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# Thursday, November 10, 2005

Yesterday on the aspnet-architecture list (on AspAdvice.com), we had a little fun going off topic, but rather than continue that discussion there, I thought I just post my thoughts here on something that sprung up (again), namely, the "outsourcing threat." 

Now I'm going to be (potentially) elitist.  Simply put, if you are valuable enough, there is no such thing as an outsourcing threat.  All natural-born Americans have something unique to offer, which is their expertise in American culture and American English.  These are not skills that someone can just pick up at an ESL course or even at a four-year college.  This is something you only get by living here for a long time and, likely, since childhood, and these can be used to your advantage in business.

Granted, I'm not going to say that outsourcing isn't replacing jobs that would otherwise be filled by Americans (that would require living in a fantasy world).  But the jobs that can go off shore are only those that don't require the skills mentioned above.  In the software industry, this is typically going to be low-level support and programming, typically jobs that only require a very basic level of proficiency and little interaction with the business.  I know, for instance, a company that sends off a lot of coding to India, but they still employ a lot of Americans to do the business analyzation and design and even some development. 

The reasoning is obvious--the business is American and Americans like working with Americans because of the aforementioned skills; there is no language or culture barrier to overcome.  Getting software right is hard enough without introducing these barriers, so any company worth its salt will see the value in that and hire Americans wherever interaction with American business is required.

So that's one way in which any American can get the upper hand.  Take advantage of your American-ness.  That's something you can't just ship off shore.  And I can promise you there are tons of businesses, especially smaller businesses, that will never consider off-shoring their work or working with non-American companies.

Another way you can make off-shoring irrelevant to you is simply by becoming good and staying good at what you do.  This requires extra effort, but it will pay off.  It requires passion about what you do.  If you're just in the software industry because you think it is a cakewalk and pays well, you probably won't get very far and off-shoring should be a concern for you.  But if you're passionate about software and translate that into just becoming d**n good at it, you will never lack for employment, whether that's working for a company or as an independent contractor.

Let's quit victimizing ourselves.  American economy is built on the free market, and it has proven time and again that it works.  The latest example of this is the recent oil conundrum caused by the hurricanes.  We had many people predicting ridiculously high prices and suggesting government controls, but by simply going up to where they did, demand was strangled and prices were forced to come down.  You can apply the same to the software industry; it is a matter of supply and demand.  You need to identify where there is a demand and fill it.  There will always be a demand for Americans who understand American culture and business as well as software, and there will always be a demand for good people. 

So rather than complaining about the free market and trying to get the government to control American businesses, which is rarely a good thing, focus on yourself, make yourself an indispensable commodity, and you won't have to worry about the fact that some jobs are being off-shored.

Thursday, November 10, 2005 9:24:05 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [4]  | 
Thursday, November 10, 2005 11:10:52 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
In general, I very strongly agree with you!

Here are a few points to consider alongside your arguments, followed by a few disagreements:

1) Capitalism abhors using large amounts of expensive labor. There are three main solutions to this situation:

a) Use cheaper labor, or
b) Replace labor with capital (i.e., labor-saving machines), or
c) Redesign the process to avoid using the expensive labor.

As a member of "labor", I want to be viewed as very well paid but inexpensive.
I can do that by improving my productivity. That can include improving my skills, but it can also include embedding my labor into utilities and frameworks (i.e., capitalizing it!).
My social skills, which include my "American-ness", but which also include my ability to draw requirements out of others quickly, correctly and efficiently are also part of this.

I not only have to be more productive to offset cheaper labor, I have to be **known** to be more inexpensive due to my productivity. Certifications, publications, awards and letters of reference are part of this. So is my network of acquaintances and friends.

2) Here is where I disagree with you:

We, as Americans, need to force our politicians to link Trade Tariffs (the taxes on goods and services coming in from outside the country) to Environmental and Labor practices overseas. That way, we will be competing in a more even playing field.

If people in another country want to work in appalling conditions and let their industries pollute their own neighborhoods, so be it. It's their choice. We don't want to live that way.

But that means that American industries have to pay more to avoid polluting and more in wages. Add the difference in those costs to the price of goods coming in from overseas, and use the money to provide free job training to displaced American workers.

If they clean up their labor and environmental practices, then their labor costs will rise accordinly and we can fairly compete on a level playing field. If they don't, then we get their cheap goods and use the funds to retrain our own workers to enter new industries.

Thursday, November 10, 2005 11:33:19 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Thanks for the comments, David.

I don't think we necessarily disagree. I just may have somewhat different motivations for agreeing. I didn't get into it in that post, but I think the idea that off-shoring is inherently bad is wrong. I don't think Americans 'deserve' or have a 'right' to these jobs just because they're American. People in China, Mexico, and India are just as human and deserving of a good life as Americans; we are all part of the human family and have human dignity.

So I would agree with you that it would be praiseworthy for our government to require foreign companies to provide conditions for their employees that give them a good quality of life. But I agree due to moral grounds rooted in my understanding of human dignity, not for nationalistic or economic reasons.
Thursday, November 10, 2005 12:11:40 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)

I agree.

However, finding a way for companies to make money while doing good is always preferable to the alternative. That way, all those "special interests" and "behind closed doors agreements" get made to our advantage too. :)
Thursday, November 10, 2005 4:09:03 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Another alternative is to attempt to work in industries which do not outsource. I consider that one of the bonuses to government work. The Department of Defense is not going to outsource application programming on classified systems to India any time soon.

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