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President By Day, High-Tech Headhunter By Night 494

Posted by Soulskill
from the fixing-the-economy-one-engineer-at-a-time dept.
theodp writes "The White House is following up on an offer made by President Barack Obama this week to help find a job for an unemployed semiconductor engineer in Texas. The offer was made during a live online town hall after the ex-TI engineer's wife questioned the government's policy concerning H-1B visa workers. Obama asked for EE Darin Wedel's resume and said he would 'forward it to some of these companies that are telling me they can't find enough engineers in this field.' While grateful, patent-holder Wedel said the president's view on the job prospects for engineers in his field 'is definitely not what's happening in the real world.' Duke adjunct professor Vivek Wadhwa offered his frank take on 40-year-old Wedel's predicament: 'The No. 1 issue in the tech world is as people get older, they generally become more expensive. So if you're an employer who can hire a worker fresh out of college who is making $60,000 versus an older worker who is making $150,000, and the younger worker has skills that are fresher, who would you hire?' Coincidentally, Texas Instruments sought President Obama's help in reducing restrictions on the hiring of younger foreign workers in 2009, the same year it laid off Wedel."
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President By Day, High-Tech Headhunter By Night

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  • Old is gold? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04, 2012 @11:34AM (#38926991)

    So if you're an employer who can hire a worker fresh out of college who is making $60,000 versus an older worker who is making $150,000, and the younger worker has skills that are fresher, who would you hire

    Dont the older ones come with experience?
    As an example (though not valid in this case, but still shows the point), a more experienced person would know to avoid using floats to save monetary values,etc...
    In the tech industry, as in management, the top spots are obviously fewer than entry level, so over time many people will stagnate when climbing the ladder

    • Re:Old is gold? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SJHillman (1966756) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @11:44AM (#38927065)

      Yes, but is the experience worth an extra $90,000 a year? The value of experience usually hits a plateau, but workers still want wages to continue increasing.

      • Re:Old is gold? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by RightwingNutjob (1302813) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @11:49AM (#38927107)
        Depends. Is it the difference between a product up to spec as per contract and an emergency fix that costs 90k to implement or a schedule slip with a 90k lateness penalty?
        • Re:Old is gold? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by SJHillman (1966756) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @12:52PM (#38927641)

          But is that much experience required? What about all of the workers in the middle ground, with ten or twenty years experience opposed to thirty or forty years? There's bound to be plenty of cases where forty years beats twenty, but there's a point of diminishing returns. While you couldn't replace an experienced worker with ten fresh college grads, you might be able to replace one highly experienced worker with one moderately experienced worker plus a fresh grad and pocket ten or twenty thousand.

        • Re:Old is gold? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by frosty_tsm (933163) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @01:20PM (#38927927)

          Depends. Is it the difference between a product up to spec as per contract and an emergency fix that costs 90k to implement or a schedule slip with a 90k lateness penalty?

          Worse than that. There are a lot of 60k/year engineers that might not ever deliver, much less require 3-5 times the head count.

          From what I've seen, most entry-level software engineers are paid more than they are worth to the company at time of hire. Most will grow into their role quickly and the company will get a return on investment. These usually have a few of the 150k engineers around to mentor them.

      • Re:Old is gold? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04, 2012 @12:16PM (#38927319)

        One of the places that hired a contractor that cost them a bit over a million and half of product recall. I was hired to test and fix that product. For 6 month worth of work, the defect went down from 15% return to 0%.

        Do you think I am worth that money to the company?

      • Old IS gold (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fyngyrz (762201) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @12:25PM (#38927401) Homepage Journal

        Speaking as a guy who just retired from running a tech company, yes, it is. In the EE realm, with which I am most familiar, the experienced guy has been through the FCC testing rigamarole and can just be sent off to do it without supervision -- and he'll come back with a product that passed, because he knew what the requirements were when he designed it.

        The experienced guy knows all the suppliers; knows where to call for what components; knows to check for multiple sources and to avoid single source vulnerabilities if at all possible; has written in programming languages A..M and when presented with N, can learn it in very little time, whereas New EE Guy knows languages L,M and N and is absolutely clueless when it comes to maintaining product X's assembly code written in F, nor has he the depth needed to pick it up, and the product design with all its little foibles, that the experienced guy has.

        The experienced guy has tons of product experience and puts that to work for you every time a new design is required. New EE guy will probably get caught asking your techs questions instead of educating them. The experienced guy knows that the GPL is a box of landmines, and that it must be avoided at all costs; New EE Guy is likely to walk around for quite some time proclaiming open source is great before he actually understands that the company needs to make money and needs to retain the technology to do so exclusively for as long as possible in order to to pay him.

        The experienced EE can do a myriad of things; interview new hires (if you let HR do this, you're already half way to screwed, frankly) he can answer questions at any level from customer to any tier of technical support, he can actually *resolve* problems and in minutes because he's familiar with your products (if you kept him on... if he's experienced but a new hire to you, his benefit is he will learn them a lot faster.) The experienced guy probably even knows a lot about things he wasn't directly involved with, by a sort of office osmosis... people talk about the biz, especially if they're well compensated and treated well, and a synergy arises that New EE Guy simply can't roll into blind.

        New EE guy has a limited number of tools in his "toolbox" and very little, if any, experience employing them. The experienced guy has enormous depth and is likely to solve any given problem faster, better, and more to the company's long term benefit than the New EE guy can.

        Yes, the experienced EE costs more for insurance, deserves (doesn't always get) higher compensation, should have accrued more vacation time, probably has kids... he or she costs more, all right, but you get so much more it's an obvious decision if the goal is for the company to do well in the long run.

        If, however, the goal is to appease myopic beancounters about the upcoming quarter... yeah, that experienced guy is getting replaced by New EE Guy, the bottom line looks better for a few months, and future products will have to look after themselves. And looking at the state of today's US tech companies, with the notable exception of Apple... I can't say I'm surprised at all. By and large, they are reaping what they have sown.

        Having said all that, companies still need New EE Guy. but not as a means to kick out some experienced fellow; you want the new guy hired ten years or more before the experienced guy is going to retire so he can learn FROM the experienced guy, and then, when Really Experienced Guy retires, New EE Guy isn't New EE Guy any more, he is Experienced Guy.

        If you don't invest in the future, you won't fucking have a future. Company executives should inscribe that on a bat and beat the damned beancounters over the head with it on a regular basis. Figuratively speaking.

        • Re:Old IS gold (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ScrewMaster (602015) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @12:39PM (#38927507)

          Figuratively speaking.

          I'm not to0 sure about that: I think it might take a few literal attempts to get the point across.

        • Re:Old IS gold (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MooseTick (895855) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @01:22PM (#38927943) Homepage

          All that sounds good if the older employee has actually been working and continued learning for 20-30 years. I've worked with those guys. I've also worked with a lot of 50-60 year olds who are lazy, graduated college in the 60/70s, haven't bother learning anything new in 20 years, and are coasting for the next 10 years to retirement. They feel like their time in entitles them to big bucks while they are not even as productive as a 20 something. I've worked with more of the latter than the earlier.

          • Re:Old IS gold (Score:4, Interesting)

            by gutnor (872759) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @02:27PM (#38928493)

            The thing is, in your example, the problem is not the incompetent old employee feeling entitled, it is that his mediocrity has never been an issue in his career so far. He got raised to his level by inertia. The core reason why experienced worker don't find a work is that the companies cannot identify competent employee (young or old) - they cannot see what experience save them. So instead, they hire boat load of cheap ones and hope that by chance there are enough good in them to make up for the lack or experience or the problems brought by the shit ones.

            Another problem, is that you forget the concept. I have known people that sacrifice their expertise to specialize in some specific in-house shitty tech, by duty to their company (the old school way: enter a company as a kid, do what it takes and retire from the same company). So yeah they feel entitled because they are entitled - they saved the company butt for 20 years. In the past that would have meant at least respect, now that means they get threaten to be replaced by cheapo worker.

            So yeah, shitty worker stay employed and dutiful employee get exploited, that's your problem.

          • Older professors can be very good. Some of them have continued to do good work their whole time and are experts in their field. They have a depth of understanding unmatched by newcomers. Also they have experience teaching classes and so do a better job of it (since for whatever reason universities require no teaching certifications at all for professors).

            However others are old fossils who are badly stuck in the past. They ask students to learn, but refuse to learn themselves. They want to teach things using

        • by mdf356 (774923)

          In the software world, older has benefits too (from my perspective as a dev who's worked with both old and new devs). After 10 years in the industry I can foresee dozens of problems that newly minted college grads can't. Foresight means early prevention. My former colleagues at IBM with 25 years in the industry saw even further than I.

        • Re:Old IS gold (Score:5, Interesting)

          by mounthood (993037) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @02:10PM (#38928373)

          Yes, but is the experience worth an extra $90,000 a year?

          Speaking as a guy who just retired from running a tech company, yes, it is.

          Companies could hire experienced workers for dirt cheap, by just giving the retiring baby boomers what they really want: medical coverage, lots of time off with a flexible schedule, and a small amount of money to pay the bills. Imagine how many 60+ year old EE's you could hire with this deal:

          * 1/4 salary ($37,500)
          * Work 3 days a week
          * 2 months vacation (40 days off)
          * Medical and other standard benefits

          Many professionals have already saved for retirement and paid off the house, and they just want to take it easy. It's interesting to note that the economy already provides a version of this for experienced professionals: contracting. Working at high pay for very short periods of time, they get a small salary and lots of time off. But the companies get screwed rather then having a loyal employee who loves working for them!

      • Re:Old is gold? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by BoRegardless (721219) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @12:27PM (#38927415)

        Upfront: I am over 60. Been doing product design for 45+ years. I think and have thought for decades, you get what you pay for.

        An article recently in Wired or Tech. Review noted that it takes longer for engineers in complex subjects to start to make significant innovations and patents as the technology field becomes so much more complex from coatings to material alloys to sensors. Older, more experienced engineers are needed.

        Experience = thousands of failures experienced on your projects and co-workers failures, some which were "fixed" and some which were terminal. Success = avoiding & overcoming failures quickly based on wide experience in your field!

        Without that knowledge, you don't know how to frame a design to avoid the hidden failure modes, and you don't have the breadth of solutions to offer to get to a solution in the fastest time.

        I've seen newer engineers make gross mistakes costing companies on a single product, millions of dollars a year in lost profits for a variety of reasons and also having a less than optimal product. I also know that the guy who designed it was 2 years out of college and given the design job because "it is a simple product". You can analyze this 10 ways to Sunday, but everyone knows you can produce a simple product that is a loser. It is also true that the young engineer did NOT have an experienced engineer over him to guide him in the right directions. Most likely it was an "Engineering Manager" who didn't know true product design that gave the young guy the job.

      • Re:Old is gold? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ScrewMaster (602015) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @12:37PM (#38927493)

        Yes, but is the experience worth an extra $90,000 a year? The value of experience usually hits a plateau, but workers still want wages to continue increasing.

        Yes, and it's worth a hell of a lot more than that in most cases.

        See, what you (and many, many shortsighted corporate HR types) are overlooking is this: it's not just the individual's expertise in his particular field that should be counted. Contrary to popular belief, engineers cannot just be dropped into any situation based upon their resume, plugged in, and rationally be expected to be highly productive. There's a reason for that: an engineer's specific knowledge of his organization, its products, and its operations is often far more important than the nominal technical skills he picked up in school. Such intimate knowledge can take many, many years to acquire, and simply cannot be replaced at the drop of a hat. You also have to account for the relationships that engineers build with both suppliers and customers: that rapport is an often vital aspect of engineering and can make the difference between a profitable project or an abysmal failure. Engineering staff that customers come to trust are an important part of retaining said customers. And again, that takes time, and if you want your engineers to stick around long enough to do all that, you have to treat them with some respect as well.

        Smart managers will, as their senior people begin to age and head towards retirement, bring in a younger engineer or two and have them work hand-in-hand with the older staff until they're capable of picking up the load. That takes time, it takes an investment in people, and salary/benefits are actually the least important part of the equation.

        Frankly, all this focus on transient workers (which is all your average H-1B is, when you get right down to it ... most aren't here for the long haul) and salary leaves out of the discussion an engineer or technical person's actual value. That's a lot harder for your typical cost-cutting "efficiency" type to pin down, so they use simple-minded metrics such as salary. And you know what? That kind of thinking has cost American business a lot.

      • Somebody hasn't read the mythical man month. It is widely believed (and a belief I share, as a relatively talented, 1 yr of working experience in middleware/embedded-ware electrical/computer engineer surrounded by senior developers) that a good developer is ~10x more productive than an average one (in terms of maintenance costs, productivity, and understanding how software interacts with problems).

        Software devs become better as they age and gain experience, especially with big picture things like deciding w
      • by geekoid (135745)

        yes, yes it is.
        Bad programming can cost far more then that in time, maintenance, reliability and marketability.

        So, are you releasing a piece of firmware that's going to a million pieces? writing a financial app? Interface rolling out on medical equipment?
        He makes chips. Running different version and optimization process alone can make it worth it. And that's not even going into skill to get what you need from management, and playing the game.

    • Re:Old is gold? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by AdrianKemp (1988748) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @11:48AM (#38927085)

      The real trick is, companies are starting to find out that old is not gold.

      Firstly, they've convinced end users to put up with subpar products (not just buggy software, but stuff with 2 year expected life instead of 20).

      Second, they've discovered that old guys tend not to be willing to work 80 hours a week and call it 40 (there are many exceptions I'm sure, but they typically have families and shy away from that stuff)

      Third, with the rate at which things are advancing the old guys need to have been very proactive in keeping up, or they may have experience but lack the knowledge. Again, lots do -- but not all.

      • Re:Old is gold? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3 AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday February 04, 2012 @11:59AM (#38927199)

        willing to work 80 hours a week and call it 40

        This. The 'end' of overtime is infuriating. If you're salary perhaps there are exceptions in that it's understood as such, ie the financial security of salary is repayed by the occasional 50-80 week to get the job done. But if you're hourly and being 'payed' for a full '40' pseudosalary-style (seen this many places), and being worked 60+ on a consistent basis, well, fuck that. I've known shops where everybody is getting paid an hourly wage on the checks for 40 a week, but you were an immediate outcast if you didn't come in 2 hours early and stay 2 hours late every gd day.

        • by St.Creed (853824)

          In my case (paid by the hour as consultant) I never charge more than 40 hours a week, unless the customer specifically requests it. Because it leaves me free to work exactly 40 hours a week if I so desire, and usually I work a bit more (30 minutes on average) to make sure that everyone knows I work at least 8 hours.

          If they want more, they can ask for it. And I will ask them for payment for it. No exceptions. But then again, I understand when it's crunch time and I make sure my work is done (delivery on time

        • Re:Old is gold? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by forkfail (228161) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @12:27PM (#38927413)

          Sad thing is, the experienced guy can often get done in 20 what it takes the new guy 80 to do, but to a certain type of managers, all he sees is that the old guy goes home after 40, and the young guy is working away over the weekend....

          • Re:Old is gold? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @01:42PM (#38928115)
            Sad thing is, the experienced guy can often get done in 20 what it takes the new guy 80 to do, but to a certain type of managers, all he sees is that the old guy goes home after 40, and the young guy is working away over the weekend....

            Bingo. The young bloods will flail away for 3 weeks to come to solution Z, after going through A, B, C, X and Y. The old guy can look at it and say "Yeah, we saw this concept 8 years ago. Solution Z is what you want. Hang on a sec, let me find my original design. Put it in a new wrapper, but no need to redesign the basic concept"
            (channeling my inner Space Cowboy)
        • Re:Old is gold? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04, 2012 @01:26PM (#38927993)

          And yet so many people bitch about unions. Especially nerds, geeks, hackers and other techies.

          People died for the 40 hour week. Literally. They were f$cking killed while fight corporations for the right.

          People died for the 5 day work week.

          People died for the lifestyle we have now. But we give it up because we don't believe in organizing. We give it up because we're "mavericks", we're too creative. And now, we're all paying the price. Oh, but our stock options are worth so much more now, eh?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04, 2012 @12:07PM (#38927249)

      I keep seeing this "older workers are more expensive".

      I was so deperate for work that I was willing to take an entry level salary. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to express that because no one even bothered to interview me. Anyway, after several years of trying (and depleting all of my savings), I got the hint and left the profession.

      • There's probably an assumption that if you're willing to take less, there must be something 'wrong' with you. It's like people in HR/hiring don't live in the real world.
      • by fyngyrz (762201)

        There are age-related costs you can't control. Insurance is one of them. Declining health is another. Kids are often another. The mortgage an older person usually has is another. Sometimes an actual age-predjudice exists; we've heard many reports of ageism out of companies we know well in the last few years. "The kids" sometimes don't play well with older folks.

        Beancounters set policy based on those sorts of things in order to push short term results to the front of the importance queue, and HR executes tho

    • by walterbyrd (182728) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @03:34PM (#38928939)

      This is a somewhat long, but very powerful, article. I think it's worth a quick look. You can leave a comment on the site.

      What Obama is saying comes from a manufactured myth that there is a shortage of skilled workers, and that a supposed “skill-gap” is hurting our economy. Like the fraudulent assertion that illegal aliens take jobs that Americans won’t do, this is a ploy to displace American workers with cheap foreign labor.

      According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), last year the United States lost 19,740 computer jobs, 107,200 engineering jobs, and 243,870 science jobs. In spite of massive job losses, some 3 million guest workers were brought into the country, including about 100,000 engineers.

      In California, a state that has disposed of tens of thousands of teachers, over 12,000 visas have been issued to supposedly meet the high demand for educators. It is incredulous to suggest that we have a labor shortage in the middle of a great depression.

      What is truly amazing is that the majority of engineers and scientists working in the U.S. today are here on “temporary” visas; and the result has been a disaster, as over 70% of today’s development projects fail.

      http://www.rightsidenews.com/2012020415533/us/politics-and-economics/obama-and-cheap-foreign-labor-the-real-story.html

  • Fresher skills? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DoninIN (115418) <don.middendorf@gmail.com> on Saturday February 04, 2012 @11:38AM (#38927019) Homepage
    How often in the real world do you find yourself thinking. "Gee he's never really done this before in an applied, practical setting. That makes his skills fresher!" In my case that would be a big never.
    • by etymxris (121288)

      Typically companies wants someone with exactly 5 or 10 years of experience and no more. After that, employees start costing more than they're worth.

      • Re:Fresher skills? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by St.Creed (853824) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @12:19PM (#38927343)

        Yes, because the patentholder with 200 patents is completely interchangeable with all those young graduates with 5 years experience. I'm pretty sure they'll all rack up that sort of trackrecord too.

        This sort of thinking stems from the "humans as cookies" school of thought. All cookies are the same. So you can replace cookies with other cookies. Somehow this never really works out when you work with humans.

        I'll never forget my fathers company. They had one administrator do most of the bookkeeping. He didn't automate much, but he knew the status of every invoice in detail, where it was, who had it, etc. He worked about 5 hours a day and spent the other 3 composing music. In his office.

        When he retired they had to hire two people who work full time to replace him. Yeah, completely interchangeable. Not.

        • ^^^this^^^ (Score:5, Insightful)

          by fyngyrz (762201) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @12:37PM (#38927495) Homepage Journal

          Yes, exactly, precisely, perfectly on-target.

          Beancounters see salary and associated costs, and nothing else. And that view rewards them next quarter after a replacement with many dollars. Later in the year, when the second hire has to be made, the beancounter's sole reaction will be to make sure it's the cheapest person they can find -- and there is no realization that the entire cost came from the beancounter's error in the first place.

          • There is a battle going on between the bean counters and the front line management. Bean counters want very specific and cheat labor. Front line management wants workers that can get the job done. Sometime front management wins and folks with good experience are hired. Sometimes the damn bean counters win and cheap is hired. Often the quality of the final product is determined by worker qualities that are very hard to measure and put a specific price on. A project's level of those hard to measure qu
      • I wasn't aware that there were either laws that require employers to pay older workers significantly higher salaries than fresh graduates or that older workers would rather starve and go homeless than work for a lower salary.

      • by Dutch Gun (899105)

        Typically companies wants someone with exactly 5 or 10 years of experience and no more. After that, employees start costing more than they're worth.

        I'm curious... "costing more than they're worth"... I had thought that that most IT workers are not unionized. Am I mistaken? I get paid what I do because my employer and I have negotiated that value on my initial hiring. At subsequent years they've increased my salary to compensate for my performance and increased experience. If I don't agree with the pay rate, I'm free to try to re-negotiate or find a higher paying job.

        Is someone forcing these companies to pay employees based on some time-based salary

  • Experience trumps (Score:4, Informative)

    by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @11:38AM (#38927027) Journal
    Chances are the new grads skills are fresher, but not as applicable as someone who's been in the field actively working. Hands-on experience is worth a lot...
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by wvmarle (1070040)

      There are reasons to hire a fresh grad and there are reasons to hire an older more experienced worker. Salary is one of them. Skills is one of them. Experience is one of them. If a company thinks a fresh grad is worth $60k and can get one for $60k, they may just hire him. If they think an experienced guy is worth $120k, but they ask $150k, then they may just not hire him.

      Is that experience really worth 2 1/2 fresh grads? Or is it worth 2 fresh grads? It depends. And maybe the more experienced people indeed

      • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @12:44PM (#38927563)

        And maybe the more experienced people indeed do have to consider lowering their sights.

        Or maybe (just maybe) employers and government officials should stop stabbing them in the back ... because that is precisely what they've been doing. And as America's decline from the pre-eminent industrial power to another third-world outfit looking for a handout continues, you'll eventually begin to understand what I mean. Sometimes you do have to take care of your own.

    • by NeoMorphy (576507)

      Chances are the new grads skills are fresher, but not as applicable as someone who's been in the field actively working. Hands-on experience is worth a lot...

      Are they really fresher? Let's think about that for a moment. Did they stop using textbooks? How new are those textbooks? Who's teaching those courses? There's a lag time in college education, and if they're lucky, it was new two years ago(at best), but it wasn't new when they learned it. Again, I could be way off, but do colleges normally bring in the latest technology the moment it comes out, continuously?

      When we have to refresh our skills, it's probably on technology that came out in the past year and is

  • Not Just Workers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mikkeles (698461) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @11:40AM (#38927035)

    So if you're an employer who can hire a CEO fresh out of college who is making $60,000 versus an older wanker who is making $15,000,000 , and the younger MBA has skills that are fresher, who would you hire?

  • Leading question. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by forkfail (228161) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @11:40AM (#38927039)

    So if you're an employer who can hire a worker fresh out of college who is making $60,000 versus an older worker who is making $150,000, and the younger worker has skills that are fresher, who would you hire?

    Fresher? Skills aren't vegetables. The older guy is also the wiser and more experienced. He knows the meta behind the skills, and what will work, and what won't. And if he's worth his titles, he has been constantly learning throughout his career. He knows how to be part of a team (even if he never grew into liking to "work with others"), and how to get things done.

    The young guy is going to make a lot of mistakes. What he has is energy and drive, and fresh ideas. But too often, he'll work for 20 hours when an hour of thought would have led to a four hour solution that works better - a solution that would have occurred instantly to the old guy. He'll get the job done, but it won't have the eloquence that the older guy would have brought to the table. Many of his ideas will be naive, but through sheer force of will and energy, he'll make them work. But it'll be ten years before he has the experience to even come close to the depth and perception of the older engineer.

    (Obviously, written by someone who's paid their dues for a couple of decades, and is still doing so.)

    • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @11:50AM (#38927121) Homepage Journal

      You know this. I know this. Most people on /. know this. Most people who actually do any meaningful work know this.

      But the MBA class, the new nobility, who have thoroughly established their control over the corporate world and are doing their level best to take over other environments as well (the military, medicine, and academia are the places where I've seen it happening; I'm sure there are plenty of others) don't know this, or if they do, they don't care. To them, we're all peasants, and peasants don't have "skills." We're more or less interchangeable, and the only real distinction between us is that younger peasants will work for a smaller portion of scraps and take longer to drop dead in the fields.

      • by amiga3D (567632) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @12:12PM (#38927279)

        Sadly you've been moderated funny. I have no mod points but your comment is dead on insightful. This is exactly what is happening in the US. I remember when Made in the US meant so much, now it's no different from Made in China because the desire is to make money not products. The idea is to turn out cheap shitty products at a profit and sell extended warranties that cost more than the products themselves cost to produce. The days of a 15 year old washing machine are gone.

    • by usuallylost (2468686) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @11:57AM (#38927179)
      All to often management is willing to accept the mistakes new people are going to make simply because it helps the bottom line short term. You layoff an experienced engineer making $150,000 and replace him with a fresh out of college guy making $60,000. In the short term the manager cuts the cost of his division and looks more profitable. If they have costs later on because of some problem that the more experienced guy would have simply avoided so what. By the time that happens the manager who made the decision will have usually pocketed his bonuses and moved on. So it is the next guy who is suddenly stuck fixing whatever went wrong. From my point of view this is just more of the same MBA mentality that is one of the factors wrecking American business.
    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday February 04, 2012 @12:28PM (#38927421) Homepage

      Fresher? Skills aren't vegetables. The older guy is also the wiser and more experienced. He knows the meta behind the skills, and what will work, and what won't.

      He also has a chance of having acquired bad habits and/or prejudices that are going to be harder to train out.
       

      And if he's worth his titles, he has been constantly learning throughout his career. He knows how to be part of a team (even if he never grew into liking to "work with others"), and how to get things done.

      Between the two quotes above and most of the unquoted remainder - it seems you really need to read about the "No True Scotsman [wikipedia.org]" fallacy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 04, 2012 @11:44AM (#38927071)

    I have seen that Germany will require foreign visa holders to be paid some premium over the going rate. It may have been 5% or so. This ensures foreign visa holders are not economic replacements, but have a specific skill that is in short supply.

    • As then people coming out of school will have real skills and not just people who area cheaper and replace older works that and end up F*ing up as they don't know what they are doing and the people who do have to come back some times at X2 - X3 what they used to be paid to fix it.

      The HB1 come for places where there is a lot more cheating in schools as well. Now with a real apprenticeships system that can fix that may letting people get tested in a real work place.

    • by amiga3D (567632) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @12:20PM (#38927355)

      Now that's an idea I like. Force them to pay foreigners more than they would a US worker. Thus they don't have an incentive to hire foreigners unless the shortage is real and when the shortage goes away they'll hire US workers. No wonder Germany manages to continue to be successful even though the EU flounders.

      • This is an idea that might have worked 20 years ago.

        But most of the US companies are global companies now. They don't need to import workers. They can simply hire them in the other country.

        The other major point is that free trade and globalization push the cost of labor to equalize globally. What is the 'fair wage' of an engineer? Same as a manufacturing workers... its the globally competitive wage.

        Now put an end to free trade if you want. That's another debate. But I'd rather have globally competitiv

    • by St.Creed (853824) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @12:23PM (#38927381)

      In The Netherlands there is a minimum wage they have to earn to get a certain visum. This is a rather high salary, but for a skilled engineer it would be reasonable (about 1.5 times the median income). For random labor it would be way too high. So this ensures that you can get skilled labor, but not cheaper than local skilled labor.

  • Sometimes if you want experience you're better off paying up for the older engineer.
  • Fresher skills? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hawguy (1600213) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @11:59AM (#38927195)

    What does "Fresher skills" even mean? The only skills I've seen someone fresh out of college have are coding skills. That's not the same as software development skills. That 45 year old developer that cut his teeth on C/C++ can pick up Ruby in a short time, but it's going to take the fresh college graduate years before he learns the skills he needs to work on a large development effort as a part of a team. Granted, there are exceptions to both rules. Sometimes the 45 year old doesn't want to learn anything new, and sometimes the college grad is some kind of programming god. But what I've usually seen happen is that the senior members of the team end up cleaning up after the junior members.

    What is true, of course, is that the new college grad is often willing to work for more hours and less pay than the older guy. But then, the older guy never comes in hung over and rarely breaks his leg on a ski trip or while mountain biking (I've had both happen to 20-something year old employees). And he's less likely to job hop -- one thing managers tend to underestimate is the cost of losing an employee because of all of the institutional knowledge that leaves with them.

    The best hiring decision I made was bringing in a 50 year old developer to work on a project that had been developed by our young, bright team. The project was becoming unmaintainable, bugs were adding up and the team was falling behind. The senior guy helped rearchitect the software to make it not only more maintainable, but more scalable - the newly designed product was more easily scaled horizontally and it needed about 30% less hardware to run. Th funny thing is that since we were competing with startups, we were paying some of the younger team members more than the more senior guy.

    • by Terrasque (796014)

      That 45 year old developer that cut his teeth on C/C++ can pick up Ruby in a short time

      Sadly, this is not always true [dirtsimple.org] - example 2 [wordaligned.org]

      Modern, dynamic languages are pretty neat. They allows you to easily do things that would have been impossible or extremely hard in more traditional languages.

      But you do need the right mindset for it. Sadly, most of the python/ruby code I see from java / C programmers are .. well... Java/C programming with different words and syntax. That way you got both the disadvantages of the old languages AND the disadvantages of the new languages.

      It can take a while to get fu

  • by lkcl (517947) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Saturday February 04, 2012 @11:59AM (#38927201) Homepage

    this is a misrepresentation of what President Barack Obama actually said. he said he would *investigate*, by putting this guy's resume in front of companies and ask them the pointed question of why such skilled engineers are not being prioritised for jobs. he didn't say "i'll find you a job".

    what was actually much more stunning to my mind was the fact that it appears that the U.S. has a President who is willing to say "I Don't Know The Answer Right Now". he did it incredibly subtly: he said something along the lines of "this is very interesting and i too would like to find out what the answer is", which is just... it takes my breath away that he could be that sensible.

    i thought politicians were supposed to be ignorant, arrogant and had to pretend to have all the answers - or at least to be intelligent enough to give the impression of being arrogant. although i fully appreciate that in the case of George W. Bush (jr), his ultra-low IQ means that he really was genuinely ignorant ["if the president of Ireland needs anything, anything at all, he only has to ask, now excuse me i gotta go get a burger"].

    • by M. Baranczak (726671) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @12:33PM (#38927471)

      what was actually much more stunning to my mind was the fact that it appears that the U.S. has a President who is willing to say "I Don't Know The Answer Right Now".

      I don't think that's what's happening. Obama's a lawyer. One of the first things they teach lawyers is: when examining a witness in court, don't ask a question unless you already know the answer. And in this case, the answer is pretty obvious: when those companies say that they can't find workers, what they really mean is that they can't find schmucks who'll work 60 hours a week for third-world wages. Obama just wants them to admit it publicly.

      Either that, or he had to say something to get rid of the guy, and threw out some "we'll look into it" bullshit.

  • WTF is wrong with US election campaigns? Are voters really that dumb to base their decisions on single cases like Joe the Plumber?

    If this continues, there will soon only be professional actors at campaign events and the candidate that has most money to pay for actors will be the one who wins.

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @12:04PM (#38927231)

    As old people cost more to have health care.

  • It's the new rage. We're all going to be fine even though only me and my pals are. You should hope for the best because me and my friends are hoping alongside you.
  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @12:10PM (#38927259)
    Clearly the president is totally out of touch with the Jobs situation... but I can understand the hiring companies point of view. I work on a team of 2... and my co-worker went out sick about 6months ago... I've been screwed ever since. Management finally decided that he might not be coming back so we started the interview process last week. We had 3 kinds of candidates: 1. Kids, currently in school, usually for the wrong thing with no practical experience. 2. Guy's with several masters degrees in multiple fields. Knew every programming language I'd ever heard of, had worked at Google, Apple, IBM, ATT, and every other hightech giant you could think of... but had been out of work for a year or more... and were asking a minimum of $150k. 3. Older people that only knew 2 or 3 languages, usually something like Cobol, show no interest in learning anything new despite our assurances that we'll pay for classes. I actually had one guy tell me "Oh I could do that (referring to an example I gave him of something I written) but I'd do it in Cobol." Well, we don't use that... no one here works on that... how are we supposed to maintain it? These guys still wanted $75k+ This is an entry level position... for someone with limited but at least some experience in a languages that are less that 20yrs old. If you've got 30 years of experience in languages left over from the 70's, well yea... there aren't jobs out there for that.

    Then we have our interns from India. We asked one of them for help until we find someone and she said "Ok" went home, learned the relevant material over the weekend and came in Monday already swimming circles around me. Luckily for me the interns are very transient and never stay in one place for long. They're always looking for the better job, or going off to get married (their weddings are 2 month long deals) and the Job I have really needs someone that knows the inner workings of the company and how all our tables fit together.
    • Re:lol (Score:5, Funny)

      by St.Creed (853824) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @12:26PM (#38927407)

      Then we have our interns from India. We asked one of them for help until we find someone and she said "Ok" went home, learned the relevant material over the weekend and came in Monday already swimming circles around me. Luckily for me the interns are very transient and never stay in one place for long. They're always looking for the better job, or going off to get married (their weddings are 2 month long deals) and the Job I have really needs someone that knows the inner workings of the company and how all our tables fit together.

      I see a win-win if you propose to her :)

  • I have seen projects run like this and management literally does not understand that one set of skills may be absolutely meaningless compared to the older way of doing things if the experience delta is high enough. For example, you may have the freshest "hot skills," but the senior guy making 2.5x more can actually get the work done in a "fuddy duddy language" like Java or C# in substantially less time and under budget. When you do contract work, that's what matters. A typical customer doesn't give a rat's

  • by coolioisay (2567387) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @12:14PM (#38927295)

    So, as a hiring manager, I would say most media views on this really miss the mark. Reduced wages is not what motivates H1-B support (at least in my experience), because there is typically a legal cost to the company in supporting that hire, especially if they decide they want to get a green card and your want to retain them. The reality is simply this: finding good people in the tech sector is very hard. You see many candidates who claim to have the skills, but when you test the candidate they frequently disappoint. When you finally find a candidate that you feel would be a fit for the position, you don't want anything to stand in the way of hiring them, like their visa status.

    The (older == wiser) || (older == expensive) versus (younger == cheaper) debate is kind of misrepresented too. What it frequent turns out to be is (older == set in their ways) versus ( younger == eager to learn). Now I'll be the first to say I've hired older candidates that were eager to learn new things and their prior experience typically makes that process go much faster and smoother than for younger candidates. But (my perception of) reality is that "older and more experienced" candidates typically come to the interview looking to do what they know rather looking to grow. Maybe some employers like that, but tech companies tend to prefer people who will grow with the company.

    • Corporations use H1-B visas for the same reason they offshore: getting foreigners to do the same job for less money. Yet you never hear of VP's getting fired and replaced with cheap MBA's from India at 1/10th the cost....

      The reality is simply this: finding good people in the tech sector is very hard when you want to pay them below market rates

      Fixed that up a bit, as the whole purpose of the H1-B visa program is to depress wages. See: when companies like IBM laid off 5,000 workers while continuing to impo

  • What job has a salary range of 60,000 to 150,000? Look at the Federal Govt pay scale for the DFW area, http://www.opm.gov/oca/12tables/pdf/DFW.pdf [opm.gov] Note, you would see that a entry level engineer (no adv degree) is a GS-9 about 55,000 whereas a senior level manager, GS-15, pay tops out at about 150,000. Personally I doubt that a senior level manager could do the tasks assigned to the entry level engineer any better than the new hire, except of course design powerpoint slides. In really, the important

  • I dont get this. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by unity100 (970058) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @12:21PM (#38927369) Homepage Journal

    i dont get why you people complain about this, after subjecting yourself to, supporting, praising and furthering the capitalist system you have been living in through all these decades.

    capitalist system seeks to maximize profits of the stakeholders. anyone who is not holding a stake, is expendable as long as s/he is replaceable.

    huge short term gains at the cost of anything, enabled through 'deregulation' for the sake of free market is the epitome of this. if you just sit and evaluate this equation, you will find that anything is justifiable as long as it flies - from destruction of oceans to near-slavery. and the wealth amassed furthers the power of the wealth owner to turn everything from public (non)opinion to justice/law in their favor. its circular.

    what did you expect in such an environment ? goodwill ? social responsibility ? decency ?

    or, did you think that being a better, more experienced engineer (through age or other means) would increase your value ?

    well, they just made society get used to accepting subpar products/services in everything, then they replaced you with those who would do shabbier jobs for cheaper......

    in a dog eat dog society, you cant expect decency.

    the ultimate end of this is, practical aristocracy/monarchy/empire with a seemingly 'democratic' storefront (late roman empire) and after the point society gets used to it, outright aristocracy/monarchy/empire (roman empire after octavianus).

  • President lawnchair took the pro-big-business action that lead to this guy losing his job. Now he's giving lip service to the guy's predicament but not doing anything meaningful to help the rest of the millions of people who have lost their jobs under these three consecutive bush administration terms.

    The only thing Obama accomplishes in this action is he helps secure his own reelection. There is not a single republican contender who would have done anything any differently, which makes it senseless and wasteful to vote for any of them to take over and keep doing the same exact shit.
  • Fallacy... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @12:28PM (#38927427) Homepage

    "So if you're an employer who can hire a worker fresh out of college who is making $60,000 versus an older worker who is making $150,000, and the younger worker has skills that are fresher, who would you hire?'"

    the graduates skills are NOT fresher. i have never EVER met a new grad that had "fresher skills" than someone who has actually worked in the field for even just a few years.

    Who are these very poorly educated hiring managers that actually believe that a recent grad has "fresher" skills? I buy the "we are chepskates" angle but no way in hell a grad knows even 1/10th of what a experienced professional knows about a field.

  • by lophophore (4087) on Saturday February 04, 2012 @01:10PM (#38927819) Homepage

    The cry of the software industry "I can't get any experienced developers" in America is bullshit.

    What they can't get is experienced developers who will work for peanuts.

    A company can outsource a development job to India for around $20/hour, and not have to pay FICA, health insurance, etc. on that. Compared to paying a decent fresh-out a salary of $60-70K, plus taxes and benefits, that's over twice the cost of the outsourced labor.

    The same is true for H1-B visa holders. By law, they are supposed to be paid at the "prevailing wage", which means ~$25/hour around here. Trust me, they are not getting paid the same as a similarly qualified American. Again, this is way cheaper than hiring a decent fresh-out.

    In both cases, the H1-B or outsourced, overseas labor is likely less (way less!) than half the price of hiring a competent American developer. However, there is a steep price to be paid elsewhere. The H1-B or outsourced developer is a mercenary, available to the highest bidder. He has no loyalty to the company, and, if offshore, is hard to pursue if IP is wrongfully appropriated. He knows his employment is temporary from the start, there is no need to develop for the future. Get the job done, and move along. It will be somebody else's problem next year.

    Still, short-sighted management seeks the best numbers on quarterly P&L statements. Long term value is sacrificed for short term gains. Management makes their numbers and makes their bonus. They don't understand the business, or just don't care about the long term viability of the business. Software development (and probably semiconductor engineering) is not like manufacturing, where human automatons repeat the same tasks endlessly. Development is both a skill and a craft, and both grow over the developer's career. Development is also unlike manufacturing, where manufacturing creates the same product over and over again, a worker may become more adept at that one task, software grows and morphs from release to release, and this is where the high turn of H1-B and offshore workers really hurts a company. Product knowledge and domain knowledge, acquired over years, is what seasoned developers (and engineers) have, and what makes them worth the money.

    Industry lobbyists cry "we cannot get good help" and bribe Congress to allow more cheap temporary foreign labor in. This is good, short term, for the companies that hire these mercenaries. It is bad, short term for the American worker who's job is displaced. It's bad, long term, for technical professions in America; how can you convince a young person to study for a career that has no future? It is also bad, long term, for all Americans, to see well-paying jobs disappear, and our economy, once the most powerful in the world, shrivel like a raisin in the sun.

    If ol' Barack is serious about this problem, the H1-B visa cap should be proportionally adjusted based on unemployment numbers of American engineers. 4% unemployment for engineers? Let some H1-Bs in. 6% unemployment for engineers? Let NONE in.

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