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Submission + - Pending bill would kill a big H-1B loophole (computerworld.com)

ErichTheRed writes: This isn't perfect, but it is the first attempt I've seen at removing the "body shop" loophole in the H-1B visa system. A bill has been introduced in Congress that would raise the minimum wage for an H-1B holder from $60K to $100K, and place limits on the body shop companies that employ mostly H-1B holders in a pass-through arrangement. Whether it's enough to stop the direct replacement of workers, or whether it will just accelerate offshoring, remains to be seen. But, I think removing the most blatant and most abused loopholes in the rules is a good start.

Comment Don't blame the people, blame the environment (Score 5, Insightful) 606

I see a lot of "grumpy old man" posts (I'm 40 for context...) on this subject blaming entitlement and other reasons for this. I don't see it that way...I haven't run into any of the stereotypical Millennials with a capital M that the media describes -- remember, Generation X were supposed to be "slackers" in the 90s also. So, I don't think it's the people. I think it's the work environment. Work is very different from the golden age of the 50s through the 70s in the US...
- After WW II, a family could live comfortably on a single income, and there was a reasonably good chance someone could keep their job for life and/or be promoted from within and gain success that way. And this is any family -- from the janitor to the CEO (relatively speaking of course.)
- After the great corporate downsizing wave of the 90s, it was still possible to graduate from any college, with any degree in any field, and still find entry-level work. While it was less possible to do the single-income thing and required lots of sacrifice to do so, the opportunity existed.
- Now, entry level tech jobs don't exist or are done offshore or by H-1B labor. The economy has fully adjusted to two-earner families, so it's basically impossible to be a single-earner family unless you live in a really cheap part of the country (where, consequently, there are no jobs anymore.)

So, don't blame the Millennials. They're in a tough spot. I was very lucky in my early career to be able to work my way up from an entry-level support job to where I am now...that opportunity is much harder to come by now.

Comment UBI alllows for a peaceful transition, period. (Score 1) 1126

Everyone is hung up on how a basic income would be paid for, how much "money" it would cost, etc. What I think people are missing is the fact that UBI is designed to transition society off of a work-based, money-based economy without the bloody revolution.

Think about it in terms of a 50ish person who has paid into retirement their whole life, and is about to start drawing it down so they can live out their final years. How would you feel if, all of a sudden, new entrants into the economy no longer had to fund their own retirements partially because there aren't any paying jobs left and a UBI is the only answer? The UBI lets society keep the crutch of money and the work-for-income reward system. it lets that 50ish person enjoy a retirement commensurate with the amount they put in, while acknowledging that for most future workers, there won't be jobs or a retirement. If we didn't have this, those people who saved would lead an armed revolution and destabilize everything. So, we start with the UBI, then slowly phase it out as "work" becomes obsolete for most of the population.

I simply don't get why people don't see that there's nowhere left to go on the "better job" scale for a vast percentage of the population anymore. Agriculture is dead, manufacturing is dead, corporate work is dead and service jobs are dead in terms of good solid jobs with incomes allowing people a good life for hard work. I almost want the vast factories employing thousands of unskilled people back just so we could have balance in the economy again. Unless a basic income is implemented, the income disparity is going to keep getting worse, and even educated people are going to be destitute.

Comment Cloud != Guaranteed Service (Score 1) 465

This should not be a surprise to anyone here, but it's a very good example that, unless you have a specific document signed by both parties promising some level of service, you don't have that service.

I'm in the middle of a "cloud conversion" for one of our core applications. I get incredulous looks and blank stares when I ask application developers how they've planned for redundancy and potential data loss. The other day, I actually had a senior application architect tell me "the cloud takes care of that." Sigh...yes, you can be reasonably sure that your data will survive a physical disk failure. But will it survive an accidental deletion? The cloud alone sure doesn't guarantee that. They also don't guarantee that your application will run if one of their data centers blows up...unless you pay for that.

In short, smart infrastructure guys have nothing to worry about in terms of the cloud -- you don't have to worry about hardware failure, but you do need to be smart building out the pieces. The developers are being told that all they need to do is push the button to deploy their applications now, so we still need to protect the system as a whole from stuff like that.

Comment Re:Get better skills (Score 1) 482

Seconded. I've been lucky in that I'm working for a tech company connected to a very change-averse industry doing a complex job and providing a lot of value for money (so say my bosses.) I have no doubt in my mind that I'll be out of a job as soon as an MBA gets a bright idea and offshores the IT department.

You can't let your skills ossify and do the same job for 20 years anymore; those people are gone in the first seconds following an outsourcing decision. But, don't assume that you're safe because you're current and doing a fantastic job. Save like crazy and be ready to retire at a moment's notice...I'm trying my hardest to do this now but it's hard with dependents.

Comment Solution - program-wide limits + organization (Score 1) 482

Very little is original when it comes to large companies' policies. One of the large management consulting firms comes up with an idea, sells it to one company, and through C-level golf networking, it gets copied everywhere over time. (Corollary: Anything IBM, GE or Google does will be copied verbatim, regardless of fit.) Think of the conversations --
"Hey, I just figured out a great way to make those IT nerds 90% cheaper!"
"Really? How?"
"Simple, all I have to do is call up Infosys or Tata, and they will use the H-1B program to send hundreds of cheap replacements! It's foolproof! My McKinsey guys said they could replace the entire IT department with contractors and we won't even notice the difference!"
"Sounds great, I was getting sick of dealing with those old neckbeards anyway. Now watch this drive!"

Here's the problem -- every company copies HR ideas, so every company will eventually offshore their IT or live with the higher costs (doubtful.) Now, how do you propose a solution without sounding like a "they took er jerbs!" guy? The problem is not the H-1B program itself -- it's the loopholes in it the body shops use to bring in cheaper labor that isn't as qualified. There's also give on both sides too -- people can't expect high salaries if the technology changes out from under them and they don't adapt. However, given that H-1B labor is often used to replace entry-level work, how do you develop a pipeline of new people to replace the retiring ones, retrain mid-career people for new positions, and make IT (and more broadly, STEM) attractive in the first place?

The only solution I can see working is to take away the loopholes in the program for every company, regardless of size or special interest. When they have to start hiring domestic labor instead of letting their body shop circumvent the rules, all of a sudden there's domestic supply as new students come in, domestic demand because they can't use the emergency cheap labor escape valve, and salaries remain reasonably high because the reality is that most IT jobs worth doing are difficult. The only way to make it work (IMO) is to start paying Congress to do so via a professional organization. Doctors, pharmacists and (to a much lesser extent now) lawyers are going to be the last people working in this country for anything resembling an upper-middle class salary. The reason is that they saw this coming ages ago and made sure their interests were protected. Don't you think United Healthcare or the big hospital chains would do anything in their power to pass a law saying anyone who passed a 1-week certification class could perform low-end medical procedures? They are blocked from doing so by the AMA and other boards of specialist physicians. It's time to admit that the only way to change the rules is to pay for it and hire a professional lobbying group to counteract those already working in businesses' favor.

Comment Re:I don't blame them. (Score 4, Interesting) 163

"There's a lot of snobbery in this profession now."

Agreed -- almost no one without a degree is even considered, and you might as well not even try getting hired at a Silicon Valley startup as a new grad unless you went to Stanford, MIT, etc. even if the work you're doing doesn't have anything to do with CS.

I do think that businesses are using the pedigree as more of a filter than anything else. Investment banks and white shoe management consulting firms hire almost exclusively from the Ivy League. A new lawyer has no chance of success unless they get hired by a big corporate law firm, and those jobs _only_ go to the top grads of the top 14 law schools in the country. As in, you've wasted your law school money if you can't get into the Top 14 and graduate at the top of your class. These more traditional professions use their filter to keep the old boys' (and girls') club going. Getting into one of these companies is a guaranteed ticket to riches for life. Tech companies? Probably not...I think they're just trying to beat off a massive pile resumes with a really short-sighted stick. The state university grad is smarter for not blowing their money on an overpriced private school degree, but state universities also graduate a range of students. Some skated through with barely any work, and some worked their asses off to make sure they mastered the material. It's stupid that firms pass on people just because of where they went to school, but when you have thousands of new grads looking for work, what else are they going to do? Interview them all?

Comment It's Dotcom Bubble 2.0, everyone's ignoring it (Score 4, Interesting) 163

The famous quote "those who don't remember history are doomed to repeat it" is very applicable here. This exact scenario played out in the late 90s during the build-out of the Internet and the web. The things that are different this time are phones and social media are the primary focus, and the bubble is almost entirely in Silicon Valley this time. (Last time, New York City had a part in this because of the financial ties and the fact that traditional publishers and broadcasters were throwing money at the Internet.)

I think that people are starting to see the top of the bubble and opting not to join startups. Startup culture isn't for the young either; you really have to have the fraternity/sorority member personality type to work there so as people age they're less likely to trade salary for beer pong or free dinner. This will be the third recession that I've been on the sidelines doing "boring" work in old-school companies watching the startup mania from a distance. No one with a family or other responsibilities is going to do startup work as their first choice unless they have massive amounts of savings. Very few people (should be) willing to put up with the terrible commutes, traffic and real estate prices in the Bay Area. (That's coming from a New Yorker, we have the second-most insane housing market and I think it's crazy...$1 million+ for a tiny house a 2-hour one way drive to work? $4500 a month for a 2-bedroom hipster loft in San Francisco? Nope, sorry.)

I think, just like last time, it'll all come crashing down, we'll pick up the cool new stuff that came out of the last bubble (not much this time...), and it'll inflate all over again. I just hope something more useful than advertising algorithms comes out of the next bubble.

Comment Re:Auto-Promotion (Score 1) 35

Spot on...I can't count the number of empty-suit MBAs I've seen who have parachuted into businesses they have no idea about, fired everyone and parachuted back out. Promotion from within should always be the first choice.

What is it about the MBA that holds people in such awe? And what is it about these management consulting firms who employ most of the recent MBA grads that seems to indicate anything they propose is akin to religion? Seriously, why would you trust a 26-year-old from McKinsey who has never had a job outside of school to give your company advice?

Comment Re:21st century IBM (Score 1) 35

"It looks like MS is going the way of IBM did in the 20th century. "

Yes, but not the way you're thinking. This is why Microsoft has spent and is spending so much money and dev effort on Azure. Assuming they don't screw it up too badly, they're in a really good position to change from a software company to a hosting company. Just like Apple gets a 30% cut of everything sold in the App Store, Microsoft is going to collect a toll on every single thing a customer hosts in Azure forever. So yes, they're becoming IBM's mainframe business -- sell capacity, charge a maintenance fee, plus a fee to use the capacity, and collect it until the universe ends.

This is going to be accelerated by Microsoft's existing relationship with businesses. Unlike AWS or Google Cloud, Microsoft is saying to businesses that they're free to run whatever legacy stuff they need to in Azure, not re-architecting existing stuff. "Forget that startup hipster cloud across town, run whatever you need for as long as you need as long as you pay us." The adoption rate is accelerating, and I can definitely see it going up in the next few years as CIOs have to consider the cost of hardware they control. Some companies will never be swayed, but MBA spreadsheet math will probably prevail and the cloud will be in full swing.

Comment Re:She gave off all the classic signs. (Score 1) 186

"When they look at a person it is only to see if they are someone they can use. If not you can actually see the person vanish from their perception. But if the person is someone they can use as another run in their ladder climbing, their eyes light up and the wheels are turning."

Everyone does this to some extent, but the key difference between some sociopath executive and a healthy person is how two-way this is, and the level of sliminess involved.

People like it when they can gain something from others, it's what makes us social animals. I think it crosses the line when someone becomes a master manipulator. It's one of the many reasons I can't stand salespeople. Working as a senior IT person in a large company, I'm approached all the time by slimeball salespeople. From the first second I talk to them, I can tell the only reason they're wasting breath on me is to get me to trust them enough to give them an in with the CIO, project head or whomever else they want to manipulate next. Truly good salespeople and execs know how to tone this down just enough to make their target think they're just being nice. Next time you're dealing with someone like this, flip the situation around and ask yourself how willing this person would be to help you if you were the one calling. That's how you know if you have a Melissa-Mayer-in-Training on your hands.

Comment Distraction by the Jobs Distortion Field? (Score 1) 186

I already see a ton of misogynistic posts about Elizabeth Holmes, and I'm not going there. What I am going to mention is that she had that Steve Jobs personality that makes people stop thinking rationally. She even wears black turtlenecks. Startups need charismatic founders because how else would they raise money? But there's something about that Type-A Jobsian executive mystique that just appeals to people on some level. It's entirely possible she had very little idea of how things were actually going also - I've seen company executives who clearly have no idea what the company does and are happy as long as the Salesforce.com dashboard gauges are pointing to the green range.

The problem was that Theranos was trying to play the "fake it till you make it" startup game. I totally expect this from startups, and have been pitched numerous software products that were unfinished at best as an example. The idea is, if you're not just trying to get bought by Facebook or Google, to do just enough to cobble together a "product" and fill in the details later. This works for software; you can say you're all Agile and continuous-integration and DevOps and all those "make it up as we go" buzzwords. It's really hard to fake a disruptive blood test process long-term without people trying to poke holes in it.

I think it would have been very interesting to be on the technical side inside Theranos around the time they realized they were never going to get this new process to work right no matter what they did. That must have been very rough on everyone involved, especially with the outside world basically worshiping you.

Comment Re:LOL... (Score 3, Insightful) 1010

I've never had a clearance, so this is interesting to me. What could they possibly do to someone who accidentally takes papers home, transfers files somewhere, etc.? It seems to me like prisons would be full of "data leakers" if this were the case. Snowden worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, so I assume those rules don't apply to contractors the same way they do actual federal employees.

I have heard that truly top secret life-or-death material (weapons designs, espionage info, etc.) is way more tightly controlled than someone's email...as in you can only access it from within a Faraday cage on a disconnected computer with a guard watching over the entrance. But it would be interesting to hear how someone with a TS clearance deals with daily work life. Are things just stamped "top secret" as a routine, kind of like how every corporate email, presentation, document, etc. is "company confidential" whether it's the lunch menu or product source code?

Comment Happens all the time in the private sector (Score 4, Insightful) 1010

Just like the FBI said, she was grossly negligent especially considering the rules about archiving and secrecy...but it happens way too frequently in the "real world" of business for me to be surprised. No executive I have ever seen has had to follow any sort of IT rules. Anything that gets in their way is magically removed.

I did a lot of desktop support in my early career, and am still connected to that world because my specialty is end user computing and end user systems management. The facts are as follows -- every executive, senior VP or above in large companies, has a different set of IT rules than the rest of us:
- Almost every executive I've encountered has no password, no drive encryption or other protection on their machines. Either that, or they have Zuckerberg style "dadada" passwords and need special exemptions carved out of the corporate password policies to deal with it.
- Almost all of them forward their emails to personal accounts so they can get their emails on whatever flavor-of-the-week consumer device comes out.
- 99.9% of them let their secretaries send and receive their email by giving them their password. Same goes for executing transactions.
- Before iOS and Android got good Exchange integration and full MDM, it was extremely common to have "basement email servers" -- sometimes they were in the data center, and sometimes they really were in the exec's basement. We don't need that anymore, but I can imagine the State Department's IT people aren't exactly early adopters especially concerning communications.
- Tons of support time is spent getting whatever crazy computer, tablet, smartphone, Amazon Echo, game system, etc. connected to the company network and functioning -- stuff that the "little people" would never be allowed to use.

The point is that all executives bend the rules, and the IT staff allow them to because they like being paid. In my mind this is no different...Clinton was essentially the CEO of the State Department. Would you tell your CEO that he wasn't able to access his email from some unsecure consumer laptop on his private jet?

Comment Re:So Slashdot is a blatant propaganda peddler now (Score 3, Interesting) 496

I'm not sure why people deny the reality of a shrinking employable labor pool. I've mentioned below that I do feel people can be trained, but my experience has shown that even among skilled employees, there are some capable of handling higher-level work and others who aren't. As much as I think Trump would be a disaster of a President, the experiment he proposes (cancelling NAFTA, implementing across the board tariffs, etc.) would be very interesting. if it overnight became prohibitively expensive for every company regardless of size to manufacture overseas, the domestic manufacturing base would have to return, including companies supplying tools and parts. Instantly, you'd have the blue collar labor force back, paying taxes and spending money in the economy. This would in my opinion restore a measure of balance. It would be suddenly OK again to have just a high school degree if that was all you could handle academically. People wouldn't be forced into debt getting a degree they're not interested in or qualified to have.

I guess I'm one of those people who feels that full employment should be the primary goal of a society, if living comfortably in that society requires money. There's no easy way to dismantle our money-based economy short of a revolution or some disaster that causes a full reset. This is why the basic income has appeal...it allows a transition so the angry older workers who had to save for retirement, etc. age out and a smaller active labor force comes in.

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