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Knowledge Transfer to Off-Shore Company

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Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:


Is off-shoring American jobs ethical?
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Mr. King,

When I was unemployed in 2003, I felt a lot of resentment towards the practice of off-shoring. After 7 months of unemployment, I was lucky enough to land a job with a company that was actually doing a lot of off-shore development. I was one of the few new hires they brought on for a project that required a great deal of customer interaction.

Initially I continued to feel resentful, feeling that the company's off-shoring efforts were probably keeping me from being offered a full-time position. However, after working there for a few months I found out that the money they were using to pay for off-shore projects was not coming out of payroll. In other words, the only reason they were off-shoring at all was because it was a loophole to get around the hiring freeze. As it was it took quite a bit of pull just to bring me on board, and the involvement of at least one executive VP and two other lower level VP's.

In other words, there off-shoring efforts and lack of hiring were unrelated. All of the managers I worked with or had contact with were generally frustrated with the situation because they wanted to hire more people, but they couldn't and the money wasn't in their budgets. Furthermore, although I had left before then, when hiring did resume, they did not suddenly halt their off-shore projects. Everything worked parallel to each other.

On the flip-side, in 2004 when I came to my present employer I was hired specifically to backfill an position. They needed local talent, the client was not accepting anymore travellers, forcing my employer to find people in the area (Ironically, I am travelling myself now). Aside from a handful of positions like mine, the company had a bad year in 2003 and simply was not hiring on any regular basis. Positions were filled on an as needed basis only and many departures were not filled at all. In 2004 were hired roughly 3000 in India as part of our own outsourcing/off-shoring efforts. Because of this, at least 100 support jobs in the US were necessary. It may have been more than that, but I don't have the exact number. If not for our off-shoring effort, our overall staff would have shrunk. In effect we'd be employing less people than we did in 2003, and from what I have heard 2003 wasn't exactly a boom for hiring either.

I have had colleagues that have watched their companies send much of their work over to India. However, not all of the work being off-shored would necessarily stay here. In some cases the companies were going to do massive layoffs anyway, and the people they kept to support their off-shoring efforts were the usually the people they were planning on keeping anyway to keep the show running.

A few foolish companies went to 100% off-shore. I personally have details on more than a few of those that now regret the decision and are reversing it.

I'm not saying some companies didn't do as you describe, but your attacks reak of being ad hominem. Off-shoring is bad because it steals American jobs, or so you say. Yet I know of one instance where the reverse is true, and there may be more. I know of many instances where off-shoring was a supplement to allow companies to continue. Had they not done off-shoring, the money they spent would not necessarily, and in most cases, go to payroll to hire more people.

I know this is anecdotal at best, but I simply have not seen the proof of this massive off-shoring of US jobs. Yes, the job market shrunk and off-shoring increased. These things have a correlation, but that is not the same as causation. Furthermore, with my recent experience in the job market, I would guess that Microsoft's doomsaying about the massive decrease in technology jobs by 2015 is probably off. Then again, this market can change in the span of 6 months, so making predictions about the next 10 years is a bit presumptuous, even for MS.

And Indians are not stealing our jobs. I have competed with a few for jobs in the past. That's not quite the same way as stealing. The job market sucked, companies learned to live with less or find alternative means when their IT shops were told "No" to hiring. A few did indeed simply "send jobs" to India, but what percentage that actually is I don't know. Neither do you for that matter.

Also, considering the way IT "professionals" acted during the dotcom days, I'm surprised anyone thinks that companies will behave with more loyalty than we did.
[ September 15, 2005: Message edited by: Rob Aught ]
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