Saturday, October 16, 2004
Groucho Had This One Right...
Some experts think they'll become extinct within the next few years, forced into unemployment or new careers by a combination of offshoring of their work to India and other low-wage countries and the arrival of skilled immigrants taking their jobs.
Not everybody agrees programmers will disappear completely. But even the optimists believe that many basic programming jobs will go to foreign nations, leaving behind jobs for Americans to lead and manage software projects. The evidence is already mounting that many computer jobs are endangered, prompting concern about the future of the nation's high-tech industries.
Since the dotcom bust in 2000-2001, nearly a quarter of California technology workers have taken nontech jobs, according to a study of 1 million workers released last week by Sphere Institute, a San Francisco Bay Area public policy group. The jobs they took often paid less. Software workers were hit especially hard. Another 28% have dropped off California's job rolls altogether. They fled the state, became unemployed, or decided on self-employment.
The problem is not limited to California
Pas de merde, Sherlock.
The average wage for an American programmer runs about $60,000, says John Bauman, who set up the Organization for the Rights of American Workers. Employers pay H-1Bs an average $53,000.
A programmer, Mr. Bauman was out of work for 20 months before finally taking a job with a 40% pay cut. His experience is common enough that programmers are organizing to fight in Congress against H-1B and L-1 visas. But they face an uphill battle, says Mr. Miano, as business groups are far better organized and funded than the smattering of programmer groups. "They have the best legislation money can buy," he says.
Miano sees such a dim future for programmers that he decided to enter law school. "I saw the handwriting on the wall," he says.
One point that I have to keep harping on in this vein is that software projects that are offshored are often failures for a lot of reasons. Those reasons include the difficulty of phoning in project management, cultural differences that result in a lot of "yes" answers where "no" is called for, and frankly, just plain sloppy or inefficient work. Need proof? Take a look at a certain printer manufacturer's driver code. Bloated, inefficient, and doesn't work within the sort of normal security restrictions that any sensible system administrator should apply. Note to all developers - code should not require privileged access unless absolutely necessary. Printing isn't something that should require privileged access.
As to the cultural differences angle, remember I mentioned a couple of weeks ago about a certain large Financial Services Institution (I will identify it further only by saying it's located south of Chambers Street) somewhat miffed about a Java developer whose background was with another renowned institution (in Ossining)? Said Large Financial Services Institution is really, and I mean really desperate for NYC-based Java resources for important projects. Why? Because they had a wonderful idea to set up a "coding factory" somewhere in sunnier climes to pump out code to do analytics and all sorts of stuff to replace all of their antiquated (in other words, C++) code, and they found that the stuff they were getting from the subcontinent was in two words, absolute crap. Projects sent there were completely out of control, late and incompletely tested. When someone from the home office tries to clamp down on the "factory", he gets yessed, and the end result is still continual patches and Sev 1 outages thanks to the quote unquote quality.
Groucho once zinged Chico in "Cocoanuts" with the comment, "There's my argument, restrict immigration". Amazing how there are 65K H-1B visas being issued when there are how many thousands of Americans out of work. And just how many of these guys are being vetted properly for being bad actors, or are the cost shaving artists that anxious to cut a few pennies from the budget that they might hire someone who's got technical skills but also might have an axe to grind against this country? How much code from these guys is being desk checked?
Paranoia strikes deep.... (and RIP Bruce Palmer)