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Lowering the Odds of Being Outsourced 355

Lam1969 writes "Computerworld points to a study by the Society for Information Management, which concludes that the best thing young IT workers can do to avoid being outsourced is beef up their management skills. The article quotes Thomas Tanaka, a recent computer engineering graduate, describing a recent job interview: 'While the Santa Clara, Calif., resident has generally been looking for entry-level software jobs with IT vendors, he recently had an interview with a financial firm looking to fill an in-house IT position. That's where his lack of business background was exposed.'"
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Lowering the Odds of Being Outsourced

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  • Professor Weinstein, if you want to know his name.

    And a lot of people listened to him and minored in business. The problem is, when companies require x years of experience managing or in engineering/IT to get a job, where will we get those people?
  • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @07:05PM (#15030510)
    That we are -ALL- going to be managers.

    It is really sad to see them lying to us (and maybe even themselves) so blatantly.

    Many of our outsourced positions now include outsourcing the project lead level as well.

    The only thing that is going to save our jobs is higher wages overseas.

    Why should you spend $50 grand and 4 years of your life to get a degree with NO FUTURE?!?

    Sure if you are a genius- go for it. But if you are joe average "B" / low "A" type person- there are many easier degrees with better job prospects than IT. IT SUCKS.

    No respect, no pay, no security, rampant age discrimination, constant retraining- and even then you have to be "lucky" to get experience at the hot new technology or you are out on your kiester in as little as 2-3 years.

    Don't listen to the propaganda/lies that are suddenly being pushed over the last few months (in conjunction with the H1B issue oddly enough... HMMM!).

    Lots of poeple can be hard workers.
    Not many people can be good manager types.
    Not many people can be hard workers for -LESS- than minimum wage when they are trying to pay back a $50 grand debt that they -CANNOT- declare bankruptcy to get out of when they get the shaft.
  • False (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @07:07PM (#15030528) Journal
    Everybody did notice that they study was for Information Managment, no? People think that we will keep managment here, while sending the tech jobs elsewhere. Not likely. In fact, as the tech jobs go, so will the managerial jobs. Anyinterface position will be those that can live in both cultures easily.

    Personally, I would argue if you really do not wish to be outsourced, then become a marketer or become the company owner.
  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @07:10PM (#15030544)
    is to get into management? doesn't that kinda defeat the purpose of getting into IT? That's kinda like saying the best way to avoid losing your job in the steel mill is to get a degree in medicine.
  • by caffeinemessiah ( 918089 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @07:31PM (#15030668) Journal
    That's kinda like saying the best way to avoid losing your job in the steel mill is to get a degree in medicine.
    Not necessarily. Management is a sort of meta-job. There would be no managers if there weren't people to manage (well, then they're consultants). Following your analogy, it would be like telling the steel mill worker that the best way to avoid losing his job would be to learn a little management so that he can float for a little while longer than his buddies.

    About TFA, the solution seems more like jumping from a sinking ship to one with termites eating at a wooden hull.

  • by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @07:32PM (#15030680)
    IT is to enable people to make money, not to make money in of itself. If you can't come up with technical solutions which drive that goal, it doesn't matter what you can do technically.

    I know, I know, you didn't think you were going to 6 years of school to help Bob in sales increase the stock value. You thought you were training to make all of your 1337 virtual networks interface in new and creative/exciting ways with the latest database. You were wrong. Nobody cares about your network. Nobody cares about your storage. Nobody cares if you use Linux or Windows. They want to know how you can help them "do", which in most cases is make money. IT is somewhere in the social hierarchy around Janitors: "Don't tell me what shoes leave less scuff marks, just clean up the damn spot!"

    If you can't express how you are able to leverage technology to help them make money, you're applying for the wrong job, I would recommend a job in higher education. Lots of tech jobs where the newest, latest and greatest gets applied to making newer and greater.
  • Only if you consider IT management to not be part of IT. I however disagree. IT management is not general purpose management. The best IT managers tend to grock technology.
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @07:39PM (#15030722)
    I'm not sure if switching over to management would be a good idea. If anything, management is easy to outsource. They're so out of touch with the reality of the company's everyday business that they can just as well reside on Mars.

    Snide comments aside, the idea of getting management skills up is not so far fetched. I'm one test short of being a certified bank auditor. Add in a well rounded knowledge programming (including ABAP), a bit over 8 years of experience in computer and network security and a few more goodies that can make some impression on my resume. And so far, it's never been a problem to find a well paying job.

    If you can "only" punch code, you're replacable. Yes, your code will blow anything created in India out of the water, it's 10x faster and 10x more secure, 10x easier to read and 10x more stable. But it's also 10x as expensive. And your management doesn't give a rat's behind about secure, stable and efficient code. Security doesn't matter (until shi. hits the fan, and by then the client has paid), stability is something the client has to deal with and efficiency is unnecessary when you have machines that have 1000x the horsepower needed to run any office application. Management wants cheap code! So try to have some "additional value". Give your prospective employer something he can't easily hand over to India.
  • by MAXOMENOS ( 9802 ) <maxomai@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Thursday March 30, 2006 @07:40PM (#15030728) Homepage
    I wish I'd had your professor. It took me a while to figure out that, as technology people, our value comes down to two things: how well we can document business requirements, and how good we are in some domain. And if you can document business requirements, your competency in some domain becomes secondary. So the question becomes, how do you get the experience if you don't have the experience? And the answer is: you find whatever the hell you can, fight your way into it, and then hold onto that job for dear life until you have five years and some certifications.
  • by Irish_Samurai ( 224931 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @07:43PM (#15030759)
    It sounds that way, but it isn't entirely. From what I have experienced, the suits have a real problem getting an IT guy to see their point of view, and the same is true in reverse. Someone who has the experience to understand why some of the ridiculous things managers ask for aren't as foolish when looked at from their perspective also knows how to employ the inverse.

    That is a person who can lead a tech team from the frontlines and then come back to the Meeting Room and be an evangilist whos opinion carries weight. I view it as a redefinition of what a "project manager's" responsibilities and place in the corporate structure are.

    Sometimes it isn't about a business wanting you to add up time cards and crack the whip. I think any geek would bend over backwards if it meant they could show some young turks through all the mistakes they had to figure out alone. Maybe business are learning that PHB's screw the IT shit up, so they go to their fall back option - can one of these geeks speak our language and will he wear a suit twice a year?
  • Differentiators (Score:5, Insightful)

    by uqbar ( 102695 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @07:44PM (#15030767)
    I interview lots of tech folks. The things that set the best of the best apart are leadership skills, ability to think in a deep analytical fashion that starts with looking at the assumptions, curiousity and ability to communicate with good, articulate answers and thoughtful questions.

    Very few techies have these skills - anyone that does is so amazingly useful to us that we'd never be able to oursource what they do.

    The problem is that I don't know if these skills are the sort of thing you can just learn. I've seen plenty of techie MBAs that have no aptitude for leading.

    Can this stuff really be learned?
  • by cubicledrone ( 681598 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @07:48PM (#15030799)
    I know, I know, you didn't think you were going to 6 years of school to help Bob in sales increase the stock value. You thought you were training to make all of your 1337 virtual networks interface in new and creative/exciting ways with the latest database. You were wrong. Nobody cares about your network. Nobody cares about your storage. Nobody cares if you use Linux or Windows.

    Nobody cares about degrees.

    Nobody cares about work ethic.

    Nobody cares about dependability.

    Nobody cares about loyalty.

    Nobody cares about professionalism.

    Nobody cares about craftsmanship.

    Nobody cares about education.

    Nobody cares about knowledge.

    Nobody cares about other people.

    Nobody cares about people who get sick.

    Nobody cares about people who are hungry.

    Nobody cares about people who are suffering.

    Nobody cares about people who lost their job for no reason.

    Nobody cares about people who lost their home because they lost their job.

    But they all care about money.

    Is that really what we're working towards? What a cold, corrupt and repulsive world.

  • I was able to do the job for $6K, plus cost of hardware. Their IT guy -- who gets $60K/year -- had already invested a month on the task and didn't seem anywhere close to completion. I did the job in two weeks.

    And walked away.... leaving the $60K/year IT guy to maintain, upgrade and generally find some way your solution can live with the rest of the network. And all the while he's removing malware, cleaning systems, reimaging machines, desperately trying to get people to stop using "password" as their password, harranging the local ISP, trying to get the 68bit WEP key changed, supporting blackberries, upgrading hardware, relicencing software, debugging the company website, fixing the bosses' kids laptop, ordering replacement parts, plugging mice back in, kowtowing to the database admin, giving everyone gadget advice when they come calling, unjamming the printers, and trying to find a new job.

    Oh what he wouldn't give to do a job for 6K, plus cost of hardware, and just.... walk away, down that Yellow Brick Road.
  • Re:Differentiators (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sgt101 ( 120604 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @07:54PM (#15030831)
    Not really, but the potential to get those capabilities can be wasted.

    I've known a lot of good guys who simply refuse to believe what you just said, and plough the same frustrated furrow for year after year as a result.

    Also, everyone needs a good mentor to blossom.
  • by dezert1 ( 964839 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @07:55PM (#15030833) Homepage

    I agree with most everything except the higher education part. I've worked for a university for 12 years, and the role of IT is changing. Schools are now beginning to outsource their IT depts, and, just like the private sector, are now looking at IT as an enabler only.

    The powers that be (boards of regents, vice provosts, bean counters, etc.) which have power over the university's direction are feeling pressure to 'step it up' so that smaller, private schools don't beat us to the punch. It's difficult for universities to be mobile, but it can (and is) being done. Keeping up with tech is hard, and schools who don't keep up will also flail in the wind.

    So, your statement is true for everyone, really - even the public sector.

  • the answer (Score:2, Insightful)

    by GoatPigSheep ( 525460 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @08:25PM (#15030998) Homepage Journal
    Make it illegal to outsource to

    A) Communist countries (china)

    B) Immoral countries that still have a backwards caste system (india)

    Problem solved
  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <> on Thursday March 30, 2006 @08:37PM (#15031066) Homepage Journal
    As in the case of all employees, there's good ones and there's bad ones. What determines whether or not you get a good manager is corporate culture. If there's a bunch of good managers all working to drive the company to profit they are likely to hire other good managers (and fire bad ones) to keep that trend going. If, however, you work in a company where everyone is just trying to get pay cheque each month and avoid as much work as possible while sucking up to the boss so they can get promoted, the management will typically hire other morons who won't rock the boat.
  • by Xeger ( 20906 ) <slashdot AT tracker DOT xeger DOT net> on Thursday March 30, 2006 @08:39PM (#15031077) Homepage
    Beg pardon, but I believe we *do* have a wide disparity of resources between US and India, which is the underlying cause for the favorable exchange rate. AFAIK the rupee-dollar exchange rate is not fixed; it's set by whatever people in the currency exchange market are willing to pay (and who knows how *those* people make their valuations -- but the theory of efficient markets would have us believe that their valuations are more-or-less correct).

    If you were making the same claim about China, then I'd whole-heartedly agree. In addition to having less wealth than us, China mandates the USD-RMB exchange rate, one of the effects of which is to make Chinese currency unnaturally low in value compared to the US dollar. This drives US buyers to import ever more cheap Chinese goods.

    India, OTOH, simply has less wealth than we do.
  • by Xeger ( 20906 ) <slashdot AT tracker DOT xeger DOT net> on Thursday March 30, 2006 @08:43PM (#15031100) Homepage
    I have a feeling that we might see Indian inflation rise even faster in the next few years. Indian companies are actually outsourcing some of their work to China, and a lot of Indian IT workers who moved abroad in the last decade are choosing to return home with (comparatively) huge nest-eggs.

    All in all, the Indian economy is quite healthy right now, and corruption in the public and private sector (formerly a huge problem) are slowly dwindling. Growth rates are rising; with growth comes wealth; with wealth comes inflation.

    However, I'd still say your conclusion is about right -- don't go into IT for the next ten years, unless you're a hot shot who can make himself irreplacable to an organization.
  • by AutopsyReport ( 856852 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @08:50PM (#15031132)
    In order to avoid the crunch of outsourcing, we should suggest to our technically-skilled population to start pursuing management skills? What is this, a fast-forward button for the Peter Principle []?

    Let skilled workers be skilled workers (since it's what they do best), and managers be managers. At the very least, put emphasis on being a leader instead of being a manager. Many can manage, few can lead.

  • by gumnam ( 815935 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @08:56PM (#15031161) Homepage
    >>>>>>>>>Yes, your code will blow anything created in India out of the water,

    This is the typical response of paranoid-wool-over-eyes-americans. I dont know where these people get the impression that all code from India/Indians is slow/insecure/instable ?

    Tell me how long will you continue to pay for lousy product/services ? If the management doesnt care about the quality of code, it will soon be out of business. India's contribution to software has grown over the last decade simply because its good enough. If it wasnt, there is no way this trend would have continued for so many years.

    So stop deriding sofwtare from India ...
  • by Captain Tripps ( 13561 ) * on Thursday March 30, 2006 @08:59PM (#15031172)
    Like say, those of us who went into the field 'cause we liked it. If I wanted to be a manager, I'd have gone to business school in the first place. I hate when people just automatically assume that if you're successful, you'll inevitably end up in management. It's even in TFA: "The time period one spends as a programmer is becoming compressed." Like it's just a natural stepping-stone.

    I'm a programmer, I'm proud of it, and I'm glad I can make a living at it. The head research programmer at my last job was 40, and still hacking Scheme and C. I hope that's where I'll be when I'm 40. Maybe it won't be possible, but if I have to go back to school to retrain, the last thing I'm getting is an MBA. I'm gonna look around for another career I like.

  • Re:Differentiators (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 30, 2006 @09:00PM (#15031177)
    my experience is that most managers can't spot the types of people that you speak of. i'm sure a few have gone in and out of your office... and you had no clue.


    not all deep analytical thinkers think fast and have practiced bsing and manipulating managers during interviews. some even have faces that look 15 years younger than they actually are - and few managers can get over their perception and grasp reality.

    i've worked in a few jobs... supervisor, manager, manufacturing engineer, programmer, manufacturing engineer / programmer.

    i crushed the competition when given the opportunity. *crushed*. i took over a shift and went from 7/8 in quality and 2/8 in production to 1/8 and 1/8. we held production records records on every line 50% of the time we went home. when we didn't hold all the records it was b/c we held all the records except one line. NOBODY else every did that *once*.

    one wrong part loaded in about 80,000 part loads - and we worked 5 pm to 5 am. as far a i'm concerned, we not only led the company, we led the world - come one, come all. i never mentioned 6 sigma to any of my employees. EVER. owe just did it. other managers would repeat 6 sigma like a parrot and get run over by my actualized quality train. not some manager-speak perfected by those who can't do.

    i took over another shift that was 7/8 in quality and 5/8 in productivity. within 3 weeks we were first in production and within a few months, we were first in quality, too.

    the 2nd place shift? my old shift - even though that supervisor slept a good portion of the night. good habits die hard - and i'm proud of that. both were graveyard shifts.

    to my first's shift credit, we never got all the production records at the end of our week. to my then current shift's credit, my old shift never held every production record on every line 3 weeks after i changed shifts.

    the bottom line difference? we produced enough marginal product to support well over $20 MILLION marginal revenue per year - and that was the second shift i took over. add in the first shift i took over - and you are looking the $30+ million range. add in the entire boost to production that our excellence engendered... and we are above $50 million. easily.

    i then went on to reduce a $1.5 million MRB backlog, and growing rapidly, to $500k within 6 months.

    i identified the source of our companies #1 defect when nobody else had for the prior 3 years. not my manager, not any engineer, not any director, not any quality person and not the company that was the ultimate cause of the problem.

    of course, the people who worked for and with me were absolutely fantastic, as a whole (few exceptions - and i mean few). there is a lot *i* in this post, but when it is work, it is always *we*, and very often *you* (as in *i* support *you*) which is one reason i'm so successful working with people.

    i worked hard to promote my good employees out of my area so they could improve. other supervisors worked to sabatoge opportunities for their people. i must've personally completed 25-30 resumes to give my best workers their best chance at being promoted out from under me - and bettering their lives.

    the *me* portion of this note is about the marginal changes i *did* make and how i can bring out the good in people... something most people can't do.

    something most people can't recognize. i don't look like superman. i don't look like batman. i won't drop the latest jingo. i just treat people well, provide context for their work and i just *do*.

    so, you've heard some of my accomplishments.

    now, contrast this with my peers:

    peer 1: "some people would say you are bad supervisor b/c you help your employees do their work."

    yes, i did. i wanted to be the best and i busted my tail to be the best. i'd personally manage board flow and clean up the garbage so that my workers could focus on keeping our lines going. one line had 99.85% uptime over a 12 hour shift. A
  • by Karl Cocknozzle ( 514413 ) <.kcocknozzle. .at.> on Thursday March 30, 2006 @09:22PM (#15031274) Homepage
    Anyone have any suggestions on a good career path for a former sysadmin with week coding skills?

    Strengthen your skills! Are you a Cisco guru? Study up and get a CCNA/CCNP... Do you have databse skills already? Supplement that with a script language like PHP/Perl. I'm actually taking TFA's advice and getting Project Management certified to make myself more marketable.
  • by AngryNick ( 891056 ) on Thursday March 30, 2006 @10:31PM (#15031555) Homepage Journal
    And the answer is: you find whatever the hell you can, fight your way into it, and then hold onto that job for dear life until you have five years and some certifications.

    You've got it exactly right. I see too many kids walking in expecting to be paid for what they think they already know, but unwilling to invest the energy to learn about and build the business they are supporting.

    In '93 I moved 500 miles for an $8.00/hr job coding tax software--possibly the most boring software known to man -- because I thought it would be useful experience for a "real job." It was a crappy job with crappy hours and a very limited crappy life outside of work. When everyone else was bouncing from job to job, I stuck with it and worked my way up. When I finally left after 6 years, I was in charge of two product lines and a dozen programmers and CPAs. I'm now working on 14 years in the tax software industry and have little fear of being outsourced. Now I know the business, I know the issues, and I know the driving forces behind our decisions. They no longer pay me to write code (though I still sneak in a little); they now pay me to help them make more money.

    I suggest that you get your foot in the door any way you can, smile while they dump sh!t on your head, show them that you're there for more than a paycheck, and most importantly, stick with it. As you demonstrate your commitment you will quickly be given more responsibility, money, and a more secure career.

  • by gubachwa ( 716303 ) on Friday March 31, 2006 @12:18AM (#15031859)
    Anyone remember that old commercial? You know the one where the kids list off their career aspirations for when they grow up? "When I grow up, I want to claw my way to middle-management. When I grow up, I want to be a yes-man. Yes sir, coming sir." Check it out here [].

    Anyone else see the irony in this? Why did you go into the IT business? It's because you enjoy technology and you enjoy problem solving. And now you're being told the only way to save your job is by going into management?

    I work in a company that is very management heavy, where there's tonnes of rhetoric about about developing leadership skills. I've had more than one manager tell me that the heads-down coder who knows the system inside-out has "very little value to the company." They want leaders, not specialists. Unfortunately, most of the managers who spout this nonsense would have trouble leading a horse out of a barn. They're all very good talkers, but once you start listening to what they say, you realize it's all BS.

    The best "leaders" I've ever worked with are the ones who would never stand up and call themselves leaders. They're the ones who've worked in the trenches, have been the heads down coders and learned multiple systems inside and out over the years. They're the ones who have developed an instinct for what will work and what won't. They're not the boot-licking smooth-talking managers who promise the world to upper-management and then have to claw back features near the end of development because they had no clue what was involved in the work that they were committing to.

    So yeah, if you want to save your job, go ahead and practice these lines "Yes, sir. Coming sir." Just like the kid from the commercial. Go into management, kiss up to your boss and your boss's boss. Learn to be a smooth-talker. In the end you'll be nothing more than a used car salesman in a more expensive suit, but at least you won't be outsourced.

    On the other hand, if you want to save your dignity and have any passion left for the job that you originally signed up for, do not listen to the article. If you're at a company that respects the work that you do, then great. If not, find a different company to work for. They do exist.

    You've got one life to live. Doing something that makes you miserable just because it will save you from being outsourced isn't worth it.

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Friday March 31, 2006 @02:56AM (#15032253) Journal
    Why should you spend $50 grand and 4 years of your life to get a degree with NO FUTURE?!?

    Go to an Indian University for 1/7th the cost. Maybe if the Ivory Tower institutions in the US get fucked by free-trade also, they'll change their tune, stop consuming visa researchers, and stop claiming that the magic solution is yet more of their increasingly irrelavent and expensive education.
  • by xanalogical ( 808042 ) on Friday March 31, 2006 @03:17AM (#15032293) Homepage
    > Own the company.

    Actually this doesn't help in most cases. While you can refuse to outsource your own company employees, when the customer wants a lower price because your competitors -are- outsourcing, and you can't afford to offer that price, you go out of business.

    Running your own company just means you are accountable to a different set of people, not that you avoid accountability.

    There is no escape. You just grouse about the state of the marketplace instead of your boss.
  • by DiscoDave_25 ( 692069 ) on Friday March 31, 2006 @04:56AM (#15032547)
    Whilst I can understand when people have this opinion I have to say that I have found nothing more rewarding than becoming a technical manager.

    I have a farily technical background hacking around with code until a couple of years ago when I, by chance, moved into management.

    Good managers (which I count myself as) in IT need to understand what those they manage are doing. No I don't need the details, but I need to know that if the balloon goes up I can get a full understanding from a couple of briefings.

    a good technical manager has the skills to defend his team and play the coporate political games, whilst still grounding himself in the technical side and ensuring that timsescales agreed to are reasonable for the job.

    A good technical manager makes everyones life easier, from senior management, who get their expectations met by delivery of timely, quality code, through to the developers and analysts who work reasonable hours to produce that code.

    So in short, there is no shame in being a manager, so long as you stay true to, and remember, your roots.
  • by walterbyrd ( 182728 ) on Friday March 31, 2006 @01:30PM (#15035085)
    Your post looks good from a theoretical standpoint, but hardly holds up in the real world.

    "The other option is to find a niche where there isn't enough supply. That includes government work with a clearance, a bunch of positions in health care (I recently discovered that pharmacists have their pick of jobs)"

    Oh sure, so I'll throw away my 25 years in IT, my degrees in math, comp sci, and business, and be a pharmacist. Will that niche still be there after I have completed my studies? I had a top-secret clearance at my last job, it hasn't helped me in the slightest. By the way, you can't just decide to clearance any day of the week, your empoyer has to pay for it ($25K - $40K), and it takes about four to six months.

    "and the less popular parts of IT. The less popular parts of IT aren't necessarily bad jobs, they just aren't the rent-a-coder jobs that schools keep trying to fill. Rather it's the people that know a complex application or have lots of experience in a unused platform"

    And where do you get all this experience? Look at the job boards, nobody is going to hire you unless you already have the experience. Learn a complex app? You mean like SAP? Any idea how much that would cost.

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.