A true WTF. The comments are especially revealing. I look forward to the day a displaced IBM-er takes a gun to their "GDF" and gets some retribution.

"IBM’s 2015 plan was hatched to deliver $20 earnings-per-share to the delight of Wall Street. IBMers were offered a carrot, a few shares of stock granted at the end of 2015, as a reward for helping them achieve that target. It appears that IBM’s goal is not to issue any of those grants as they continue to conduct resource actions (IBMspeak for permanent layoffs) and remove talented and valuable US employees in favor of moving work to low cost countries such as Brazil, Argentina, India, China and Russia.

Work that stays onshore is mainly sent to what are called Global Delivery Facilities (GDF’s), two of which were created at heritage IBM locations (Poughkeepsie, NY and Boulder, CO) while starting new ones in Dubuque, IA and most recently Columbia, MO. IBM’s public position is they are creating jobs in smaller towns when in fact they are displacing workers from other parts of the US by moving jobs to these GDFs or to offshore locations.

In the case of Dubuque and Columbia, IBM secured heavy incentives from state and local governments to minimize their costs in these locations and are achieving further savings by paying the technical team members, most of whom are new hires or fresh college grads with no experience, a fraction of what experienced support personnel would require.

Let’s look closer at Dubuque, not because it is any different from the rest of IBM USA but simply to characterize the company at a finer scale.

When IBM opened the Dubuque center the people of Iowa were expecting great things.  The center was staffed by a small number of US IBMers in management positions.  IBM then brought over people from India for “training,” then sent them back.  Few H1B visas were even required.

Every time IBM sent a batch of trainees back to India from Iowa they laid off US workers.  While Dubuque was led to believe they’d get an influx of highly-paid new residents, what the city actually received was a transient workforce of underpaid people — workers that may well be invisible to local government.  It would be interesting to know how many permanent hires in Dubuque have been Iowa residents or graduates of Iowa universities?  How many workers spend less than a year in Dubuque?  Is Iowa seeing any benefit from the investment they made to open the IBM Dubuque center?

Whenever IBM has a big project they now have to bring in extra workers, usually from India.  I have been told they plan the arrivals over several days to a few weeks.  They route people through different airports.  They make sure there are never more than two or three workers coming on the same flight, effectively avoiding notice by Homeland Security.

Are any of these people paying FICA or US income taxes?  Good question. Why is IBM sneaking around? Better question.

With hundreds of thousands of laid-off IT workers in the USA, why can’t American workers be hired for these positions? Because IBM doesn’t want US employees. Or, for that matter, European employees, though these are harder to jettison.

Layoffs at IBM are rarely due to job performance, though complaining will get you sacked. IBM tends to position these actions as job eliminations, but jobs aren’t usually eliminated, they are just relocated to GDF or GR locations staffed by cheaper workers. IBM manages to skirt the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requiring advance notification of layoffs or plant closings by structuring these resource actions to stay just below the numbers required to provide notifications at given locations. In this way IBM has managed to avoid the mainstream media and touts itself as a good corporate citizen while continuing to expect remaining employees to work 60-70 or more hours per week to keep up with the amount of work.

These draconian tactics might be justified if survival of the company or the best interests of the customer were involved, but they aren’t. It’s mainly about executive compensation. Meanwhile IBM’s work for customers is becoming increasingly shoddy. Contract terms such as vulnerability scanning, ID revalidations, and security implementations are routinely late or not done at all. Account teams are under continued pressure to meet revenue and cost targets regardless of how poorly the contracts were structured by the sales team. Each business sector has a target to move a certain percentage of their technical work to an offshore Global Resource (GR) or onshore Global Delivery Facility (GDF) as mentioned above.

IBM’s goal appears to be to have as few employees in the US as possible, maximizing profit.  But doing so clearly hurts customer satisfaction.

Major IBM customers such as Amgen, The State of Texas, and most recently the Walt Disney Company have cut ties with IBM in favor of other providers. Many other customers are scaling back the services they’re buying from IBM as the perceived value continues to drop. Customers are starting to realize that they can directly hire offshore companies such as TCS, Wipro, HCL and Satayam and book the savings directly instead of paying IBM top dollar for support and then seeing that support fulfilled from BRIC countries.

When IBM first started its big push to offshore technical work, the account teams were asked to make a list of reasons why customers’ work couldn’t be offshored, but were not allowed to use skills as a reason. That makes no sense in a rational organization but it makes perfect sense to IBM."

http://www.cringely.com/2012/04/somethings-rotten-in-IBM-dubuque/


Tunnel Rat posted on April 12, 2012 22:06

The beginning of the end for SLUMDOG SLAVETRADE:

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7405064n

"...The Indians had no knowledge at all..."


Indian IT firms are heading for a fall

Response to visa-related lawsuits indicates that Indian services firms don't fully understand the American system

Patrick Thibodeau
 

April 6, 2012 (Computerworld)

India's IT firms understand software, but not America.

It is the American character not to back down, and to fight for what is right. Our children are taught this from their earliest ages. Even new arrivals, immigrants or people on work visas are quick to grasp this essential truth.

America's institutions reflect the national character. Our political system encourages sharp and hard contests. Our legal system facilitates a fight, as India's IT companies are now learning.

Three of India's largest IT outsourcing firms, Infosys Technologies, Larsen & Toubro InfoTech and Tata Consultancy Services, are involved in lawsuits filed against them by current and former employees.

The lawsuits are a problem for each of the companies. But taken together, the cases are a major threat to the Indian IT industry in America.

India's IT firms are dependent on American businesses for about half of their revenue. They can't operate in this country without work visas, such as H-1B and L-1 visas.

Thus the allegations by employees of visa misuse and harassment have broad implications and are attracting federal investigators and congressional oversight.

MORE...


Uh, no shit.  I bet Andrew Wasser starts getting death threats from the Indian Outsourcing Regime, or a slumdog CMU student throws acid in his face.

IT Outsourcing System Is Broken, How Can Service Providers Fix It?

– Stephanie Overby, CIO

March 29, 2012 

 

Andrew Wasser's perch affords him a broad view of the IT outsourcing industry. Wasser serves as associate dean of the Heinz College's School of Information Systems and Management at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), where a third of the graduate students studying applied business and information technology are refugees from the IT services industry. He has oversight over many of CMU's business projects that are commissioned by a virtual who's who of the outsourcing industry -- providers, clients and consultancies. And, as a veteran financial services CIO and director of CMU's CIO Institute, he has an intimate understanding of the outsourcing practitioner's point of view.

From his multidimensional perspective, one thing is clear: The outsourcing system is broken. Heck, if you go by the old saw that defines insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, it's downright crazy. The vendors say they are strategic partners, but they are in fact neither strategic nor partners. Both providers and customers say they want to create more business value and innovation, but neither is making the changes necessary to do that.

CIO.com talked to Wasser about what ails the outsourcing industry -- from talent gaps and process devotion to closed-off clients and poor communication -- and what, if anything, could turn things around.

CIO.com: You have a particular interest in the growing talent gap in the global sourcing industry. What is the state of offshore outsourcing recruiting?

Wasser: As important as what we are seeing is why we are seeing it.

My bias is in looking at the big Indian firms -- Infosys, Wipro, Cognizant, TCS -- and to some extent the Accentures, IBMs and captive centers. In the beginning when you talked to a tier-one sourcing [firm], they would tell you, "We get the best of the best." They made offers only to the top 0.5 percent at the universities. And they may still tell you that today, but the reality is quite different.

Because of increased competition and a shortage of talent, they have had to go much deeper into the pool of students and go to second and third-level schools. They are no longer getting the best and the brightest. It's no longer a coup to get an offer from Tata because everyone is getting an offer from Tata.

CIO.com: Is that just a result of needing more people? Are they still recruiting the best and brightest as well -- or is that top talent going elsewhere?

Wasser: These firms have hiring targets -- sometimes as many as 5,000 new employees. They may be getting, at best, the top quartile. I don't have a good handle on where the top decile is going. These young professionals entering the sourcing industry end up "going back to school" at Infosys or Cognizant or Tata, which all have their own academies. They take mechanical or chemical engineers and teach them how to be IT engineers, ideally with some client skills. They repackage them.

CIO.com: What's the biggest complaint you hear from outsourcing customers?

Wasser: We see continued frustration from clients that these people are really good order takers, but they are not problem solvers. They are smart -- no question -- but they are not the strategic partners they had hoped they would be.

CIO.com: Can you trace all of that dissatisfaction back to the recruiting issues at the junior level?

Wasser: I have several hypotheses. One issue is what I call the "filter effect." The sourcing firms go to the same affiliate universities and programs year after year. The HR people have a formulaic set of attributes they are looking for. Did they take discrete math or programming one and two? How were their grades? When they can check off all the boxes, they make an offer.

So they are getting students who have done exactly what they were supposed to do. They graduated from high school with good grades. They told their parents they wanted to study history or art. The parents said, "Great, but you're going to be an engineer." They have no gaps in their studies, no blemishes on their records, their extracurriculars are all in place. And when they finally graduate with a chance to do something innovative or unique, they once again do exactly what mom and dad tells them to do -- apply for a job at IBM or Infosys.

Then the firms say, "Why aren't my people innovating?" Well, you filtered out all the people who might innovate -- the guy who took time off to hike the mountains or the girl who tried to start her own t-shirt company or the student who stumbled freshman year because he was interested in guitars and girls. You hired people who are good at doing what they are told and now you wonder why they're only [a] good order taker.

CIO.com: Couldn't the providers teach them how to approach the work differently?

Wasser: I think so. But that gets to what I call the "treatment effect." Once you get into these sourcing companies, they all follow CMM-I or Six Sigma or ITIL. They put in place all these SLAs and metrics and procedures and policies. I have no problem with process frameworks. They have been great for our industry and turned what was a craft into a science. But they do not foster innovation. No one is willing to say, "Hey this might not meet the SLA or it's not ITIL, but here's a novel way to address a business need."

CIO.com: Are these problems only found in the Indian or offshore-centric firms?

Wasser: No. They are all going after the same talent pool. Some firms tend to be more westernized. I would put Cognizant and Accenture and IBM in that mix. But they've all replicated the Indian delivery model, so they are experiencing the same problems.

One of the issues particular to offshore outsourcing is what I call the "texting effect." Whether you are in China or Mexico or India, the [English] speaking and listening and writing skills aren't always great to begin with. Adding to the problem is that engineers are notoriously weak communicators. And if, on top of that, the engineer doesn't understand the business drivers, they're never going to speak the real language of the client.

CIO.com: Do the customers themselves bear any responsibility for the lack of problem solving in their outsourcing engagements?

Wasser: The client holds a whole lot of responsibility. They often don't want to spend much time with the Indian guy -- they don't think he's that fun, he has an accent, and he can't talk about the Syracuse win last night -- that's a problem.

That is tied up with what I call the "context effect." The client tells the vendor what to do but not why they want it done. If I tell you, "Move this box from here to there," and you do not know the context, all you can do is what I tell you. But if you understand the bigger picture, you may realize you can discard some of what's in those boxes, some of it you can scan, and some you can leave behind. There is so much value in understanding the real meaning of what you are trying to accomplish. Context can be especially difficult to gain when a development center is in Monterrey or Chennai. But it is the client's responsibility to share that business context.

CIO.com: What can outsourcing customers and providers do to advance their relationships and foster the innovation they say they want?

Wasser: Some of it is obvious. Who is doing the hiring? How are they doing it? Where are they doing it? If it's the same old HR mindset, you will get the same old results. Why not take a look at the guy who dropped out of school or the music major?

But even more important is how are you incenting these workers? That is going to require some deprogramming on the client side. You can't focus on the strictest service-level agreements and then wonder why the provider didn't innovate. You didn't create an environment for innovation. You need to explain the why, not just the what.

CIO.com: Many of your master's and Ph.D. students came from the IT outsourcing industry to make the switch from order taker to business innovator. Are they going back into IT services?

Wasser: No. Most stay in the U.S. and go to client firms or consulting firms or technology firms.

I tell them that these talent gaps are an opportunity for them. What you want to be is one of [the] people [who] can fill that gap -- that polymath who can look at things from an entrepreneurial perspective. There will always be someone in Pune or Poland that can program more cheaply than you. But what the world needs is business technologists -- IT professionals who understand negotiation and information security and economics and architecture. We are not going to out-MBA the MBA or out-tech the computer scientist. We are filling the sweet spot in between the two. And that's what companies tell us they need.

http://tinyurl.com/6wpss3g


Tunnel Rat posted on March 23, 2012 09:01

So now the slumdogs go after one of the Too-Big-Fail Banks.  Curry Den BofA should be next.  Karma is a bitch.

 

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Wells Fargo laid off H-1B visa workers and denied them tens of thousands of dollars in severance benefits by falsely claiming the workers had resigned, a worker claims in a federal class action. Lead plaintiff Vinay Karamsetty, a web developer, claims Wells Fargo owes him $42,415 plus interest. He claims Wells Fargo, the nation's second-largest bank, executed its unfair scheme "due to the economic climate and Wells Fargo's merger with Wachovia Bank," and that the bank admitted as much in its layoff notices. Karamsetty, whom Wells Fargo hired in 2007, claims the bank violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by denying "employee benefits under an employee benefit plan regulated and governed by ERISA." He says the bank also violated its own Wells Fargo Co. Salary Continuation Pay Plan, which also is named as a defendant. The complaint states: "In April 2009, Wells Fargo made a company-wide decision to not renew any H-1B visas due to the economic climate and Wells Fargo's merger with Wachovia Bank. "As soon as an employee's H-1B visa expires, he loses lawful immigration status and is required to leave the United States Immediately." In doing so, Karamsetty says, "Wells Fargo explained that it made a business decision to displace all H-1B visa holders due to 'the current economic climate and the merger with Wachovia.'" Wells Fargo knew the laid-off workers would have to find another job immediately or leave the country, and by mischaracterizing their termination as "voluntary," it denied them severance benefits, Karamsetty claims. "Wells Fargo exploited this predicament by denying H-1B visa holders any benefits under the plan under the guise that they 'voluntarily' terminated their employment and were thus ineligible for benefits under the plan," the complaint states. "This position was concocted and implemented by a plan administrator with an undisputed conflict of interest, both as a Wells Fargo employee and fellow plan participant." Karamsetty claims Wells Fargo hired the visa workers with promises that they would get severance payments, based on years worked, if they were "displaced" for "business reasons," or subjected to "position elimination." Karamsetty says he and the class are owed benefits under those terms. "In April 2009, Karamsetty and the class members suffered a 'position elimination' under the terms of the plan and became entitled to plan benefits," the complaint states. Karamsetty says that under the plan, he "was, and still is, entitled to a lump sum of $42,415.34, plus interest," since his last day of work, March 1, 2010. He seeks class damages and costs for ERISA violations and discrimination. He is represented by Allison Goddard with the Patterson Law Group.

http://www.courthousenews.com/2012/03/21/44867.htm

 


Tunnel Rat posted on March 5, 2012 01:16

 

Obama turns back on American workers

Exclusive: Tom Tancredo notes: Businesses clamor for visas because they want to pay less

Published: 2 days ago

Last week, the House Immigration Subcommittee held a hearing on H-1B “high skilled” visas to discuss the supposed “problem” that 26 percent of all visa applications were rejected, up from 11 percent five years ago.

Ranking Democrat Zoe Lofgren suggested that these denials are due to arbitrariness and stupidity. She used one anecdotal example of “a recent case in which the USCIS denied an employment-based petition because the adjudicator determined that the company only had USD 15,000 in annual revenues and, therefore, couldn’t possibly pay the worker. It turned out, however, that the adjudicator had failed to note that the figures were listed in thousands. It was actually USD 15 million in revenue.”

You can never underestimate the ineptitude of the federal bureaucracy, and so I have little doubt that cases like this do exist. However, mistakes such as these notwithstanding, H-1B visas need to be greatly reduced because they take jobs away from American citizens.

This debate has gotten more play in the Indian press than in America, with headlines like “Obama warned over H1B visa denials” on ExpressIndia.com. Yet, despite these complaints by Democratic lawmakers and cheap-labor lobbyists, Obama has been completely blind to the plight of American engineers, computer programmers and other Americans whose jobs are being displaced by H-1B visas.

During an online town-hall meeting hosted by Google last month, Obama took a question from Jennifer Wedel, wife of an unemployed engineer in Texas. Noting that Obama had just called for companies to ask what they could do to bring jobs to Americans, she asked Obama, “Why does the government continue to issue and extend H1-B visas when there are tons of Americans, just like my husband, with no job?”

While qualifying that there were not enough civil-engineering jobs because Congress won’t pass his big spending measures, Obama insisted there was a shortage of other types of engineers. He said, “The H-1B should be reserved only for those companies who say they cannot find somebody in that particular field.”

When Mrs. Wedel told him that her husband was a semi-conductor engineer, Obama said, “It is interesting to me” that someone in such a field could not find a job because “the word that we’re getting is that somebody in that type of high-tech field, that kind of engineer, should be able to find something right away.” He then patronizingly asked her to send her husband’s resume to the White House.

Personally, I find it “interesting” that the president is so ignorant about the plight of American engineers. As Steve Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies notes, according to the government’s own numbers there are 101,000 American engineers who are looking for engineering jobs, 244,000 who have left the labor market and 1,470,000 who left the engineering field. That’s 1.8 million Americans with engineering degrees who do not have engineering jobs.

Just two days before Obama mentioned this speech, the Bay Area edition of the New York Times noted that “Cisco Systems, a maker of computer networking equipment … laid off 1,331 workers last year,” and “The semiconductor sector … has lost 4,600 jobs since 2008.”

The reason why big business is clamoring for more H-1B visas is not that there is a shortage of skilled workers, but because they would prefer to pay foreigners less than Americans. There have been several documented cases where American workers were forced to train H-1B guest workers to replace them.

The immigration attorneys who push through these visas make absolutely no allusions. While Rep. Lofgren may be able to point to isolated cases where bureaucratic bungling caused wrongful visa denial, immigrant lawyers make it their policy to get visas approved that should not make it.

In a presentation for fellow immigration attorneys, Lawrence Leibovitz explained his racket “Our goal is clearly not to find a qualified U.S. worker … our objective is to get this person a green card.” He advised his fellow immigration lawyers, “Clearly we are not going to find a place where the applicants are most numerous, we’re going to find a place where – again we’re complying with the law – and hoping and likely not to find qualified worker applicants. If someone looks like they are very qualified, if necessary schedule an interview; go through the whole process to find a legal basis to disqualify them.”

Even Bill Clinton’s secretary of labor, Robert Reich, testified to Congress in 1995 that under the program, a “U.S. employer can now lay off U.S. workers and replace them with H-1B workers” and that the “H-1B program does almost nothing to encourage U.S. employers to develop domestic workers to perform the jobs for which they are seeking non-immigrants, or to limit their dependency on a non-immigrant workforce.”

Nothing was done to address these concerns, and the problem has gotten worse.

Even during the height of the tech boom, virtually all employment in the high-tech sector went to immigrants. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, between 1999 and 2005 332,660 new computer jobs were created by the economy, while the government issued 330,524 H1B visas for computer workers. In others words, 99 percent of all job growth in the computer sector went directly to foreign workers.

That was poor policy during times of economic growth, but it’s sheer insanity in a recession. For all his talk about standing up for middle-class Americans against the 1 percent, when it comes to immigration, Barack Obama is perfectly happy to do the bidding of big business while dismissing the concerns of unemployed Americans.


Tunnel Rat posted on February 24, 2012 10:01

Yeah, what else is new....

Authorities: Debt-Collector Scam Bilked Millions

By MICHAEL TARM Associated Press

A phone scam in which callers in India posed as debt collectors bilked millions of dollars out of more than 10,000 U.S. residents by using threats of arrest or the loss of their jobs, U.S. authorities said Tuesday in what they described as a first-of-its-kind investigation.

Callers drew on personal data snatched from payday loan websites, Federal Trade Commission official Steven Baker said. More than 20 million calls may have been placed over the past two years, with collectors demanding between $300 and $2,000 per call.

Such a far-reaching fraud with so many millions of calls flooding in from India is something investigators haven't seen before and was fostered in part by the plummeting costs of international calls, Baker, the FTC's Midwest director, said.

While federal authorities seem to have put a halt to this one scam by freezing the assets of a California-based business allegedly involved, Baker said other similar scams are almost certainly up and running.

"We think this is just the tip of the iceberg," he said.

Authorities have received more than 4,000 complaints about debt-collection schemes in recent years, said Baker. They describe aggressive, foul-mouthed callers, some of whom claimed to be agents of a nonexistent Federal Department of Crime and Prevention.

JanLaree Dejulius, of Las Vegas, was at work at a university office when she got a call from a man who gave his name as Officer Black. He knew one of her relatives had taken out a payday loan online. If Dejulius didn't pay up, he said he would send someone to her work to arrest her, she said.

"I said, 'Yeah, I'll pay you — whatever it takes (not to get arrested),'" the 57-year-old said at a news conference in Chicago. "I consider myself savvy, but I fell for it." She eventually agreed to pay $763.

Some callers threatened to call victims' bosses or sue them. The scare tactics were so effective that in some instances people agreed to pay hundreds of dollars even though they knew that neither they nor any acquaintances had payday debts, said Baker.

From 2010 to 2012, $5 million was paid in 17,000 transactions to accounts controlled by the alleged fraudsters. The targets included people who applied for loans by punching personal details into a payday site but whose applications were rejected, Baker said.

Payday loans are typically small, very short-term loans with extremely high interest rates that are effectively advances on a borrower's next paycheck. It is often people cash-strapped or living from paycheck to paycheck who use the service, Baker said.

Baker said to guard against scam artists, consumers should demand a written notice with debt amounts and the names of creditors. Debt collectors never have authority to arrest anyone, Baker added.

Asked what advice she'd give to would-be victims if they get a call, Dejulius said they shouldn't give in.

"Call them on it," she said. "Call their bluff if you know you haven't taken out a loan."

Baker said many questions remain unanswered, including how callers obtained such a vast amount of payday-loan information. He said the U.S. government needs help from authorities in India, where it is thought that all of the bogus calls came from.

The FTC charged Villa Park, Calif.-based American Credit Crunchers LLC, Ebeeze, LLC and their owner, Varang K. Thaker, with violating the FTC Act and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. No criminal charges have been filed.

Thaker allegedly withdrew thousands of dollars paid by victims that ended up in his company accounts, though Baker said it wasn't clear if the overall scheme was directed primarily from California or India.

A U.S. district judge in Chicago has issued an order freezing Thaker's assets.

American Credit Crunchers or Ebeeze in Villa Park, Calif., did not have a current phone listing. There also was no listing for a Varang K. Thaker in the area. Federal court filings did not list an attorney for Thaker. The Online Lenders Alliance, an industry group for companies that offer loans over the Internet, said it reported complaints about the fraudulent calls to the FTC two years ago and has worked with authorities to stop the scam.


Posted in:   Tags:
Tunnel Rat posted on February 13, 2012 07:11
During his weekly video address, Senator Chuck Grassley presses President Obama to support his legislation to root out fraud and abuse from the H-1B visa program and ensure qualified Americans have the first opportunity to compete for jobs. Grassley highlights a discussion between the President and Jennifer Wedel who called attention to the difficulty many high-skilled Americans are having finding employment in this area.


Posted in:   Tags: , ,
Tunnel Rat posted on February 3, 2012 01:08

This is not going away, slumdogs.  Your dirty little secret that most of Americans outside of IT have not heard about, the H-1B visa, is now front and center in the national debate:


As usual, Norm Matloff's analysis of Obama being challenged by Jennifer Wedel, the wife of an unemployed semiconductor engineer, is somewhat hopeless sounding and negative, but still good reading:

Something that happened this evening is one of the most remarkable
events I've seen in all the years I've been writing about the H-1B work
visa and age discrimination.

I was originally going to report on an article on the age problem in the
tech industry that ran in over the weekend.  Nice piece, in the Bay Area
edition of the New York Times, sourced from the Bay Citizen.  I will
indeed discuss this article later in this posting, but let me lead with
this evening's case in point:

President Obama held a live video chat this evening, and one Jennifer
Weddel of Fort Worth, TX, managed to get in a question:  "Why does the
government continue to extend H-1B visas when there are tons of
Americans just like my [engineer] husband with no job?”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/30/obama-google-plus_n_1242816.html

Mr. Weddel (I don't know if he and his wife share a surname, but for
brevity I'll assume so here) is a semiconductor engineer, now out of
work for three years.  This of course is diametrically opposite to what
Obama has been telling the country, that we have a SHORTAGE of
engineers.  He's called for producing 10,000 more engineers, and
emphasized in his State of the Union address last week liberalizing H-1B
and/or green cards to keep foreign tech workers in the U.S., to remedy
that "shortage."

Obama's answer to Ms. Weddel was that, well, there are engineers and then
there are engineers, and talked about specialization.  He pointed out
that, what with the housing bust and all, civil engineers are not in
high demand these days.  He then asked Ms. Weddel what kind of engineer
her husband is, and she replied that he a semiconductor
engineer--exactly the kind of worker Obama thinks is in short supply!

Obama looked a bit caught off balance by that, and said he'd like to
know the details, because "the word we're getting is that somebody like
that should be getting work right away."  He asked Weddel to send him
her husband's CV.

Some of the engineers and programmers who oppose the H-1B program might
be saying now, as they read this, "Yes!  The President will finally hear
the truth about the H-1B visa!  He'll discover it's a sham, and he fix
the problem!"

Well, let's think about that, reason out some scenarios of what might
happen now, assuming that Obama does indeed ask his staff to follow up
on this.

I would guess that Obama's staff's industry contacts will make sure that
Mr. Weddel will get a job out of all this.  For him NOT to get a job
would risk having the truth come out--which is that H-1B is about AGE, a
way for employers to avoid hiring older (35+) Americans.  When they run
out of young Americans to hire, they have a large pool of young H-1Bs to
turn to.

Now, assuming Mr. Weddel does get a job, what will Obama's staff do
about the question his earlier predicament raised?  Will they say,
"Well, maybe the industry hasn't been fully truthful to us in their
claims of an engineering shortage"?  And if they do say that, will they
relay that concern to Obama, and if so, will he in turn start to
question his doing the industry's bidding on the H-1B issue?

A lot of ifs there, and my guess is No to all of the above.  They'll
simply report to Obama, "Good news, Mr. President--Weddel's husband has
found a job," and he'll say "Great, next issue."  He'll simply assume
that the guy was an anomaly, had somehow fallen through the cracks.

Of course, that's not what SHOULD happen.  Obama and his staff should
ask, "Now, wait a minute...how could this guy be unemployed for three
years in Texas, one of the biggest tech states in America?"  But they
won't ask it, either because they are so mesmerized by the industry
lobbyists or because they are so financially beholden to those same
lobbyists, or a combination of both.  Cognitive dissonance ought to be
at work here, but I doubt that it will.

In addition, there is the possibility that Obama and/or his staff are
already skeptical of the industry's claims, but simply cannot afford to
relinquish the industry's campaign donations.  An internal document
unearthed last year from the papers of the Clinton White House talks of
"call[ing the] industry's bluff re: their shortage of really
highly skilled and desirable workers."  If that were the case with the
Obama folks, Obama's surprised reaction to Weddel may have been somewhat
feigned.

The worst possibility in my mind is that the Obama people take the
classic Democratic Party approach and decide that what Mr. Weddel needs
is...TRAINING!  (Whenever I trash the Democrats like this I feel
compelled to remind everyone that I'm a lifelong Democrat myself, no
ulterior motive here.)

The reason training doesn't work is that older workers are expensive.
After training (which many don't need anyway), they are STILL expensive.
So training does nothing.

Which brings me to the New York Times/Bay Citizen article (enclosed at
the end of this message).  The piece does a good job of getting the
point across that Mr. Weddel is definitely not alone.  On the contrary,
he's pretty much the norm.  However, the article drops the ball in not
identifying the central issue--MONEY, in the sense, once again, that the
older workers are perceived as simply being too expensive.

I tried to get this point across in the reporter's interview of me last
week, but I got the sense, correctly as it turns out, that his mind was
already made up:  The problem these older engineers have is that the
technology has simply passed them by; they just don't have the latest
skill sets.  I pointed out that many older engineers are exact matches
for jobs listed on companies' Web sites, yet never get so much as a
phone call in response to their application.  But by that time he'd
already heard too much from others that the problem was skill sets.
(More on his interviewees below.)

Ms. Weddel said she'd been married about 10 years, and she looked about
30 or so to me, which would likely put her husband in or near the danger
zone I've been warning about:  age 35.  The industry may tell Obama that
Mr. Weddel lacks some particular new technological skill, but that'll
probably be just a pretext.  The REAL reason engineers like Mr. Weddel
have trouble finding work was well illustrated in a rare slip by
Microsoft I've cited before:

      Microsoft...Senior Vice-President and Chief Technical Officer
      David Vaskevitch...acknowledges that the vast majority of
      Microsoft hires are young, but that is because older workers tend
      to go into more senior jobs and THERE ARE FEWER OF THOSE POSITIONS
      TO BEGIN WITH.

(Emphasis added.)

It's like the old General Motors notion of "planned obsolescence," only
for people rather than cars.  And the H-1B program, made up overwhelming
of young workers, is what fuels all this.  In pre-H-1B days, it was
assumed that engineers and programmers would learn new technological
skills on their own, as part of their jobs; now, they often are not
given that chance.

Reporter Glantz has written an engaging piece, certainly recommended
reading, but as mentioned, it misses the boat on the central issue, that
older engineers are just too expensive.  Moreover, it's a pity that he
restricted his research (he did tell me he was on short deadline) in
employment counseling to government-financed agencies such as NOVA, and
industry-tied statistics gatherers such as Hancock.  Glantz would have
gotten a much more accurate picture had he talked to private employment
agencies, i.e.  "headhunters," who would have told him that, in
Microsoft's succinct words, "there are fewer [senior] positions to begin
with."

As I said, Mr. Weddel is, if anything, typical.  I just talked yesterday
to a new PhD in a tech field.  He had worked in industry for some years
before returning to grad school, and did a dissertation which uses
state-of-the-art technology, on a very practical topic.  He had spent
about 10 years at two brand-name firms, working on key projects.  He's
articulate and well-liked.  So, he's just what Obama claims to want.
Yet he told me all his fellow students doing research in that field are
gettting showered with job offers, but nothing for him so far.  He is
also in his mid-30s. 

Mr. President, how many Mr. Weddels will it take to convince you that
something is terribly wrong with the H-1B program--and not just with the
Indian "bodyshops"?

Meanwhile, Jennifer Wedel's story is blowing up all over the internet.  I've always thought many techies were pussies when it came to the H-1B issue, and it is unfortunate that it was this engineer's wife, not him, who was the one to confront Obama on the ethnic cleansing of America engineers at the hands of the slumdog slave trade.

 

When I first started to take a militant stand on this issue, years ago, I was condemned for my rhetoric by many chickenshit cowards in Programmer's Guild and elsewhere.  But not anymore.

 

THERE WILL BE RETRIBUTION


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- Vineet Nayar, CEO, HCL Technologies

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