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Ralsina.Me — Roberto Alsina's website

US IT workers should shut up.

Ok, here´s a lit­tle rant. I keep on read­ing the whin­ing about IT out­sourc­ing to In­dia (note that I don´t live in In­dia and don´t do out­sourc­ing job­s) by US IT work­er­s, and you know what? They are a bunch of brats who be­lieve they are spe­cial.

They are not.

Hell IT work­ers in gen­er­al are not. Those of you who have man­aged to make a liv­ing with it for the last 10 or 15 years, and want to keep your stan­dard of liv­ing, learn a new skil­l, be­cause it´s all down­hill from here.

Let´s start with the out­sourc­ing com­plaints:

  • They on­­ly move the jobs to In­­­dia be­­cause it´s cheap­­er: Duh. Per­haps if you had both­­ered learn­ing ba­sic eco­­nomic­s, you´d have seen it com­ing.

  • The In­­di­an com­­pa­nies are do­ing a worse job: The an­swer is: maybe some­what, and it does­n´t mat­ter.

Work in a cap­i­tal­ist econ­o­my is a sim­ple trans­ac­tion. You get mon­ey, you give up a piece of your life and ef­fort and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty.

Now, if you charge less, you can of­ten get away with pro­duc­ing less, with­in rea­son. Be­sides, the IT out­sourc­ing is on­ly start­ing, come back in 5 years and we can have a rea­son­able mea­sure of how it wen­t. The com­pa­nies that are com­ing back af­ter a year can just as eas­i­ly go back to In­dia in an­oth­er year or two, and vicev­er­sa.

It´s glob­al­iza­tion of labour, just like mak­ing base­balls in Haiti. I bet the first Haitian base­balls sucked, too.

  • It´s not the same be­­cause it´s skilled labour: it is­n´t. You live un­der the mis­­­tak­en idea that IT work is some­how dif­­fi­cult. Let me tell you: it is­n´t.

Here is the re­al prob­lem:

Pro­gram­mers spend their sweat try­ong to make things eas­ier: well, IT is way eas­i­er than it was 10 years ago, and it is get­ting eas­i­er all the time.

While there will still be a role for the su­per­f­reak who can hack the re­al­ly hard stuff, 99.9% of IT work­ers are no such a thing. In fac­t, 90% of the re­al­ly bad IT guys still man­age to make their sys­tems sur­vive. And when they can´t, they call a free­lance that´s smarter and charges more.

Most of you guys, had you been born in 1880, would be train en­gi­neer­s. That was a pro­fes­sion that re­quired great skill and was re­spect­ed.

How­ev­er, it was nev­er quite as re­spect­ed as IT, be­cause of the prej­u­dice against man­u­al labour, and it nev­er went so low as IT will go be­cause there is a lim­it on how sim­ple an en­gine´s "in­ter­face" can be.

The re­quired skill set of a IT work­er nowa­days, while wide, con­sists of sim­ple stuff. Prac­ti­cal net­work­ing is not re­al­ly hard at al­l, sys­tem man­age­ment is both get­ting sim­pler, more cen­tral­ized (and thus eas­i­er to hire from a com­pa­ny, or to au­to­mate), and less fre­quen­t.

Hope­ful­ly, soft­ware re­li­a­bil­i­ty will im­prove, and thus dis­as­ter re­cov­ery re­quire­ments will be­come sim­pler to man­age, as will con­tin­gen­cy plan­s.

Look at it this way: the on­ly rea­son why IT skills are need­ed is that de­vel­op­ment has been lack­ing. But de­vel­op­ment is monotonous­ly grow­ing, noth­ing is for­got­ten in that branch, so IT work is steadi­ly re­duc­ing.

On the oth­er hand, the In­ter­net boom mis­tak­en­ly lead a gen­er­a­tion in­to the IT field, pro­duc­ing a huge glut on the mar­ket.

So, the size of the IT work­er mar­ket is re­duc­ing, and the of­fer is grow­ing... bad news for you.

But why don´t IT work­ers see this?

  • They over­es­ti­­mate them­­selves, and un­der­es­ti­­mate oth­­er pro­fes­­sion­al­s.

Most­ly, they be­lieve that be­cause oth­ers don´t un­der­stand their work, the oth­ers are dumb­er and they are smarter. Hel­lo? You are prob­a­bly dumb­er than 90% of the lawyer­s, and 95% of the doc­tors out there, and you don´t un­der­stand their job­s, ei­ther.

The com­put­er guy that says stuff like "how can he un­der­stand it, he´s a lawyer?" is cliche... and a sure sign that the com­put­er guy is a mo­ron.

  • They over­es­ti­­mate their work´s im­­por­­tance

IT guys are about as im­por­tant as the cool­ing and heat­ing guy. Less if it´s too hot or too cold.

Sure, com­put­ers are nec­es­sary for many job­s. So is pow­er and a time­ly cof­fee cup. IT guys are labour. Skilled, yes, but just labour. And re­mem­ber, there are 100K guys in In­dia will­ing to do it cheap­er.

I have seen peo­ple work­ing with a DOS based sys­tem, with­out much trou­ble, with­out any IT as­sis­tance (ex­cept a time­ly com­put­er vac­cum­ing) for 15 years or so.

  • Sense of self­­-en­ti­tle­­ment

Who says you de­serve a US­D70K pay? The mar­ket. If you don´t agree that you de­serve it, you are SOL. When the mar­ket push­es the num­ber down (and it will), you will still be SOL.

Oh, sure, you will have tem­po­rary aids by the gov­ern­men­t, who will prob­a­bly put some trade bar­ri­ers of some kind or an­oth­er. Even­tu­al­ly, those al­ways fail (look at the US steel in­dus­try).

The fun­ny part here is, of course, that most IT guys claim to be lib­er­tar­i­an, even to like Ayn Rand. Well, that´s al­ways easy when there´s mon­ey, ain­t´it? Well, I bet in 10 years most of you will be eat­ing crow for what you say about unions now.

A bit long, but here´s the short ver­sion: You are go­ing to be­come skilled fac­to­ry work­ers in the next 10 years. Get used to it.

Georg Bauer / 2006-04-03 05:24:

I don't think so. Ok, there are actually two parts of IT: those who code for money or admin for money in the simple sense and those that are creators. Creative work isn't skilled factory work and won't be any time soon. So, yes, if you are working on enterprise software, accounting systems or banking stuff, yes, you will become skilled factory workers (if you aren't already there). If you do systems administration, you supposedly are already there, or coming there in a few years - administration wasn't a really complicated job before, it got a bit more complicated in between because of new systems, but as those systems are better understood and tools get better, work will go down, payment-wise.



But that still leaves the creative programmers. People cooking up new ideas, designing new schemes and doing stuff that wasn't there before. Most companies still need those - they are essential, if you want to ride on the top of the wave. Those jobs will still be highly paid. Sure, many companies drop th at kind of work - but the reality will hit them hard when they discover that running on old tools will take you only that far in the market.



But those jobs are rare and often inhabited by people already, so those jobs are not a perspective if you are in the ranks of the IT ants ...



So your conclusion still stands, sort oft.