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Microsoft Businesses

Did Gates Fib About H1-B Salaries? 345

netbuzz writes "While in Washington last year lobbying for higher H1-B visa limits, Bill Gates told David Broder of the Washington Post that Microsoft starts such workers at about $100,000. An analysis by one offshoring critic suggests that's not true. If his analysis is correct, it would undermine part of the case for lifting H1-B ceilings.
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Did Gates Fib About H1-B Salaries?

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  • by killercoder ( 874746 ) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @02:21PM (#17936718)
    Well then, update your skills, and apply for a job at Microsoft. Here's a tip for you, lots of people in the world make more than 100K, most WITHOUT applying for a H1B. Your jealous about an H1B worker? Apply for a similiar job, and you'll make more money. If your not qualified - get a loan and go to school. No - I don't have an H1B, I work in my native land of Canada (its a little north of where you are), and yes, I make more than an H1B worker in the US. Killer
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @02:22PM (#17936734) Journal
    Mr Gates is also very much removed from reality and he merely parrots what he is told. Look at his comments about "OpenOffice taking for ever to open documents", or his engineers "breaking Mac/Apple security every day", etc. You will realize his role is something akin to a PR man burnishing the nameplate of Microsoft. He does not manage the company. Not its sales force, does not provide any technical or visionary leadership. He is just the brand-ambassador-in-chief.

    He meets politicians and tells them whatever his acolytes ask him to tell them. He would go to India and tell exactly the opposite story. Go look at Indian websites oooohing aaahhing his compliments and how much he is going to invest in India and how important R&D done in India is to Microsoft.

  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @02:30PM (#17936844) Homepage Journal
    Business Week [] is running a story about how the H1-B visa is ACTUALLY being used, and it seems it is used much more often than not to act as a conduit to offshore outsourcing, ie get the Indians or whoever over to the US, train them at a crappy salary(comparatively) and then send them home. While some firms certainly are using the visas to get foreign talent to the US, they are being crowded out by body dumpers. One suggestion proffered by the article is to only let US companies get H1Bs.
  • by tomstdenis ( 446163 ) < minus poet> on Thursday February 08, 2007 @02:36PM (#17936928) Homepage
    Which makes me question his motives. If he's so far removed from the technical realities of the world (let's face it, he supports Vista...) why even bother? Cash out, live the life of luxory and do whatever the hell you want.

  • by RightSaidFred99 ( 874576 ) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @02:42PM (#17936996)
    I know it's completely against the bizarro-world mentality you folks have to even consider this, but wasn't the original quote related by a third party? I know...crazy.
  • by cyberjessy ( 444290 ) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @02:43PM (#17937010) Homepage
    Say, H1-Bs are required for cutting costs; and not due to lack of talent in the US. Even then...
    1. No H1-B, means higher costs for US Companies
    2. US Companies compete locally (inside US), and globally with Global Companies
    3. So US Companies' have a higher cost of product development or software services, compared to those from outside (which employ cheaper labor)
    4. ....
    5. ....
    6. Profit! (BUT HOW??!!)

    An alternative is to ship most of the development or services lifecycle outside, so that H1-Bs are not needed anymore. This is even worse for the US, isn't it? The money wouldn't even get spent in the US. That is, "offshoring" or "bangaloring"

    As they say, treat the disease, not the symptom. Reducing work permits is not the answer.
  • by Krater76 ( 810350 ) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @02:47PM (#17937054) Journal
    From another perspective, Gates is saying that current market rates are ~100k. This is about right for mid-level software engineers with 2-4 years of experience, in that area.

    Is it the mid-90s again? That's the only possibility if someone is making that much with only 2-4 years experience. And 100k+, even in an expensive city as Seattle, is still awesome money.

    The simple fact is that I've know many people, some very qualified and some not so much, who applied to MS and didn't get so much as a second look. I've known 1 person who's been hired, and he was very young (just turned 22 at the time) and very arrogant.

    I think if you want to work for MS you need to be young, show that all you care about is working long hours at the expense of your social life, and be an asshole. They like assholes who know it all. That's why there's a lot of shit that get spewed from Redmond. If you're a foreigner it's even better because they can pay you more than you'd get in your own country but less than a resident and you'll probably work very long hours because you're just happy to be making 'the big bucks'!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 08, 2007 @02:50PM (#17937094)
    When I first read that, I was as outraged as the rest of you, but if you think about it from his perpective, he's probably right.

    When he says $100K, he's probably thinking salary+ health care + 401K + taxes. When you add that up on an average individual employee, you get to $100K pretty easily.

    The difference is that when we read $100K, we assume salary only. I know lots of people working at MSFT, none of whom are making that much even after 5+ years there. Unless they are paying their H1-B's more, he's either thinking in terms of total compensation package or...he's just plain lying.

    Honestly though, he may not actually know -- why would he care about an operational detail like that at this point in his career?
  • by mikael ( 484 ) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @02:53PM (#17937120)
    Bill Gates told David Broder of the Washington Post that Microsoft starts such workers at about $100,000

    The supply agency charges a company like Microsoft an hourly rate equivalent of $100,000 /year. The agency then takes 60% of this as commission, and the H1-B applicant gets the remaining $40,000.

  • Re:Well duh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 08, 2007 @02:59PM (#17937218)
    So you're saying you'd have to pay H1-Bs the same as non H1-Bs, but you can't find any non H1-Bs willing to work for the salary you want?

    If that is one of the reasons, then very well could mean that non H1-Bs are finding plenty of work that you're offering for well above the price that you want for it.

  • Re:Well duh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Marxist Hacker 42 ( 638312 ) * <> on Thursday February 08, 2007 @03:01PM (#17937258) Homepage Journal
    The issue is absolutely finding enough qualified people for the jobs that are available.

    If that's the issue- and I hate to sound like a broken record, but I've posted this in EVERY freakin' H-1b story on slashdot- why not take UNQUALIFIED PEOPLE, and then pay for their traing so that they can fill the jobs that are available? Wouldn't that be cheaper than getting people from half a world away?
  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @03:01PM (#17937260) Journal
    To be honest, I'd be surprised if even Bill knows what his motives are anymore. Once you have enough money that you never need to work again to buy whatever you want, including small countries, the number of goals you can shoot for becomes quite small. As I see it the only real goal that isn't completely trivial is power, in the 'reshape the world as you wish sense.' This only really works, however, if you have a clear vision of how the world should be. From what I've seen, Bill doesn't. Someone like Steve Jobs or Richard Stallman does, and so I'm quite glad neither of them have Bill Gate's money (although Steve Jobs is pretty well off...) since I'm not sure I'd like to live in the world that either of them would create.
  • by SilverJets ( 131916 ) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @03:13PM (#17937450) Homepage
    It must depend on your definition of the word "about". Is $70 about $100? Is $70k about $100k?

    I am not defending Bill Gates, that's just wrong...ewwwww. But, did he state that ALL H-1B's start at about $100k? If some start in a $90k - $100k range, some start in the $80k to $90k range, and the rest are below $80k is it a lie to say they start at about $100k? I dunno. I'm back to, "It depends on your definition of 'about'."
  • former H1B here... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BalkanBoy ( 201243 ) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @03:26PM (#17937638)
    To Bill Gates' point - H1B's that get hired by U.S. companies are required to pay the prevailing wage for the profession the H1B is being hired in, for the region they reside in. I immigrated into the U.S. via the H1B route (I'm a citizen now and I also did my undergraduate in CS here), and have been able to verify that the prevailing wage was indeed paid to me while I was an H1B.

    There is also another law that states that no more than 15% of your workforce can be H1-B based. This law is meant to protect U.S. citizens from being displaced by H1-B's and to assure that only really critical roles can be filled with H1-B workers. No one is going to hire an HR person on an H-1B (well unless they are super critical in an HR-kind of way to the company).

    Another noteworthy thing to mention is, prevailing wage != FMV (fair market value) wage, at least in my experience. This difference between the two may amount to _some_ savings, but I doubt it is as significant as, let's say, hiring a foreign Indian worker in India at 1/2 or less the salary.

    Speaking of hiring offshore - this may or may not prove to be a value added proposition - if you have some seriously senior, super-technical project managers who can divvy up a project into many well-defined/well-bounded specific tasks (e.g. write code for login/logout procedures for a webapp based on Tomcat, using JAAS as the authentication/mechanism, task #2, integrate JAAS with Active Directory on Windows Server, etc.), delegating these tasks to off-shore people, it could work. But this only works in a mature environment like Microsoft probably. It could work in smaller companies too, but it's much riskier, and it could inhibit the company's growth.

    Offshoring is overrated. Hiring local, U.S. talent as well as H1B is much better value. Well, that's my opinion anyway, and I'm sticking to it ;) (for now).
  • Re:Well duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 08, 2007 @03:35PM (#17937730)

    These include people don't want to work for MS, don't want to relocate, don't like job, don't like salary, etc.

    Supply and demand says that you are just simply not offering enough to make it worth someone's while. Offer the right amount and you will have absolutely no problem finding the people locally. All you are doing here is increasing the supply to dilute the value of the job. I can't blame you for wanting to do so, but it would be nice if you would least acknowledge the fact instead of trying to pass the blame on to the workers who you aren't willing to compensate.
  • Re:Well duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by InferiorFloater ( 34347 ) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @03:55PM (#17938000)
    What the hell?

    So instead of looking for the best talent globally, a company should *pay* for a worker who may not have the inclination or drive to master his profession?

    I'm no Republican, but if that's not the road to a stagnant country where entitlements are expected then I don't know what is.

    My girlfriend is on an h1b for architecture; she's from Japan. She's also the hardest, most driven worker her company has, and they offered her ridiculous amounts of money (for architecture) during her review because she's such an asset. They didn't hire her because she's cheaper, they hired her because she's good.

    I can't think of a faster way to torpedo the American character than the parent's idea.
  • Re:Well duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @03:55PM (#17938002) Homepage Journal
    No, the GP is right. The fact that you pay native workers the same means that you are reducing US worker salary to the H1B level. But either way, you're paying the H1B less than you'd pay an American if the program didn't exist.

    There's no such thing as "not enough qualified people". There's only "not enough qualified people for the amount we wish to pay." If you raised what you offered, you get the people you ned. If you competitors did the same, more people would enter/stay in the profession.

    But only if you discount offshoring...

    Once you factor offshoring into the mix, the question becomes whether the jobs move overseas until the US salaries drop to the overseas salaries plus transaction costs.

    So -- the CEOs are right: we do need and H1B program. But not for the reasons they state. Politically, they can't say "give us this program or we'll move our jobs to India," politically it would be seen as blackmail. Tariffs and taxes would be up overnight.

    This is not just an academic distinction. The rationale you have determines the kind of program you create. If you want to depress salaries, you have a program like what we have now. Invite 'em over for a few years, then kick them out of the country when they've achieved seniority, creating knowledge transfer to places with lower salaries ripe for offshoring.

    If you want to prevent jobs going overseas, you invite people over here and encourage them to stay as long as they want; you just don't let in more new inexperienced workers and kick the experienced ones out.
  • Re:Well duh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rageon ( 522706 ) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @04:05PM (#17938126)
    Comments like these drive me insane. There aren't enough qualified people for the jobs that are available? Bull. I was the best programmer in my graduating undergrad class. I looked for a job for 18 months, living on money I made from DJ'ing frickin' wedding dances before giving up and going to law school. There are people out there -- talented people -- willing to work. Give one of them a shot before crying about being able to hire more foreign help.
  • Re:Well duh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Marxist Hacker 42 ( 638312 ) * <> on Thursday February 08, 2007 @04:33PM (#17938560) Homepage Journal
    That strategy implicitly assumes that what they need are trainable skills, and not natural talent based skills. If it's a natural talent, then presumably the potential labor pool is evenly distributed over the world, but there are legal complications to recruiting from the portion of that pool born unluckily outside the US.

    The only thing in computer programming that is NOT a trainable skill is the ability to sit in front of a screen solving problems instead of having constant human contact. I would think the prevalence of video games in the United States would have produced plenty of "inborn talent" in that arena by now.
  • Re:Well duh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ENOENT ( 25325 ) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @04:37PM (#17938594) Homepage Journal
    So it's un-American to not have 10 years .NET experience?

    Most job descriptions for ANY tech company are overly specific, requiring experience with particular technologies that a reasonably skilled programmer can learn in a few weeks at most. And that's what HR departments use when they're screening resumes. Is it any wonder that they can't find the workers they want?
  • Re:Well duh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ENOENT ( 25325 ) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @05:54PM (#17939838) Homepage Journal
    If you have 10 years experience in anything in computing, then 90% of what you have learned in that 10 years is out of date or obsolete.

    Productivity doesn't scale linearly with experience.
  • Re:Well duh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tinker_taylor ( 618697 ) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @06:50PM (#17940710) Homepage
    The problem with H1B is that lot of times, not very skilled people come over. And most of the "so-so" developers you might have worked with are "Fresh-off-the-boat". They aren't familiar with the environment, linguistic and cultural nuances. To generalize that "I have to agree. I find their skills, and possibly this is due to the social environment they are raised in over there, are largely ok if you give them rote coding to do, with very explicit requirements and instructions." and state that it is due to "Social environment" is silly! The problem is lack of experience.

    I think that your experience is with Junior level developers. The problem in India (especially if you're dealing with off-shoring type practices) is that Employee turnover is very high (I think it's officially 2 years average). Plus the competition is enormous (almost unfathomable by Americans -- well at least until recently).

    The kids who are recruited are picked up from Campus interviews (usually top-notch students in Engineering schools) and though they have the intellectual prowess needed to do coding, lack the experience to think like say any developer who's spent 4 years working on a particular technology/platform.

    Due to the turnover rate (very high), once a developer gets a few years -- 7-8 years or so, they are elevated on the Company (whichever that might be) heirarchy. You have to remember that most of the H1Bs you work with (unless you work for a top-IT firm) are consultants brought over by Indian companies, that are subject to the same employee turnover issues that I wrote about above.

    So there you have it -- inexperienced people usually bungle up, need hand-holding and lack creative initiative (note the word -- usually) -- Indian or not, H1B or Citizen. Experience teaches...
  • Re:Well duh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Allador ( 537449 ) on Thursday February 08, 2007 @11:23PM (#17943894)

    At least 40% of the population can be trained to do any job. 110 IQ is plenty for just about any job on the planet.

    Where do you get this information? How exactly was this experimented on?

    Because frankly, it looks like you just pulled some random numbers out of your butt and used them as truth to support your arguments.

    And I can definitely refute this idea that 'training' can turn an unqualified person into a qualified person. I've worked with employees I've inherited in past jobs that while they had all the best intentions, and took advantage of all the training they could get, they just flat couldnt keep up. They didnt have the right kind of brain to work in software development.

    And there are brilliant people who can't hold down jobs, because their attitude and productivity is so terrible, they're worse than 'average' people. You cant teach a good attitude, or strong work ethics.

    Thats not to say that there aren't classes or training for these kinds of characteristics, its just that sending someone to them who isnt interested in learning is pointless. Nothing will change.

    And for those folks who want to have good attitudes, and who would voluntarily go to these sorts of things, you dont really need training. Because lets be honest, having that desire to have a good attitude is most of that good attitude.

    Much like Marxism ... while every human has infinite theoretical potential, and could theoretically do decent at anything ... it doesnt work that way in reality. Not everyone wants to learn, or cares enough to try, or is willing to open their mind up enough to grow.

  • Re:Well duh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by v4vijayakumar ( 925568 ) on Friday February 09, 2007 @12:25AM (#17944356)
    If you have 10 years experience in anything in computing and if you are _really_ working, then you would have made some tens of thousands of mistakes and learned something which you can not learn in any other ways. To make good number of mistakes, you need good amount of time.
  • by locokamil ( 850008 ) on Friday February 09, 2007 @01:39AM (#17944834) Homepage
    Here's a good one. We've got two positions in my 7-person engineering group that have gone unfilled for the last three months: we haven't been able to find US or H1B candidates that fit our business needs.

    Want to step up and try and get one of these jobs? Or just whinge on Slashdot?

It is clear that the individual who persecutes a man, his brother, because he is not of the same opinion, is a monster. - Voltaire