Software Development

Should I go into software development?

TechRepublic contributor Justin James offers career advice to a high school student who is deciding whether to study Computer Science in college with the goal of becoming a software developer.

This is a guest post by Justin James, host of TechRepublic's Programming and Development blog.

A few months ago, I met someone through a mutual friend who wanted my opinion about whether he should study Computer Science in college with the goal of becoming a software developer. This is my response to him.

I've got good news and bad news. The good news is, other than the lack of experience in the field, you are in a great position in terms of timing and geography (note: he is a high school senior who lives near Rochester, NY). The bad news is the software development field has started to undergo some very serious shifts in terms of how things are done, which could potentially make it a fairly unattractive field. Let's start with the good.

The good news

First off, your lack of experience in the development field has allowed you to not have any prejudices about it, and unlike a lot of aspiring developers I talk to, you aren't filled with delusions or fantasies about what it would be like to work as a developer. Too many folks go to school thinking that they are going to graduate and be working on, say, World of Warcraft. Yes, it is possible to go straight from school to the gaming industry, but you have to break your back in school to do so, and preferably go to a school with a specialized gaming program. I recently read an article in Communications of the ACM about these gaming programs, and what those students are doing is not easy. Very few students make it to those schools and those programs, and people who have that kind of goal without the necessary motivation and talent will be sadly disappointed.

The next advantage you have is that you live near the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), which is a very good school to learn software engineering (not "how to program" but true "software engineering"). A friend of mine went to RIT, and I was very impressed by the education he received there. Even better, through that program, he was able to get some great internships, and he ended up at IBM, doing insanely cool stuff that I can't even begin to understand. While the school you attend isn't everything (you can get a decent education anywhere), going to a school with a good reputation that really gives you a solid fundamental education can be a game changer.

The bad news

More and more software development work is sent to India, Russia, China, Israel, Romania, and Ireland; these countries have excellent educational systems, much cheaper labor, and laws that do not give employees much power. A few years ago this was annoying but not horrible because the work shipped overseas was generally low value programming. A lot of these offshoring arrangements failed due to language barriers, time zone differences, cultural barriers, and other factors that basically act as "friction" in the process.

These offshore shops have wised up, and their own people have developed the expertise to work with U.S. companies with less effort. In addition, many of these shops (particularly in India) hired people who moved to the United States and learned the language, customs, etc.; those people are now going back home to bring their expertise with working with U.S. companies to the companies there. As a result, the offshore companies are getting a lot better. Some people thought that the offshore shops lacked the creativity or hands-on experience in the industry to develop applications completely on their own; this is no longer the case, and many overseas firms have created great projects 100% in-house with no outside guidance.

In other words, after you would graduate college, you would be competing not just with the other recent graduates in your area but with graduates around the world. Think of this as a challenge; someone else is willing and able to do the work for less money, so you have to be willing and able to do the work better.

Another factor is the changing nature of software development. In the last few decades, and especially in the last five years or so, we've seen a raft of products introduced that make programming more of a "gluing parts together" than ever thought possible. This doesn't mean that, in the future, there won't be programmers, but it does mean that there will be a pretty deep split between the people doing the "gluing" (who will be about equal to a factory worker from the early 1900s) and the people designing the glue and the parts. This trend will continue, and it must continue, for these reasons:

  • Software development projects are very expensive, especially in relation to how much money they save in too many cases.
  • Making changes to existing software is much harder than making it to begin with, and it is extremely difficult if the person making the changes isn't who wrote the original (or if it has been a while since that developer touched the code).
  • Software patterns are very well established in many cases, and there is little reason to keep re-writing the same code.
  • Many current development techniques are rooted in things that were necessary 20 or 50 years ago but are no longer needed.

Every industry expert and veteran programmer I have talked to agrees that this is where things are going, but it isn't known when it will happen -- it could be five years, or it could be fifty years. But I wouldn't want to be caught by surprise by this trend.

Does this mean you shouldn't go into programming?

Not at all! It means is that if you want to go into this field, you have to be smart about it. I do not recommend that you try to be a programmer; slapping programs together is an increasingly low-value proposition. I suggest that you look into being a true software engineer because these professionals are pretty rare and desperately needed. Big companies are hiring people from other countries on H-1B visas, while local talent is unemployed because schools overseas are generating the software engineers that the industry needs while U.S. schools are cranking out programmers. Shoot for the stars. Go to the best school that you possibly can.

Unless you are personally opposed to it, I highly recommend either enrolling in Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) in college and going into the military or trying to attend a service academy. One of the biggest mistakes in my life was turning down an appointment to the Air Force Academy and a full scholarship through the Air Force ROTC. Even without the scholarship, going into the service would have been a great move, but I did not see it then. The military teaches incredibly important skills in many areas, and former servicemen and servicewomen often have a major advantage in the workforce (so long as they were honorably discharged).

In addition, I suggest that you start learning to program now. It will give you a leg up when you get to school; it will also allow you to find out if you hate the work before you are committed to anything. More importantly, you need to work development jobs and/or internships in college if you want to be employable when you graduate, and the more experience you get, the more likely it will be that you will land those jobs and internships. If you really want to be the best, you should start by reading Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (which MIT used to use to teach programming). This course will challenge you in a million ways, but when you complete it, you will know more about how to think about software development than most full-time programmers. The book is pretty tough to go through on your own (nearly everyone I know who read it on their own did so after they had some experience in the industry), but even taking an honest stab at it will do you some good.

To get experience, start with a few simple applications on your own or perhaps modify some existing open source code. Then start working on an open source project with other people, or volunteering your time to a non-profit to help them write software. This will provide you with hands-on experience, as well as something to put on your resume.

The key is that you must differentiate yourself. If you graduate school and you spent that time flipping burgers and getting Bs and Cs in Computer Science, guess what? There are thousands of students across the country who just graduated in that situation and thousands more overseas, all of whom are hungry for work. But if you graduate from school with two years of quality internships or part-time employment, with a background in real software engineering (especially if you took a specialized course like those video game programs discussed in the ACM article), then you should stand out and have no problem starting a rewarding career.

I hope this helps!

J.Ja

Additional career resources

    What advice would you offer to a high school student who is considering a career in IT? What do you wish you had known about working in IT that you didn't know before you entered the field? Share your thoughts in the discussion.

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    About

    Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

    105 comments
    LocoLobo
    LocoLobo

    is more prevalent than just IT. ALL the clothes I am wearing right now came from somewhere else. My "american" car was built right up to the "final assembly" stage in Asia. Most of the mechanics around here "No habla Ingles." The US is now a net importer of food. Someone mentioned "World Competition". We have always competed with the world. But we have been isolated also. The realization is just now coming to us. We can no longer think, "We're the US and we're number 1." We need to reevaluate ourselves and the world we live in. As to the article's question, "Should you go into software development?" I think Tony Hopkinson said it best. "If you don't find writing software interesting in and of itself, then not just no hell no." But I think that's true of whatever you want to do.

    clavius
    clavius

    Something that will make you much more marketable as a developer will be to have domain knowledge of some subject matter to which you can apply your development skills. Most companies have a specific area they do business in, and they would rather have a competent programmer who knows something about their business than a superstar programmer who doesn't know anything but programming. So, in addition to the CS training, get a second major in a substantive field--something that interests you, whether that's public health, finance, marketing, library science, math, or whatever.

    oldfield
    oldfield

    I have been in the field of scientific computing for some 25 years and I am a little sad by some of the replies in this review. I interview people (engineer postions and scientific programmers) and I am shocked by the lack of real understanding of programming demonstrated in the interviews. I agree completely with this article. If you want to be an engineer then I expect you to know a lot of deep knowledge of programming - I am just a manager - the person being interviewed should know more than me ! I would like to add to this article that I consider a programmer is someone who has less knowledge of programming than an engineer but has domain knowledge; maths, biology/physics. If the person being interviewed is good then it does not matter how much they cost; in this field if the person is not good enough they just cannot do the job.

    GizmoGirl
    GizmoGirl

    First off, I love programming. Whether or not to go into the field should depend on the answer to the question, do I love it? Like any other fields, it has it's pit-falls (long hours in my case). If I were to do it over again, I'd of considered a double major (Computer Science/"insert other favorite field here"), or minored in something other than Math, which I suck at, but came pretty much with my major. MIS is another closely related field that I considered back then and may give you more options in today's world. And make sure you get very good grades, that goes without saying. The company I work for does out-source (to India), mostly the "menial" programming tasks & any programming that can be clearly defined. I've also seen a shift in the US associates (for this company) from "more programming" to "less programming" & more business analyst or project management type roles, due to client-facing & time zone differences. I'm currently a Programmer, and they may be going to India soon to train Associates there in what I do. It's a very good thing they don't know what I do! ;-) Needless to say I'm studying for my PMP cert & also data security. I enjoy what I currently do but it is always good to have a back-up plan. The nice thing about IT in general is that there are so many options within the field, many of which are not out-sourced.

    cute_sinhascoe08
    cute_sinhascoe08

    its one's matter of interest..!! initially there may be tits n bits....but it really pays u back if u enjoy it rather than just clinging to it..!!

    Mac_444
    Mac_444

    ....junk food, caffeine and all-nighters, go into software.

    LoopyDood
    LoopyDood

    I'm a high school student, final year, and I've been accepted to a good school for a three year software engineering program. I have already taken two (quite badly done) programming courses with my high school, so I know some basic Java. I also know a couple of web based languages, like HTML and CSS, which so far has been enough to make a few dollars out of web development. I enjoy programming, but I'm not very good at it. I've been struggling to find time to practice, and quite honestly I haven't really figured out how I should go about that. After looking at the sources for a few projects, I realized that even programs that appear relatively simple usually have dauntingly complex code. I've been unsure about whether I really want to pursue this path recently. I want a career in IT, but software development is looking less and less lucrative as time goes by. Reading this article has really pushed me over the edge. I have already paid for most of the college fees, set up living arrangements, etc., so I'm pretty much locked into heading off to that college this fall. Luckily, my position is a common one so the college has made it easy to transfer between IT programs. It's at Algonquin College in Ottawa, Ontario. Course list is here, look in the School of Advanced Technology Section: http://algonquincollege.com/prospective/fulltimeBySchool.html Can anyone recommend a course of action? Recommend other fields that may interest me, give tips to help me build my skills and confidence in programming, anything, really.

    gmust
    gmust

    Thanks, very informative and thanks especially for the MIT book.

    tokposman
    tokposman

    Good article and reality check. I would add that the trend for the glue-and-pieces-developer crowd is to have credentials in vertical knowledge domains like process control, healthcare, accounting, etc. This is the trend in value added software firms, hiring SMEs that can engineer solutions within the knowledge domains a company serves. The era of the generalist developer is gone.

    megabaum
    megabaum

    Politicize This was a decent post for the most part; but after 15 years in the IT industry, many of them spent working with Developers, or IT folks from India, I disagree that IT shops are wising up. Instead, as you said in your post, we (IT USA) still struggle with time zones, language barriers, cultural differences, quality, errors, and mis-communications as we offshore even low value work to India. So the end result is IT USA continues to only send low value development, qa, support work to India; it seems this has not changed much. I think some companies are starting to do a cost analysis to determine how much money they are really saving in the long run by off shoring. This "wising" up, is certainly not the status quo and certainly not a trend of any sort. Simply, these issues are too large, to fix with training, virtual office or other tools. The truth is we're still sending the rudimentary, administrative, low value work to India, so they haven't wised up that much... or else we'd be off shoring higher value work and customer facing jobs to India. Lucky for us huh? As an example, I work with a Tech from India and I have to meet with him before 10am every day, or else I have to wait until the next day to talk to him. This alone is problematic and not effective when critical issues need to be addressed immediately. So my work around is to work with his manager(US based), and this is problematic because I'm taking up a manager's time (who's making 100k per year) to work on something that should be handled by a DBA. My Tech from India also doesn't seem to have the capacity, savvy, or deep understanding needed to catch errors or realize the impacts of his work; subsequently I have to double-check his work and identify errors, ... another cost to the project. Worse, sometimes errors are not caught ... and well that's obviously not good. Generally, this is the pattern I've experienced when coordinating work offshore to India. Sadly from a political/ social perspective, it's very disheartening and demoralizing for IT workers in the USA to see thousands of low end jobs/work, which they could do, off shored to India! And then they are told by mainstream media, in such economic times, that this shift in jobs is due to the fact that US companies are seeking the "best and the brightest" =P and we (US workers) had better prepare to compete against the WORLD'S best and brightest in the future... Really? Wow, this is so sad and so untrue. How did we get to this place? What happened to Obama's promise to impose higher taxes on companies that off shore US jobs? NO, we shouldn't and really cannot continue to accept this as the status quo. This shift, which is referred to as "world competition" is in fact not competition; it has nothing to do with skills or competency; rather it's about US corporations, who are eliminating YOUR job, in order to seek out the "cheapest", not the brightest. It's really important to clarify that this has nothing to do with COMPETITION. All you're doing by suggesting this is setting up "Joe the IT guy" and young college grads for utter failure; because no matter how good they are, no matter how many degrees and certifications they achieve they aren't going to get the job, sorry the job is going to go to a foreign candidate, probably less qualified, who is happy making what is considered a minimum wage in the IT industry, probably $15/per hour. ~As the populous, we need to be sure NOT to buy into this media-hype and refrain from accepting dogma about so called "competition" with workers around the WORLD, who can support a family making $15 per hour. That's clearly not fair market competition, based on qualifications or skill-set. This is rather a result of market manipulation by US corporations and yours truly, the US government. And might I add much of what we're doing is illegal and against the GAFTA agreement, but don't get me started... Suffice to say this is one of the most socially irresponsible acts employed by the US government. Worse, this plan and these policies were supported by Bush and now supported by Obama. And the only one who profits from this market manipulation (e.g. H1B program, off shoring) are US politicians and of course US corporations, as US jobs are traded for open trade. Ironically, as Corps. eliminate our jobs and laugh all the way to the bank$, YOU continue to shop at their stores and buy their products. =P It's all so backwards... I could go on but not enough time. The good news is that I think America is waking up. Hopefully if we keep push on,0 we can politicize this issue, eliminate the Doha Rounds and hold the US government accountable for these debilitating policies. And while, I'm gainfully employed, I don't see any Indian body shops that have wised up and as you can tell, I have a problem with the H1B/off shore programs that are literally eliminating jobs, careers and training opportunities and in the process hurting American families on so many levels... Further, the relationship with our off shore partners is still problematic, and IMO creating additional costs and a lack in quality. There's not a simple process for fixing this and training sessions are not going to make this go away. More important though, is that we stop referring to this shift in jobs as "competition" and most certainly refrain from accepting and advocating socially irresponsible policies as the "status quo"... **PLEASE join in the effort to learn about these issues on a deeper level and change the H1B/off shoring policies. If you have kids in college, friends in the IT industry, or nieces and nephews in grade school, ... there's your motivation =). If the Doha Rounds agreement is approved, it's only going to get worse, so act now. ~ Best, M

    TCWells
    TCWells

    I use to recommend that application programmers major in an area of interest and minor in programming but application software has become a commodity. My unusual Civil Engineering career began in 1975 when consulting companies maintained their own software library on an expensive mini-computers or mainframes. (Ever hear of PR1ME computers & PRIMOS?) In 1997 I started working for a small very specialized family run software company that develops and sells geo-environmental data management software (primarily for storing, organizing and analyzing complicated analytical chemistry data sets from a Laboratory Information System). Despite the very small programming staff (~1/2 dozen) and extreme specialization, they moved development to India and announced to their customers that they even partnered with an Indian firm that has the "lowest operational costs in the whole of India". (I.E. they partnered with the cheapest firm in India.) I did not see that coming in 2003 because we were so small and very specialized but the business was struggling financially... In fact, at the time of the announcement I had just started working for their major competitor who was taking the opposite approach by hiring experienced talent from other such firms then pushing them very hard. I ended up doing mainly data migrations and help desk type work because I'm not a super fast computer genius. When a traditional CE consulting firm offered me a full-time engineering job in 2007, I took it (& made up for the field work that I missed in my youth due to computer working being limited to the office back then). Starting in 2009, the full-time job became a part-time job due to the great recession. Financially, I would have been much better off as a traditional Civil Engineer but I enjoy working with computers so my only regret is that career dried up about ten years too soon. Regarding promising career choices, I understand that the IRS is going to hire 16,000 new auditors because of the new "Health Care" regulations....

    18th Letter
    18th Letter

    as someone who is thinking about this field, I appreciate this article. More than anything it shows me that I should do further research to ensure that I have a rewarding career at the end of the day.

    zilliz
    zilliz

    IMO, the answer is a big resounding NO. It's too stressful and much more taxing than you're led to believe in college. It will take over your life no matter how you try to not let it. AND, the pay is ok but not as good as it should be given how technical the job is.

    nafarrin
    nafarrin

    IMHO this's the moral sentence: "someone else is willing and able to do the work for less money, so you have to be willing and able to do the work better"

    MusicRab
    MusicRab

    Go into the defence area. I doubt they will give that work to India (but you never know these days!) That's assuming a. the US doesn't chop the defence budget and b. you don't mind not necessarily using the newest equipment (defense computer equipment can lag behind the commericial world)

    Englebert
    Englebert

    IF occupation can be outsourced ? THEN stay the heck away from that occupation ELSE PERFORM pursue occupation to hearts content END-IF

    megabaum
    megabaum

    There is a huge difference though, between the clothing and auto industries and the IT industry. The clothing/ auto industry may purchase a bulk of their product from foriegn countries, ... but they "employ" US workers to sell, market and manage the industry! That's where the differnce is, ... in the IT sector companies are replacing US workers, with foriegn workers, as seen in the thousands and thousands that are inscourced (H1Bs, other 1Bs) and outsourced (a.k.a. off-shored). Said another way, in IT, the product is labor (like clothing is to the clothing industry), so the impact of outsourcing an 100 jobs to India, has a far bigger impact than purchasing shirts from India and selling/marketing them in the US. In the 1st scenario, the 100 jobs were outsourced, there's nothing left to sell/or market, the jobs are simply gone. This is especially bad news for US owned, IT consulting/software companies that labor centric... In the 2nd scenario, the shirts are purchased in a foreign country, however US citizens are generally hired to sell and market the shirts and jobs are being created. While it's not exactly an apple to apple comparison, ... overall outsourcing too much of anything always has an impact. Back in the day, the US used to care about producing the best products, keeping jobs in house and managing a reasonable balance of imports vs. exports... Sadly we are inept in this area today and we don't have this balance. IMO that's why unemployment is as high as it is today. My hope is that the populous recognizes these issues and start to "politisize" this issue (as with healthcare), ...it's the only way to force politicians to implement socially repsonsible policies. =) Enough said, thanks for the post. Best.

    MikeG3b
    MikeG3b

    This is a great suggestion. The keyword is "substantive" -- it really wouldn't help to have a second major in art or literature, but a second major in finance, environmental issues, math, finance, etc would be a dynamite combination. A friend of mine is making a LOT of money these days selling "e-discovery" software for lawyers. It helps, of course, that he's also an attorney, but his passion is software, and e-discovery is an ideal fit for his interests and skill.

    jkameleon
    jkameleon

    IT technologies come and go, but domain knowledge remains. It's what you know besides programming that counts, not programming itself.

    joethejet
    joethejet

    There are many fields within IT. Many have some degree of programming, some don't. You're young. You, likely, don't really know what you want to do with your life, nor should you at this age. Go to school. Take your General Ed classes (I assume they do that in Canada too), take your IT classes and see where it leads you. Typically if you like what you do, you'll be successful at it. The key is finding something you enjoy

    davidota
    davidota

    Loopy IT encompasses alot more than programming, and in a fast moving field you never know where you will end up. For instance: I graduated in the 80's with an electrical engineer degree. Programming was fun but engineers made more. I was hired as a fire protection engineer out of college. I got bored and went to work on the Y2K bug. Now I run a WAN dept at a hospital chain. It has NOTHING to do with engineering, but everything to with thinking logically and solving problems. Go to college, take classes you would not normally take. Enjoy life.

    Slayer_
    Slayer_

    If not, pick a different profession.

    gmust
    gmust

    Good. Do I need to get a degree to post a comment on this page

    DaemonSlayer
    DaemonSlayer

    This is an election year in some States at least for State governments and the House and Senate of the US of A. One of the FIRST and easiest things we can do is look at the reigning politicians record and vote them out if they supported NAFTA, or any other "free trade" act that has basically given big Corporations (and others) the green light to cut off their noses in spite of their faces for CHEAP labor. Second, we can do as you said, MegaBaum, and buy products manufactured within our own borders. Let the foreign manufactures come over here to manufacture, like the automobile industry has.

    Tony Hopkinson
    Tony Hopkinson

    commercially unacceptable in general. Good enough, is all that's required. So cheap is way more important than better. Good enough being a value judgment.....

    megabaum
    megabaum

    Agree this is the moral sentance, however the only problem is that even if you can do the work better, you're still not going to get the job =) It's only a matter of $dollars and cents,... this really isn't about competition. Kind of sensless then to go out and get 5 technical certifications to try and compete with foreign workers who'll get the job, because they can do it for 1/3 the price. In this case, the certifications are not going to matter, ... it's all about dollars and cents. This is often the sad reality for folks looking for technical jobs (programming, qa, dba, help desk, etc.). Sure there are still going to be some jobs for US workers in these areas; however many thousands of these jobs will be off shored/ or given to an H1B simply because this is the "cheapest" option. Ask Bill Gates...

    johnm
    johnm

    As the US Cyberwarfare organization firms up its structure, there should be plenty of opportunity for programming analysis, recognition and countermeasures tools to protect the global infrastructure, repair damage, and track originators of attacks. There will be big-scope stuff and nifty tools to program. And, yes, it may have to run on outdated equipment until someone successfully gets through the defenses and causes major damage - then there will be emergency funding and new equipment. However, if it bothers you that mistakes or misassumptions on your part, might cause people to die, it might not be the best field to be involved in. I wouldn't want to have been the programmer for the British EW systems used in the Falklands War who decided an Exocet missile identification could be ignored because it was "friendly".

    Justin James
    Justin James

    Beleive it or not, Ireland is becoming an outsourcing destination! A rather desireable one too, because they speak English natively, and the labor laws are very pro-business. J.Ja

    lucideer
    lucideer

    or more likely just ignorance. We don't have a good education system, we DEFINITELY don't have cheap labour (one of the highest costs-of living and highest minimum wages in EU) and EU states are governed by EU directives wrt. employee rights, so employees have the same power here as elsewhere, almost certainly more than in the States. Which makes me wonder how much of the rest of this article is similarly uninformed.

    bkeifer
    bkeifer

    That has to be the worst, most inaccurate article I've ever read! I've been programming since the early 80s, and I haven't stopped learning or improving yet! I've gone through literally dozens of different languages and platforms, from business apps to games and web development. The technology changes constantly and if you fail to keep up and improve your skills, it's your own fault. Pick up a book.

    exceedinglyefficient
    exceedinglyefficient

    to all: most of the advice i've been reading is don't go into it because they're outsourcing that job. thinking of the other side of the equation, which means there are jobs, it's just that they're on the other side? So, I would advice one who are living on the "wrong" side of teh equation to move on the the other side of the equation, maybe eventually invest in the country/countries. the world is an interesting place. there's lots of money to be made, if you really want to pursue it, go for it!

    logos200
    logos200

    A career in IT/programming is for boneheads. Here is why: Unlike other fields, IT does not have any standards. Why is that one company insists an applicant must possess SQL Server 2008 experience, even if he's been using SS 2005 for 5 years and SQL Server 2000 for another 5? What if some companies choose to remain on SQL Server 2000? Or XP Pro? Is this a crime? Why do we see ads asking for a mixture of skills such as Hyperion, UNIX, COBOL, ColdFusion, and VBA? Why is a dermatologist allowed to practice medicine? He only specializes in skin, right? If you ask him about your aching ankle, he may nicely tell you to go see a podiatrist. Similarly, when the FDA approves a new drug, does that mean every pharmacist must go back to school to learn the agent's chemical composition and clinical trial history before being allowed to practice again? This idiocy promulgated by hiring managers is keeping seasoned, highly qualified people from obtaining jobs. Must have .NET 3.5... a person who knows 2.0 can't learn 3.5 on the job? The IT field was not this way when I started and now, it's turned into this psychotic exercise in buzzwords and cheap labor.

    LoopyDood
    LoopyDood

    ...but are you saying that experience in programming could open doors into other areas of IT? I wouldn't mind being a network admin some day.

    megabaum
    megabaum

    I agree, ... there's also the matter of stopping the Doha Rounds and re-formatting the H1B program, as well as corporate coruption. Until these areas change, our unemployment and lack of jobs, training opportunities, which I now refer to the 'dumbing' down of America, ... it's going to get much worse. Best, M

    Awesomo
    Awesomo

    While I agree that Ireland is suited for outsourcing for many reasons, I wouldn't have though the labour laws were one of them. As an EU country, Irish staff are going to get better holidays (4 weeks basic) than most of the other countries mentioned. On the other hand, this is probably a good thing. After all, there must be a reason why Google, Intel, Facebook and others have their European HQ in Ireland.

    Justin James
    Justin James

    ... but this is what I've read. I've read in a number of places that Ireland is an outsourcing destination for those reasons. I beleive (but not 100% certain) that one of those sources was "The Economist" which is generally trustworthy. J.Ja

    jkameleon
    jkameleon

    It's the only way of keeping a job. I've studied, gone through mpfh... I don't even remember how many different languages and platforms, and all that, but guess what- I still feel like a bloody aberration. All of my colleagues of my age had left the field years ago, and I'm working with brats about as old as my kids.

    megabaum
    megabaum

    If you're going into IT, it would be wise to heed the advise and information about outsourcing on this post. It's really not about being on the "wrong" side of IT, ... in fact for example, I am gainfully employed however very mindful of the way IT has changed due to outsourcing and insourcing (e.g. H1B labor). I don't think anyone is saying there are no jobs in IT right now, however there are clearly not as many IT jobs as there once were, salaries/ rates have gone down, and anyone getting into the field right now may be taking a risk that there will not be as many opportunities in this field, or their job being outsourced after they get one. These are real issues in the industry right now, .. but if someone is willing to go for it, anything is possible! Unfortunatley, the US governmenent currently employs socially irresponsible trade policies which are eliminating IT jobs, and depressing salaries/rates for IT workers, so corporations can make more money. This makes it increasingly difficult, to find work in specific technical roles which can be outsourced/ insourced. This is the reality of where we are at, ... what you chose to do with that information is anyone's choice, .. but at a minimum it's good information to have. =)

    MikeG3b
    MikeG3b

    Depending on the definition of "outsourcing", of course. How are you going to outsource schoolteachers, nurses, doctors, dentists, painters, lawncare guys, auto repair, and on and on. It's only when you look at a narrowly-defined category of technology jobs that outsourcing becomes a threat. Software development is particularly vulnerable to outsourcing. Any kid with a laptop can develop software in a dorm room. In fact, I believe Google, Twitter, and FaceBook were all started under pretty much those circumstances, not to mention Microsoft.

    mitch_renko
    mitch_renko

    "You can't pound a nail over the Internet" :-)

    djed
    djed

    please stop at the reception desk in Burkina Faso.

    jkameleon
    jkameleon

    It used to be great also. That's how I got great deal of my knowledge and experience, and that's what got me started. Used to be, but not any longer. Nowadays, according to each and every statistic out there, ageism is a sad fact of IT life. Like it or not, that's how it is.

    bkeifer
    bkeifer

    Wow, you "compete" with your co-workers? I have been "helping the competition" for years and it has only gotten me recognized as a leader and promoted. I completely agree with boolsea. A mix of young and old makes a great combo that only serves to enrich both groups.

    jkameleon
    jkameleon

    ... when I'm over 80 years old. Until then, it would be pretty stupid of me to aid my comptetition. Besides, they don't listen to me anyhow. Discrete help is something I haven't bothered to gain the mastery over yet.

    boolsea
    boolsea

    I've been in programming since the 1960s! and still loving it. We need a mix of oldies like me and youngies as we learn from each other. There are few things more satisfying than to help a young person at the start of their working life, hopefully, discretely helping them to avoid some of your mistakes, even if they leave IT, the lessons thay learn will always be valuable. I love the way younger people thing, together we make a great team. And yes, I make a big effort to keep up to date, by any means I can. It's getting more fascinating as time goes by.

    mitch_renko
    mitch_renko

    This IS a systemic issue (problem?). As long as "Shareholder Value", is the universal mantra for everything a corporation does, we cannot expect any meaningful change (like Financial Reform, sorry didnt mean to get political). My father spent 30 years in the steel mills after WWII. He always complained that the Steel companies never invested in upgrading the equiptment, only sharing the profits garnered from increasingly antiquated equiptment and processes. Well, we all know how that turned out. And dont even get me started on granting corporations the sam rights as human beings....

    Justin James
    Justin James

    I agree that it is important to take a look at these issues and try to change them. Are there problems with H1B's? You bet. And not just for displaced American workers, either. H1B workers are often treated as a step slightly above "indentured servant" and really allow themselves to be exploited because they don't want to lose their shot at coming to America. Some of them have to wait 5, 10 years to get an H1B! The end client company is getting burned too, because they thought they were getting a real expert from a staffing company and instead they get someone who is being shuffled around every 6 months, has little long-term experience in anything, and lacks communications skills. The only people who win are the staffing firms who pay the H1B folks peanuts and then charge their clients full price. It's disgusting on so many levels. In my guestimation, probably 90% of the H1B workers out there are doing entry level or mid level work and do not bring anything special to the table. The other 10% seem to be those true rock stars that just happen to not be born in the US. Unfortunately, the law has no way of distinguishing the truly "best and the brightest" (who *should* be brought over tol strengthen US industry) from those who are average or below average, and the only reason to hire them is to undercut local wages. That being said, I am certainly not going to get myself worked up into knots about it. It just is not worth the ulcer. I used to be very, very political. After a certain point, I realized that I was killing myself worrying about every little policy or detail or what was happening in the world, trying to change it and being angry when it wouldn't change. Today, I try my best to not get too worked up over cicumstances, work the best I can within current reality, and if I can try to change reality a bit, I will. Not to get too far off topic, but there are trade offs with these policies. Yes, work has left the US. At the same time, goods (and increasingly services as well) are getting cheaper, which either puts more profit in the hands of businesses to innovate or leaves more money in the pocket of folks like you and me. I think where people get legitimately upset is when the cost to the end consumer stays the same but the company keeps the profit and doesn't put it back into the economy, but just hands it out to shareholders or to buy some competitor. That does not generate real economic value for *anyone*, and unless you are willing to move to a much more controlled economy, it really can't be stopped. This is not an IT centric problem, or even a US centric problem. This is a result of how business is done. Every corporation's mission statement essentially says "maximize shareholder value" which does *not* translate to "make a profit", it means "increase the stock price". And that's why you see major companies make some really confusing or disgusting decisions. I worked at one company, a major drug maker. They sold a part of their non-core business (some consumer health/beauty products) which was slam-dunk easy to make profit on, was bringing in BILLIONS in revenue, and required no R&D, just marketing. But they sold that part of the business. Sure, they got a heft chuck of cash. But they didn't need the cash. So why did they do it? Stick price. See, that line of business had a lower profit margin than the rest of the business, so it made the company look bad when they said that their margin was, say, 30%. So they took a year over year hit to revenue once (with cash on hand to make up for it), and from there on out, the company looked more profitable to investors even though they had lost billions in revenue! You and I, we can't fight this kind of thinking. And it affects all industries, not just IT. Like I said in my article, like I said in the post you responded too, low value programming work is going to get offshored. Even if the government set up a massive barrier to this, you know what would happen instead? The work would shift to poorer parts of the US with lower wages and less unions. That's why so many call centers are in places like Arkansas or here in South Carolina. They can pay someone in SC $9/hour to do work that in NJ or CA would cost $25/hour, and not deal with pesky unions demanding things like lunch breaks or health care, and the workers will be happy because the only other jobs are McDonalds. Yes, if your goal is simply to ensure that "Americans" have jobs, you've reached it, but you have the same effect of driving wages down and you are still losing *your* job, it's just that someone in Iowa has it instead of Mumbai. Small consolation if you ask me. The trick to keeping your job, or thriving in your job, in an age where work can easily be sent overseas or to a cheaper part of the country, is to do work that has some component that must be done on-site, or is done much better when on site. Period. If you just want to come in and write code all day long from someone else's spec, you are at risk of being offshored or lose your job to someone in a cheaper part of the US. If you are willing and able to learn how to interact with customers, train, provide hands-on support, be the one writing those blueprints, etc., you will always have a chance at finding work locally, and you will have the skill set to go out on your own if you choose to do that instead. J.Ja

    megabaum
    megabaum

    It's a good question, ... I don't think there's any other country that allows as many "guest" workers as the US; however it's something I'd like to check into as well. ~Best

    megabaum
    megabaum

    Hi, well for obvious reasons it's clearly not smart, from a social or career perspective to simply ignore these issues, go about your life and "be all you can be". That's a I only care about me only attitude, but I guess some people are political and others just aren't. This is most definately NOT something that US citizens/ IT workers should smile, shut up and accept as status-quo... Nor something we should walk away from because we can't "control" it... I duknow,.. your advise just isn't cool, ... just saying. IMV, IT workers and US citizens, at least those who wish to understand the IT industry, should at least look at the issues, gain an understanding and form their own opinion about how it impacts their industry, in their major metro area. For those that actualy care, or have friends, children or nieces, nephews or future kids of America, will a find a way to reach out socially/ politically to change the situation =P. Kind of like you know health care... or don't you care about that either? More important, it's good to know that you have a job, however be careful not to underestimate the feelings or concerns of other IT workers, who've lost their jobs to insourcing/ or outsourcing. And please don't act like these issues don't impact programming jobs, you would be silly not to at least gain an understanding of these issues, since so many programing jobs have been lost due to the H1B program and/or outsourcing initiatives. A good majority of intelligent IT workers, accross the country, understand these issues and they're mindful of them, ...and are able to discuss the issues,... it's totally not about "worrying"... we're adults and sometimes adults need to talk about difficult issues, especially if we're ever going to ingnite change in Washington. Best

    Justin James
    Justin James

    The US government begs to differ. They project that from 2008 - 2018, jobs for *software engineers* will grow at DOUBLE the job growth rate for the economy as a whole. They also predict that jobs for *programmers* will decline slightly. Which is right in line with my original post. http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos303.htm Software engineering is a high value, hard to outsource job. Programming is a low value, easily outsourced job. Instead of worrying about things you have no control over, worry about the things you *do*, like your value to employers. If you aren't willing to learn how to be a high value employee and do work that must be done at least partially on-site (anything that requires interaction with management, customers, etc.) then expect that offshore labor can take your job. If you are willing to learn how to do a job that is not easily offshored, or be so good at it that you are worth the extra money, then you have nothing to fear. Personally, I have never once in my life worried about offshore developers, and I doubt that I ever will. It's been a long time since all I did was write code. J.Ja

    mitch_renko
    mitch_renko

    that employs these business-centric trade policies to the level the US does?

    ljmorsillo
    ljmorsillo

    Service jobs - not jobs involving work of creating something. Is this the direction? I hope not - I've done the service job thing. There's nothing left after you are complete, what fun is that?