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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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  • strange indeed (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kevinx (790831) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:18PM (#10536205)
    This hits home for me being a programmer... but then they mention a pay difference of $52k for immigrants and $60k for americans. Yet they go on to say that people are taking jobs at a 40% pay cut. They must be using that fuzzy math.
  • by ArsSineArtificio (150115) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:19PM (#10536214) Homepage
    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.

    You can't be a "programmer" and also be "self-employed"?

  • An idea (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:23PM (#10536278)
    Why not work for a company that does Department of Defense work (where you need a security clearance)?
    Those jobs will never be outsourced.
  • I'm coming in! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dmp123 (547038) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:24PM (#10536301)
    I'm a UK UNIX support/developer/sysadmin, and I'm being relocated to Seattle under the H1-B programme..

    I'm not planning on stealing anyone's job - my company is creating a new position for me here, and the experience I have with the company's products from working in the UK office is one of the main drivers for moving me, rather than hiring someone else.

    I'm also not a cheaper option - my salary is on a par with US techies, and my company has to pay $$$ for the visa and relocation expenses. So, it's a sink or swim world - might be positions available in the UK or other places. It's not the third world outside, you know - this is free movement of jobs and labour :)

    David
  • Other fields (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShadyG (197269) <bgraymusic AT gmail DOT com> on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:25PM (#10536308) Homepage
    Yes, like other posters I do not believe my career is in jeopardy, having long since moved past programming into software engineering. Still, I've recently found myself drawn to hobbies that when I look at them could potentially replace SE as a profession should I ever choose to do so. Feel free to add to this list with replies:

    Automotive mechanics
    Carpentry (soon to branch out and study architecture and general contracting)
    Farming/survival/self-sufficiency
    E lectronics (ok, this isn't too far from software, and about the same endangered status).

    Anyone have others? What hobbies to computer professionals enjoy that might branch out into alternate careers? I discarded Lego building immediately :-)
  • Re:Language issue (Score:2, Interesting)

    by erick99 (743982) <homerun@gmail.com> on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:27PM (#10536337)
    My experience with Dell has been just awful. I cannot understand the thick accents and they have a hard time understanding what I am asking. I am not denigrating the engineers from India, however. But if I had to overcome the language issues on top of a usually ridiculous time constraint, I just don't think it would work.
  • Bad News (Score:3, Interesting)

    by datGSguy (820433) <telnix@gmail.com> on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:28PM (#10536357) Homepage
    I am currently in the last stages of forming a new venture in which at least five coders will be hired. I have used offshore (India) coders in the past, which has worked well for some projects. This is not however my prefered working relationship. In my experience, even with advanced communication technologies, there is no substitute to 'being there' for building an intuitive, fast, team.
  • by C3ntaur (642283) <centaur&netmagic,net> on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:29PM (#10536364) Journal
    As your knowledge workers become more expensive, expect to see those jobs migrate to still cheaper labor markets in other developing countries. Sure, the net effect on the global economy is positive, but I can tell you it really sucks to be on the losing end of the outsourcing movement.
  • by SunPin (596554) <slashspam@NoSpAM.cyberista.com> on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:32PM (#10536424) Homepage
    He did. That's all he said all night. It absolutely closed the door on any remote chance of voting for Bush.
  • by nominanuda (786275) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:33PM (#10536431)
    My job won't be going overseas any time soon, because I work at a bookstore and do programming for them as part of my regular salary (which just went from 8.00 dollars an hour to about 11!!) So if everyone were as dumb as me, and were willing to work for just over minimum wage, there'd be no need to send jobs overseas.
  • futures market (Score:5, Interesting)

    by trance9 (10504) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:34PM (#10536449) Homepage Journal
    There's a futures market that examines some of these issues: ITJOBS [ideosphere.com]
  • by bokmann (323771) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:34PM (#10536453) Homepage
    First of all, there are some things that will NEVER be outsourced. It is not enough for a lot of job security, but these things are:

    1) Jobs needing a security clearance. In my area (Northern VA, this is almost the rule rather than the exception.

    2) Jobs that require you to be 'close' to the problem - such as system administration, software engineering for in-house applications, etc.

    As more and more jobs are outsourced, something interesting is going to happen: The people who got into this career in the late 90's because they could spell 'HTML' will complain about it, and go away. Those that are left will be the TALENTED people. They will 'move up the food chain' as lower level jobs are outsourced. Those left behind will become the people designing the system , those doing integration, and those doing quality assurance.
  • by revscat (35618) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:38PM (#10536517) Journal
    My company outsourced our AS/400 support to a company in India a year and a half ago. The company we outsourced to are contractually obligated to complete five tickets a week. Not per day, per *week*. They have YET to meet that obligation, but management won't admit the failure because then somebody's ass will be on the line.

    Moral of the story: no, offshoring doesn't always bring all the beneifts that it is supposed to.

  • Gone? Unlikely (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TiggertheMad (556308) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:39PM (#10536528) Homepage Journal
    In 10 years, India will be full of very experienced managers, architects, and analysts. In the US though, most of those jobs will be gone much like the junior positions are leaving now.

    Parent is very insightful, but the senior positions won't move, unless entire projects are moved overseas. At that point why not just license someone else's code? They will just have a lot of trouble trying to fill them with people who have a resume that meets the requirement that they are looking for. Eccccccenomikz says that at that point, either HR will have to lower expectations (less bang for the buck from their point of view) or Pay more to get the top talent (Scarcity of resource drives price up). Either way it's a long term negative for businuess in the USA, because of their short sighted goals. Which is really rather typical of the American businuess perspective.

    (Eventually, Japan might just buy the entire world, because they have long term goals and are patient about achieving them.)
  • by SuperKendall (25149) * on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:40PM (#10536544)
    And it is safe, as the responsible one will be promoted by the time the cost wave hits back.

    That's very true, but in the long term the business that relies on this inefficent means of producing software for itself will be eaten alive by a competitor that counts pennis and opts not to take the wasteful steps in the first place.

    Our company got out of offshoring PDQ (within a year) because they have very tight reigns on use of money and can't afford years of expensive exploration that leads nowhere. It also did lead to the ejection of some upper level people (thought it was other factors besides just offshoring that did that).
  • What if... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by composer777 (175489) * on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:41PM (#10536557)
    All of the reporting was nothing more than a bluff? What if software engineers simply organized, unionized, and managed to double or triple their salaries in a matter of years? Perhaps the reason the media is doing all of this reporting on jobs going overseas is nothing more than a way of scaring the living daylights out of programmers, so that they don't dare ask for the true value of their work. It seems to me that everytime the perception of worker insecurity is created, that salaries would go down, since workers would be less inclined to ask for more. However, I'm doing a job search right now, and I don't get the feeling that employers here in the US are having any easier of a time finding the right kind of employee than they were a couple of years ago. What if all this reporting was nothing more than a scam? a bit of psychological warfare on those expensive programmers? Then again, I'm probably just being a bit paranoid...

    More accurately, it's probably a combination of the two. The first part of free trade is essentially to replace programmers with less expensive programmers overseas. The second part is to use this stick to keep the remaining, more talented US programmers that are still left, in line. So, I think that part of this reporting could be a psychological bluff that is used on the more talented programmers. i.e. "You'd better not ask for too much, or you'll be delivering pizzas." The only reason I'm bringing this up, is because all of the reporting on offshoring seems out of character for US mainstream media, which usually is content to not say a word when things such as this are going on.
  • by theMerovingian (722983) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:41PM (#10536572) Journal

    I agree with you... Although this is even more shameful [indiatimes.com]

    They actually cited a dumb slashdot joke as the source :)

  • Re:Exactly. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by imp (7585) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:42PM (#10536578) Homepage

    In the embedded software space, where real-time interaction between various interrupts means that system design and hard core debugging skills are king, outsourcing, and especially overseas, will never be a factor.


    In the real word of hardware/software integration, it usually takes a bit of time between the people that write the drivers for hardware and the hardware designers to get things right. Usually with both H/W and S/W sitting in a room together with some kind of test equiptment to make sure that the hardware is doing the right thing and to find which side of the fence the bugs lie. That's hard to do with a 12-hour phase shift.

    It doesn't solve the H1B visa issue, but there are many senior people who make 10x what people in India make for a reason. They are worth their weight in gold because of the time that is saved by others. An excellent debugging person can save boatloads of other people's time that a crappy debugging person would waste. That's what makes the more expensive person cheaper.

    I think all this doom and gloom stuff is left over from the heady days of the boom times and the subsequent crash. There may be certain types of jobs that go overseas, but there are many that will stay right here for the forseeable future.

    10 years ago people though I was nuts for doing this Unix thing when all the jobs would be in Windows. Yet, I still get calls for more work than I can do from people that need a unix programmer. So the pundants are worth exactly what you pay them for their opinions: nothing :-)
  • Some software companies or IT shops might have a highly compartmentalized (stratified?) software development process with senior people doing mainly design work and junior people writing the actual code and doing little else, but that really hasn't been the case in most the places I've worked during my career.

    The beginning programming jobs I've been exposed to over the years have *not* been just "coding" positions -- writing code is only one of the tasks involved in the job. The person also has to do a number of other things, often including the initial requirements gathering and various follow-up tasks with the end users or customers, creating the interface/program/database design, doing the actual coding itself, writing or updating any technical documentation which might exist, doing formal unit testing before acceptance testing, doing regression testing if required, and finally providing the actual support to the customer after the code is loaded into production.

    That was the case for me when I first came out of school (I was effectively put in charge of a particular set of programs and had to do it all), and it's still the case in my current place of employment.

    Maybe some companies can actually afford to have dedicated design people who don't actually write the code themselves, but I guess the places I worked didn't have the resources required to have that type of functional separation. The one or two experts in each area had to do it all, since there wasn't anyone else who know each area well enough to produce an effective design.
  • by privaria (583781) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:49PM (#10536654) Homepage

    It's human nature to respond to put the best possible light on a negative situation that doesn't appear to be changeable.

    This may be somewhat OT, but I think it's a good example of this cognitive dissonance [wikipedia.org] phenomenon: I am a social conservative (strongly support the right of an armed citizenry, believe abortion should be illegal during all 9 months, for example) who is not voting for either the Republican or Democrat presidential candidate. I simply can't see myself voting for someone who has proven himself as incompetent as Bush has, even though I actually agree with him on most of the issues I find important. (The Iraq war and the environment are exceptions.) I found it at turns amusing and exasperating so see how my conservative friends tried to defend Bush's "puzzled chimp" performance in the first debate: "It was 9PM Eastern time, and that's late at night for him," "I don't think he did that bad," "He's a plain-spoken man," etc. Imagine their reaction if things had been switched and Kerry had performed that dismally. There would have been a lot of gloating and pointing out that his fate was sealed.

    Now, back onto the topic: Good luck with your theory that only programming grunt work is going to be offshored. Yeah, that's what we said about manufacturing some years back, maintaining that the real "brain work" will stay in the U.S. Not a chance.

    Just take a look at what Google [enterblog.com] says about the topic. I found one of the first hits, "Offshore Outsourcing World" [enterblog.com] to be particularly interesting, and chilling. Ironically, the article talks about google itself.

    I actually don't see any alternative to free trade, and firmly believe that capitalism is the only way to go (conservative there, again). But with the last barriers to global competition rapidly coming down, a re-distribution of wealth is in progress on a global scale. That means painful adjustments for those who have gotten used to having more of it than most of the world's people.

    I am a registered patent agent, licensed to practice law in patent matters before the U.S Patent & Trademark Office. To get to where I'm now at, I've had to get a four-year technological degree, pass a really tough exam, and learn how to write by working under some experienced patent attorneys for that past five years or so. (Self-promotional but generally informative info here. [eepatents.com])

    So, does that mean my career is safe? See for yourself. [bearcave.com]

  • by The Snowman (116231) * on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:49PM (#10536662) Homepage

    But there's a difference between programming and software engineering...

    Very true. Programming is just one part of the software development process. Programming focuses on product, software engineering focuses on process. Programming is the "what", software engineering is the "how". This leaves out one part of the equation, one part I will probably be flamed for bringing up: computer science.

    I consider myself a computer scientist as opposed to a programmer or software engineer. I have a solid CS background and am working on buttressing that with mathematics education. I like CS theory, statistics, discrete mathematics, etc. I do not like being a code monkey, nor do I like being a software engineer, although I do value both and do take on both those roles at my job. I much prefer being a computer scientist. How does this fit into the scenario presented by the article?

    While I think most theory and math discoveries are already made, I still think progress is possible. I want to do research, but it looks like the shrinking computer fields might have repercussions even in academia. I may have to emmigrate to the next computer nexus to keep on the bleeding edge. I hate to bring politics into this, but I think that for all the educational focus our national leadership has, I think they all need to realize that bright, intelligent workers mean nothing if India can still do the work cheaper. Then we have a shrinking working class paying taxes to support new, bright workers who spend years being educated only to collect unemployment benefits. How about a "No Worker Left Behind" law?

  • by morcego (260031) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:56PM (#10536738)
    Now, I think you are being naivé.

    Projects fail all the time for both inhouse and outhouse developemt. I have participated on many development project, both outside on the same country or offshore, which have succeeded.

    Most of the outhouse project I've seen fail did so because of bad (or total lack of) project management. Look at the opensource comunity if you need an exemple close to you.

    About all this discussion, it is a (u)natural trend of developed countries to give the job that are not so glamorous to the poor [countries]. Remember the chinese building american railroads ?
    This is nothing new.

    There are still much software development hapening inside the USA. But of course there will be much off-shoring because of cheap hour rates. That is to be expected in business. Expecially to countries that have excelent human resources for software development (programers), like India, Israel and Brazil (to name 3).

    Isn't this what the so called global economy is all about ? I find it a simple enough fact to have a product whose development is spread around the world. No country is an island anymore. Well, most of them, anyway.
  • by dubl-u (51156) * <[ot.atop] [ta] [2107893252]> on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:58PM (#10536763)
    I'm curious as the actual cost of outsourcing.

    I did some consulting for a large, software-focused company that has been trying some outsourcing. The have a standard company measure for units of functionality, and tried sending some projects to Indian programmers and measuring the cost. All things accounted for, the cost per unit was about 50% lower, not the radical 80-90% off that you hear.

    But that didn't mean that they were going to do a lot of outsourcing. For the core parts of their software, they wanted in-house people to work on it; it's too risky putting the crown jewels in the hands of hired mercenaries. And the barriers to communication were large enough that many kinds of projects couldn't really be sent, because transferring the appropriate knowledge is too hard.
  • Re:Career Change (Score:2, Interesting)

    by NetCynicism (792366) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:59PM (#10536781)
    In the long run, I just don't see any way I can be competitive with offshoring.

    Why do you think you'll have to be?

    Yep, more and more programming jobs will be outsourced to India. And as Indians become more and more technically competent, do you suppose they might get bored selling their skills to Americans at a cut rate and decide to, you know, do something with those skills?

    In a very few years they won't be able to meet their own demand for code, much less ours. And that's a very good thing. A rich India is a vast export market. The fact that it will soon be bigger than China, and English-speaking as well, just gives Americans a leg up. You're thinking in the wrong direction.
  • by rjnagle (122374) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:00PM (#10536794) Homepage
    Well, the article is a little misleading.

    It's probably true that over time fewer employees in the US will call themselves developers/programmers. If tech support can be handled in other countries, it will be.

    However, in-house sysadmin jobs aren't going overseas, and the marketing/training/consulting jobs probably aren't disappearing here (esp if it involves lots of face-to-face contact).

    People won't be hired to write programs; they will be hired to find solutions and to adapt commercial/open source solutions to a company's needs. To do this, programming skills will probably be helpful. But it will exist as a secondary skill (helpful but not necessary).

    Compare this to my own situation. Every business book says how important writing/communication skills are for business. Does that mean I (a talented writer) will never have problems finding work as a writer? No (although I currently work as a tech writer).

    You see, accountants, marketing reps, even engineers benefit from excellent writing skills. But it is not the primary skill they are being hired for. Similarly, techies won't be hired solely for programming skills. However, it will be viewed as a desirable secondary skill for the resume.
  • by ep385 (119521) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:06PM (#10536864)
    The key to keeping a job is to get off the well worn path of C/Java/Perl/Python and develop specialized skills that won't be so easily duplicated by the programmer factories. Learn to use high performance Common Lisp systems for example.
    (see http://www.paulgraham.com/avg.html [paulgraham.com] for a Lisp case study).
  • by mikael (484) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:06PM (#10536873)
    Bangalore doesn't seem to even have a reliable phone network yet,

    The offshoring centres in Bangalore have a direct satellite link to the international telephone network, and backup power generators in the basement. They organise their own shuttle services to and from the residential areas to their offices. They can't really be any more self-sufficient.

  • by dubl-u (51156) * <[ot.atop] [ta] [2107893252]> on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:10PM (#10536919)
    That's not a slam against Indians (or other off-shoring cultures), but more a fact of life. They are disconnected from the project to such a degree that they have no real grasp of it other than to produce *exactly* what the specs document says. This is the same type of problem you see in using consulting firms like Anderson, nay, Accenture in developing your software.

    Agreed! Personally, I'm not planning on getting out of the industry, but I do plan to work only on projects using agile methods like Extreme Programming. Why? Because methods like XP tightly integrate the businesspeople and the techies in a way that is impossible if you're working in different time zones.

    Not only is this more efficient than a document-driven process, but it's so much more flexible that you can keep ahead of your competitors using traditional processes. For projects that need speed and flexibility, outsourcers can't compete, whether they're in an Accenture office or in Bangalore.
  • by mmusson (753678) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:18PM (#10537036)

    No doubt the industry is changing but I do not think it is valid to lump every different kind of programmer or job into one category and say that it is being outsourced.

    The most obvious outsourcing occurs in companies that have IT departments but are not in themselves a software development company. For instance, a bank and it's IT department. These IT departments are a commodity for the non-tech company and they are looking to satisfy that commodity at the cheapest possible price. And the types of jobs being exported are very basic types of programming that could be compared to the simple manufacturing jobs that are also exported.

    This is a very different situation from a software company where the programmers are not considered a commodity. This might not be true for the very large software companies but that is also an indication of their dysfunction.

    The jobs are flowing to India purely because of the low cost. As India develops a large middleclass due to this influx of money, wages will rise and the value proposition will worsen for India. That's when the jobs will start flowing to China. India is not necessarily in the best position, long term.

  • by joggle (594025) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:18PM (#10537041) Homepage Journal
    You probably have some intelligent Republican friends. Why are so many of them still voting for him? I never, ever expected such a bad president to have such strong support for re-election.

    It was interesting when Bush mentioned Howard being re-elected in Australia. He failed to mention that he only won because Australia's economy is booming. If its economy hadn't been, he probably would have lost by a large margin for getting involved in the war in Iraq (despite suffering 0 casualties and significantly lower costs than the US).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:19PM (#10537044)
    Oh, actually it's much worse than that... The main issue with the indians is that there is a pervasive "Yes Sir" culture.

    They'll tell you whatever you want to hear..

    "Is the project going well ?".. yes sir !

    "Can you develop this titanic project in 3 days ?".. Yes sir !

    As you can imagine, the results are quite scary.

    Also the other main issue i've seen is that like any other country, there's only so many good talented developers in India, and with the boom that has been going on there, the quality of the people they use have gone to hell, just like it did in western countries during the .com boom.
  • by ray-auch (454705) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:23PM (#10537107)
    Programmers are typically well educated and mobile - they will go where the work is.

    Hundreds of contract programmers are said to have left the UK to work abroad becuase of recent tax changes targeted at them. Right now in the UK I know of a number of _US_ programmers who have come here to work on major projects where apparently they can't find enough UK contractors. Probably (given it is a large multinational/US company) some of the work is also being outsourced from the UK back _in_ to the US.

  • Self-Employment (Score:2, Interesting)

    by thejuggler (610249) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:26PM (#10537153) Homepage Journal
    I for one am using my IT and business skills to start my own company. I'd rather trust myself for my future employment.

    Also, I don't want to be a programmer in five years. I've coded enough since 1996 and I'm sick of it. Time to move on. Owning my own company is the logical route for myself. I've witnessed enough dot bomb companies from the inside to know how not to run a business.

    As I start to hire the people I need, I will make sure to hire American Citizens in the U.S.A.

    More of us IT people that have business skills should do the same. More small companies that hire local employees helps the economy faster and better than stopping a few large companies from sending jobs overseas.

    Take control of your future and act!
  • I won't be extinct (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Call Me Black Cloud (616282) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:27PM (#10537169)

    I work on projects that require US citizenship, top secret clearance, polygraphs. There's no way my job or our work will ever be outsourced.

    BTW, we're hiring in the Ft Meade, MD area...cleared or uncleared. Unfortunately, business is booming and we're behind the hiring curve for the year.
  • Re:An idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zathras26 (763537) <pianodwarf@NosPam.gmail.com> on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:29PM (#10537195)
    My reasons were legitimate, and it was all done thru proper legal channels (in fact, I still have all the legal documents and so forth). My point was that, even in spite of all that, the government said they were going to have to investigate my name change extensively before deciding on a clearance, even though everything else in my background check was fine.
  • Re:Gone? Unlikely (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:32PM (#10537236) Homepage Journal
    Parent is very insightful, but the senior positions won't move, unless entire projects are moved overseas.

    Entire projects ARE being moved overseas- it's much cheaper to have your data center in Bangalore than it is to have it in Chicago.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:34PM (#10537262)
    intelligent people support bad candiates because Americans view their politics like they view their football -- you don't swtich team aliegances. It's a problem for all parties, and I don't see an easy solution. You're not however going to get a statistically significant number of voters to go against their party -- the best you can hope for is that they stay home on election day.
  • Re:Gone? Unlikely (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ComputerSlicer23 (516509) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:35PM (#10537267)
    You had me right up until the part about Japan buying the world.... They might have lots of long term goals, but Japan's economy is royally screwy. Right now, they've spent the last 10-12 years trying to get out of a nasty deflationary spiral.

    Their economy completely tanked a while back, it's what Greenspan was pointing at when he said: "Deflation is bad, we don't want to end up in the nasty cycle the Japanese are in".

    I work in a programming gig, and in the end, I'm not extractable from my work place. Several people in the company want to offshore. However, the nuts and bolts guys in charge, understand that having a person onsite and available 24hrs a day, who see the day to day problems and can deal with them are priceless. Our entire software development cycle works because we can watch our users and see what they are doing that is silly that can be automated. Then we automate it.

    Kirby

  • by Emperor Shaddam IV (199709) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:38PM (#10537311) Journal
    You are forgetting one important point. India would already be full of experienced senior programmers and architects, if they stayed in India. A large Majority of them come to the US after a few years and get their Green Card. Many stay and become US Citizens. The company I work for was founded by 3 Indians, 2 in the US. One of the owners, my boss, agrees with me that its almost impossible to do any work from India where client interaction is required. Which to design software, client interaction and onsite work is very much required. Hence our Indian office only does website work, while we do all the consulting and custom software for clients in the US.

    The previous company I worked for had a software development staff of more than 100, half of which are Indian. Most of them are still here. The ones that returned to India, still work for that company, in the Indian office, making a salary much higher than most Indians. Until salaries go up in India, the most experienced will always come to the US where they can make more money.
  • Re:Language issue (Score:3, Interesting)

    by twiddlingbits (707452) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:40PM (#10537337)
    My experience as a Manager and IT Architect has been just the reverse. While Indian programmers are usually TECHNICALLY qualified, they don't seem to grasp the business nuances needed to write top notch software esp. in the user interface area. It may not be the case now, but a few years ago the development methodology was almost non-existant, more like a team of hackers not programmers. I also found a strong reluctance in Indian programmers to address security issues, test code completely, protect company IP and also to handle constructive criticisms of their work or work habits. Written and Verbal communication was also difficult if you were not having a detailed software technical conversation [must be my Southern accent, can't ya hear it in my typing]. Having had programmers from India and from Taiwan/China both on my team I prefer the Asians. There seems to be more pride in the work, a willingness to learn from peers and they seem more adaptable to US customs. Perhaps I just didn't get exposed to the right Indians and did get exposed to the best Asians but I can only state my experiences. No, I'm not a racist nor am I putting down anyone, just reporting my experiences.
  • by twiddlingbits (707452) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:58PM (#10537569)
    When an apprentice Electrician gets $12-15/hr thats not a bad wage to learn a trade. Overtime is common. Once you get your license you do even beter. Start your own firm and you can do very well. I have a cousin who barely made it out of High School, he apprenticed with an Uncle (who went to the 8th grade) a who owned a electical contracting firm (he retired nicely at 55). He apprenticed 3-4 yrs, got his license, worked some more, got his Master License, started his own company. Retired at 45 a millionaire. I have a BS in CompSCi and an MBA. I still work 40+ hours a week to make it. Which one of us was "smarter"?? DO NOT knock skilled trades, they will always be in demand.
  • by the frizz (242326) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:59PM (#10537579)
    I know where SuperKendall is coming from when he talks about loss of efficiency. I myself am terribly frustrated by my reduction in productivity after was given a programer in India to manage. But that just my perspective. There's other andecdotes that show its still worthwile from a company's perspecitve. Here's one.

    Last month I talked to a friend who is CEO of a company with about 100 software engineers in both Bangalore and Silicon Valley. He rated his India engineers better than his U.S. engineers. If he had to trim one location (he doesn't) it would be the U.S. On the topic of costs, he said that while the current pay rates are 5 Bangalore engineers to 1 Silicon Valley engineer, the real costs are closer. After taking into account extra overheads (e.g., travel) and loss of productivity caused by poor communications the current overall costs are more like 3.5 to 1. And due to rising salaries and costs in Bangalore he expects this to be 2 to 1 in a few years.

    His key to making sure the loss of productivity on both ends didn't rise so far as to make it a negative sum game, was having good management at both ends capable of leading independent projects so less communications across the ocean would be needed.

    BTW: USA Today just reprinted the story, so the Slashdot lead would have been better written as "The Christian Science Monitor reports ..." even though the original article [csmonitor.com] is much the same.

  • Re:Accenture (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2004 @02:04PM (#10537645)
    I actually used to work as one of those "kiddies" and take at least some offense to that. While most of the people there really were incompetent, the rest of us just didn't care because in order to make ends meet on the "salary" we were given, we had evening jobs delivering pizzas or serving at TGIFriday's or something.

    Working 18 hours a day 6 days a week for a few months and not getting anything other than survival wages tends to be a big demotivator.
  • by nixdix (638151) on Friday October 15, 2004 @02:12PM (#10537743)
    You forgot to mention the medical profession. I was just in the hospital visiting a sick aunt. It was about 10pm and they were taking a chest X-ray. Then they told me that they needed to fax the X-ray out so that it could be analyzed and they would know what to do next when the analysis came back. Given the late hour (10pm Pacific coast time), I asked if the X-ray was being faxed to Bangalore. The nurse smiled, commented it was a cogent question, and suggested I take it up with the hospital administration because she was not allowed to discuss it.
  • by irvin (814434) on Friday October 15, 2004 @02:24PM (#10537880)
    "As in, "Oh well, at least we own the auto industry." Not any more. "Oh well, at least we own the manufacturing tools industry (production line machinary)." Not any more. "Oh well, at least we own the telecommunications industry." Not any more. "Oh well, at least we own the software industry..." Well, not for much longer. And what's left? The only jobs remaining are the ones that require a physical human presence."

    It's not like there are a finite amount of industries that exist. For every auto/software industry "lost" in the United States a nanotechnology/bioinformatics industry gets created. Staying ahead, not on top, of industries seems to be what makes America powerful.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2004 @02:27PM (#10537914)
    hehe, so what you are saying is that we should give American jobs to India and they can give us poverty. Fair trade I suppose? India doesn't give a shit about Americans losing their jobs and neither do the people in charge of this country.

    You have to think that eventually India will have all the engineering skills and start charging more. So eventually things will cost the same again except now India is making the money and setting the rules and not the US.

    This is just another example of humans thinking about short term gain and not giving a rats ass about the future or our children.
  • Re:And Kerry said... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AuMatar (183847) on Friday October 15, 2004 @02:33PM (#10537991)
    Freeze their bank accounts and sieze the assets, at gunpoint if necessary. These are not people, they don't have the right to emmigrate.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2004 @02:41PM (#10538089)
    What makes you think Indian Phds turn out crap?

    I know plenty of America coders with Phd and Master who turn out crap.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2004 @02:43PM (#10538117)
    "... No you stupid, smelly brahmin, all the grunt coding work goes to you coolies, the creative work remains here...."

    I wonder if the comp science world is similar to the manufacturing world. That is, I work for a large commercial airline company in Seattle and at one point was an engineer in the factory. There, the design engineers pummped out the designs and the "coolies" had to build the designs. And it never ceased to amaze me how much these "coolies" could teach the engineers about designing a "buildable" design.

    Maybe it works different with software... I dunno
  • by orderb13 (792382) on Friday October 15, 2004 @02:43PM (#10538118)
    Being a programmer myself, this subject is close to my heart. I happen to have some friends that are pretty high up the IT scale in several companies and have contacts in others, and what all of them are begning to realize is "you get what you pay for". Sure, we can outsource this project to India, and it will come back and not work, if it works, it won't work with YOUR system. The reason they can hire these people for 1/2 the cost is THEY SUCK. Now granted, there are some talented coders over there, but by and large they blow.
  • by cr0sh (43134) on Friday October 15, 2004 @03:00PM (#10538334) Homepage
    Last week, on October 6th, I was dismissed from my development job which I had held for nearly 8 years. I quickly picked myself back up again (found a job by that Friday, the 8th, which I start work on this coming Monday), and had it really hammered home that even if you do work on an application for a company which helps to run that company, and you are the only developer of it - even your job isn't secure.

    I have been wondering, though - before I got fired, after, and even now - what if I hadn't been able to find a job? The truth is, there were several possibilities (heh, had one come in from guru.com this morning that looked like it would be a cool deal as a smalltime temp contract) - but it seems like those possibilities are dwindling. Maybe it is the economy - but then again, maybe programming is going away?

    I am 31, I only have a "technical associates degree" from a small school, hardly any college experience (a couple of community college classes), no real degree. I also have a mortgage, bills and a family (well, my wife and a dog - no kids yet) to take care of. My main domain of knowledge is computing, in all of its forms - and programming specifically. This is what I love, this is what I do best. Given a job having to do with computers, an employer can expect me to work very hard to make them do what they want them to do. I know there are others that feel this way to.

    I can't afford to go back to school - I don't have the time, I certainly don't have the money. I am living my life now, just wanting enough to be comfortable, and have a little fun now and then. So - serious question - what happens to a person like me if all the programming/computer jobs go away?

    The outcome of such a situation doesn't seem rosy. I likely would end up in a job I would hate, doing something just to keep the roof over my head. That isn't the kind of life I am willing to lead - working at a job I hate for less money than I feel I am worth. I can't think of any job I would really like, that I have the knowledge or ability to do, that doesn't involve computers. There are jobs that I wouldn't mind doing - but I don't know if they exist, nor do I have the required experience for them even if they did?

    One thing my wife and I discussed when this occurred was basically "chucking it all": Liquidating *all* of our assets, except for bare basics, buying a cheap RV, sticking the rest of the money in an account somewhere (and maybe some in an IRA) - and then becoming road hippies and travelling the continent. That would be a better life than a dead end unforgiving hateful job.

    But seriously - are there other options for people in mine or similar situations? People who have little money to spend to educate themselves on the "next thing" (what is that, anyhow?) - I can't even think of a career path that won't suffer the same or similar fate as programming, etc. Becoming a lawyer, or a doctor, or a "healthcare professional", or a biotechnologist (yeah, I have the time and money for any of those - right)? About the only job I might have a shot at, that can't be off-shored, and people would need - would be either an air-conditioning repairman or auto-mechanic (and I still don't have the money to pay for such education). Plus, I don't relish the thought at doing either of those jobs (harsh and hazardous working conditions - though either one sounds somewhat interesting to do).

    Ideas, comments, suggestions? All I can do right now is work as hard as I can doing what I know for what it is worth while I can still get a job (and, as I stated before, I did find work) - and save my money, get rid of all of my debt - and hope there is a way out...

  • by Capt_Troy (60831) <tfandango&yahoo,com> on Friday October 15, 2004 @03:33PM (#10538746) Homepage Journal
    Wow, new job on Monday, and posting small novels on Friday! Not too bad!

    Seriously though, I was laid off twice, 3 months the first time. That really put a dent in the old Visa. Looking back, I should have sold the house and moved to a small apartment so that I wouldn't go into debt so fast. The second time I was off for 1 month, and came out ahead on that one because of the severance pay.

    Bush says this is what community colleges are for, but damned if a lot of us can afford to not get paid for 2 years while retooling for another job. That only makes sense if you can afford a 2 year vacation without pay. Unless you want to go way into debt while retooling, and that's not something the average family can afford to do.

    Congrats on the new job!
  • by geoffspear (692508) on Friday October 15, 2004 @03:36PM (#10538791) Homepage
    You just need a bit of economic and historical understanding to see that the gap between the richest people and the poorest people keeps getting bigger, and that producing more with less is great for the people that own the companies doing the producing, and not so great for those who have no jobs and no money to buy all of the great things we (the wealthy company owners, through our foreign laborers who actually do the production) are producing.

    We can only hope that Marx was horribly wrong and that we won't wake up one day to find that the poor people have had enough and either violently revolt or, if they grow enough to gain a majority, elect a Socialist government to screw the wealthy and middle class out of everything they have.

  • by Kogun (170504) on Friday October 15, 2004 @03:53PM (#10539003)
    Offshoring is just the 2000's flavor of snake oil that we saw in the 80's and 90's centered on Quality: Total Quality Management, Continuous Quality Improvement, Six Sigma, Malcom Baldrige Awards, etc. In the late 80's and 90's, it was the Japanese Quality Bogyman that was gonna 'get us'. U.S. companies would send their top executives to Japan where they would witness marvelous demonstrations the perfect worker: robots, making it seem as if the Japanese were decades ahead. In reality, they were seeing demonstrations and not the real production lines which were filled with hundreds of humans working their asses off six days a week. Nowadays, executives are touring India and seeing a new bogyman, the perfect, happy, Indian programmer with an advanced degree being paid dirt and enjoying standards of living rivaling top government officials.

    Deming and Juran were the false prophets of the great Quality Myth that companies believed in first, and Yourdon is their successor with his 'Decline and Fall'. (Yourdon tried to reverse himself with 'Rise & Resurrection' but I guess optimism isn't as believable as doom and gloom.) Offshoring is just the ignorant trying to fulfill Yourdon's original prophecy.

  • All myths (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Headius (5562) on Friday October 15, 2004 @03:54PM (#10539009) Homepage Journal
    These judgement day scenarios are based on a big fallacy I haven't yet seen addressed:

    The market for software developers is not standing still; it's growing tremendously. We're just not seeing it because a lot of new development is going overseas. However, there's no sign that the demand is going to slow down, and there's not an infinite number of tech workers overseas.

    Already Indian workers are concerned about having their own tech bubble, as other countries start coming online with cheaper workers. China, Phillipines, and others are starting to take work away from India.

    Further, despite claims to the contrary, it's not just as easy to move programming jobs overseas as it is for manufacturing jobs. Indian programmers aren't just plucked from the trees...they've gone through years of training and education just like we have. It costs a lot more time and money to train a programmer than to train an assembly-line worker. Again, there are not infinite resources available. It just seems that way because India has been building up a highly-trained workforce for a long time--without work to give them.

    Our own tech boom and bust resulted in scads of untrained, unskilled workers getting paid too much to do too little. Reality check: there's no such thing as an HTML programmer. Writing VB is not going to earn you $50/hr. If you don't like what you're doing, you're not in the right line of work. The lion's share of jobs lost to offshoring are jobs that were filled by wannabes during the .com years. I personally know at least 5 administrators and programmers that refused to ever accept a lower-paying job when things went bad. They lost their cars, their houses, and their dignity as a result, and all for a job none of them liked doing in the first place.

    Finally, as other posts have noted, the cost of paying a programmer is not the largest portion of developing software. Gathering requirements, testing, working with customers and clients, managing change, administering systems; all enter into it and have similar contributions to the overall cost. In the case of offshoring, almost all of these become more expensive...in some cases much more expensive.
  • by Maltheus (248271) on Friday October 15, 2004 @04:35PM (#10539480)
    Great, keep that up! Since you government defense workers represent one of the largest areas of public spending, they'll be sure to keep the wars coming. And then they'll tax us more to fund their wars, driving the more productive private-sector companies to send even more jobs offshore or go out of business altogether. Most new jobs these days are public sector at a time when the rest of the world is moving away from socialism. You're working for the very people who are destroying this country. You're working to support wars that make us less safe, are almost always illegal and kill far more innocent people than soldiers. It doesn't matter who is in office, there is always an illegal war going on. I could never work in the defense industry because that would make me a traitor to my country and an accessory to murder. Ignorance is no excuse anymore than it was for German soldiers who were "just following orders," like in WWII. In fact it's worse, because defense workers haven't been drafted, they're there by choice.

    I'm sorry if I came across as hostile. It isn't personal. I just live in a town that's seen a big upsurge of defense jobs and I greatly resent it. Especially when politicians are always excusing and promoting outsourcing by saying, "why not, if you can get the job done as good as, if not better." They're always implying that we're overpaid, underskilled workers, when America has the best programmers in the world. This country needs another Henry Ford to remind the CEOs that no one will be able to afford their products if we're all working at Walmart.

    I guess I could always retrain. Haven't heard about what I should retrain for yet. I do get a laugh that a moron with no skills who was elected president is telling me that I'm not educated enough to get a job (well, actually I have one, but it won't last, I see people let go everyday). I guess the next step up is rocket science, although it doesn't look like NASA has a bright future either.
  • Re:Gone? Unlikely (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Grishnakh (216268) on Friday October 15, 2004 @04:43PM (#10539577)
    I work in a programming gig, and in the end, I'm not extractable from my work place. Several people in the company want to offshore. However, the nuts and bolts guys in charge, understand that having a person onsite and available 24hrs a day, who see the day to day problems and can deal with them are priceless.

    I don't know about this. Sure, a few companies might have smart enough management to see this and stick with in-house talent, but it's amazing how stupid companies can be.

    My Fortune 50 company still can't understand why having multiple design teams in locations around the globe, attempting to work with each other on the same project, is slow and inefficient. Currently, if we have a problem, we have to send an email and wait until the next day for a response; a smarter company would put everyone in the same building so they can talk to each other by walking down the hall instead.

    Sure, the believers in the "market forces" religion will try to claim that companies like mine will go out of business, or be forced to change, by smarter companies that don't do it this way. But the reality of business is that size and inertia are far more important than intelligent management decisions. Eventually, all these bad decisions (like offshoring) add up, and lead to disaster.

    And I'm not so sure about the Japanese economy having "completely tanked". Yes, they had a recession, but (and maybe I'm just out of touch here) I don't recall anything about millions of people out of work, people living on the street, people starving because they can't afford food, etc. That's what I think of when I think of a collapsed economy, like what happened in our Great Depression.
  • by GomezAdams (679726) on Friday October 15, 2004 @04:55PM (#10539704)
    My wife is from Taiwan and I can compare the results between the two systems. And cultural differences count too. I tried to get my wife to raise our kids in Taiwan with a Taiwan based education and life stye but she wouldn't hear of it. Now we can see the difference between our kids and their cousins at the same grade level.

    That US education is getting dumber by the year has been one of my rants for a long time since I was once an architect and team lead who interviewed and recommended for hire. I could barely find recent US grads who could think let alone show up regular. I was glad to have older IT workers and HR-1Bs to get critical projects done. My best experiences have been with Taiwanese who have outshone the Chinese mainlanders by fact of better education, better life style, and greater motivation. No iron rice bowl in Taiwan.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2004 @05:01PM (#10539769)
    I asked if the X-ray was being faxed to Bangalore. The nurse smiled, commented it was a cogent question, and suggested I take it up with the hospital administration because she was not allowed to discuss it.

    Which of course means a big fat YES!

    How long will it be before US Doctors and Surgeons are replaced with Telepresence equipment that will let the Indians and Chinese diagnose and operate on patients from halfway around the world- all for a third of what the US Doctor would be paid?
  • Whoa! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ph1ll (587130) <ph1ll1phenry@yah ... minus physicist> on Friday October 15, 2004 @05:08PM (#10539845)
    Whoa! Did anybody read the last line of the NewsForge article?

    "It's good to see that President Bush's plan to stimulate the economy is working so well."

    No prizes for guessing where this journalist's sympathies lie. This blatant bias makes the whole article a little harder to swallow.

    Vsprint wrote:
    Do you really expect an American CEO to ever admit the multi-million dollar bonuses s/he recieved were based on a mistake?

    Sure CEOs won't admit that offshoring their IT was a mistake but they can't keep making those mistakes forever. Offshoring will fall out of fashion along with all other management fads.

    Offshoring and outsourcing are inherently bad for business*. Anybody on the ground level knows this. And these people are tomorrow's CEOs.

    * A few reasons:

    1. Outsourcers don't answer to the same shareholders as their client. When "maintenance typically consumes 40 to 80 percent (average, 60 percent) of software costs" [amazon.com] it's not exactly in an outsourcer's interests to provide maintenance-free software.
    2. Having software engineers onsite boosts productivity no end. When it is in the interest of those programmers to build the system correctly (ie, not outsourced), they can guide the customer's requirements when typically the customer does not really know what s/he wants.
    3. "Given a choice between paying $1 million per year for a team of 20 average developers or paying $1 million per year for a team of three outstanding developers, I'd choose the small team every time. The added bonus is that the hidden overhead costs are much smaller with the smaller team - another benefit of using outstanding developers." [amazon.com] This kind of advice has been around for decades and it's still as true as it ever was.
    4. Contract negotiation is expensive. Litigation is even more expensive. It's cheaper to just get programmers who are aligned to your interests.
    There are dozens of other good reasons but I am starting to get hoarse shouting... :-P
  • by cachorro (576097) on Friday October 15, 2004 @06:18PM (#10540559)
    Technology, industry and wealth are not necessarily zero-sum games.

    If one technology is exported overseas, another may be developed to take its place. People who no longer work in an industry that has been outsourced will be available to develop and support new industries. The fact that your poor neighbor gets a little wealthier does not automatically make you poorer.

    The genius of American business has always been in dreaming up new technologies, having the willingness to fail and try again at realizing them, and filtering the results through a (relatively) free market to eliminate all but the truly useful and beneficial ones.

    To the extent that restrictive IP laws interfere with that process, I agree that there is a real danger.

    Competition from the rest of the world could be regarded as a further filter on our technological development which forces us to reallocate effort from mature and commoditized technologies (with low margin) to into ones that are just emerging (high margin).

    Personally, I would love it if we could create so many technologies and services that every working person in every country of the world could be as well off as a middle-class American. Perhaps that is too much to dream.
  • by fkicker (820308) on Saturday October 16, 2004 @08:20PM (#10547460)
    I think Warren Buffet may have explained it best here [pbs.org] in an article about why BerkShire Hathaway was investing in foreign currency for the first time in its history.

    Take a wildly fanciful trip with me to two isolated, side-by-side islands of equal size, Squanderville and Thriftville. Land is the only capital asset on these islands, and their communities are primitive, needing only food and producing only food. Working eight hours a day, in fact, each inhabitant can produce enough food to sustain himself or herself. And for a long time that's how things go along. On each island everybody works the prescribed eight hours a day, which means that each society is self-sufficient.


    Eventually, though, the industrious citizens of Thriftville decide to do some serious saving and investing, and they start to work 16 hours a day. In this mode they continue to live off the food they produce in eight hours of work but begin exporting an equal amount to their one and only trading outlet, Squanderville.

    The citizens of Squanderville are ecstatic about this turn of events, since they can now live their lives free from toil but eat as well as ever. Oh, yes, there's a quid pro quo -- but to the Squanders, it seems harmless: All that the Thrifts want in exchange for their food is Squanderbonds (which are denominated, naturally, in Squanderbucks).

    Over time Thriftville accumulates an enormous amount of these bonds, which at their core represent claim checks on the future output of Squanderville. A few pundits in Squanderville smell trouble coming. They foresee that for the Squanders both to eat and to pay off -- or simply service -- the debt they're piling up will eventually require them to work more than eight hours a day. But the residents of Squanderville are in no mood to listen to such doomsaying.

    Meanwhile, the citizens of Thriftville begin to get nervous. Just how good, they ask, are the IOUs of a shiftless island? So the Thrifts change strategy: Though they continue to hold some bonds, they sell most of them to Squanderville residents for Squanderbucks and use the proceeds to buy Squanderville land. And eventually the Thrifts own all of Squanderville.

    At that point, the Squanders are forced to deal with an ugly equation: They must now not only return to working eight hours a day in order to eat -- they have nothing left to trade -- but must also work additional hours to service their debt and pay Thriftville rent on the land so imprudently sold. In effect, Squanderville has been colonized by purchase rather than conquest.


    But I guess that Warren Buffet doesn't have "even a trivial background in international economics."

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