Offshoring and education gap

02Mar12

I missed the RSA Conference this week for various reasons but I did get to spend the better part of two days out of the office hanging with a group of CTO’s.  The group was a mix of early stage and later stage companies from various industries, which made for some interesting conversation.  One of the sessions I enjoyed being part of was focused around Offshoring.  I had very little to add in this session since we don’t have to deal with this at my company, directly anyway, but I was all ears.

Most of the folks in the room were offshoring at least some of their development work.  Here were some of the key takeaways that everyone seemed to be in agreement on:

  • The quality in India has gone down dramatically over the past 10 years.  Good for fixing small bugs but not for innovative ideas or dealing with big issues.  Most of this is attributed to how competitive the market is in India for good people.  The talented engineers typically jump from place to place for the $$$.
  • Vietnam seems to be ramping up as the new India.  One CTO described it as India 16 years ago with very eager and talented individuals.  The downfall there is language barrier is still high.
  • Greece, Russia, and Bulgaria also got high marks on the technical aptitude and ability to tackle the tougher projects.
  • For the most part, people are not offshoring to save money they are primarily doing it to follow-the-sun.
  • One company (who shall remain nameless) pays the same regardless of where the work is being done.  So if they would hire you to work from India, Russia, or Vietnam you would get paid the same as the engineer in Silicon Valley.
  • They recommend you keep the senior folks who are driving the architecture of the apps and systems local and supplement the lower level with offshoring.
  • Security of the code is not a big concern for most of the companies.  Recommend you work with reputable groups that have good references as opposed to just the lowest bidder.
  • Tight integration with your offshore teams is critical for retention.  Meet with these teams regularly either via video or by getting on a plane.
  • Communication is KING.

I thought there were some interesting points in there.  One of them that was most surprising to me was the “We don’t save money by doing this” comment.  So if you don’t save money, and you just want to follow-the-sun, why not hire some 2nd and 3rd shift developers local to do the job.  The problem there appears to be an educational issue.  Common theme among the CTO’s was that, similar to my last post, hiring is hard.  Kids are coming out of school with CS degrees wanting $100k+ salaries yet they can’t actually write useful code.  They also come out cocky as I heard multiple stores of interviews where recent graduates are basically demanding things of the companies prior to even getting a job offer.  I’m not saying CS grads are useless, there are obviously some talented people coming out of colleges and universities, but the bottom line is that they are having trouble finding talented and motivated individuals.  Often times when they compare the resume from someone local with someone in, lets say Russia, it is an easy decision because the person in Russia has more experience, more advanced degrees and more desire to work.  Too much theoretical teaching going on in the US schools seemed to be a common thread.

So if you are a software engineer, what do you do?  For one, I think you have to realize that you can’t expect to get oodles and oodles of money because you can write “Hello World”.  This is a much different world today than it was 20, 15, 10, hell even 5 years ago.  If I look back to when I graduated from college a few moons ago, if you could write code you could write yourself a paycheck.  I had friends coming out of CS who hated it but knew they would get paid.  I’m not sure that will work today.  It is an industry where you need to have a passion for what you do and how you do it.  From what I hear, too many people are still just looking to get paid.

What do you think?

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One Response to “Offshoring and education gap”

  1. 1 arigoldstein

    Great information.
    My sense is that instead of writing code in the olden days was a kin to classical logic and math training.
    With the advent of Visual Basic and eventually 100’s of languages, I suspect there is way more fragmentation in both school training (too many languages) and a lack of focus on primary problem resolution skills.
    There is probably something to be said as well for ideas like certain schools never giving anything less than a B.


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