Future of IT in USA?

Posted by Phil Weber on March 8, 2003

Over in the FTPOnline discussion groups, Ray asks:

Now that foreign H-1Bs have flooded the IT job market in the USA and many firms are simply "off-shoring" their IT work to Asia, is there a future?

First of all, I'm not sure I accept that "H-1Bs have flooded the IT job market in the USA." What exactly does that mean? Are there more H-1B workers than Americans in the U.S. IT industry? I think not. But setting that aside for the moment...

I think there is a future for IT professionals who are willing to adapt in order to remain competitive in today's changing market.

In the 1970s, the U.S. auto industry faced stiff competition from Japan. Protectionism didn't work; Americans bought Japanese cars because they offered consumers what they wanted: improved fuel efficiency at lower cost. In order to compete, Detroit had to adapt in order to meet Americans' needs as effectively as the Japanese were.

Similarly, if U.S. companies are hiring H-1B employees or sending IT work offshore, it's because foreign workers are meeting those companies' needs better than Americans are willing or able to. In order to compete, Americans must adapt: Are we willing to relocate to where the jobs are? Are we willing to work as diligently as foreign workers without demanding unreasonably high compensation? If coding becomes a commodity, are we willing to learn new skills, such as architecture, design, or project management, to distinguish ourselves and justify the salaries we desire?

Where do Americans work in, say, the garment industry? Hint: It's not in the sewing sweatshops. We learned long ago that, to make a decent wage in that industry, we needed to learn new skills to justify that wage. The IT industry now faces a similar situation. Those willing to adapt will remain competitive and employable; the others should perhaps consider changing careers. Or moving to India.


Posted by T. Hoskins on March 22, 2003:

I don’t agree with what you wrote. Although, I will admit that much of the industry tends to act as if most developers currently work in a Tayloristic work environment.

Your analogies don’t work.

First, the government did step in and help out the auto industry. Why do you think Japanese car manufacturers started building automotive plants in the USA?

Second, how can you compare sitting in front of a sewing machine to writing/maintaining software? Sewing (at least in a factory setting) doesn’t take much skill to perform. Btw, I worked in the garment industry a long time ago (shipping/receiving).

Move to India? I know you thought you were being witty, but give me a break. Indian firms located in the U.S. typically won’t hire Americans. What makes you think this attitude would be any different for Americans who actually wouldn’t mind moving to India?

Now having said all of this, I don’t have a problem with large companies sending their IT work offshore. If workers living in their own country can do a better job developing software than Americans then I say more power to them. However, the H-1B visa program should be abolished because it is nothing more than a subsidy program for corporate America.

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