Think your job is safe? Think again. The smartest thing an established tech worker can do is to keep one’s head on a swivel.
This article deals with outsourcing. It does not assume a position as to the good or bad of outsourcing. It does not deal with changing economies, protectionism, globalization, the Internet or the natural evolution of economic markets in a rapidly changing world. It simply acknowledges the factual existence of this phenomenon and how you, as a technologist, can protect the job you have worked so hard to obtain.
Let’s start with some numbers: According to Forrester Research, offshore programming jobs have nearly tripled from 27,000 to an estimated 80,000 as reported in a recent issue of Business Week.
There are of course a myriad of other statistics that can be cited but that is not necessary. Off shoring of technical positions is on the upswing and the trend will probably continue. American technologists are competing for positions with any person or group of persons in possession of a computer and an internet connection. That alarming fact is highly problematic and would certainly concern me if I were, for example, a software engineer. I am not privy to the private meetings being held at the most senior levels of leadership but I can assure you some of the largest and most battle hardened organizations are staying up nights trying to send your position overseas. Nothing personal really, they can simply save a great deal of money, if they can get the same work done for twenty cents on the dollar. Is it really the same work? Are there cultural issues? Is this just a temporary speed bump for the United States workforce? The answers do not matter. History will ultimately tell the tale. But as the short term thinking capital of the planet, American business sees dollars dropping to the bottom line because payroll is usually the most controllable expense and the more jobs that go overseas, the better the numbers begin to look.
Let’s be blunt. If you are a technologist, there is a chance that your position will be outsourced some time down the road. If you think that this can’t happen to you, I think you have to change you viewpoint right quick. In the interest of your career at the least and survival at the most, let me ask you a question:
Are you absolutely certain they can’t send your job overseas? If your answer is “yes” you are in the greatest danger of all – because you feel safe and comfortable in an economy that offers neither at the moment. To reside in that zone of perception is a very dangerous reality and I just can’t help thinking you are really smarter than that. The point of this article is singular and simple; I want to help save your job because historically speaking, once jobs are lost to another part of the world, they are gone forever.
With no time to loose and a solid acceptance that the best defense is a good offense, let’s get right to the point. If you want to do all you can to save your position and make sure no one envisions the work you do as a commodity, I suggest you consider, very carefully, the following six items and see how you can inculcate the thinking behind them into your career:
1. Do not plan to write code for your entire career. There is very little future for a person who only does programming. I do not care what language you program in, how elegant your code might be or how much you love to sit there and be a developer. (If you love to sit there and code, do it on weekends and after work.) Code is a commodity and can be done for less by other people for less money. Much less money. Try to think of coding as the beginning of a career; like the mailroom in a large company perhaps; a great place to start but not the kind of thing you want to do for your entire professional existence.
2. Learn to communicate effectively: Let’s break this down into public speaking and writing: Public speaking is a critical skill; through this type of forum you are sharing your knowledge in a training session, at a seminar or in workshop form. Learning to do public speaking is becoming a “must have” competency. Consider joining Toastmasters, taking a speech course, or joining some group that encourages public speaking. You will pick up the skills of public speaking more quickly than you ever thought possible and the more you do it, the better and easier it will become. Your value and confidence will increase dramatically because you will not only be able to do your job but have the ability to speak about it to the world as well. Public speaking is not an easy thing to send overseas. Learn how to write. So much of your value comes not from what you do but what you know. Residing on the flip side of public speaking is the ability to write well. With this you will have developed another critical skill that will work wonders down the road. Writing is far easier than you think. People always tell me they would love to write but don’t know how. My advice is always the same: Get a pen and start to write. You have to start somewhere, and that’s as good a place as any. There are endless writing workshops and college courses to help you to fine-tune this craft and you will be amazed how easy it will become. I also suggest you locate a good editor because that individual will polish your words and make your writing even better.
3. Develop people skills: I am such a fervent believer in the necessity of employing people skills that I just wrote a book about it. People skills are one of the new orders of business and a core competency that one absolutely must develop and utilize every day. Gone are the days of developers who sit in the corner and code, snarling at the world and avoiding human interaction. As organizations mature and develop partnerships with other countries and other organizations, it is vitally important to be able to manage relationships, politics and alliances at all levels and under all business conditions. Having good people skills is a clear and definitive path towards meeting this objective. If you become the person who can pull teams together, support communication and make things happen, that will be of tremendous value. Furthermore, it will support another dimension of making your position and perceived value within the organization more visible and the argument to keep your job here a good business decision.
4. Move into the people part of the business: Learn how to deal with customers, work with vendors and interact with management in ways that satisfy the needs and objectives of the organization. Furthermore, develop the fine art and science of managing people and projects. There is now and will continue to be a tremendous need for the human touch; for the relationship, mentoring and leadership skills required to get projects in on time and within budget. Whether you are managing people and projects in New York or New Delhi the bottom line is the same. This elusive talent is of great value and will support the notion that you are slowly becoming a person who is of great value to the organization.
5. Learn how to sell: There is no person in business today who should not see bringing in new business is part of the over all responsibility to the organization. New business is the lifeblood of every business looking to grow, prosper and create a stable situation for their employees. As you become the business oriented technologist you will need to be, you really have to look for problems that technical solutions can solve and examine the possibilities with either your client or your own organization. (Or both.) Either way, you will be known as the person who opened the door to new revenue and business opportunity in what will probably continue to be highly competitive marketplaces. This is clearly above and beyond the calling of what you were used to doing but understand this; people who go above and beyond while generating revenue all at the same time will probably not have their job outsourced because losing this employee would be a serious mistake.
6. Consider consulting: Many technologists believe they are not cut out to be consultants. This is true at times but not as often as one might think; most of us have far more skills and untapped potential than they ever thought possible. (Besides, you do not have to consult alone. You can work for a consulting firm if you like.) Business savvy individuals that have the ability to understand organizational problems and provide cost effective solutions while partnering with senior management to act as high level business and strategic partners that support organizations long-term organizational objectives have little to worry about as it relates to outsourcing. That level of experience and value has management staying up nights figuring out ways to keep you on the team as opposed to sending your job overseas.
There was a time when all you had to do was get a good education, find a stable job and all would be well with the world. That time is gone. Doing your job today means much more than doing your job. It now involves developing a well planned and carefully thought out career management and development plan that will map your progress to skills and requirements that can’t be outsourced. At worst, this will provide you with a greater degree of stability. At best, it can provide you with a career that you never dreamed possible. Always remember that you, to a great degree, control your career. I suggest that you strongly consider the recommendations I have made. By doing this, you never give up that control and ultimately have more input into where your career and not incidentally your job, winds up residing.
Howard Adamsky ([email protected]) is the Founder and President of HR Innovators, Inc. (www.hrinnovators.com).