[plt-scheme] Re: Programming for non-programmers

From: Peter Santoro (psantoro at att.net)
Date: Thu Oct 14 16:22:21 EDT 2004

> In the US, I'd add that average (and above-average) developers
> should be worrying about the prospect of their jobs being sent overseas. 

As a US programmer, I can speak from experience.  I have 21 solid years 
of varied experience, lots of great reviews from employers/clients, and 
hold two M.S. degrees (Biochemistry and Computer Science).  I have been 
without work for 3 years.  My last contract was with a multi-billion 
dollar US corporation in which I rescued a 2.5 year old, 16 million 
dollar Java client/server project from failure in 6 months to meet their 
3 year fixed deadline.  At the end of that contract, American MBAs told 
me that I would have to accept the same pay as young Indian workers 
(~$15/hr at that time) or be let go.

Education, experience, integrity, and productivity no longer matter in 
Corporate America - only the lowest cost per hour does.

> It's really unfortunate, but the skillsets of most developers in the US
> are essentially skillsets, and I think they'll increasingly find that
> they're not sufficiently competitive in a global IT workforce.

On a purely cost per hour basis, US-programmers are not competitive.

I have worked with many non-US programmers.  Like Americans, only a few 
are very good.  Most are just average.  From my experience, many younger 
Indian computer "experts" have had only a small amount of 
education/experience in the field.  During the last weeks at the above 
mentioned contract, I spent most of my time debugging/fixing code 
written by Indian programmers.  Simple concepts like how to correctly 
write reentrant code were totally unknown to these folks.  The lead 
server-side Indian programmer (6 figure salaried) was afraid to fix 
server-side bugs, even though the server would crash every 30 minutes. 
I spent 100 hrs one week cleaning up the server-side code and fixed tons 
of serious bugs (logic errors, memory and other resource leaks, 
non-reentrant code causing race conditions, etc.) and performance/design 
flaws.  Even though I greatly enhanced the performance and stability of 
the server, the MBAs were not happy, because 1) the work was not defined 
in their fixed/rigid M$ Project plan and 2) I was supposed to work on 
client-side stuff per their M$ Project plan.  (The MBAs didn't seem to 
understand that I couldn't do my work very well without a properly 
functioning server.)  The server didn't crash again until after it was 
modified by Indian programmers.

> Perhaps the US can out-educate inexpensive overseas labor, enough to
> catch up cost-effectiveness-wise.  (An HtDP in every high school!)

Sorry, but non-US workers have access to the same education that we 
Americans do.  And many of them are not afraid to lie on their resume to 
get the work.  Furthermore, I know of recruiters (one actually lives in 
my town) that get paid 6 figure salaries to post bogus job 
advertisements for jobs that have already been filled by visa holders. 
They use the resumes as proof that they tried to find competent 
Americans to fill the job, just in case the INS comes after them.

Lastly, the ROI of a college education for Americans is falling rapidly. 
  In the not too distant future, US Computer Science, Engineering, 
Accounting, etc. academia will have very few US students to teach.  Why? 
  Because parents like myself are directing are children to avoid all 
careers that can be easily outsourced.  Only career fields that require 
physical presence (face to face with the customer) will survive with a 
livable wage.

Sorry for the rant fellow schemers, but this subject really touches home.

Take care,

Peter Santoro

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