facts such as 3 million jobs lost in under 3 years, poverty within the United States at record high levels, whole town centers across rural America with a preponderance of vacant store fronts, a trillion dollar deficit, most states within budget crisis, a college education now getting further from the reach of most Americans, and the list goes on and on. Historically speaking when facts don’t convey what the power elite (in our case the controllers) wish than they just change the way those facts are presented so they convey a distorted picture favorable to those in control. This is nothing new and has been employed quite successfully by those in power many times in the past in the form of propaganda. We must maintain focus on the standard measures used within the past and not let the seeping of new measures (touted by the controllers) distort the facts.
THE TIME IS NOW
It is imperative that we work with the media while it is still free to convey the truth about the controller’s objectives and goals. Time is quickly running out for the average working citizen to maintain some semblance of influence over their respective governments. The controllers will and are gaining control over these governments covertly, directly, and through draining the government treasuries converting partially effective governments into impotent shells of past power. Once the controllers are finished with governments than even the political elite will be at jeopardy of becoming obsolete. So those within the political elite may be enjoying the fruits of soiled money conveyed to them by the business controllers but make no mistake once the business controllers have achieved their objectives they will dispose of even the political elite thus eliminating this drain on their coveted profits. There exists one goal of the controllers and that is to extract and drain as much wealth from the world as is possible. The controllers have no God, no religion, no morals, no scruples, and no conscience but only one overriding unquenchable desire – the complete control over all aspects of their bottom line. They will stop at nothing to satisfy their additive need to acquire more and more wealth at the expense of anything that gets in their way. Any worker that is currently employed by a firm that has global reach over its factors of production (and this doesn’t include many small to medium sized firm’s playing by the rules) are at risk of being eliminated. This includes every imaginable profession since there currently exists the technology and desire (by the controllers) to out source any profession – first and foremost the media (the thorn within the controllers side). It is imperative that in the next few weeks and months that all of us that count ourselves among the working class keep abreast of issues, meaningful relevant facts, and not be swayed by propaganda spewing from the controllers. We must make our voices heard through written, vocal, and peaceful dissent to the path that the controllers are leading us down. We must not and cannot follow the controllers blindly into a future of no government and working slave subservience. Remember the controllers will use key phrases such as “free market”, “household survey”, patriotism, and many others to sway global opinion towards their way of reasoning. Also, keep in mind there are many honest, decent, caring employers (mostly small, medium, and large sized businesses) that are playing by the rules and respect their workers, and communities. It is probably only a few but powerful firms making up the Fortune 500 that are the real controllers of a destiny of worker subservience. I will continue to write the unpopular truth be it what may come. You should continue to question, reason, and judge the facts and not be swayed by propaganda. Let the facts speak for themselves because they surely will if given the chance!