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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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  • by JUSTONEMORELATTE (584508) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:17PM (#10536189) Homepage
    Sweet! Now it's finally against the law to kill and eat me!

    --
    Free gmail invites [slashdot.org] with comments from satisfied recipients!
    • by jbrocklin (613326) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:29PM (#10536370) Homepage Journal
      Not to mention, scientists will set up reserves with massive attempts to create offspring!
      • by Brandybuck (704397) on Friday October 15, 2004 @03:31PM (#10538722) Homepage Journal
        "Zoologists anxiously await the result of the latest attempt to mate Joe the programmer at the San Diego Zoo. Joe, a 39 year old Unix hacker, represents the future of his endangered species. Last year's mating attempt was a failure, although zoologists say they learned valuable lessons from it.

        "We were so sure then that we would succeed," said lead researcher Bob Bobertson. "For a week we fed him nothing but oysters and Jolt cola." While the introduction of supermodel Heidi Klum to his cage did excite Joe, he still failed to perform in front of a live female, prefering instead the security of his computer monitor.

        "This year we're trying a new approach," said Bobertson. "We hired a hooker to dress up as a penguin."
  • by D-Cypell (446534) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:17PM (#10536192)
    Sadly, programmers are particulally endangered due to their inability to mate in captivity.... or anywhere else!
  • I don't think so. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erick99 (743982) <homerun@gmail.com> on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:17PM (#10536193)
    I have worked at too many companies where we needed coding done on the fly with proprietary systems. This usual meant sitting down the programmer with a customer waiting for a return call ASAP. How would I do that with a programmer in India? I don't think I could overcome the language issues and the proprietary nature of the software. The publishing company I worked for would be a good example of that. Print jobs required programming. The jobs often were for 1 million or more pieces so mistakes could be catastrophic. It wasn't unusual to go racing to a programmers cube at 5PM with a programming requirement that had to be finished in 30 minutes or so to go to press.
    • Language issue (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nuggz (69912)
      What language issue?
      Indian english is not a problem to understand once you adjust to the accent.
      To be fair I have worked with many immigrants from around the world, but adjusting just isn't that hard for me anymore.
    • by waterwheel (599833) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:46PM (#10536628) Homepage
      Exactly. Offshoring is good for one thing: price. As soon as any other issue enters into the equation offshoring loses big time. Points: - as parent mentioned, you can't get stuff done on the fly. - it's dark over there right now and all the programmers are all tucked away in bed dreaming dreams of python function calls. The time differences mean a difficult time with communications. Sometimes it's easier to get stuff done over the phone or in person, particularly when it comes to planning. - It's questionable whether you'll get the quality. That may change, but right now everything I've seen is comparable to a 70's import car. (that eventually changed, this may too). - you lose the 'arms-length' ability. That's where you keep the programmer at arms length so you can throttle them if they screw up. I've seen marketing where the claim is 'we'll do it while you're sleeping, it'll be ready by morning'. Problem is, if it's 10am and you want some bugfixes, you'd probably like them that afternoon, not tomorrow morning. Plenty of retailers have learned to compete against Walmart who come into town with cheaper prices. If you're a programmer and competing strictly based on price, then yes, you're job is going elsewhere. I routinely pay $40-$100 hour for contract developers/programmers and don't think twice. And I don't go offshore because paying someone $5 an hour is going to cost me a lot more than I saved in the end. That being said, competition is healthy and there is a market for lower priced development. So make sure that's not the market you're in.
  • Wal-Mart (Score:5, Funny)

    by DoctorPepper (92269) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:18PM (#10536195)
    I figure Wal-Mart is always an option. Hmm, stock shelves or pass-out shopping carts... decisions, decisions.
  • 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 SuperKendall (25149) * on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:19PM (#10536218)
    My company has already dropped all offshoring (though they still outsource to a limited extent) and I hear of others doing the same.

    It turns out it's way more efficient to pay a guy sitting right there three or four (or ten) times as much as some other guy sitting way the hell across the ocean, who doesn't even really care if your project (or company) lives or dies.

    It also turns out it's better to use someone who understands your core buisness and the poeple working there than some faceless channel of communication.

    I guess USA Today is just a little behind the curve.
    • by grahamsz (150076) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:27PM (#10536330) Homepage Journal
      I'm curious as the actual cost of outsourcing.

      It's very easy to say that since an indian costs 20% of my salary, that it's 5 times cheaper. But i doubt that.

      Bangalore doesn't seem to even have a reliable phone network yet, and i know it's a lot harder to communicate with my indian peers than my north american/european/japanese ones. I'm sure there are certain tasks that lend themselves to outsourcing, but my experience suggests that trying to move parts of a complex system is a bad idea.
    • Exactly. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TigerNut (718742) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:27PM (#10536349) Homepage Journal
      Outsourcing only works effectively if you are in that mythical work environment where requirements are fully established, interfaces are completely specified, and test harnesses for all the code are in place before a line gets written.

      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.

      • 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 :-)
  • by Undefined Tag (750722) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:19PM (#10536225) Homepage
    Didn't Bush tell us to go to a community college and educate ourselves so we can get higher paying jobs?
    • by erick99 (743982) <homerun@gmail.com> on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:30PM (#10536385)
      I am a republican but I had a hard time with that comment by Bush. I have been to college. I have two Masters degrees. I don't need to go to the local community college, I need a job. I have been unemployed for two months. If I could live off of a WalMart wage I'd be okay. But, I am a single dad with two kids of which I have full-time custody. I just need a decent job at a decent wage. At this point, I would flip burgers if it paid enough.
      • 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]
      • 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]
    • 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 GreenCrackBaby (203293) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:38PM (#10536504) Homepage
      On its surface your comment was funny, but the problem is that this seems to be all that anyone can offer when asked "now that our jobs are gone, what do we do?"

      The jobs that are leaving are high-skilled programming jobs that are probably filled by someone with a degree. What is that person to do? Go back to a community college like Bush suggests? Do these people have any idea what it would be like for those of us in our 30s, 40s, or 50s who would have to go back to school and start at the bottom again? Assuming there are even positions other than Walmart greeter that would be available.

      This gov't is making a critcal mistake in equating software jobs with manufacturing jobs. A manufacturing job requires little training and provides no ladder to climb. A software job requires massive training (by comparison) and provides the worker with a background that lets them eventually lead the industry.
    • by Kenja (541830) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:53PM (#10536707)
      "Didn't Bush tell us to go to a community college and educate ourselves so we can get higher paying jobs?"

      I checked, my community colledge didn't have a course in getting jobs from my daddies rich friends. Seems only the schools in Texas have that.

    • Worked for me... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Shivetya (243324) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:29PM (#10537192) Homepage Journal
      I spent 3+ years after exiting the service working a dead-end job. Finally got a few community courses under my belt and "bid" my way into a job in the career of my choice by asking for a low end salary.

      After a few years I was where I felt I needed to be and have progressed further each year. There is work out there for those who want it, however too many overvalue themselves and thus lock themselves out of jobs.

      The key is to get A job. From there it is a only a few years before your value should become evident to the people you work with. If that isn't happening either you aren't working to that perceived value or you are in the wrong place.

      Blaming a President for your lack of job is about as brite as claiming one got you a job. The first rule of being successful in your career is to realize it is NOT YOUR JOB. It is your employers job and its in your damn best interest to prove you deserve to have it.

      For those who hate that truth I am truly sorry as there is nothing I can do for you. You have to look at yourself and ask why you think you don't need to prove or earn your position in life. In the end you are accountable to yourself.
  • Learn More Stuff (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheFlyingGoat (161967) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:20PM (#10536241) Homepage Journal
    I've had a job programming web applications for about 3 years now. Another part of my job is providing helpdesk support, fixing computers, network administration, and web design. If any one of these areas get outsourced, I still have a job.

    In addition, I'm working on getting my teaching certification in mathematics. Like any industry, it's good to have a backup plan if everything falls apart. While I haven't noticed any of my friends' jobs being outsourced, I do know that it's always a possibility and have tried preparing myself in the ways listed about in case anything should happen.
    • by macklin01 (760841) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:29PM (#10536367) Homepage
      That's a really good point. On that note, instead of going into programming to do programming, one might consider going into science that requires a lot of programming. For instance, I'm studying computational biophysics (e.g., simulating cancer growth, chemotherapy, red blood cell deformation, etc.), and it takes a lot of fascinating math, computer science, physics, and biology. It's a lot of fun, it's rewarding, and it provides a great excuse to work with high-end computers and programming. ;)

      There are a lot of programmers out there. There are a good number of scientists. But there aren't quite so many who can do both well. -- Paul
  • by nktae (753573) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:21PM (#10536248)
    You know its too bad that programmers are endangered, luckily they have mostly evolved into software engineers. Its just too bad we can't pick which jobs are endangered, I think we could afford to have lawyers a little more endangered. But please don't let them be come endangered by evolving, I can't imagine what a lawyer evolves into but it probably has fangs.
  • USA Today (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Usquebaugh (230216) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:22PM (#10536258)
    The day I start worrying about what's written in the press is the day I hang up my keyboard. Given that they cannot accurately report any tech story I'm meant to worry up this crap.
  • Career Change (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Zathras26 (763537) <pianodwarf@gmaCOUGARil.com minus cat> on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:23PM (#10536277)

    I know I'm not exactly the first person to think of this, but I'm trying to get out of the IT industry. In the long run, I just don't see any way I can be competitive with offshoring. Granted, there are certain jobs that can't be outsourced that way, but it would be too much work to try to get one of the few remaining positions -- increasing competition for fewer jobs.

    I don't much like agreeing with him, but I think Bush was right in the debate the other night when he said that the 21st century economy is going to necessitate job and career changes -- not just in IT but in other areas as well. Even down to more mundane things like checkout clerks at grocery stores (which isn't much of a career, admittedly, but you know what I mean). Those are on their way out, being steadily replaced by automated checkout machines, and those who currently still work as checkout clerks had better start thinking about what they're going to do next because they're either going to leave the job of their own accord, or they're going to get laid off when those checkout machines become commonplace.

    • Re:Career Change (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:52PM (#10536692) Homepage Journal
      In the long run, I just don't see any way I can be competitive with offshoring.

      I do: offer quality. No, seriously. Not the fake version that everyone learned to hate in "Total Quality Management", but the real thing.

      My boss could probably save a few bucks by outsourcing my work, but he'd never get feedback like "hey, I though of a way we could make our whole system faster for free", or "I came up with a new service we can offer our customers without much work on our part", or "this seemed like it could be a problem down the road, so I re-worked it to scale better". Someone in a country with a cheaper cost of living could possibly re-implement my work for less money than he paid me to write it the first time, but he'd have to shell out some serious cash to get someone who knew and cared enough about his business to find ways to make it more efficient as a part of their daily job.

      In other words, he's not paying me to hack code. Instead, he's paying me to design the best possible system he can get, implemented by someone who genuinely wants his company to succeed and grow. See if you can get that from an offshore shop.

      So, if you want to protect your job, then make it part of your job description to integrate yourself into the rest of the company, not just solve tasks as they are handed to you. Give your manager a solid reason to look at you as an asset instead of a liability and you'll never go hungry.

      By the way, none of this is specific to IT. If you decide to become a plumber, make yourself the best plumber your boss has ever had the privilege to pay. Any schmuck can learn how to copy-and-paste code or tighten a fitting, so find a way to raise yourself to a position of trust within your company and distinguish yourself from the next guy off the street.

  • 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.
  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:25PM (#10536306)
    But even the optimists believe that many basic programming jobs will go to foreign nations, leaving behind jobs for Americans to lead and manage software projects.

    And in 2007, they will run an article about how few jobs there are for Americans looking to "lead and manage software projects".

    Once you outsource the real skill needed, why wouldn't the jobs managing those workers be outsourced?
  • Other fields (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShadyG (197269) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <cisumyargb>> 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 :-)
  • by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:26PM (#10536326) Homepage
    David R. Francis, you're a hack. You shouldn't even be writing for a weekly coupon clipper.

    Even a sub-par human mind would have trouble accepting this tripe as truth. Consider the following statement:

    Not everybody agrees programmers will disappear completely.

    That's simply insipid. It's akin to saying, "Not everybody agrees that Dick Cheney sticks rodents up Dubya's ass" or "Not everybody agrees that Linus Torvalds secretly plans to incorporate stolen code in his operating system." This sort of statement is right at the top of the list of ways to lend creedence to a completely baseless notion.

    Mr. Francis, you do not name a single expert who believes that American programmers will cease to exist in next few years. If I were feeling generous, I'd simply state that you're a mind-bogglingly lazy journalist who cannot be bothered to include one shred of evidence supporting your most alarming charge. As I'm ticked off, however, I'll say that you're lying through your fucking teeth, that you didn't speak to or read of a single expert who believes that American programmers will be extinct in a matter of years, and you just wanted something sensational and outlandish to jazz up a less-than-mediocre piece on the state of computer jobs in America.

    David R. Francis, you're a hack.

  • by Jameth (664111) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:27PM (#10536335)
    They're making the classic mistake of thinking that programming is the same as creating software, and are making implications then that programmers are the creators of software, completely ignoring computer scientists and software engineers.

    There is a clear difference between writing the code for a program and actually determining what code is needed or making a new, original algorithm. Those fields are the only ones that matter now and are the only ones that have ever really mattered.

    Also, there's the field of those doing spot fixes and working in-company for major sites who can afford to have their own support staff--those are really more administrators and systems engineers.

    All those fields happen to require knowledge of programming, but it is the least of their prerequisites.

    For those who crave analagous examples, consider whether a sculptor is a stone cutter, an architecht is a diagrammer and builder, or a rocket hobbyist is a welder.
    • by gstoddart (321705) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:01PM (#10536807) Homepage
      They're making the classic mistake of thinking that programming is the same as creating software, and are making implications then that programmers are the creators of software, completely ignoring computer scientists and software engineers.


      But I've never been anyplace where the programmers weren't also the computer scientists and the software engineers.

      I've never seen a room-full of drooling programmers whose job was to fill in the blanks after the software engineers spec'd it all out for them.

      Maybe I've just never encountered what you call a 'programmer', but in my experience they're all one and the same. I participate in design meetings. I design the code. I write my sections. Of what value would someone be whose sole job is to type in what's already been defined for them?

      What kind of environment are you guys working in that there's this lower-class of programmers who don't know anything about developing algorithms and designing?

  • 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 nurb432 (527695) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:28PM (#10536356) Homepage Journal
    The way everything is being sent out of the country to 'cut costs', most major markets in the US are on the endangered species list, its not just programmers..

    While products may be cheaper, no one will be able to have decent enough jobs to make the money to buy them anyway..

    And since we don't have our unparalleled manufacturing base any longer, ( 'high tech jobs are the future' nonsense ) we are the mercy of everyone else in the world..

    Should scare you, it scares me..
  • 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 NetCynicism (792366) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:49PM (#10536664)
    I'm going to use small words here, because it astonishes me that more of the Slashdot crowd does not get this. Labor is just like anything else, a commodity.

    Division of labor is the very foundation of modern economics. What happens with free trade is that people do the jobs they're good at, other people do the jobs they're good at, and they trade.

    When labor goes to India, that means Indians get richer and start buying goods. Some of those goods will be produced in America. As another example, since NAFTA passed Mexico is now outsourcing labor to China and (gasp...) South Texas because skilled Mexicans have gotten too rich to be hired for such jobs.

    Economics is not a zero sum game and there is no giant sucking sound that can take all of our jobs and leave us unable to buy stuff. Just ask the people along the "American Autobahn" in the South who work in any of the many high-paying jobs that have been insourced to this country. If free trade were absolute and everywhere, we'd all be much richer - and the best educated and most productive of us, i.e. Westerners, would be richest.

    Conversely, a simple thought experiment will tell you the ultimate booster to employment - ban all trade! Everyone would have to make his own clothes, catch his own food -100% employment all the time! Utopia! Sadly, most people would starve and the rest would be unable to maintain any standard of living, but, whatever yo.

    Yes, this sucks for the workers who are displaced. The invention of the car sucked for buggy whip manufacteres too. I'm all for assisting these people with reeducation, but I'm not for holding everyone's standard of living back so we can save a few jobs.

    • by greg_barton (5551) * <greg_barton@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:40PM (#10537333) Homepage Journal
      Economics is not a zero sum game...

      It may not be a zero sum game, but that doesn't mean that on certain time scales there aren't winners and losers. For example, opening up free trade could devastate an economy based on manufacturing for decades. When you measure in timescales of decades, that means people's lives are ruined. When you talk in abstract terms it's easy to forget that were talking about people's lives.

      "Nonzero sum" also does not mean "everybody wins." It simply means there isn't just one winner and one loser. Everyone could win. Also, everyone could lose...
  • 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 upsidedown_duck (788782) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:07PM (#10536884)

    There will always be a need for domestic programmers, at least for defense contracts.

    As far as the attrition of programmers go, it is very understandable. Programming isn't particularly rewarding in most workplaces. Also, that recent article about IT management being among the worst jobs is important, as unhappy or ineffective managers do rub off on their staff. Further, many programmers simply are not good at their jobs.

    Having worked as a programmer for over five years, I'm already burnt out and training myself for a career change. The politics, the people I had to work with, the lack of funding, the lack of understanding the complexity of software, all chisled away at me until I simply had to find something else to do for my sanity's sake.
  • by Wansu (846) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:13PM (#10536952)

    I was an analog circuit designer for 15 years. I designed industrial, telecom and consumer products; mostly electronic power conversion circuitry such as power supplies, DC-DC Converters, High Voltage Transformers and DC-AC Inverters. First the manufacturing was moved overseas. Then, the writing was on the wall. All the design work went overseas too. Once they started building the stuff, it wasn't long before they figured out how to clone and modify designs. Before long, they were able to design from scratch. Today, the majority of electronics manufacturing is done abroad. It's pretty much been like that for 10 years. I saw it coming and retrained myself to write software.

    Now the programming jobs are going where the labor is cheap. I have no reason to expect any different outcome than I saw with electronics. Indeed, many "knowledge" jobs can be done abroad. China and India have vast pools of highly educated workers. Their cost of living is a fraction of ours so they can and will work for a fraction of what we make. In cases were the work can't be taken to the cheap labor, the cheap labor is brought to the work. Special visas and porous borders are providing US businesses with all the inexpensive labor they want.

    When the electronics industry was in decline, I saw opportunity in software. However, as the software work dries up, I see no new promising areas emerging to take it's place.

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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 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...

There are worse things in life than death. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman? -- Woody Allen

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