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Yesterday, some of my colleages in Operation Code’s Slack channel were expressing some concerns about outsourcing and the impact that this might have on their careers. Given all of the election season rhetoric about American jobs, this is pretty understandable. Realistically, this is also an irreversable trend brought about by high-speed Internet interconnecting the globe.
So rather than hoping that the cosmopolitan elite will change the rules of the game to favor rich world tech workers (HA!), it’s worth drawing up a career plan that keeps the reality of oursourcing in mind. My experiences with outsourcing has been largely shaped by my former employment at IBM, an old-line tech company that has been arguable the most brutal and ruthless offshorer (both for it’s employees and by having an extensive sales force and consulting division that sells outsourcing services to other companies.)
In my opinion, outsourcing is most common at publically traded Fortune 1000 companies that have stopped growing and need to use cost-cutting to return cash to shareholders via share buybacks. This can happen at old-line Enterprise IT companies, but the most extreme forms are at Fortune 1000 companies that view technology as not being core to their business.
At IBM, I experienced multiple downsizing rounds (called “resource actions” or “workforce rebalancing” in IBM jargon) where many thousands of people were let go, many of whom were in their 50s and a handful of years away from their pensions. The silver lining of this is that younger folks by and large able to bounce back and improve their living standards. Many of the older workers became too specialized in proprietary Enterprise IT middleware, which has made a transition very difficult.
Going through these experiences pushed me to change myself in several key ways, but here are a few key lessons that I drew from these experiences to avoid and minimize getting impacted by resource actions: