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No Shortage Of Programmers? 385

Posted by Hemos
from the no-surprise-here dept.
Robber Baron writes "While searching with Copernic for the old Indian-head test pattern, I chanced upon this article (funny how search engines work, isn't it?). It seems (surprise, suprise) that this whole IT labour shortage crisis was a myth generated by large IT companies to justify importing boatloads of foreign IT workers willing to work for low wages in substandard conditions. Anyone have any experience with this?"
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No Shortage Of Programmers?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'd like to address the "indentured servant" therefore substandard compensation remarks. My company is approximately 85% Indian. We may be exceptional since my partner is Indian, but we pay far above the going rates in our area.

    H1's CAN switch jobs. Granted, it's not as easy, as they have to have the next one lined up before they quit, but it can happen and has happened in my company.

    The reasons why it is more difficult for these employees to switch are firstly, an extremely short "grace period" where the Visa remains in effect without employment. I believe this is currently 10 days. There are discussion about extending this to 6 months with all the recent layoffs. The second reason, completely contrary to the author of that calamity, is that there just aren't enough companies that are willing to sponsor the Visa. If the state of things were as the author said, 10 day's would be plenty.

    As for the quantity of the visa's issued, shrinking that number will only cause the problem to get worse. The reason is that when the waiting period is up around 8 months, traditionally, everyone who hires H1's switches to B1's. This is a business-to-business visa that can be executed at the drop of a hat. When the queue lets up, these are then converted into H1's. The problem here is that the employee cannot be paid anything locally except for expenses. Any compenstation has to come from the company abroad, which in many cases does not exist, resulting in being paid under the table.

    In his conclusions about what should be done, it's made quite clear this is a "keep the jobs here" argument, urging the reclosing of the H1 quantaties.

    Dr. Norman Matloff, the author, rants in the same article about age discrimination. Judging from his photo and his "bio" here's my take on him. He used to work in Silicon Valley, they cut him because he couldn't keep up, he couldn't find another job, because he sucked, so he washed up on the shores of academia which fosters washed up chumps like himself, giving them a forum for ranting.

  • When a divison gets cut or a major project cancelled, EVERYBODY gets the ax.

    Amen. Deep job cuts like these mean good people are laid off.

    Even worse is the companies KNOW this and can hand pick the person that fits every single one of their requirements where before if a person fit 80% - it was a catch. ... During 1999 - there WAS a shortage in certain areas, no question.

    Well, I agree with you about the 80% figure and I'll add that if employers are that picky during times when employees are supposedly scarce, they must pretty much want a perfect match now.

    I'm also in the RTP area and have been all my life. I've somehow weathered the last 3 recessions. I'm a good engineer and a fair programmer and I'm damned lucky. When there are cuts this deep, sometimes luck is all that's between you and unemployment. My number has come up before twice. In 1986, ITT laid me off. The year before I had gotten a promotion and a 20% pay increase! A year later, I was laid off from RCA after General Electric bought them. All GE wanted was NBC. They quicky sold the consumer electronics divisions. I remember these experiences vividly. I developed a grey streak in my hair during the ITT layoff. That was a shock. I understand how people feel who have been let go in the last year. It can be absolutely devastating, particularly when that job is how many engineers and technical people define themselves. I've read quite a few posts from people who think their skills are so great that they will be spared this life changing trauma. They go on to say that if they are laid off, they will quickly find work. Well, as my old karate instructor used to tell arrogant students who thought their fighting skils were better that he thought, "I hope it all works out for you." That's what I say to the young whipper snappers who think they are safe. I hope it all works out for you because what I've experienced, I wouldn't wish on anyone.

  • From my experience, esp. old people can't or refuse to learn.

    What about blacks, women, or Mexicans? Any enlightening thoughts on any of those groups?

  • I'm in the midst of a OO project. About two years ago many of our senior devoplers left. Many of those have sayed have blaned failures on the project on OO, and not on themselves.

    My observation, having to maintin code of several people who left: The more junior the programer the better the code. That isn't to say the junior programers were better programers, just that their code is more maintainable, and more efficant. the Senior programers said "I've been programing for 15 years", and dived right in. The junior programers said "I don't know how to do this", so they started talk to the experts (generally the expirenced senior engineeres above) and planed their system to work right. Today I have to fix bugs the both programers wrote. The junior programers made more mistakes and caused mroe bugs, but they can be fixed. I have spent weeks trying to figgure out why a one line change broke a senior engineers code, and finally gave up - the odds that anouther customer would encounter that bug were low enough compared to the 10 other bugs I could have fixed in the mean time that management let me do so.

    Its been said that if you see a bus about to run over Paul then you better knock him out of the way, since you are replaceable, Paul isn't. (Fortunatly Paul is one of the few who admit failures in OO are his fault, not the fault of OO, and he is slowly fixing things to be maintanable.

    OO is a new paridime. It is better then straight C when done right, but you can write bad spaghatti code with any toolset. Thus we have unmaintaneble code with a class diagram (the wrong modle to base a class diagram, but there is a class diagram) Do it right and you have reusable code that isn't significantly slower then asm. (An a good profiler will tell you where to drop to inline asm for speed)

  • I know about him from Usenet, because once in a while, some mentally retarded rednecks cross-post an anti-immigration flamewar to the comp.lang.* newsgroups, and they like to cite this document as an excuse for posting racist, xenophobic diatribes about how filthy immigrants are taking away white jobs. It's nothing new.

    Note the copyright dates on the document (C) 1998 through 2001.

    Funny that it took Slashdotters this long to stumble across it. Maybe that's because it's so full of crap that nobody is paying attention to it.

    This is certainly not news (for nerds, or anyone).

  • I think I was thinking ``Dr. Pangloss'' in my head when I wrote that, the character from Voltaire's _Candide_ whose irrational optimism in stark contrast to Matloff's pessimism. ;)
  • by Outlyer (1767) on Sunday July 29, 2001 @09:38AM (#2185387) Homepage
    As someone who spends a lot of time hiring (yes, I'm a manager) I really have to disagree. The problem isn't finding "programmers" i.e. people who write classes all day, and regurgitate the algorithms they memorized in college, but finding what I like to call "Developers;" that is, people who think, who see a big picture. My staff is compromised entirely of thinkers, and it's a small team. We have a hire rate of around 25% of interviewees, and that's generous.

    Nothing against polytechnical schools, but universities seem to produce "thinkers" not just "doers" It's all well and good to be able to write code when you're given explicit direction, pseudo-code, etc, but a real "Developer" just needs a "goal" There is definitely a shortage of highly motivated, problem solvers, not a shortage of code monkeys.
  • If you've got a house, family, or both, it's easy to glibly say that- it's another thing to DO it. This is not to say that I wouldn't do it at the drop of a hat, if the need arose, but I'm not going to bolt from where I live just yet. Jobs aren't as plentiful as they once were, but they're still available in my area.
  • Some people DO belong here on the old H-1 visa scheme and some do belong here under the H-1B. So many of the ones I've seen could have been filled by local people it's not funny.
  • If there were such a desperate labor shortage, I'd have a job right now....

  • That's "toeing" the line, not towing.
  • I wasn't correcting the spelling. Towing is a perfectly valid word and it was spelled correctly. It just wasn't the correct word for that phrase. Nowadays a lot of people use phrases without a clear understanding of what they mean or how they came to be. The idea of toeing the line or toeing the mark is literally to stand exactly where you are supposed to (with some authority making that decision), and the general meaning is doing exactly that which those in charge expect of one.
  • Yes, I've had both types of managers, but what you are largely talking about is people skills.

    Exactly. People skills. Hence, skilled labor. :-)

    But most of this stuff you should have learned in kindergarten.

    Partially true. Certain basics you should've learned in kindergarten, but I'm continually amazed at how many adults haven't mastered basic manners. Plus, there's a lot more than kindergarten skills that go into good managers. Motivating people, communicating complex concepts in ways that people can understand, etc.

    once a manager has mastered the soft issues, he's pretty much done

    But that's the thing - he really isn't done. Like any other skills, effective people skills require that you keep using those skills to keep them in shape. It's kinda like programming - once you've mastered the basic concepts of programming, you could say that you're "pretty much done". But the specific skills - say language X - you need to keep current on or you're not going to be effective. Similarly, managers must keep current on (and the best continually *improve* on) their skills - being able to motivate their team, communicate effectively between their workers and higher management (and maybe customers), and keep the group working smoothly. These may very well be "soft" skills, but they are skills in every sense of the word.

  • Yeah, cars do pollute but their contribution to the economy is absolutely essential. Go ahead, restrict the use of cars and watch the unemployment skyrocke

    This is also short-sighted. I'm surprised an automoblie nut would come up with this sort of rhetoric, because it's simlar to the kind of protectionist arguments rightists usually have the sense to see through. Look at it this way, people will have to get from (a) to (b) some way or other. So if everyone starts using public transport, the auto industry jobs will be replaced by an equal number of jobs in mass transit. If given the change, the mass transit system employs less people, then it's probably a more efficient industry. And a more efficient transit system will ultimately mean more money in everyohnes pocket which will mean, gues what ? More jobs.

  • by Barbarian (9467)
    I guess I can stop incrementing my for loops now, since "programming does not use math". Ones, zeroes, what's the difference? It's just math, and I don't need it to program.

    You should have learned addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in grade school.

    When people speak of math skills for engineering careers, they are usually referring to calculus at least.

  • by rkt (9943) on Sunday July 29, 2001 @02:34AM (#2185406) Homepage
    There are two seperate concerns here

    1 The Myth of Shortage : Considering the current layoff situations all over the tech industry, it can be argued that the shortage was a myth just like the myth of making money in Dot-Com. Unfortunately the first myth was fueled by the second myth.

    2 Are H1 workers being paid equally It is also true to some extent that Organizations do indeed try to negotiate a lower wages for an H1 employee. But let me be very very clear that this problem is more due to legal problems of an H1 worker imposed by the Goverment which gives little or no room for a H1 employee to bargain for anything more.
    a) To change a simple job from one organization to another is a process which used to take 4 months before. Thanks to a new regulation earlier this year, an employee can start working on the new job as soon as he/she gets a confirmation number of receipt of the application by the INS (instead of waiting for the complete process which takes 4 months now). However this process has to be completed before an employee leave the first company. If an employee is fired/layed off, he goes out of status and has to leave the country immediately (legally speaking)... If he does leave he can return only after the complete 4 month process, or he has to take the risk of being found as an un-authorized alien and continue living here waiting for the reciept to return from INS. (INS has been a little leniant here lately for which many people are greatfull )
    b) However, if the employee starts working, and the application is rejected after 4 months, the employee is out of status and has to leave the country immediately...
    c) When companies apply for H1 and GreenCard they regularly ask the employee to sign contracts to force the employee to work for the organization for a period of time untill they can recover their lawyer fees. Unfortunately none of those contract mention that if that employee is kicked out of the company against his will, he would have a huge financial losses if he had to leave the country to avoid being out of status.

    And these are only few of the problems a H1 employee face. How do you think you would react to the same situation ?

    Personally I believe that just like any other open market, the job market should be wide open so that the myth can die for once and for all. Once there are lesser restrictions on H1 empolyees, the cost of these employees will go up and it would bring in only those people who are really required in the industry.

    Most of the Myth is introduced in this industry my "body shoppers" who are middleman between companies and employees. Take away the reason why they exist... and let the market decide the course of action.

  • that most American managers are not competent enough to manage a geographically widely dispersed work force.

    1) The communication infrastructure is available, (this I know from using it.)
    2) The server-side processing power is available. (this I know from using it.)
    3) The client-side processing power is available (this I know from using it.)
    4) The foreign workers are available, out there, (this I know personally.)
    5) Fund transfers can be made account-to-account anywhere on the planet, (this I know, I work in banking systems.)
    6) Local and federal taxes are taken care of by subcontractors. The only responsibility of the contractor is to report to the local and federal governments the gross amount paid to the subcontractor, (this I know from working in payroll systems.)
    7) Most governments would love to have sources of hard-currency apart from material goods exports. Leveraging of their services instead of just their goods would constitute a very attractive foreign revenue stream, (this I know from having worked on the GST system in Canada and from living there.)

    But most managers here in the 'States and elsewhere aren't able to leverage their resources or to communicate effectively enough to make use of what's available.

    Hands-on managers are hands-on because they skate on the thin ice of chaos. Micro-managers are hands-on managers who don't even know what they're doing or have sufficient reporting channels to know and trust that their resources are doing what they're supposed to.

    That's the real reason that the US has H1-B and other types of visas. The shortage is caused by the business schools who don't equip anyone to deal effectively with anything other than in face-to-face.

    Apart from large multi-nationals (of which there are only a few thousand,) most companies are being directed by people without effective communication skills. This costs them locally in wasted effort and acts as a limit to growth or even to serving their clients effectively and efficiently while maximizing the profits that they can derive from their revenue.

    The real management lesson of the Linux operating system is not the OS, but the communication and control system that created it from a group of people dispersed world-wide.
  • When people speak of math skills for engineering careers, they are usually referring to calculus at least.

    The English language is gifted with several hundred thousand unique identifiers called words, some of which are general and some of which are specific.

    Math is a general term, referring to everything from gradeschool addition through post-doctoral work on quantum physics and God knows what else (I am not a mathematician ... the highest level coursework I took was Differential Equations and/or Complex Calculus -- two different tracks so you be the judge).

    Calculus is a more specific term, referring to derivatives, integrals, and some other more advanced concepts.

    If you mean "calculus at least," then say "calculus at least." Do not say "math" and then criticize someone else for your innacurate use of language. The poster whom you so derisively answered was very correct in his sarcasm, that to say programmers don't use math (which by the way includes this amazing field known as "descreet math" and "boolean theory" which are used every day by said programmers) is absurd in the extreme.

    On the other hand, to say most programmers don't use Calculus is probably a true statement (I certainly don't), so if that is what is meant, than that is what should be said. Arrogantly redefining the word "math" to some value other than its default meaning and then deride others for not being 31337 enough to understand isn't just pointless, it is downright stupid.
  • Few people can expect to finish a CS course and get a well paid job... maybe the top 1% do, and those are the ones that the universities/colleges use as 'typical examples' so they can get more students (=more money).

    You'll probably be working in a sweatshop for 3 or 4 years for 3/4 the national average wage before being deemed 'experienced' enough to sign up with a few agencies and start building a career (my first job paid £6,500 [10 years ago]. It took another 4 years to get up to £15,000... once I had a bit of experience under my belt I could start asserting myself a bit & I'm now on a healthy £35,000*)

    What really bothers me is the adverts you see from colleges which say things like 'I took a web design course with foo college and now I'm earning £100,000!'. If you could get £100,000 doing web design I'd quit my job tomorrow....


    * This might not seem a lot to those in the US but it's quite a lot over here
  • The customer employee then demonstrated his grasp of management principles by saying that he'd just been taught that if you have anyone like me on the payroll, you should fire them at once! Sure it will hurt for awhile, but eventually you'll recover and you won't be at their mercy.

    I've been in situations in which this principle should've been applied. Sometimes people use positions of power like this to squash new ideas and prevent their company from moving forward. They purposely make themselves a bottleneck for the rest of the organization, then prove their 'usefuleness' by putting in 80 hour weeks. It's sick and wrong, and people like that should be fired for the overall health of the organization.

    Now, from what you say, it doesn't sound like it's the same situation in your organization. It sounds like you come by your indespensibility honestly, and don't abuse your position. If the manager guy spouted that (often valid) phrase, and that really IS the case, then he is a clueless idiot.

    I strive to be indespensible for the continuing value I bring, not because I make myself into the only source of information or help for a particular class of problems. In fact, I dislike being in that position because it usually keeps me from working on new, interesting things. I hope it is the same case with you.

  • I'm sorry, but, I've worked under good managers and under bad managers, and under the first you feel informed, motivated, like you're contributing to the project. Under a bad manager, you never feel anything but another deadline. Managers need a lot of skills - to be able to talk to the suits (if you have a good manager, you won't feel he -is- one of the suits... he's one of the team), to translate techie-speak to suit-speak to customer-speak and back again without losing anything in the translation; to prioritize sanely (maybe the customer only cares about adding feature X, but programmer is worried about bug Y and wants to spend time on it... factor in importance of the feature, whether the bug has effects that make work on the product hard - low-level bugs affect code above them, messing up things for the programmer trying to add functionality; high-level bugs may not have any effect other than the obvious one.) A manager doesn't have to have a tech background to do these things, but he does have to have an open mind and an ability to ask the right questions, to make decisions quickly, and to not be afraid to change his mind if a decision starts to look wrong.

    I'm not sure if you've only had good managers or only had bad managers, but if you'd had some of each, you'd notice that there is definitely skill involved!

    Parity Odd
  • by Parity (12797) on Sunday July 29, 2001 @06:01AM (#2185414)
    There are lots of people contradicting this article, but I have to say, that I'm not a manager, but I still get involved in the interview process, to assess people's technical skills. I give them a little quiz, usually, a coding test of some kind. There are several ways to fail this test:

    Say you're rusty in language X; then, not know what pseudo-code is; then not be able to write the algorithm in pseudo code; then not be able to write an even something as simple as "a loop to print the numbers from one to ten."

    Say you're not prepared, and ask to do the test as a take home or to come back later. This is not a graduate exam, this is something any 1st year compsci undergraduate should be able to do, and if you can't do it in C (or whatever) I'll let you do it in pseudo-code... you shouldn't need to take it home where I can't see that -you- wrote it!

    Write down something really scrambled that does utterly the wrong thing, and blame errors on being more familiar with language Y than with language X. No, sorry, doesn't wash. Syntax errors, yes, fine, whatever, I don't care. Logic errors, no. An algorithm is an algorithm, and none of C/C++/Java/Pascal/or even BASIC are far enough apart to make this a viable excuse. 'If' is 'If' and 'For' is 'For' and either you can think a problem through into code or you can't.

    And that is why we hired the fourth person, who when asked to write an addelement() and removeelement() for a FIFO Queue (implementation details not specified... you could use an array of ten ints and error on overflow and that'd be fine) ... she wrote down a linked-list queue straight from a data-structures course, with a couple of small errors but the logic was mostly right. So, hey, if we have to wait for an H1B Visa, we're going to wait for it, because while the point of on-the-job training is well taken (we expect to do that; we wanted ability to program and understanding of networking, things -any- B.S. in compsci -ought- to know, plus a little RL coding experience). Sorry, but no, we are -not- going to teach people on the job the basics of basic coding, and given some of the people I've seen come through (and be handed to me by managers with glowing words only for me to find out they don't even know what code should look like, much less how to do it.) And -that- is my little story and why I believe the above person is not distorting facts. (Also, on that retraining... the above poster hired a -contractor-. You don't train contractors, you train full-timers.)

    Parity None

  • You do raise an important point.
    Activity that is reinforced (i.e., rewarded) tends to increase. If you are seeing an increase in non-desireable behavior, perhaps you should look at the structure of your environment, to see what actions are rewarded, and what actions are penalized.

    If expressing ideas is penalized, then you can expect both a) fewer ideas will be expressed and b) more resentment will be present.

    If you are penalizing ideas, and yet demanding that they be expressed, then you can expect that much time will be expended to determine what idea it is that is supposed to be expressed.

    I don't think that managers are usually aware that they are engaging in these tactics. I certainly hope not. But whether that is the intention or not, they frequently do. With the predictable response.

    So new (i.e., youthful) programmers are desired because they haven't yet learned the results of providing freely the requested material (ideas).

    I'm not denying that the other suggested motives (job vs. family, etc.) are also happening, but there are other reasons...

    This doesn't make it fair, just, decent, or honorable, however. But then it's been quite awhile since I expected that of management. And by the time I learned, I was wise enough not to let them know.

    Caution: Now approaching the (technological) singularity.
  • Not that I know anything, but his management reasoning sounds reasonable to me.

    No, that's not reasonable. Why damage your business (or take the risk of doing so) to solve a problem that doesn't yet exist, and may never exist? Instead, take steps to actually address the underlying risk.

    Hire an understudy to act as a backup for the irreplaceable person. If that person has a negative reaction to this, use your management skills (hopefully a bit more sophisticated than those being displayed so far) to explain why this is a good thing for all concerned, and obtain his/her participation.

    As part of bringing the new person up to speed, ask that the two of them collaborate on an effort to document the various critical systems.

    When this process is complete, then you can fire one or both of them! Bwahahahaha!

    [PS: the subject line is a reference to a fun book of that name by Stanley Bing, worth reading if you want some perspective on this kind of stuff.]

  • Really good, smart programmers usually become more useful as they get older and more experienced. I've seen multiple cases, though, where mediocre programmers become useless or worse than useless, even actively causing harm, as they get older.

    The problem in these cases has been that back when these mediocre programmers were younger, they had fewer of those family and other life obligations, and were more motivated to work hard at doing an acceptable job. What seems to happen over time, though, is that they:

    • Don't keep their skills up to date, and find adapting to new technologies and tools very difficult, because this takes time, skill, and devotion.
    • Don't have as much time to devote to compensating for the fact that they were never that good in the first place.
    • Begin to indulge in various increasingly irrational behaviors to cover up their shortcomings, possibly causing damage to team function and overall morale. Fellow employees don't necessarily want to throw such people to the wolves, so it can take a while until the obvious becomes apparent to higher-ups.
    • Expect to be paid more, even though their value to a company decreases over time.
    Faced with this, it's little wonder that many managers shy away from older programmers. Since there are more average programmers than otherwise, some version of the above may apply to the bulk of the programmer market.

    And of course, a big part of the problem is that management is often so incapable of judging programmer performance on an individual basis, that it has little choice but to fall back on simplistic indicators, like age.

  • What someone learns on his/her own time counts for bupkus with recruiters and hiring managers.

    There's more to it than that. Sure, this guy wouldn't land a new Oracle job on the strength of nothing but a bit of self-teaching. But part of the point is to continue to develop your skills on an ongoing basis, while you have a job. This might allow the guy to move onto other things with his current employer.

    If he does find himself in the position of facing recruiters and hiring managers, the ability to say that he has "familiarity with Oracle" and back that up by being able to pass some of the silly sorts of tests that have been described in other messages here, could make the difference between being hired or not. Maybe he would still have to rely on his COBOL skills to get a job, but someone who knows both COBOL and Oracle is going to be more valuable than someone who knows COBOL alone.

    Finally, just because recruiters and hiring managers are often short-sighted morons, doesn't mean you should just sit back and let them shuffle you where they think you belong. Make them understand and believe what you can do, explain to them how you'll add value to their business, demonstrate that you're not stuck in a single outdated skill set, and you'll make an impression on the better managers, which are the ones you want to be working for anyway.

    Sitting around whinging about how your company won't train you, on the other hand, will get you nowhere real fast.

  • Programmers are a dime a dozen. *Good* programmers are rarer than hen's teeth. Part of the problem is that good programmers spend a lot of time cleaning up after less-skilled workers.

    There is still a shortage of *good* programmers, and there probably always will be. It's not clear whether this justifies hiring in new people, but frankly, I'm all for hiring people who come from poorer countries, because it funnels money into economies that need it, as people save up and send money home.
  • If there isn't time to create solid design documentation, then for any project longer than about 2 days, the project is fucked!

  • That's why the design can be re-thought during the development cycles. Methodologies like Extreme Programming describe how this is done. I suggest you read it (even though I don't necessarily suggest adopting it in whole). There's nothing wrong with changing the design. But it does need to be thought out carefully every time it is worked on, and it needs to be a clean, clear, well specified design.

    BTW, those "pointy-haired-clients who know nothing about software and have deep pockets that will keep your company in business" will also dump your ass fast, and send in the lawyers, if your software does not do the job and do it right. If they lose money, or even come up short on projections, you can be sure they will come to collect it from you.

  • There's use for your style, but not on large from-the-ground-up systems that run a business. But they may need you to come in and fix what the system failed to do as a quick fix (before the client goes off to someone else to get a better system).

  • Try posting in HTML.

  • It's even rarer to find someone that is a designer, and a coder, and willing to start with someone else's design.

    Designers tend to be creative people, and creative people for the most part want to build something new from scratch. What this means is you had damned well better keep your original designer. If the original guy leaves, find out why and correct that reason. It might be money in which case you better be paying more now that you learned your lesson. Whatever it is, if people leave for some other job, that means the other job was considered better than the job you now have open by at least the one good person you used to have and it would not be a surprise if a lot more thought so. If you want to make it easier to find good people, then you better make your job more attractive to good people than other managers competing for the same good people. There isn't (and never was) a shortage of people for the really good jobs worth having.

  • Have you tried hiring a new CEO for your rapidly growing company lately? So far almost all that can be found are total idiots that have a resume of failures. Then when you do find someone who knows his stuff and didn't have to execute a bankruptcy, and knows how to go to Wall Street to line of your next $350 million of 2nd round financing, they end up wanting half a million a year and 50% of all the stock options the company has. Do these guys think they run the company or something? Just hire some bum off the street.

  • Calculus is a more specific term, referring to derivatives, integrals, and some other more advanced concepts.


    There's also Predicate Calculus, which is the real name of what programmers do most of the time. No integrals involved.

    Graph theory, base conversion math, statistics, probability, predicate calculus...any good software engineer should be at least conversant in all of these mathematical fields. From my experience, most people who call themselves "programmers" or "software engineers" aren't.


  • My ex, a Canadian, works for Symmantec. They shut down their Toronto tech support office, and moved it to Oregon. She went with them, on an H1B visa.

    Now, she's working longer hours, for less real pay (yeah, the US Dollar's better than the Canafian Dollar, but costs are high here, too). Add to that, she's stuck in bufu Oregon, and has no real option to change companies.

    She's brilliant, and really should be in school earning a degree in programming ... but she can't, not on what little free time and money she has now.

    So, yes, from the other side of the story, the "imported" IT staff, it's a reality. This whole "shortage" was a scam, designed to let companies import cheap workers at slave-labor rates, and work them to death, all for the good of the bottom line. Welcome to America.
  • This was already posted to Slashdot []. Anyway, in Austin, there was a real shortage: companies could not hire as many software developers as they wanted. However, the situation is now reversed. The artificial demand from the surge of incoming venture capital has now passed, leaving neighbors and acquaintances without jobs.

    I'm happy that my company survived so I don't have to go looking for a job in the now saturated market.

    end of line

  • With comments like "cheap programmers are the only shortage," I begin to wonder why some people would think this, whether true of not. When I graduated from college with a computer engineering degree in 1995, the going rate for a new-hire programmer was about $33,000 to $40,000 per year, and this was for programmers I considered highly skilled if lacking experience. As time went by, and the Internet boom hit, I saw my salary increase greatly, and considered myself lucky to be working in this field. I loved doing my work, and companies would pay a lot to have me work for them.

    During this time, I heard stories from a friend and coworker (a very talented programmer and designer) of how is brother, while still in school in the San Francisco Bay Area was making as much as we were for a part-time job. My friend told me that his brother was quite talented, and of course, there is a big difference in the cost of living between Stanford and Austin, but it was always amazing for me to hear of the salaries that companies, mostly dot-coms, were paying for even inexperienced programmers.

    Naturally, because my wife was a recruiter during this time when companies could not find enough talent on their own, I found a new job (that I really love!) I heard plenty of stories from her about programmers would believed that the world was theirs for the asking. "How much are you currently making?" she would ask a candidate. "$50,000, but I want a job for at least $80,000," would be a typical response from someone with less than two years of experience. Another situation would involve a team lead at a large company in (in pink buildings) who was looking for a new job in part because his company would not increase his pay above that of a college new-hire who worked for him.

    Now, one of the things that a former employer planned to do was recruit programmers from India, which is quite conceivable since the president of the company is a long-time resident and naturalized U.S. citizen from India. Why would this be something that makes money? I believe because the expectations of domestic job-seekers rose so sharply, many companies were willing to deal with the paperwork, legal work, etc. of hiring H1B programmers.

    Maybe the complaint above should be modified to "ego-maniacal, overpriced programmers are the only real shortage."

    As a side note, can someone recently from India comment on my neighbor's statement that two of the most popular activities of youth in India are computer programming and chess playing?

    end of line

  • I here that!

    I spent a day at BrassRing last year in the middle of the dotcom frenzy. BrassRing is *the* job fair in Silicon Valley for those that don't know.

    99% of the of the applicants I spoke to were so underqualified it wasn't funny. They all wanted programming jobs, but none knew the first thing about programming. Several had not even finished their first programming course. Some had a junior college certificate in Java and they were all set to make their deserved millions.

    Several were hired by other companies before they hit the end of the row. The collapse of the dotcoms is no mystery to me...
  • Sorry, i'ts not my falt. I am the produkt of publick educashun.

    I tride uzing a spel-chekker, but it kept finding all of TacoBoy's insted...
  • Finally I fired him and went back to my original search. I find this sort of story absolutely mind-numbing. Why is it that organizations just don't see the possibility of training or otherwise developing people in the skills they need?
  • Yes, I've been involved in recuriting programmers for the company I work for and found that there is no shortage of programmers. What there is a shortage of is competent programmers. Only about 5% of the applications we got were actually any good.

    About 75% did not have the skills ever to make it to a first interview. It often became apparent during a first interview that they did not have the skills that they claimed.

    Og the 10% or so that made it to the 2nd interview we give them a short technical test to test that the actually know c++, object oriented design and SQL which were the three things we needed.

    We often had people claiming to be experts in C++ who didn't know what the virtual keyword did, or could not write a simple function to (for example) reverse thr direction of the elements in an array.

    We had a simple question for OO analysis and design where we stated very simple problem and asked them to derive a possible object model to represent the system. Before we even looked at the quality of their solution, about half the candidates had no idea how to do this.

    Finally we had on more than one occasion people claiming years of sql experience who didn;'t seem aware that database queries could join more than one table.

    Frankly, there is a big skills shortage, not a shortage of people.
  • I've been a hiring manager at a large high-tech firm, and I can affirm that there WAS a severe shortage of US citizens that were skilled enough to do the kind of work that my company does. We recruited at all the colleges and held job fairs all the time. We saw all kinds of people, US citizens and noncitizens, young and not-so-young, and we found VERY slim pickings among the US citizens. Nearly all those qualified were already fully employed. We prefer to hire US citizens, because there is SO much less paperwork. But we couldn't, because we just couldn't find them. When I started with my company 15 years ago, it was predominantly inhabited by Anglo Saxons, with a few Indians (not native Americans) thrown in. Now, among the programming staff, it's 60-80% Indian/Arab/Chinese. I would say 90%, but some might acuse me of exaggurating.

    Like many companies, we've had layoffs, and we did not target the visa holders any more than the citizens. And we certainly have not targeted older workers. I'm very glad about that; I'm rapidly becoming an "older worker". I'm 38, and I'm already one of the most senior (in age) design folks around.

    I have seen an issue where some of the "senior" designers, who had spent most of their career working on our proprietary technology, did not make the effort to learn new tricks (learning Java, object oriented design, etc.) and in fact actively resisted any assignment that might have exposed them to new ways of doing business. These behaviors have exposed them to greater likelihood of job loss than those who embrace new technology.
  • by avdp (22065)
    a great deal of H1B workers (like myself) actually came to the US before getting the infamous visa - usually as a student (F1). In other words, a lot of H1B workers like myself, came to the US looking for a degree with no intend to stay, then after 4 years in the country got "americanized" and the same high quality education as americans. By graduation time we get recruited heavily (that may not be the case anymore with the economic downturn) and get offered jobs...

  • I'm going to be very arrogant here: I'm one of those programmers who can pull his own weight, and several of my coworkers', technologically. And I know several other people who are too. I'm talking about my personal experience here, but I think it goes for the majority of skilled IT personnel

    Any of us likes a good salary. I sure don't want to be paid less than any of my coworkers, esp. those with less skills than me. I expect to be paid fairly, yet that is not my main reason do the work that I do. I can already live from what I make.

    The secret is that I like my job. I like computers, and I like technology in general. I'm good at programming, because I find it enjoyable, and thus am more motivated. I easily learn new techniques when they interest me, or enable me to create things (software or other). Not because it gets me paid.

    If you want to offer me a job, better make sure the job is great, and have guarantees. I've had job offers that promised me 4 times what I make now, and not all of those were from flimsy dotcoms. I don't switch jobs for money, I switch jobs when I'm bored, and then I go looking for an interesting job.

  • by tenor (29482) on Sunday July 29, 2001 @09:02AM (#2185454)
    I would like to point out that the only thing harder to find than an Oracle DBA/Programmer who really knows what s/he is doing is a person with a high IQ and the ability/inclination to learn new things quickly. Ten years in the industry and I can only say that I am disappointed with the caliber of people in the industry. I can not, however, say that foreign workers fill the high IQ/learn-things-quickly prerequisite any better than native workers. In fact, the language barrier can sometimes get in the way. However, they tend to have more incentive to learn, since they will be deported if they fail at their task and get fired.
  • Perhaps the real problem is that the programmers who think they're worth huge salaries don't realize some fundamentals of economics? It's quite obvious from how you stated the issue. The programmers in the job market are selling themselves as a product. Fuelled by high hopes, the occasional inflated self-image, etc, they set their price higher than the market will bear. India then becomes the Wal-Mart of programming talent.

    Unlike some people, I don't put fault on Wal-Mart or the people who shop there for all the mom & pop stores Wal-Mart has crushed over the years. Every time I read an article like this, I have to think that American programmers might need to lower their standards now and then...just because you can code is not a guarantee of a 6-figure salary.

    On another note, I've seen way too many programmers (and this extends into my domain of networks and servers as well) think that they should always be getting a salary that's at or near the top level for their profession. They read some survey results, see "C++ Programmer" or "Network Engineer" listed with outrageous max salaries and skip right over that significantly smaller number labelled "Average".

  • The author states,

    "Software employers, large or small, across the nation, concede that they receive huge numbers of resumes but reject most of them without even an interview. One does not have to be a
    ``techie'' to see the contradiction here. A 2% hiring rate might be unremarkable in other fields, but not in one in which there is supposed to be a ``desperate'' labor shortage. If employers were that desperate, they would certainly not be hiring just a minuscule fraction of their job applicants."

    Let me shed some light on this with my own experiences. A few years ago I was working in Silicon Valley for Excite (now Excite@Home). We spent months trying to find a *qualified* person to work with me on the NewsTracker project. And, yes, we probably rejected 100 applicants without ever interviewing them. The reasons fell into these categories:

    a. Lack of experience. (Eventually we had to compromise on this one).

    b. Lack of qualifications for serious programming work. There are hordes of people out there who think that just because they know a little bit of HTML or have written a few Perl programs, they qualify as software engineers.

    c. Lack of desired background and skills specific to the position. (Eventually we had to compromise on this, too.)

    Category (b) was the most common reason for tossing applications. Most of the applicants simply weren't qualified by a long shot for the position.
  • Good for you. Unfortunately, anecdotes are like assholes - everyone has 'em, and they're totally useless as a basis for debate. Would you like to bet on whether your "boatload" is typical or anomalous for those on H1B visas? If the latter, whose supposition would you say is flawed?

    Which was my point entirely -- your argument is based entirely on anecdotal evidence. I've worked with a lot of H1B visa holders. None of them are hurting. The ones that excel get paid above and beyond the average for the industry in the area. The ones that are sub-par... get paid the industry average *for that location* because it's the law. So even a sucky programmer will make good money, if they manage to wangle an H1-B.

    Where's your evidence that 'they're just cheaper'???

  • I'm inclined to agree with the poster who said you're a control-freak micro-managing jackass, for the following two reasons:

    • Among the candidates you rejected, there is no mention whatsoever of any attempt by you to gauge their overall capability. It's all about very narrowly defined, specific skills, like an obstacle course you set up to watch them run. This tactic and the likely real motivations behind it are explicitly addressed in the article, which you obviously didn't read (thus failing exactly the kind of specific-knowledge test you so delight in administering to others).
    • With regard to the consultant you did hire, there's no mention of judging the results of his work. Instead, it sounds like you just jumped into second-guessing him from day one, overriding what were probably mere style issues in the code etc. Managers should never assume they're better coders than those they manage. If you're spending that much time trying to do their jobs, you're obviously not doing your own. You should seek reassignment.

    If you really feel you're such an alpha geek, get back in the trenches instead of being such a REMF (Rear Echelon Mother Fucker, from the military). What you're doing now is very one-sided. There's none of your code out there for them to critique, and you're the guy who decides raises or promotions so they can't afford to piss you off by responding to your criticism as you deserve. It's a power trip, pure and simple, and just reading about it makes my blood pressure rise. I shudder to think how infuriating and frustrating it is for those with the misfortune to work for you.

    Secondly, let's consider this:

    it doesn't take many times being burned by the "hire any bum off the street, just fill this technical position" attitude before you develop a very healthy caution about hiring the wrong person

    So how does this justify hiring H1B workers instead of locals? Remember, that was the original topic. Is that H1B worker "the right person"? Will they be able to run through your little obstacle course any better than the local applicants you rejected? I doubt it. They're just cheaper. Suddenly it's not about skills after all, it's about dollars. It's also, IMO, often about hiring people who won't be threats to your own position or prestige. There's a group where I work that hires lots of foreigners, mostly Chinese and Indian/Pakistani. These folks are often underpaid for the work to do, and are afraid to complain much about that or anything else because the bosses have control over their visas. The bosses know that, too, and use the knowledge to act like feudal lords. You'd probably love that, wouldn't you? Upper management sees that payroll is low, so they don't mind, but in the meantime that group continues to put out inferior products because nobody dares to challenge the honchos' bad decisions. It's the high-tech equivalent of union-busting, and it's really quite sickening to watch.

  • Can you suggest other words that (a) rhyme with "nerds" and "matters" and (b) express the appropriate degree of contempt for Slashdot vermin like yourself? No, didn't think so. Fuck off.

  • I'm on an H1B. I earn a boatload of money doing it

    Good for you. Unfortunately, anecdotes are like assholes - everyone has 'em, and they're totally useless as a basis for debate. Would you like to bet on whether your "boatload" is typical or anomalous for those on H1B visas? If the latter, whose supposition would you say is flawed?

  • Where's your evidence that 'they're just cheaper'???

    You really should have read the article that this whole discussion is about, before you asked that. Consider these example quotes:

    • Sun Microsystems, a firm often cited by ITAA analyst (and later Senate Immigration Subcomittee staffer) Stuart Anderson as paying fair wages to foreign nationals, has boasted of employing programmers in Russia at ``bargain prices.'' [section 9.2.4]
    • an employer need only pay the prevailing wage for programmers in general, rather than the prevailing wage for, say, Java programmers. Thus the employer gets a Java programmer for the price of a generic programmer [section 9.2.5]
    • Note also that many H-1B workers have stated that after they are hired, they become ``indentured servants'' (see below) and may not get raises in salary like U.S. citizen/permanent resident workers do [section 9.2.5]
    • Silicon Valley headhunter Linda Tuerk said that in her experience, employers are saving a lot of money by hiring H-1B workers, no matter what the rules say. ``Companies are firing older, more-expensive workers - people making 80 grand - and they can turn right around and hire two people right off the plane for 45 grand each,'' Tuerk said
    • Silicon Valley headhunter Linda Tuerk said that in her experience, employers are saving a lot of money by hiring H-1B workers, no matter what the rules say. ``Companies are firing older, more-expensive workers - people making 80 grand - and they can turn right around and hire two people right off the plane for 45 grand each,'' Tuerk said [section 9.2.6]
    • An industry analyst in Bangalore, India quoted by MSNBC News in August 1997 also says that Indian programmers imported to the U.S. under the H-1B program make 30% less than their American peers. [section 9.2.7]
    • Note that an H-1B employee is essentially immobile during the years while the greencard is pending, thus refuting ITAA's argument that H-1Bs who are exploited in terms of salary can simply move to another job. [section 9.3.3]

    It's not hard to find more in that vein, if you look. For example:

    • According to the USDOL, 80% of H-1B holders earn less than $50,000/year. In 1999, the median wage for H-1B holders in computer fields was $47,000. (For comparison, half of all IT professionals make more than $54,000 according to "InformationWeek".) [from]
    • A University of Michigan dean told of a prevailing wage of $66,851 for someone with an applications programmer degree...The prevailing wage listed for the Tata [Indian H1B job shop] employees at UCSD is $33,370. [from html]

    Admittedly, this is not quite the sort of hard data I myself would like to see. It is, however, far more convincing than the "evidence" you have offered for the opposing point of view. Where the hell is your proof? I guess it's possible that you and your "boatloads" represent the luckiest percentile or two of H1B workers. It's also possible that what seems like "boatloads" to you would be mere flotsam to others. Either way, I see no reason to accept your word over that of the other sources I've cited, and I see no reason why any other rational person would do so.

  • While I agree with everything you say, I also don't think it detracts from the research cited in the link.

    I currently work for a, and we just contracted with an Indian firm to do much of our development (which kind of puts me in the hot seat, as I am one of the few remaining software developers there). And I have to say I have NEVER heard more Indian jokes in my life than in the last few weeks. It's depressing. And infuriating. Theoretically well-educated people engaging in little more than racism, and from major executives.

    After meeting with their project manager and discussing a new product, I have come to the conclusion that they are not much different (in technical ability) than any given pool of domestic developers, as I expected. They are not uber-coders. They do have a very "willing to do it your way" attitude, but that is normal since they are working for us. And we're only paying them $10.00 / hour.

    THAT's the big difference. I don't know what sort of back-alley business deals my bosses cut to get this rate, but whatever, the fact that you could find a firm anywhere willing to do this much for this little, is impressive from a business standpoint.

    Now, I'm only a single datapoint, but I'd say that the article was completely accurate, from my limited experience. I also agree with sections 10-12, I do think this sort of thing that my company is engaging in, will hurt in the long run (if we survive).

  • by THEbwana (42694) on Sunday July 29, 2001 @06:03AM (#2185477)
    Opensource development is a great way to break out of the paradox. Your contributions can always be evaluated by a potential employer, reducing their risk (in the same way that requiring professional experience reduces risk).

    What you dont want, as an employer, is a person graduated with a CS major who still doesn't know how to code/design software/solve problems.

    - Some universities are pushing their students throug CS in a NT-only environment. I would never hire a developer fresh out of such an education.
  • IT is chock full of people whose claimed expertise is in some vague conglomeration of "project management and business strategy", but when faced with need for hard answers to real problems, they're clueless.

    Recessions are a good way to trim some of this "fat". Unfortunately good people sometimes get burned, too.

    Never ever let go of your curiosity!
  • Been there, done that.

    Currently I freelance. Which means I'm in a perpetual state of looking for a new job. So far, I have been rejected *three times* for a consulting gig in the last seven years by managers who basically said "we can't hire you, because the skill set you would provide us is so well suited to our needs and the price you would provide us is so good that we would become overly dependant on you." It didn't matter to them that as part of the contract, I would document my work so that another programmer could pick up where I left off--in fact, my offer to document the work was apparently part of the problem.

    I can sort of understand the point of not being at a single person's mercy. But it strikes me as rather brain-dead.
  • by w3woody (44457) on Sunday July 29, 2001 @09:09AM (#2185480) Homepage
    Older workers (I'm hitting the big 4-oh this year) have negatives beyond age. We often have wives and families, which mean we're unwilling to work 6-80 hour weeks and on weekends.

    Which is to me amazingly silly, given that after about 50 hours, most people are unable to concentrate well enough on their work that you may as well send them home.

    I remember one shop I did some work for where the programmers "worked" for 60-80 weeks. Management was rather flexable as to how they "worked", understanding that sometimes productivity is helped when a programmer takes a couple of minutes from his work to allow a problem to perculate. Most of the programmers were 20-something.

    Well, having spent a month with them, I discovered they hardly did any work at all! The programming "pit" (the area where the programmers worked) was basically one large social club; perhaps they worked an average of 20 hours a week if that--most of the time spent on the computers were spent surfing various "fantasy football" web sites and making bets. Turns out that even a large chunk of the time they spent "working" was done developing an in-house betting system that would allow them to play fantasy football against each other!


    When I was 25, perhaps I would have enjoyed spending 60 hours a week there. But today, I'd rather go home to my wife than hang out and play fantasy football with a bunch of fellow geeks. And I honestly don't care if management is too stupid to realize that they're not as "hard working" as they appear.
  • What, exactly, is your problem with a private redistribution of wealth from rich westerners to poor third-worlders?

    Globalizing corporate rule does not "redistribute" wealth to poor nations. It lets rich Western investors redistribute wealth produced by poor "third world" workers into the investors own pockets.

    It is not progress for poor people living on table scraps from the tables of the rich when the rich get richer and leave more scraps.

    If you want to use trade to truly increase the flow of wealth to these nations, you have to do so in a "fair trade" [] manner.

    Tom Swiss | the infamous tms |

  • Oh shit. :(
    No-one will hire me for any job involving customer-interaction:

    good afternoon sir, how may i help you?
    (hello sir, do you realise your costing me my lunch break?)

    - well i want to buy a computer.

    ok, so what will you mostly be using the computer for?

    - well i need it for work, and my kids will want the internet.

    Ok, and what would you describe yourself as: a rich arab, a stupid manager with too much money and VAT-back, or poor scum?

    -EXCUSE ME?!?

    oh and will your kids be mostly browsing the porn sites or hacking?

    And i'm not dumb enough to work in bugger-king. I refuse to do manual labour (i _will_ break both my legs if it will get me on disabled benifits).

    What does that leave me?
  • Are you replying to my comment? If so, please re-read what I said as you have appeared to have
    mis-interpreted what I said, or a reading something into it which does not exist.

    I was not trying to prove anything, and I did not state any beliefs.

    What I did say is that the report is using the salary to prove two different points, and is
    creating a contradiction.

    I am not passing any judgement on the truth either of the 'facts'. It may be true that they
    are all below average - I don't care. I have no personal involvement in this issue - I don't live
    in the US, and have no desire to.

    I am critizing the his analysis and conclusions. Maybe he should have produced more information to
    show why there isn't a contradiction.

  • by bungo (50628) on Sunday July 29, 2001 @06:35AM (#2185490)
    I read through the article, and to me, there were many statements which contradicted
    themselves, but, aren't that obvious as they are well spread out, and the article
    is long, with alot of points.

    It appears that the article is a politically biased article trying it's best to
    appear to be objective.

    For exapmle, towards the end of the FAQ section, we come across -

    "Question: The industry lobbyists claim that the H-1Bs tend to be
    ``the best and the brightest'' from around the world. Is this true?
    Certainly not. We should definitely facilitate the immigration
    of the outstanding talents throughout the world, but only a small
    proportion of the H-1Bs fall into this category. 75% of the H-1Bs
    earn less than $65,000, far below the salaries of top talent in
    this field, which exceed $100,000. "

    This is trying to imply that the average H-1B is not the top talent, and is
    most likely only average or below. This may, not may not be true, I am
    not discussing the merit of this point, but I want to focus just on what
    the report is saying.

    But, those with not so short memories will remember right at the top of the
    FAQ section, Matloff said -

    "The industry lobbyists form a lone voice on this issue. There is
    a broad consensus that the H-1Bs are indeed exploited in terms of
    wages and working conditions."

    "... study at UCLA, which found that the immigrant engineers
    were paid 33% less than comparable Americans "

    "Thus it is indisputable, from basic economic principles, that on
    average they are making less money than they would if they had their

    So, Matloff, along with all of the studies mentioned, say that these
    workers are getting far less than they should due to the exploitation of
    restrictions in the system.

    Hany on, how can you say that they are getting far less than they are
    worth, and then later on, say that
    "far below the salaries of top talent in this field" ???

    Let me state this one more time. Matloff says -
    - they are underpaid for their skills
    - if we use at their salaries as an
    indicator, they are not very good.

    This is a direct contradiction. You can't have it both ways. Either
    they are underpaid and worth more, or they are paid what they are
    worth and are not the top in their field.

    I found many other instances like this through out the report. This
    guy has a point he wants to prove so much, that he even switches
    sides in his arguments.

    I wonder if he even realises what he has done?

    If you are going to respond to my post, please note, I am not taking
    sides on this debate. I am just trying to point out flaws in the
  • Quote: ...yes, the typical programmer is far to the political Right...

    Reply: Odd that, all the programmers in the shop where I work are somewhere to the left of Bill Clinton.

    I suggest that you are both right... er, correct. Programmers are thinking beings, and modify their viewpoints as new information and ideas are absorbed and analyzed.

    First comes The Wheel of conservatism, liberalism, and totalitarianism. The programmer may spend a single cycle on the Wheel or many, and the ride may be uneven. But ride it he must.

    The next stage is a move away from the wheel, a move incomprehensible to those still traveling on the wheel. This departure may take the form of libertarianism or some other similar enlightenment. The programmer will probably find this stage much more comfortable than the Wheel, and may tarry long here.

    The final stage is, of course, The Void.
  • I can only second this. We were also looking for some good php/sql coders, but its incredible hard to find !

    I got also numerous offers from folks that did know how to write "select * from foobar" and think they are sql experts.. (the funny thing is that those ppl did demand the highest salarys ;)

    But in the end .. it comes to check the folks with the highest potential, and train them. When you see the quality of the so called "business schools" where they teach programming here, you would fall from your chair .. :)

    Most of those business schools teach about 1 topic per week here, thats 1 week db admin, 1 week java, 1 week php, and so on. total bullshit.

  • by SirSlud (67381) on Sunday July 29, 2001 @07:12AM (#2185500) Homepage
    Look, from Project Censored, the group that reports on stories downplayed by big-business-owned media: tm l

  • 1. Coders get dumped when they turn 35.
    2. We can't find any skilled coders.

    Hello? Does anyone else see the correlation here? Skill is the product of talent and experience. Talent comes from God Almighty in precious little doses, but experience comes with age.

    As one of my friends in the aerospace industry puts it, "Any manger will tell you that of course there's a shortage of engineers - especially really brilliant ones who will work 60 hours a week for $20K a year."

    The skilled coder you can't find is probably one of the ones you dumped because his salary was just a little too high. Now you'll pay double his salary in recruitment costs and receive nothing productive in return.

    You would think even an MBA could understand this.

    You give MBA's too much credit. Several years ago I worked at a company that went through this exact situation. Older, experienced engineers were forced out the door to reduce department budgets by MBAs who had no understanding of the technical contributions of those guys. Many of them were ultimately rehired as consultants at 3X their hourly rates. But the MBA's didn't care, because the consulting fees were paid from a different pot of money, not their departmental budgets. They could cut their salary budgets, still get the work done, and look good to their own bosses, even though it cost the company far more money in the long run.
  • There was a shortage of rationality in the investment community -- and all that irrational money sloshing around created an irrational demand for "talent" -- basically warm bodies that would look enough like a real "Silicon Valley Startup" to pass muster with the SEC, should there come a time when the poor suckers who got taken filed suit for fraud against the VC's and management of the "startups".

    This was basically all about harvesting the real estate value generated by the demand from the baby boomers [] before the females of that generation finally gave up on having kids. There were quite substantial interests who wanted to mobilize the barbarian hoards against the Microsoft Empire while, unnoticed back on the East Coast, AOL/Time/Warner/CNN/Netscape/Amazon/etc. absorbed more and more key assets -- however that attack failed and the war was funded (as usual) by lemmings anyway, so who cared?

    The main thing is the wealth transfer to Wall Street and its favored investors needed to occur before the GI generation died leaving all that real estate value to mid to late boomer males who, unlike those born before 1950 such as Clinton, Gore, etc. did not get to be "Shockwave Riders []" in the sense their parents and elder siblings did and who, unlike females in their cohort, weren't in a position to get a boost from the unprecedented youthful sexual power accorded to females during those critical years as a result of sexual liberation, women's liberation, birth control and abortion. As a consequence, many GI's really will Die Broke [] even if they didn't intend it. At least they can take solace in all those WW II blockbusters being put out by Hollywood lately -- not quite as analgesic as heroin, though.

    A side benefit of having this sort of pathological tsunami pass through an industry and wreak havoc, is that in its wake there are lots of bargains -- and that is good news for the guys who rode the ponzi schemes to wealth. They are now in a position to broker control the genuine threat to the status quo represented by the Internet. Here again, however, was ancillary to the primary target:

    The largest intergenerational wealth transfer in human history.

  • by inicom (81356) <<moc.mocini> <ta> <mea>> on Sunday July 29, 2001 @05:34AM (#2185507) Homepage
    In my own hiring, CS students from local community colleges with no experience and little understanding of real world programming scoff at positions offering less than $25/hr.

    Meanwhile, I can hire foreign graduate students who've finished their masters degree under the Practical Training provision of their student visa for less than $15/hr. And these are people who typically worked for years in the field in their home countries before coming to the US for their masters.

  • At our company, we just went through a round of layoffs that our investors required (we had to reduce "burn rate"). Those folks you mention (like our worthless "product manager" kept their jobs. Three developers were cut. Of course, those guys were fairly worthless, but still. It CAN happen.
  • Actually, the only people we hired are the only people that made it as far as discussing salaries. If someone is good enough, salary usually isn't an issue. As for money/ego, I'll grant you the second part of that, I have a good sized ego. That aside, I've been writing software for 22 years. I still write software. I'm the architect and I wrote a fair portion (more than 25%) of our last product. I get paid more, but I do more than just write the software. I also manage the programmers. It really is two jobs, and I've worked the hours to prove it.

    If you think management is unskilled work, try it some day. Managing developers is certainly more difficult than I ever thought it would be. Maybe your managers aren't very good at their job. It's easy to sit back and tell everyone "Do this, do that, blah blah blah." That's just management in title. When you've managed, and been on the hiring side of the coin, you come back and tell me that this is BS. In the meantime, I suggest you keep your comments to topics you actually have some knowledge of.

  • It's not as if managers don't get watched too. I have to report to upper management, and the ultimate responsibility of the success or failure of the product lays with me. That's a hell of a lot of responsibility, especially in a small company where in my case, my success or failure meant the success or failure of the company as a whole, the jobs of 15 people, and my bosses home, were all on the line. (My boss financed the project with his home, in a last ditch effort to save the company, which fortunately succeeded).

    I agree, there are plenty of bad managers out there, and I've had my share of them. I've also had some damn good managers, most of which, had been developers before. Maybe it's just the case that developers make better managers for developers. There are certainly managerial skills that you don't learn in programming, and some of those are hard to learn.

    Management, in many ways, means you're on "the other side," which can be a difficult role to play. I'm part of the team, but at the same time, my loyalty is to the company, and no individual in my team. If someone is screwing up, I'm responsible for making sure they stop screwing up, and if need be, let them go. I'm not a very confrontational person, and that's something I've had to work on, as a manager.

    What it comes down to, I think, is that management IS a skilled job. Different than programming, but still a skilled job. The skills take work to develop. They don't come naturally to everyone. Programming is no different. You have good and bad programmers. For some, it comes naturally. To say management is unskilled though, is a very naive thing to say.

  • by Pedrito (94783) on Sunday July 29, 2001 @03:05AM (#2185524) Homepage
    As a manager of developers, I can tell you that there absolutely IS an shortage of IT people. At least a shortage of good ones. I mean, I get tons of resumes from people who don't know anything about software development, but they're not useful to me. I have had 4 developers in my group. 3 of them are here on H1B work visas. I didn't hire them because they were foreigners. I hired them because they were the best I could find.

    I have one other person that I'm probably going to hire in the next few weeks. He's was born and raised American.

    I've interviewed at least a 50 developers over the past year. I'd say that 80-90% of them have been foreigners looking to get work visas. So, if you ask me, it looks like there's a serious shortage of IT workers in this country, or at least in my area, which is a high-tech center (the Dulles Corridor of Northern Virginia).

  • What is the maximum size of a VARCAR2 variable in PL/SQL?

    No wonder you have troubles finding good people. You are looking for the kind of people who feel they need to memorize the kind of minutia they ask on certification tests. Then it seems that these are the only people you interview, failing to see if they can do actual tasks.

    The main SQL question I ask follows: You have two tables: table A and table B. Table A has three columns: customer_id, item_id, quantity. Table B has two columns: item_id and price. Item_id in table A is foreign keyed to table B. Table A holds orders by a customer for a certain number of a particular item. Table B holds the price in dollars of each item. What is the total amount in dollars of all the orders belonging to customer "3".

    I leave details out on purpose (like that the foreign key is to the first column in table B, which is a primary key) to see how well the applicant can understand the problem. They can have paper or whatever.

    The majority of candidates that do get the answer (yes a lot don't, including one who claimed to be a certified oracle programmer (by Oracle)) will say the anser is "select price*quantity from A,B where a.item_id=b.item_id and customer_id = 3" which is wrong, but even then I don't consider the error enough to say they have out and out failed the interview.

    The interview is made up of lots of questions that have degrees of correctness and a perfect score isn't required. In fact a B- total will likely get you hired.

  • But ultimately, you fire him because he was insubordinent in documenting his work. That's a far cry from the story by the original poster where the manager was saying they should fire him simply because they rely on him.

    Incidentally, since I don't thik I'll post again in this thread: no one is irreplacable. It's an important think to know and understand

  • Ugh. If you call $65,000/yr next to nothing, then your post makes sense. That's almost twice the national average.
  • I don't understand why she has no real option to change jobs. I see she doesn't have a degree, but if she has more than 3 years experience and 2 a 2-year post-secondary certificate, she can qualify for a TN. Even if she doesn't, under the new rules she can transfer her H1B to another company without the waiting period. Here [] is website I found invaluable when dealing with my TN1. I suspect their H1-B section is just as good.

    Just another Canuck in the states (Florida)

  • Um, no. Calculus is "the branch of mathematics that deals with limits and the differentiation and integration of functions of one or more variables" or "the combined mathematics of differential calculus and integral calculus". To say that predicate calculus is a kind of calculus because it has the word "calculus" in it, is the same kind of logic that says "oral sex" is a kind of sex. English allows for such nominal compounds to be unrelated in definition.
  • by xant (99438) on Sunday July 29, 2001 @11:44AM (#2185535) Homepage
    Question: Some older programmers do quite well in the field. So if an older programmer is having trouble finding programming work, isn't it his/her own fault for not keeping up with changes in the technology?

    No. Employers are not willing to hire a veteran programmer who has taken a course in a new software skill. Employers insist on actual work experience in that skill.

    If an older programmer is lucky enough that the present employer will allow him/her to work on a project which uses a new skill, then he/she can then stay alive in the field. Or, in some instances, if there is a very new programming language X which very few programmers know, a programmer who knows another language Y can try to find another employer who needs Y and is willing to let him/her learn X on the job. But there is only a narrow window of time in which this is possible.

    The authors brush over the fact that experienced "older" programmers can and often do suggest projects to their employers that need doing. Someone who actually has design skills and has written code for a project should know what needs to be done better than their management, and therefore, they are in a perfect position to say, "Hey, look at my project, we can add feature X with XML, and we can improve our processes by writing a build system in python..."

    You can use this to your advantage. If you're one of those "older" programmers, actively look for projects where you could effectively apply a new technology skillset, then learn the skills yourself and lay out a design to your manager. They love that proactive shit, and you get to put the skill on your resume and say you have experience in it to boot.


  • I agree with you on this:

    I can not, however, say that foreign workers fill the high IQ/learn-things-quickly
    prerequisite any better than native workers. In fact, the language barrier can sometimes get in the way.

    While as individuals that is true, but taken as a group they broaden the pool of people from which to choose. So your chances of finding that person you need is better.

    That said, I agree with substantially large portions of the article, and I believe that if the economic worth of an activity is high enough, than the prevailing wage for that activity will rise enough to motivate (American) workers to become skilled at that activity.

  • by acacia (101223) on Sunday July 29, 2001 @03:23AM (#2185537)
    We (the company I work for) write parallel processing applications. We had a skills shortage, but managed to get around it by training people with good experience in technologies similar in nature.

    I wasn't born with parallel processing app dev skills. Neither were any of my foreign co-workers. They were trained on the subject, and the criteria for hire is/was an ability to absorb new concepts with minimum effort. So a hi IQ gets you the job.

    I suspect in your case that you didn't pay the prevailing rate for the position (perhaps bad information?) and/or you were not geared to recruit people with the real prerequisite: The ability to comprehend what was necessary to make the software work.

    Unfortunately, the people making hiring decisions do not do so optimally. That is just a matter of human nature. I think that that your specific requirements drew you into a sort of no-win situation, in that you could not keep/advance your career without a guaranteed success, and in response to that you targeted your audience too restictively, which effectively precluded success.

    The next time you look at finding a person to fill a position, look at what is really required outside of the core technologies. Those who fulfill these requirments are the people you need to interview for. Which is the unspoken point of this article: We have created an atificial limit on applicants and suffered, but now that the price has dipped somewhat, with lowered expectations we have a surplus.

  • I also work for a large company in RTP that recently had layoffs (Cisco). You're right, projects and departments are usually cut and the people in them are let go regardless of their skill level.

    In my experience, larger companies normally work like that. Smaller companies (300 employees or less) tend to look at people and decide if the can live without them. Larger companies look at a department and it's contribution to the bottom line. If you're in the wrong group everybody is toast regardless of their skill set.
  • by Catbeller (118204) on Monday July 30, 2001 @06:17AM (#2185549) Homepage
    get their real life coding experience in Elbonia? Employers seem to think -- why? -- that they come to the job with years of U.S. business experience.

    Is it the B.S. CompSci + RL experience that you all are looking for, or is it cheap programmers?

    As for training full-timers, it's my experience and that of a lot of the posters here as well that training isn't in the cards for them either, which leads to the question: who the hell is getting trained??

    In a more useful vein, I recall about eight years ago or so, a group of companies decided to alleviate the coder shortage in a new way. They hired... classical musicians. And trained them in basic coding (C++, COBOL, whatever). And guess what? They proved to be excellent coders. Good memory and the ability to think in patterns (I was a sketch artist once, for instance) let them adapt easily. Such a program would never fly today due to the arrogance and bullheaded stupidity of IT people, management and programmers alike.

    Teaching pseudocode takes an hour. Teaching C takes a week of pretty damned easy lessons. If you start with people who can think, and believe it or not, most can, you can make an adequate coder in a month. A good one in a few months, and excellent one in a year.

    Programming is blocked by barriers to entry that are getting sillier all the time. Mathematics is the least silly, but frankly, what the hell do most coders use differential calc for? Why is it required? Object based code is machine friendly, but is a bear for a human to think in.

    The social blocks are the geek clubbiness and arrogance of IT itself. School snobbery. Class affectations. Disdain for age, no matter how it's cloaked in the excuse that the programmer is not "currrent" -- of course they are not "current", if by "current" you mean they graduated in your class. Guess what? Programming ain't changed all that much, and won't in the future either. Another huge, HUGE block to entering IT is the adamant self-interest motivated refusal of the industry to train people. I find it hard to think of examples of other lines of business that won't hire people unless they are sprung full-grown from their father's brow. It's impossible. Workers should be grown into jobs. But the circular non-logic driving the industry of we-don't-train-we-want-experience will grind it slowly into the mud.

  • by SuiteSisterMary (123932) <> on Sunday July 29, 2001 @05:42AM (#2185552) Journal
    Now what Scifi series is this reminding me of? Ah yes, BattleTech.
    Our programmers are the pinnacle of five hundred years of selective breeding and intensive training. Five hundred programmers are grown from a genetic sample, then raised together, being constantly tested. Most will die in that testing, or prove unworthy and be demoted to a lower caste.
    Programmers who don't work to death by the time they're thirty five are considered solahma, fit only for changing the diapers of young sibkos, and for going on suicide runs, such as fixing Y2K problems.
  • There are two (three actually) main schools of interview these days. School one is what I like to call 'I am the Alpha, I am the Omega.' They're not looking for the correct answer, they're looking for their answer. And if you give a correct answer that isn't their answer, you didn't give them the correct answer. School two is the 'I wanted to be a psychiatrist' school, where some managerial idiot starts doing behavioural modeling and response interviewing, which he learned at a two day course, and draws conclusions from it. "Tell me about a time you had to work in a team. Tell me about a time that you had to work under pressure..." School three is the interviewers who don't suck. They're often not looking at what answer you give, so much as how you arrived at that answer. Let me give an example. I learned this trick from my first full time boss, and use it to great effect. The Kobyashi Maru Database
    You are the DBA of a database running a client server application. Several people in the office use your application, and all is well. One day, a DBA from a different group is told to install an app for his users onto the DB box. Shortly thereafter, people who use your app start complaining about performance being slow, and data being lost sometimes. What do you do?
    And the beauty is that there is no correct answer. No matter what they say, you explain why that doesn't help or won't work. This gives you two benefits: you get to see where their strengths and weaknesses lie, and you get to see how they work things through, under pressure. A little bit of questioning by the applicant eventually reveals that it's the other DBA's new app causing the problem. Now, of course, the eventual answer needs to be 'I punt it off to our supervisors and let them deal with it.' But anybody who says that is obviously, as Scott Adams calls it, "Juan Delegator." Talk to the DBA? He says it's your app's fault. Show him proof? He doesn't believe it. Try to fix the server? You can't touch his stuff. Buy a new box? No money. And so on.
  • by 10e 999 (128948) on Sunday July 29, 2001 @01:43AM (#2185554)
    There are boatloads of people working in the IT field with job titles such as "Product Manager", "Product Planner" or anything that has to do with marketing. These jobs are especially numerous in the dot com sector. These people rake in lots of dough and perform jobs that require less than high school diploma. These are people that are reported being getting laid off everyday on, not programmers. We still need real programmers.
  • I suggest that you are both right... er, correct. Programmers are thinking beings, and modify their viewpoints as new information and ideas are absorbed and analyzed.

    They also tend to have a lot of holes in their historical/sociological knowledge and are swayed easily by single sources and unverified facts.
  • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Sunday July 29, 2001 @07:16AM (#2185582) Homepage

    I estimate that approximately 80% to 90% of the people in Software don't belong here. Why are they here? It's simple. When they went to the local school and told them that they want to learn Software because they heard it pays well, their counselor didn't bat an eyelash!

    When people ask me if they should get 'into computers' (because they heard it pays well) I tell them this:

    "If you don't love it, don't bother. If your in it for the money, you'll never be any good at it. In order to be a good engineer of any kind it has to be in your blood. If you're doing it for the money you'll never be any good at it. If you are a natural, you don't do it for the money; the money just follows"

    Unfortunately, I am responsible enough to do this, but your average 'American Joe' who takes a job as a counselor doesn't see a problem with getting into a career for the money, even if he/she didn't choose their career path for the money. It's the American way. Unfortunately, the result of all this is the current state of Engineering in America today 8^{

    The good news? I look 10 times better when compared to 'the average.' Still, every time I hear someone proudly call themselves a 'programmer', I shudder. These people are often performing the Software Engineering function, and they still don't know that programming is only about 20% to 40% of the puzzle. Scary!
  • by jeko (179919) on Sunday July 29, 2001 @03:06AM (#2185598)
    1. Coders get dumped when they turn 35.
    2. We can't find any skilled coders.

    Hello? Does anyone else see the correlation here? Skill is the product of talent and experience. Talent comes from God Almighty in precious little doses, but experience comes with age.

    The skilled coder you can't find is probably one of the ones you dumped because his salary was just a little too high. Now you'll pay double his salary in recruitment costs and receive nothing productive in return.

    You would think even an MBA could understand this.

  • by SlushDot (182874) on Sunday July 29, 2001 @06:22AM (#2185600)
    Sorry, but the web jockeys using FrontPage, etc., are not programmers. I can respect the ones who actually know and edit HTML by hand and bang out cgi scripts in perl. But as for rest using cookie cutter templates? No. Not programmers for a second.

    They never show the real "IT" people on the TV commercials. Yeah, I'd like to see them show a Real Programmer's cubicle. With loads of old drives, disks, PCI/ISA/EISA/VLB cards, prototype boards, cables piled all over his desk amidst the empty soda and slurpee cups; stacks of now useless code printouts filling most of his desk; with several sheets of scribbled notes shoved under his keyboard; the Belldandy wallpaper on his desktop; the safari shorts, 3-5 year old tennis shoes and black T-shirt that's frazzled around the neck and sleeves and should've been thrown away 2 years ago; the sci-fi and anime related posters all over the wall, while he wears headphones listening to a real audio stream of Rush Limbaugh; yes, the typical programmer is far to the political Right despite the popular "counterculture" image of tech people on TV. Note, though that this is not "wrong" nor counts against the programmer; a few programming charts (esp. the 'C' order of operations precedence list); the various goodies (pens, Linux bumper stickers, yo-yos) from many Comdex's past. The bad-burn CDs and line printer stuff pinned up as some kind of obscure nouveau art. The "ACHTUNG! Alles Lookenpepers" sign lifted from the jargon file near the cubicle's entrance; And a 'combat' cartridge from the Atari 2600 mounted on the cubicle wall to honor the profession's past; and of course several running computers with at least two monitors switched by switchboxes with flakey contacts so the video jitters on the red gun unti you wiggle the knob; At least one monitor with Slashdot displayed in any browser except IE. THESE are the Real Programmers who have been around long enough to remember entire teamd of long since fired "IT staff". He may be kinda wierd, but he can do the magic over and over and over and will be with the company forever until he can retire at 40.

  • by ChaoticCoyote (195677) on Sunday July 29, 2001 @04:57AM (#2185607) Homepage

    Older workers (I'm hitting the big 4-oh this year) have negatives beyond age. We often have wives and families, which mean we're unwilling to work 6-80 hour weeks and on weekends. Wives also come with children in many cases -- leading "mature" workers to want benefits like insurance and pension plans.

    A couple of decades ago, having a family was a *plus* when applying for a job; it proved stability and responsibility. Today, when the average tech job lasts for a year or two (if that!), employers are more interested in cost-cutting and reducing benefit loads. Which may explain why so much software today just simply sucks...

    The same force that drove manufacturing jobs -- cheap labor -- overseas will now begin to eat away at the U.S. tech industry. Someone working in Mexico or India requires a lower salaray and fewer benefits than the equivalent U.S. worker. In a world driven entirly by the collection of wealth, does it surprise anyone that tech company have foreign development shops or employ H1B indentured servants?

    Scott Robert Ladd
    Master of Complexity
    Destroyer of Order and Chaos

  • What your talking about is people that use computers as an abstract tool. Is that such a bad thing? Would you rather that your skill be something so common that you could be treated like an assembly line worker (no pun) just like most programmers were in "Snow Crash"? I know for a fact that its good to have people that use things as an abstract tool, thats what allows us to have simplifications of everything. Because being a jack of all trades creates a master of none. That being said, I think its good to have end users that are in the tech field, it only helps you look better in the long run anyway.

    The Lottery:
  • You're off your rocker! As much as you'd like to believe its all the pseudo technical types being laid off - far from it.

    Sure, a few years ago when companies laid folks off, it was usually the slackers and technical marketing types. But no longer!

    As an ex-NORTEL employee (by choice long before they cratered) I can tell you I am absolutely blown away by the names I'm seeing come across the local mailing list for laid off NORTEL folks. These people were best in class programmers with excellent skills. The kind of people who got the top level review rating each year that only %5 of employees got. Thats because companies are now shedding entire projects and divisions. Before that used to happen on a small scale and most of the top coders got jobs elsewhere in the company. But in today's environment, theres nowhere else to go in a company laying off 30% of its work force - all open positions are GONE. So what happens? When a divison gets cut or a major project cancelled, EVERYBODY gets the ax.

    Now you'd think they'd have jobs just lined up - well, as someone whose been looking for a halfway decent job for 7 months I can assure you its not always that easy, at least not here in RTP Many companies are laying folks off, not hiring. The # of job postings have gone down by at LEAST an order of magnitude. Even worse is the companies KNOW this and can hand pick the person that fits every single one of their requirements where before if a person fit 80% - it was a catch.

    I've even noticed it in the job postings - an almost arrogant tone that basically says if you can't meet every single requirement (and they list tons) then don't even bother cause they won't even acknowledge they received your info.

    During 1999 - there WAS a shortage in certain areas, no question. Totally unqualified people were getting hired because whatever work they could do was better than the job sitting unfilled for months. Now, its brutal and companies that can manage to get an opening approved are taking their time finding the gems - and then are paying them much less than they used to. I know excellent programmers who earned $80K getting offers of $65K

    As for the middle maangers - yes they seem like incompetent dorks who serve no purpose, well, I can tell you that while sometimes they are, often they server a very important purpose, at least they did @ NORTEL. If they didn't exist, you'd probably spend more time dealing with customers and requirements, and release schedules which would drive you nuts - I've worn both hats and project managemednt can be a very difficult job, especially when you have to manage a project with hundreds of design teams who all say their feature is the most important (of course) So don't get too high on that pedistal because without project managers, your release would never make it out the door on time and without good technical marketing types, you'd have no customers for your product and no job.

  • by localroger (258128) on Sunday July 29, 2001 @05:07PM (#2185650) Homepage
    You're thinking like those old programmers again. Most systems today do not need this level of performance. In today's marketplace, and with the complex applications we now develop, factors such as development time and robustness usually figure at least as prominently. Yes, using virtual function calls can reduce your program speed by 5%.

    You don't know what is possible. I am in the middle of a project where I am basically hacking an embedded controller whose firmware was written (very elegantly, in a certain sense) in C++. But it isn't fast enough. I talked the engineer into giving me a backdoor so I could run some assembly language. That .asm code is now up to 12,000 lines and is performing over 1,000 times faster than the normal development environment coded in C++. Even the guys who built the box can't believe what I made it do. As I learned in the casino, if you keep eating away at your position a few percent at a time you eventually face a real loss.

  • by localroger (258128) on Sunday July 29, 2001 @05:38AM (#2185651) Homepage
    I am the one and only programmer for a distributor, as opposed to manufacturer, in an industry where very few distributors bother to have in-house software development. As such I have, without really trying, become as close to unfireable as you ever get, which is one reason I hang around the place even though they don't pay as well as larger shops.

    One day one of my coworkers was doing a service job and discussing the computer system I'd designed with an employee of the customer. The employee had just finished taking a management course and asked my coworker if there was any backup for me. To which he replied, no, our guy's pretty unique.

    The customer employee then demonstrated his grasp of management principles by saying that he'd just been taught that if you have anyone like me on the payroll, you should fire them at once! Sure it will hurt for awhile, but eventually you'll recover and you won't be at their mercy.

    So that's what it's about, boys and girls: POWER. We do stuff they don't understand and it scares the shit out of them. The only way they can feel secure is to be sure we can be instantly replaced. Fifteen years of loyalty? Meaningless. Skill and experience? Meaningless. Modern management teaches that the most important thing is staying in control.

    Fortunately, my current employer is as out-of-date as I am, and doesn't feel that way. Which is another reason I hang around even though the pay isn't so great.

  • by localroger (258128) on Sunday July 29, 2001 @07:23AM (#2185652) Homepage
    what's to stop you from, say, extorting more wage? Better work hours? Anything?

    Exactly. Like I said, it's about power.

    And the answer to your question is "enlightened self-interest." I have demanded, and gotten, certain concessions as a result of my influence, but I'm smart enough to know what the company can afford and will put up with. They've worked with me long enough to know that I am a reasonable person. In short, they treat me like a human being and I return the favor.

    I suppose they just assume everyone is out to grab as much as they can, which is just natural, considering they are the 'mind' of the corporations which are agents of greed.

    Exactly. It's about power. It's not about satisfying the customers, it's not about building something we can be proud of, it's not about being the leaders in our sector, it's not about being efficient or beating the competition, it's about being in control. It's about responding to a human situation with the knee-jerk response of a machine that isn't capable of understanding pride, craftsmanship, or loyalty.

    Fortunately, the feeling is mutual. I wouldn't want to work for someone who would act that way anyway. For that matter, I suspect a lot of people who share my skills feel that way. Maybe that's why some of the managers who have posted here have such trouble finding people who know what they are doing.

  • by Dancin_Santa (265275) <> on Sunday July 29, 2001 @01:49AM (#2185659) Journal
    As much as the conspiracy theorists have been harping on the issue, they haven't been correct until just recently. IT professionals have for quite a while been able to quit their job and pick up a new one in the blink of an eye. There just weren't enough people to fill all the positions that were available.

    Now, however, the economy has gone into a recession and thousands of IT professionals have been "freed" into the job market. The high demand for workers that we heard a couple years back is clearly not there anymore.

    Could it be that it wasn't a nefarious plot to screw American workers?

    Dancin Santa
  • by BPhilman (303956) on Sunday July 29, 2001 @04:34AM (#2185666)
    I remember an interview I went on, for a Perl job. I passed the first interview with flying colors; talked about my programming philosophy with a programmer, got along great, got a second interview. Passed the second interview with a hiring manager. Then, was asked into a back room by the alpha geek of the organization, who hit me blindside with three bizarre perl questions (debugging problems? I don't know what else to call them). Each was totally bizarre, not even remotely connected to normal practice, and was the sort of thing you'd write a little driver program to check out anyway if you came up against it. For example, one had something to do with an arcane scoping issue, with a variable of the same name changing scope like, three times. Flabbergasted and freaked out, I failed his three "tests", and he smugly smiled at me and showed me out.

    The only thing this proved was that the guy was a complete jackass. I mean, for example, who uses the same variable name in three different scopes that way? You'd have to be retarded. The questions were nonsensical. If he'd given me something normal to work on, I'd have been fine, and I'd have hired. For the record, I ended up working somewhere else, and built an application used throughout the organization among many other things, improving many of their internal systems and in general making myself very useful (not meaning to bang my own drum).

    I guess my point is, if you subconsciously want to prove someone incompetent, you won't find it too hard to completely frustrate and annoy them, and "disqualify" them from consideration. A better approach is to try and see what they come up with in response to a real problem, without trying to catch them with brain teasers and such. I'm not saying that's what you did, mind you, but I've got experience with it and believe me, it isn't much fun to be on the receiving end. Especially when, if you're like most tech types, interviews freak you out anyway.
  • by janpod66 (323734) on Sunday July 29, 2001 @04:13AM (#2185683)
    The basic flaw with Matloff's argument is that he assumes that if foreigners don't come to the US on H1B visas, the jobs will go to US residents. That's wrong. What happens in real life is that if the foreign programmers and professionals can't come here, the jobs simply go to where the people are. Most large companies already have development labs set up all around the world and can shift resources overseas at a moment's notice and without any increase in cost. In fact, that's already what happens when potential foreign hires can't come to the US: they simply work overseas until their visas come through.

    Welcome to the new globalized economy and information infrastructure. Knowledge workers produce a product whose movement can't be controlled and that can be instantly shipped anywhere. And the basic tools, PCs, are available anywhere in the world.

    Beyond that, Matloff's claims about shortages, wages, "indentured servitude", and working conditions simply don't agree with what I have seen in real life. But it isn't even worth disproving his factual claims point-by-point when his basic reasoning is so faulty.

    Having foreign programmers and professionals come to the US has been a spectacularly good deal for the US, and it has been devastating to the high tech industries in foreign countries. Developing countries have been particularly hard hit by this.

  • by koreth (409849) on Sunday July 29, 2001 @02:26AM (#2185687)
    I was a manager during the period in question, and I can tell you, I had a devil of a time filling a couple of positions. Let me take issue with this statement from the article:
    If employers were that desperate, they would certainly not be hiring just a minuscule fraction of their job applicants.

    I'll take one example. We had a data warehouse (mostly a big Oracle PL/SQL application). The engineer who designed and implemented the original code left the company, and I was tasked with hiring his replacement since there were some pretty substantial architectural changes we needed to make.

    Now, there are a lot of database people out there. A lot. I looked at more resumes than I can count. My ear was sore from phone interviews. Thing was, just about everyone I talked to fell into one of two categories:

    • Listed all sorts of Oracle skills on their resume, but couldn't correctly answer my SQL skill-testing questions. (Which were nothing especially complex.) This was the vast majority, which surprised me.
    • Knew their SQL, but clearly had no design skills to speak of. I'd ask them to design a trivial application and they'd either botch it or claim that they just wrote code, someone else always designed it and gave them a spec.

    I looked and looked. The executive staff got really antsy and started leaning on me to do what the article suggests, just hire someone to get the work going, even if they weren't perfect for the job. I resisted for a while but finally caved in.

    The contractor we brought in -- one of the better ones I'd interviewed, though I hadn't liked him well enough to want to hire him -- did a decent job of talking to the right people, gathering requirements, and getting himself acquainted with the layout of the code. But then he started to submit his own code, and man, what a disaster. I wasted weeks correcting his mistakes. Finally I fired him and went back to my original search.

    The specifics of the story here aren't important. The point is that it doesn't take many times being burned by the "hire any bum off the street, just fill this technical position" attitude before you develop a very healthy caution about hiring the wrong person. I've seen it happen at other companies and I think it's a universal truth: hiring the wrong person for a job can leave you in a much worse position than hiring nobody at all. Not least because you think you have the position filled, so you stop looking for a while.

    Experienced managers know this, so they put themselves through the "there's nobody out there!" routine when the job market is tight. It sucks massively, but it sucks less than the alternative.

    (How did the story end? We found an H1-B person who fit the bill perfectly. Then the government took so long to process his paperwork -- months -- that by the time it came through, he'd gotten cold feet. Ugh! Happily by that time I'd moved to a different group.)

  • by slashdot_commentator (444053) on Sunday July 29, 2001 @02:26AM (#2185715) Journal

    Its the age discrimination that is the key. If the industry was genuinely tight for experienced programmers, they would be more aggressive about hiring 35+ year old professionals, rather than avoiding a large group of people most likely to match the skillset.

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