Friday, May 26, 2006

Are All the Good I/T, Science, and Engineering Jobs Going Overseas?

Over the last several years, I have endured much gloom and doom talk among I/T professionals about the evil influence of offshoring of I/T jobs to India, China, and other lower-cost countries with large numbers of highly educated workers. The mood around me seems to have improved over about three years ago from one of panic to one of acceptance (or is that resignation that offshoring isn't going away?).

I recognized early that one important enabler of this business model was the wide availability of inexpensive and reliable telecommunications. This allows, for example, me to have my regular Tuesday and Thursday morning conference calls with my co-workers Bangalore without anybody really worrying about the cost of the phone call. I do, however, remember making my own jokes about how the US needed the CIA to put some Navy SEALs in mini-submarines on the floor of the India Ocean to cut the fiber optic cables heading to India.

As a sign of the improved relationship with my Indian friends, I got brave enough to share my joke with one of our programmers from Bangalore. I was pleased to find he took my joke in a good natured way and countered my joke with a laugh and something along the lines of "Oh... we have so many redundant lines we'd be ok in Bangalore. But Pakistan... if you cut one fiber optic cable the whole country would be out of business!"

I've been a little behind in my blog reading and I stumbled across a gem on Irving Wladawsky-Berger's blog. He's the IBM Vice President, Technical Strategy and Innovation. He has a posting entitled Skills, Jobs, Competitiveness, and Innovation which address the comment I've heard many times from I/T professionals "I wouldn't let my child go to college to major in computer science." He makes several good points:
  • According to the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) the size of the IT employment market in the United States today is higher than it was at the height of the dot-com boom.
  • Information technology appears as though it will be a growth area at least for the coming decade, and the US government projects that several IT occupations will be among the fastest growing occupations during this time.
  • And... like we in leadership positions in custom application development business at IBM Global Services have been preaching to our practitioners... the role of the I/T professional in the US and developed countries is changing to one which is more consultative vs. heads down pounding code into the keyboard. Soft skills and business knowledge are becoming more important. "These new jobs are much more collaborative, interdisciplinary and broad than in the past. They require solid technical competence, combined with industry, business and management knowledge as well as good communication and interpersonal skills."

I will add this one cautionary note. The attitude now is both that offshoring is not going away and that decision makers will lead with offshoring. By "lead with offshoring" I mean that almost any big project will be assumed from the beginning to be delivered by a globally dispersed team. For consulting organizations, that means the first proposal will already have global resources baked into the projected costs. (If for no other reason than the assumption that the competition will.) For more evidence see IBM announced a $200 million investment.

Copyright © 2006 by Philip Hartman - All Rights Reserved

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies, or opinions.

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