3.23.2004

It hurts if it's your job going abroad: Outsourcing the Future? Part Two The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (3/22)
"Software developer Annette Matvya thought she had found the opportunity of a lifetime when IBM Corp.'s Transarc unit hired her away from Union Switch & Signal.

She loved working for Big Blue. But the dream lasted just four years, until May 2002. That's when IBM cut its Pittsburgh staff by 136 and moved the software development project she managed to India.

The last assignment for some of the laid-off programmers on Matvya's project was to train their replacements, Indians who made several trips here to learn the job. She recalled how awkward the process was: on the day the local employees' layoffs were announced, the Indian workers were in the office."

Ugh, we hear about this over and over: having to train your replacement, but to have them show up the day the layoffs were announced? Wow, someone's boss was a real sadist. That's a special person right there.

And what do we say? Having to train your replacement is like having to dig your own grave (we need to come up with a term for this... if you have a suggestion, send it in!)


Messineo likens himself and his fellow computer professionals to blue-collar mill workers who have seen their jobs fall victim to imported steel, textiles and other goods.

The corporation, in his view, is saying "to heck with the American workers" so it can save money solely to improve the bottom line and do better for its shareholders.

"It leaves us scrambling to try and find work. It's difficult. It's not like we can easily get into an other field or be retrained," said Messineo, a computer science graduate from the University of Pittsburgh. "We all have college degrees, [we're] very intelligent people. This is our thing -- computer work."

[snip]

Matvya, who looked for two years to find a local job that paid something close to what she earned at IBM, worries that young Americans may have to switch careers or settle for lower pay to compete with employees in India, the Philippines or even Russia.

"Maybe it's going to be a one-generation career in the United States," she said. "What about our kids?''

A more optimistic view
But many economists, international business executives and academics are more optimistic. They say the trend can help U.S. businesses lower costs and become more competitive, giving them more money to invest in new jobs in the United States.

Not only will overseas jobs help fill the worker shortage expected as the Baby Boomer generation reaches retirement age, but America can still keep its lead in innovation, new product design and other higher level work that can stay at home, they argue.

"Jobs like economists, international business executives and academics" they note "These are jobs that will never be outsourced so we're safe!"

Sunil Wadhwani, a co-founder and CEO of iGate Corp. in Pittsburgh, which helps companies find ways of moving computer-based functions to India and other offshore locations, estimates that more than 70 percent of the jobs in the U.S. economy are inherently local and cannot be moved.

He cites health care, social services, retailing, and transportation as examples. "None of these jobs is going anywhere,'' he said. "That's got to provide some comfort."

Great Wal-Mart/McJobs for us all!

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