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U.S. Programmers An Endangered Species? 1361

Posted by michael
from the going-going-gone dept.
CommanderData writes "USA Today reports that US Programmers are an 'Endangered Species' and expects them to be 'extinct' within the next few years, replaced by offshoring and H-1B visa holders. They suggest people will manage overseas projects, become self-employed, or switch to other fields. What do my fellow code-dinosaurs plan to do before the asteroid hits?" A report on Newsforge (which is part of OSTG along with Slashdot) shows the flip side of the coin.
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U.S. Programmers An Endangered Species?

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  • Defense Programming (Score:5, Informative)

    by kalashead (559049) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:25PM (#10536303)
    Certain areas of programming lend it self away from offshoring and H-1B visa holders. Here in the defense industry we have the confidence that our programing requires US citizens holding security clearances. This, however, does cement our job secturity. While we do not have to worry about offshoring, the vacillating DOD defense fund and nearing presidant election leave us a bit chary.
  • Re:An idea (Score:5, Informative)

    by Zathras26 (763537) <pianodwarf@gmaPL ... minus physicist> on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:27PM (#10536339)

    That's a good idea -- if you can get a clearance. Getting a security clearance can be difficult for various reasons. For one thing, you have to find a company that will sponsor you (either that, or go to work for the government). For another, you have to meet the requirements for a clearance, and they've tightened those up since 9/11 (I should know -- when I applied for a clearance, the government told me they'd have to investigate me for well over a year, just because I had changed my name). I even know of one guy who's been cleared for a while but is now in jeopardy of losing his clearance because his wife is French.

    But yes -- if you can get the clearance, that's definitely an excellent way to give yourself a good dose of career security.

  • by jjohn (2991) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:27PM (#10536347) Homepage Journal

    The death of the American Programmer has been heralded many times before. Back before spreading terror about the eminent collapse of our non-Y2K compliant world, Ed Yourdon wrote a little book of doom called The Rise and Fall of the American Programer [amazon.com], in which a dim future was projected for our overpaid and underworked behinds.

    He wrote this is 1993.

    Some of you will remember that the booming economy of the mid to late 90s in which being able to say "internet" landed you a tech job.

    It will take more years to evaluate the real impact of offshoring on the American Programmer. If programming is what you enjoy doing, you will always have work (although you will have to be flexible in what you program).

    As always, don't panic.

  • by Xylaan (795464) * on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:34PM (#10536458)
    True, but the fact that in a general question about outsourcing, he simply assumed that it mostly applied to dead-end low skill jobs.

    The mere fact that a decent number of high-tech high-skill jobs are going overseas was completely glossed over. What saddend me was that Kerry didn't say anything about it either.
  • Re:strange indeed (Score:3, Informative)

    by DigitalRaptor (815681) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:36PM (#10536482) Homepage
    I think that $52k vs. $60k is the difference when both programmers are located in the United States, and the 40% pay cut is when the coder is located in India.

    H-1B in the U.S. make largely what U.S. citizens make.

    The jobs overseas are a whole different ballgame.
  • by wargolem (715873) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:37PM (#10536498) Homepage
    Offshoring is actually a bad move for clients who need software development, since it puts so much distance between the software engineer and the customer (plus a possible language barrier). If the engineer and customer can't communicate efficiently and effectively, then the product will suffer in both quality and release date. Most likely, software companies which offshore development tasks will suffer in the not-so-long term, while others, who hire developers close to home, will release better products faster. However, other tasks like nighttime telephone tech support are easily offshored with no consequences.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:39PM (#10536525)
    I just left a company where I had to tell my engineers their jobs are going to India. I agree that the coders in India are not going to be able to do the same level of work and will likely fail on major projects. The main reason for this failure is communication. If the client is 11 timezones away, how can their be any collaboration.

    I had a great team that worked close with the business and developed a lot of new extreme programming practices. In the end the execs decide with their checkbooks. India resources are very cheap. Unfortunatly the execs had not realized the hidden cost of the main customer service website not working properly or not even running. The other item the business folks want it the latest products, pricing and promotions on the web in a very timely fashion. They don't get any of that now but they are stuck with the resources the IT department decides to use.

    As for me, I've seen the writing on the wall. Consulting rates have been pushed down and other then boutique consulting, hard to command a decent rate for the effort required. I've had enough and to quote the "City Slickers" movie, my life is a do-over.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:41PM (#10536556)
    Washingtonpost has an article on the Industry vs. American workers squaring off on this issue [washingtonpost.com]. and an article on outsourcing [washingtonpost.com].

    BTW, Harriss Miller and the ITAA are the ENEMY on this issue and the IEEE is the good guy. Check out IEEE Legislative action center [capwiz.com] to help us take action on these issues.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:43PM (#10536585)
    My wife has a Ph.D. in Computational Linguistics, and has been unemployed for 3 years. The job market has been so bad that she has pretty much given up even looking.

    When I suggested a couple of years ago that she could go back to school she just glared at me and said "27 years of school was enough". I can't believe Bush thinks "get a job" is an economic policy, which is why my wife and I are voting for Kerry this year.

    Check this out -- funny! http://www.theonion.com/election2004/news_4013.php [theonion.com]
  • You're wrong... (Score:3, Informative)

    by GillBates0 (664202) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:43PM (#10536586) Homepage Journal
    Lots of people I know have been able to obtain Visas to work in India. You can obtain short term business (6 month, multiple entry) and long term (10 year) business Visas. For further details look up the US Consulate, SFO [indianconsulate-sf.org] website.

    Debating (healthily) is okay, but spreading FUD is not.

  • by DigitalRaptor (815681) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:44PM (#10536606) Homepage
    I'm a Republican too, but I despise Bush. He claims to be conservative but is wholesaling America to the highest bidder.

    I really wish I could take back my vote in 2000 and give it to Gore.

    Bush is great if you're rich, own a major oil or logging company, like to breathe CO2, or look forward to the 23 rise on sea level.

    If you're the average Joe in the U.S. that doesn't buy into the whole Saddam = Terrorism garbage, then Bush eats it. I'm sick to death of his cheesy grin and empty rhetoric.

    Anyone But Bush [anyonebutbush.com]

    John Kerry is a Douche Bag But I'm Voting For Him Anyway [johnkerryi...anyway.com]
  • Bush & H-1B visas (Score:3, Informative)

    by mbbac (568880) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:13PM (#10536964)
    Bush is a big proponent of H-1B visas [google.com]. With the huge number of un- or under- employeed American computer workers the H-1B visa program for computer workers should be drastically reduced.
  • by mogrinz (548098) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:16PM (#10537016)
    Actually, the book was "The Decline and Fall of the American Programmer". You're probably confused because a few years later, he came out with another book titled "The Rise and Ressurection of the American Programmer". In that book, he basically refuted all his arguements from "Decline and Fall". If more people read the sequel, these stupid articles would lessen. Still, I hate patronizing Yourdon - who made $$ playing both sides of the issue.
  • Re:Auto jobs??? (Score:1, Informative)

    by isolation (15058) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:17PM (#10537031) Homepage
    Come to Greenville SC. BMW just opened a plant here about 5 years ago. Its called in-sourcing.
  • by pclminion (145572) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:25PM (#10537139)
    Don't be an asshole. Not remembering the exact wording is not equivalent to never having read it.

    Jesus, only a grade schooler would make such an argument.

  • Some numbers (Score:3, Informative)

    by karb (66692) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:31PM (#10537220)

    1999 Numbers : [bls.gov]

    • Computer programmers : 528,600
    • Application Software Engineers : 287,600
    • System Software Engineers : 209,030
    • Total : 1,025,230

    2000 Numbers : [bls.gov]

    • Computer programmers : 530,730
    • Application Software Engineers : 374,640
    • System Software Engineers : 264,610
    • Total : 1,169,980

    2001 Numbers : [bls.gov]

    • Computer Programmers : 501,550
    • Application Software Engineers : 361,690
    • System Software Engineers : 261,520
    • Total : 1,124,760

    2002 Numbers : [bls.gov]

    • Computer programmers : 457,320
    • Application Software Engineers : 356,760
    • System Software Engineers : 255,040
    • Total : 1,170,840

    2003 Numbers : [bls.gov]

    • Computer programmers : 431,640
    • Application Software Engineers : 392,140
    • System Software Engineers : 285,760
    • Total : 1,109,540

    Difference, 1999-2003

    • Computer programmers : -96,960
    • Application Software Engineers : 104,540
    • System Software Engineers : 76,730
    • Total : 84,310

    Considering the tech burst, the generally faltering economy, outsourcing, the MPAA, and 9/11, it's pretty good. Especially if you aren't a programmer (incidentally, they average around 8-10k less a year than the software engineers, IIRC).

    I'm not a wonk, I'm a geek, so please forgive if I have my numbers or sources wrong somehow.

  • by Mr_Icon (124425) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:34PM (#10537252) Homepage
    <rant>

    Would you stop it about the H1Bs? They are *NOT* "stealing" your jobs! For an H1B to be hired, the company has to *prove* that the foreign worker is better qualified than local available workforce for the position they are being hired. And the salary level *must* be approved by the local dept. of labor. In fact, many companies avoid H1Bs like a plague because it takes too much effort to do the paperwork, and they have to wait 4-5 months before getting an approval.

    No US company would hire an H1B if they could have an American doing that job. Especially considering that H1Bs are limited to 6 years.

    I'm an H1B and I've been one for the past 6 years. I'm leaving to go to Canada in the spring because I'm coming up on my limit and can't continue working at my current job past July. I'm good at what I do, I have excellent English skills (and Russian, and now French), and I have good references. I have paid all my taxes (including Social Security, which I won't ever see back, since I don't qualify for it), and nearly everything I earned in the past 6 years went back into your economy.

    Feel free to bitch about offshoring your jobs, since the money actually leaves your economy forever, but don't blame H1Bs if you lose your job. That's not how it works.

    </rant>
  • by trentfoley (226635) on Friday October 15, 2004 @02:09PM (#10537706) Homepage Journal
    Programmers do not mate.

    We interface.

    I still can't get my wife to say "Enq" and waiting for me to say "Ack" before she asks a question.

  • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Friday October 15, 2004 @02:25PM (#10537892)
    Go watch it again. That is not what that comment was in response to. It was in response to Kerry wanting to raise the minimum wage. More handouts, more government control, same old liberal crap, new packaging.

    No, YOU go watch it again.

    SCHIEFFER: Let's go to a new question, Mr. President. Two minutes. And let's continue on jobs. You know, there are all kind of statistics out there, but I want to bring it down to an individual.

    Mr. President, what do you say to someone in this country who has lost his job to someone overseas who's being paid a fraction of what that job paid here in the United States?

    BUSH: I'd say, Bob, I've got policies to continue to grow our economy and create the jobs of the 21st century. And here's some help for you to go get an education. Here's some help for you to go to a community college.

    We've expanded trade adjustment assistance. We want to help pay for you to gain the skills necessary to fill the jobs of the 21st century.

    You know, there's a lot of talk about how to keep the economy growing. We talk about fiscal matters. But perhaps the best way to keep jobs here in America and to keep this economy growing is to make sure our education system works.

    I went to Washington to solve problems. And I saw a problem in the public education system in America. They were just shuffling too many kids through the system, year after year, grade after grade, without learning the basics.

    And so we said: Let's raise the standards. We're spending more money, but let's raise the standards and measure early and solve problems now, before it's too late.

    No, education is how to help the person who's lost a job. Education is how to make sure we've got a workforce that's productive and competitive.

    Got four more years, I've got more to do to continue to raise standards, to continue to reward teachers and school districts that are working, to emphasize math and science in the classrooms, to continue to expand Pell Grants to make sure that people have an opportunity to start their career with a college diploma.

    And so the person you talked to, I say, here's some help, here's some trade adjustment assistance money for you to go a community college in your neighborhood, a community college which is providing the skills necessary to fill the jobs of the 21st century. And that's what I would say to that person.

    A note about the Pell Grants he talks about: they are automatic, not something that is "expanded" deliberately by a president. You become eligible for Pell Grants once your income falls below a certain level. The fact that more people are getting Pell Grants than before is not something for him to be bragging about- it's a direct consequence of increased poverty during his administration. It takes a lot of gall for him to actually brag about Pell Grants expanding.
  • by ajohnj1 (534707) <<adjohn> <at> <gmail.com>> on Friday October 15, 2004 @02:43PM (#10538123)
    I don't know about where you live, but getting an apprenticeship is nearly impossible around here... The skilled trade of being an electrician is wanted by many around here, and the demand is far too low to find a job for the amount of people interested in it. I'd have better luck finding a programming job here than an electrician apprenticeship.
  • by PHPhD2B (675590) on Friday October 15, 2004 @03:08PM (#10538469)
    Foreigners who are US educated still need H1B visas to be able to work after they've graduated from their US education.

    So someone who's working on an H1B isn't necessarily foreign-EDUCATED, only foreign. Plenty of H1B workers are US educated.

  • Speaking as someone seeing first hand the quality of today's college students, I'm not sure I can agree with you that the claim of lackluster US education is a fallacy. Being an older student (due to transferring schools and taking time off), I have the unique perspective of having seen two generations of college students while working towards my degree.

    In that time, I have seen the the basic skills of the students decline dramatically. Most of the papers I've read by my classmates read like papers written by non-native speakers of English... and these are the born-and-raised American students! Simple problem-solving skills seem to be non-existent in the current generation of college students. Worst of all, academic dishonesty is rampant--when I started my college career, no one even considered cheating, but now many of the students in my classes cheat without even realizing they're cheating! Even worse, there seems to be an attitude among today's students that they are entitled to pass a class, regardless of their performance.

    The only real light of hope I can see in this situation is the fact that the foriegn students, at least the ones from non-Western countries (at my school, I haven't really run into any non-Americans from Europe (perhaps because European schools are good enough that no one wants to come here instead?)), are often worse than the Americans. But I can excuse some of them--they are often not only dealing with difficult topics, but trying to learn them in a language that is not their native tongue.

    So, is the US education system better than those in many other countries? I'd have to say yes. From what I can see, however, that's not really saying much. US education definitely needs improvement, because we're no longer substantially better than everyone else. And if we're going to compete, we absolutely must have the best product available, because there's no way we can compete on price.
  • Re:I don't think so. (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2004 @03:25PM (#10538653)
    I have alot of work done in India, quoting me 10 dollars an hour and taking 4x as long to complete it. Gee that is 40 dollars an hour
  • by chipmeister (802507) on Friday October 15, 2004 @03:28PM (#10538688)
    Here are a few tidbits I know about outsourcing to India:

    1. India (I believe TATA) is home to one of the first two SEI Level 5 software organizations - the other was the NASA shuttle group.

    2. Programmers in India are more like $35 per hour rather than $5.

    3. The time difference can actually be a benefit as customers can test during the day things that were coded durning the night before.

    4. Anyone who has changes to go to code going to production in 30 minutes with a million lines should really review their processes and standards. That sounds like an invitation to failure.

    5. Programmers got spoiled just like stock market bubble surfers during the 90's. It makes completely no sense to pay a VB or HTMl guy $80 per hour. I saw even higer rates than that.

    To summarize: the Indians are getting the business because they are good programmers who have a good process and charge what the work is worth. The Indian rates have been rising steadily over the past few years and will equalize soon. So I don't really believe the Ameircan programmer is going the way of the Dodo bird.
  • Re:And Kerry said... (Score:3, Informative)

    by bnenning (58349) on Friday October 15, 2004 @03:32PM (#10538738)
    Poor people spend, they don't save. That creates new demand, which creates new business opportunities, which creates new jobs.

    Yeah, saving is bad, everybody max out your credit cards right now! Come on. When you save, you make money available for investing in new businesses and expanding existing ones.

    I was fairly miffed that Kerry did so little to explain how increasing the minimum wage spurs the economy.

    Because it doesn't. Otherwise we could increase the minimum wage to $50/hour and all be rich.

    We hear the supply-side view about the minimum wage killing jobs all the time, even though the same sorts of dire predicitions have been made for 70 years now without coming to pass.

    European economies are much more Keynesian than the US, and have much higher unemployment.
  • by fyrie (604735) on Friday October 15, 2004 @03:40PM (#10538842)
    That's what I did. Yes, I went to community college, and then on to a one year tech school. I lost my job to outsourcing/.dotbomb at the end of 2000. However know I am doing quite well now.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2004 @04:03PM (#10539105)
    You may be an H-1B, but your knowledge of the law is lacking. Contrary to your claim, there is no requirement whatosever that employer make any effort to recruit Americans or that an H-1B worker be better qualified before making an H-1B application. (See 8 U.S.C. 1101, 8 U.S.C. 1182 and 8 U.S.C. 1184)

    You may also be interested to learn that the law specifically prohibits the Department of Labor from doing anything more with a prevailing wage claim than to check to see if the form is filled out correctly. (8 U.S.C. 1182 (n)(1)(G)(i))

    The application fee for an H-1B visa is a mere $130 and the forms are easy to fill out.
  • Way off (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mark of THE CITY (97325) on Friday October 15, 2004 @06:47PM (#10540807) Homepage
    Silicon Valley is dying because of imported labor.

    1998 == No imported workers


    Badly off, and racist to boot. TiE (tiesv.org) was founded in the Valley in 1992. Non-tech Indians (physicians, for example) were here earlier.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2004 @08:03PM (#10541429)
    The problem is enforcement. Let me give two examples:

    1. At a previous job, they hired a H1B over a more or less equally comptent US citizen. Even had the US citizen known it, there isn't much he could have done as the company would make something up about how much better the H1B canidate was. Although after the experience, I don't know if the company would do it again (due to paperwork).

    2. Two international graduate students in the same subfield in CS were hired as H-1B workers over me. It would be hard to argue that they were better qualified as they were average students and I was the top in the class. So what can I really do about it: Nothing.

    As a final example, the graduate school I went to was biased toward accepting international students over US students. They did this so that they could get more work out of their students and pay them less. Hopefully, that's not a trend, but just an example of where it occurs.

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