It seems that the hottest rage in software development is not J2EE, or .NET. It seems like the biggest trend is off-shore software development. As an avid slashdotmember and general member of the tech elite who feels that his job and overall career is somewhat threatened, I?m alarmed. It seems that more and more large corporations are jettisoningtheir software divisions in exchange for a development team based out of India or South East Asia.
I can?t count the number of people who have lost their jobs over the last 18 months as companies come to terms with the high price of development versus the need to get work done in spite ofshrinking revenues. I really do support the idea that a small winnowing of the IT ranks could be a good thing. There are an awful lot of people in the IT arena that really don?tlike IT, or don?t have a passion for IT, but do IT work because it is more lucrative than other professions. Of course, this leads to poor quality of work, but in reality the free market canusually handle the truly hopeless. My real fear is that IT professionals may have over-priced themselves into a dangerous position. How many large companies aren?t tempted by the offer ofdropping their development costs by 50% or even 75%. It was just a matter of time before college graduates demanding > $75k salaries would have a negative effect on the market. The questionof the day is whether offshore software development will be a fresh breath of competition or an industry killer like foreign car companies like Honda and Toyota initially damaged the domestic carcompanies.
Another concern is how hard it is to get an IT job right now. You?d better have a bachelor?s degree and more than 5 years experience and work for a big, stable company. If youhave lots of experience but not in the latest hot technologies and have a huge salary, you?d better watch out. I?ve watched several people whom I would consider mentors cut because theycouldn?t directly affect the bottom line in a way the executive management understood. Of course, this leads to lose of business knowledge but that problem isn?t evident for some time afterthat valued person leaves. Usually when a company starts cutting it’s very senior developers, you can bet the company is heading into a spiral of death that will only end by being merged out ofexistence or simple bankruptcy. If you don?t have the experience, degree, or combination therein, you might as well accept the fact that help desk is nearly your only option. By theway forget certifications, most people realize that a certification is not a college degree; not to mention that many certifications have become very watered down: MCSE, Java Cert, $500 OracleCertification. Unless you?re a consultant, that certification is fairly meaningless (even if you are a consultant a certification won?t help you hold on to a job). A saving grace is the Open SourceMovement, if you?re a person looking for a way to earn valuable experience then Open Source projects may be a way to go. There are hundreds of different projects going on at any given time and thecode is usually very professional and freely available for study (http://www.freshmeat.org / http://www.sourceforge.org ). Of course, coding for free won?t feed your family but it would be a way togain coding experience and get to meet other people in the field. Relationships and the people you know can be the determining factor as to if and how soon a would-be job hunter gainsemployment.
Of course, I?m not saying that people in other parts of the world are inferior and not deserving of jobs either. Often times you can find very competent people in some of the most unlikelyplaces overseas and these people will generally work for a fraction of the cost of hiring a highly skilled domestic IT labor. Off shore development does have its owndrawbacks. You generally need a couple local managers to help drive software completion. Foreign cultures can have different interpretations of a work ethic and general businesspractices. Of course sometimes there can be language barriers but that is becoming less of an issue with time. A big factor that many people don?t realize is the time differential,Its hard to hold a conference call or Netmeeting if your development staff is just getting to work as it hits Miller Time in most US time zones. Another question is how to guarantee that you willactually receive the work paid for, I?d love to see someone try to win a lawsuit filled against a firm in an Asian country that has just vanished into thin air. For many the inherent profit andimmediate boost to the bottom line outweighs the risk but for many companies it could be an painful cycle of problems and shortfalls.
If you think that this trend isn?t going to continue, DesignTechnica received its first solicitation for someone from SE Asia wanting to telecommute to handle basic data processing, office stuff,etc. They offered cheap, skillful labor, and it was intriguing that the letter came right as I was doing final edits for this article. Does anyone think that this trend in development will ultimatelylead to better development and only having people in the industry who are talented and passionate about IT? If not, what amount of damage will have to occur before the trend is reversed.In light of recent events, is it safe to out source our technology to another (possibly rival) country? I personally think that the trend will continue until market pressures correct theflow of business out of the country. I think that the domestic IT markets will rebound, but I think the average IT worker needs to become aware that they are now competing for work with?foreign? workers and need to protect themselves. As IS workers we don?t have Unions to lobby executives and government (btw: Unionizing the IT world would be the worst possible thing todo) , we have to develop practical ways and rational reasons to keep the work ?local?. Let me know what you think?