The Myopia of Short-Sightedness

The content below arrived in my mailbox recently from a correspondent with extensive tech industry experience. He graciously granted permission for its publication here.

I have worked for tech companies as a developer and manager through the years and I have seen H1Bs and outsourcing cause a lot of damage. H1Bs are a total scam only used to drive down wages and boost company profits at the expense of American workers. Outsourcing also damages wages, but also opens companies up to lower quality products and intellectual property theft.

Background

H1Bs were brought into large tech companies in droves starting in the late 1990s to early 2000s and it has just accelerated since. Where H1Bs couldn’t be used, the chic thing to do was outsourcing. The Ivy League MBAs, who have never coded anything in their lives, thought it would be a great idea to use outside coders to do development work and save some money. To top it off, there has also been a big move to overseas manufacturing, which has resulted in intellectual property theft of grand proportions.

These ideas have caused a lot of damage to the U.S. tech industry and are killing us competitively.

Outsourcing

Outsourcing is a total disaster. You take a bunch of people in another part of the planet in a time zone almost exactly opposite of yours so nobody can communicate in real-time. Then you throw in a language barrier and cultural issues. Chaos ensues.

Big Tech Company I worked for did this with large parts of their Quality Assurance (QA) apparatus starting in the early 2000s and it was a train wreck. The process of coding is something most MBAs don’t understand because they have never done it. Often when there is a bug in a piece of code, you want QA people to be able to walk over to the developer that wrote that part and show what is going on and replicate it. That is impossible to do when QA is in Chennai, India and sleeping when you are working or awake when you aren’t at work.

MBAs thought it would be more efficient to have coding done during one 12-hour time zone and QA in another. That way when developers got to work in the morning they’d have this nice list of bugs that QA found. But this isn’t how it works. Bug resolution under this model takes forever and quality falls off because of the communication issues.

Consider:

1) India QA finds a bug and it takes 12 hours for development to see the report.

2) Then development fixes it and it takes 12 hours to get an answer if it passes QA.

3) Then QA reports back it still has a problem.

4) Repeat for days on end.

This makes something that should have taken a short amount of time with face-to-face contact take days or weeks. Plus, Indians are not very good at abstract thinking in my experience and will only do exactly what you tell them to do and nothing more. They are just there for the bucks and honestly don’t care about anything else. It’s a cultural issue. The Indian QA clicks a button to say it works or not. They don’t poke around to help isolate what is going on.

Same thing goes for outsourcing development. Big Tech Company started doing this at one time and I knew it would be a disaster and it was. Horrible code, no real creative thinking, and everything took much longer to complete because it often needs to be re-done by people that know what they are doing.

There was zero money savings in it I’m sure, but the MBAs just kept pushing it. Again, they don’t know what’s involved and think developers are interchangeable cogs vs. what it really takes to code a product that works reliably.

Insourcing

The next step was bringing in H1Bs. The way it works is that their visa is tied to the employer sponsoring them. They cannot move jobs easily so they are basically indentured servants. They can be paid lower wages and cannot leave without jeopardizing their sponsorship. They are, in other words, the perfect corporate worker drone for the MBAs and executives.

Of course, even their lower wages are better than they would get working in India so they flock here for jobs. They will stack up 4, 5, 6, 7 to a house for cheap rent and just work for a few years and go back to India. Or, they will try for the Holy Grail green card. They will often have degrees that I suspect are mostly worthless or fraudulent. They also often are being sent over from a bodyshop that has heavy nepotism.

The point about nepotism is not a joke. They are sometimes cousins or distant family members getting work for each other. Working in the U.S. is very high status to an Indian male and they know if they save money for a few years and live cheap they can go back to India and get married and have a good life after. Because of this, they have no real dedication to the company or work. And really can you blame them? They know the game and are playing it as they can.

But the thing is that Indian workers mostly suck. They again have something culturally where I find them very limited abstract thinkers and will largely do only what they are told and that’s it. My experience (and that of others) is that they are not going to be the guys to come up with a creative solution to a difficult problem. They will be the code monkeys that can get basic stuff done, but not really to what I’d consider a high standard original thinking that an innovative company probably needs. They are warm bodies pumping out code. Again, I don’t think companies are saving any money because you probably need 2-4 H1Bs to make up the work of one good American employee.

To a certain extent I find the Chinese also not terribly creative problem solvers even though they are smart in other specific areas. But I have less experience working with them. However, I think Chinese nationals are a huge intellectual property theft risk as I discuss below and shouldn’t be hired either.

Developer Culture

Next up of course is that when you bring in foreigners it destroys the culture of a development shop just as it does a community. You can’t communicate between groups easily, the jokes are not shared, you have different languages being spoken, etc.

It’s a very bad environment for white workers to be put into and is isolating. Who wants to work around people speaking languages you can’t understand and they need to stop to translate for you constantly? For all you know, they are talking about you right in front of your face.

What companies see then is when white developers are in the minority the resignations seem to accelerate. The teams will go nearly all H1Bs/Indian/Asian as you get developer white flight (is that a new meme: Developer White Flight?). It really is no different than a neighborhood transitioning from all white to all diversity over time. Your best people will leave first and will be replaced by lower skilled imported workers.

Also, we see ethnic nepotism come in again. Ethnic nepotism is *very* strong with H1B Indians and Asians. I know one executive for instance that banned any Indian manager from making final hiring decisions. They found that the Indian managers were only hiring Indians and clearly not the best people. They were likely cashing in favors for people back home.

The above is why you see many development teams in the states going full Indian or Asian in many cases. The managers are hiring only their own co-ethnics in a way that whites won’t do out of guilt and potential punishment. White people, even if interviewed for the job, would likely not get it or even remain on the team. They just won’t fit in.

All of this discourages American workers from going into tech because they know that at any moment they could be asked to train their helpful Indian replacements. It’s disgraceful and companies that do this should have the crap sued out of them.

Intellectual Property Theft

Many companies underestimate the risk of hiring foreign nationals in terms of intellectual property theft. The reality is that if you are hiring, for instance, a Chinese national there is a chance they could steal from you. One Chinese worker I knew explained the way it could happen:

1) Chinese worker is in the U.S. doing their thing. But where is their family? China.

2) Chinese security agencies approach them either in the states or in China on a visit. They say we just need you to copy whatever you can and give it to us. It can be anything, but just do it.

3) “Why should I comply?” says Chinese national employee.

4) Because if you do your brothers/sisters can get into that good school or get that good job back home and your family will do well. But if you don’t, well your family could have some bad luck. Really bad luck, you understand?

And really this isn’t rocket science and is obvious to everyone except MBAs. The Chinese have deliberately sold tainted baby formula in the past. They are not known for their high ethical standards.

I know one company where the exec was saying their trade secrets are protected in a particular way with limited access, etc. He said they had some Chinese workers that he felt could have been compromised when they went back to China, but that they secured their trade secrets and limited access to them so they were “safe.”

I thought that this was foolish beyond words. If you think certain employee prospects are going to steal, you’re better off not hiring them at all. Don’t hire them to see what they can pilfer that you didn’t think about.

To top it off, companies send their manufacturing to China and then act surprised when nearly identical products show up on the market under a Chinese brand in six months. It is a completely idiotic business plan to trust these people.

When you deal with corrupt backwards cultures you are going to get corrupt backwards cheating. But these companies doing these things just care about short-term bucks. They don’t think very long-term and now they are paying the price. Now, U.S. companies are now seeing Chinese tech catch up to them based on manufacturing know-how they sent there. They are fools.

Those are just some of the problems with outsourcing and insourcing. The tech industry of the U.S. is gutting itself and it makes me angry thinking about it at times.

15 thoughts on “The Myopia of Short-Sightedness

  1. I used to live in a country & work for a company that exclusively hired Indians for administrative & clerical & customer service jobs.

    And holy shit were they awful people to interact with in the workplace. For one thing, they are incredibly rule-conscious & petty. They would under no circumstances be creative or lenient on any protocol, even when doing so would obviously cause no harm & would achieve the stated purpose of the company. Like, to pull just one example of many from my memory, renting a four-door compact car for me to use while I needed to drive multiple people around, instead of the subcompact two door car that the company usually rented.

    Instead they would wait until some (white) superior authorized the action & covered their asses for it. My guess was that for multiple thousands of years in their culture they had lived by the credo that “nobody ever got in trouble for following the rules” and that it had permeated their DNA, along with the stench of curry.

    They were also incredibly touchy about their dignity & obsessed with their status. They arrogantly lorded it over anyone they perceived as below them, yet obviously fumed with resentment at any slight, no matter how insignificant, that anyone ever inflicted on them.

    Combine that with their weird, off putting passive-aggressiveness, their seething fury at white women’s disinterest in them and (I cannot say this enough) their overpowering stink of curry & garlic and body odor & I can well imagine whites fleeing any company that became colonized with them.

    • OMG the reek, if not the curry then the gallon of Calvin Klein cologne to cover the reek. Brand obsessed and totally into the caste system.

    • P.J. O’Rourke once complained that Indian Customs officials were utterly impossible to bribe- and not in a good way. Before letting him and his team bring vehicles into the country, they insisted on going through every single page of their (totally pointless and unnecessary) official checklist. Indians also often have a wildly inflated opinion of their command of the English language- I have completely lost track of how many times an Indian has gotten testy with me because I failed to understand his last garbled, ungrammatical, ambiguous, heavily-accented sentence. “I am speaking plain English, not Hindi!”

      When I used to review the work of an out-sourced Indian team my department used, they consistently tried to tackle problems they weren’t qualified for, didn’t accurately understand, and hadn’t been trained to do correctly, without ever stopping and requesting additional clarification if something looked unusual. The amount of man-hours I and others spent devising and implementing a process to inform them them what NOT to do probably far outweighed the meager work they actually did for us. Right up to the end, they somehow still sincerely believed we were going to renew their contract. Long after we cancelled, they even contacted us to complain that they were unable to log into our systems (apparently, their manager thought it unnecessary to inform his subordinates they were through working for us).

  2. When you deal with corrupt backwards cultures you are going to get corrupt backwards cheating. But these companies doing these things just care about short-term bucks. They don’t think very long-term and now they are paying the price. Now, U.S. companies are now seeing Chinese tech catch up to them based on manufacturing know-how they sent there. They are fools.

    Crashing the American tech industry… with no survivors.

    These execs would see their countrymen un(der)employed, their intellectual property stolen (along with any competitive edge that came with it), and workplace cohesion destroyed just so when they jump ship they’ll have a nice gated manse or two far away from the unwashed masses.

    Great entry.

  3. So to expand – everything said by the author was correct. There is a LARGE IT company in ATL has been COMPLETELY taken over by Indians using the hiring of friends and family, everyone else has basically been pushed out.

    I worked at a mobile company that is being driven into the ground. First by profligate spending of off shore owners, then by the Indian nepotism which rewarded friends – one to the tune of 250K per year – and drove out any high performers. The lack of care about American cultural standards didn’t help. You couldn’t question or push back or you were out. Very hierarchical. Now that the American venture capital company has taken over, they’re gutting the remains. Hiring minorities and more H1Bs. I was laid off and replaced by two such persons – 1 quit and 1 was fired, in less than 6 months. Every person laid off has been white. Every interview I had with an Indian decision maker while looking for a new job – knew I wasn’t getting it. Finally got hired by another American. Though I am now one of the few white people in office. I spend time avoiding the resident angry black woman and trying not to piss off the rest of the sistas.

    Working with Indians is a nightmare. Will commit to things not understood or not possible to get the work and proceed to fuck everything up. Never or rarely meet timelines. Don’t raise important issues early when can be easy resolved but wait until it’s a complete and utter cluster fuck. All the Indian sales guys and pre sales engineers I worked with lied their asses off to get business and basically committed to things that cannot be delivered to get their commission. They damaged the company to make a buck. I described them specifically and immigrants in general to a friend recently as locusts looking to strip America of it’s wealth and then fuck off to their home countries.

    The Chinese are a bit rigid in their thinking and often code for crap if you ask them to do anything complex or remotely creative. Brits are incredibly rigid and have an ‘OMG you Americans’ attitude which gets old an hour before they start with it.

    Best to work with – oddly enough – the Greeks. You want documentation, they’re your guys. Expect a novel no matter what you asked for though. They’re your pain in the ass coworker who insists on perfection and will kill themselves to get it. Mostly I spent time talking them off ledges due to their perfectionism.

    No American kid has a future in STEM. I’ve never had a significant raise unless I hopped jobs or got another new certification. I’m trying to figure out right now how to leverage my skills and start my own gig.

  4. Pingback: The Myopia of Short-Sightedness | Reaction Times

  5. I obviously agree with everything written above. Indians to whom things are outsourced in India are very good at asking for mountains of documentation from American engineers and developers that amount to the Americans doing their entire job for them. An example is drivers: they have no curiosity about how anything works and simply ask for documentation until the job is practically done for them.

    I haven’t noticed their obsession with white women, but I suspect it’s true. Their difficulties with white women seem to stem from their odd smell, lack of musculature, unfortunate body proportions, and autistic social skills. And their Hinduism, which is somewhat similar to Buddhism but has scary-looking gods and funeral pyres and stratified poverty as a religious system. They also travel around in large H1B packs scaring off the women.

    We try to ship manufacturing and low-level development jobs to China, it’s really no surprise that the Chinese employees of American companies leave after awhile and start their own company using IP stolen from their previous job that they may have actually developed. They seem to be much better thinkers than Indians, who can’t think at all. There are

    The fault of the Chinese stealing American IP really belongs with white American execs. Now that I think of it, our entire problem stems from white American execs. I suppose they see no problem with scorching the earth (or the US) because they have no kids or if they do, they’re estranged from them.

    US kids have a future in tech nonetheless. I make good money in tech. It’s easy to be better than foreign workers. However, finding American kids who want to learn math and science is tough. I didn’t want to believe it, but I keep meeting more and more American kids who don’t know what they want to do but they’re sure they don’t want to learn engineering, science or a trade.

    • I still make good money as well. You have to be willing to move or job hop. I see American kids who want to get into IT but feel that if they don’t go to a GA Tech, they won’t get in the door. ATL may be a bit odd as a Tech market due to all the big companies we have as they’ll take the H1B over the kid from the state school.

      You’re absolutely right about the exec issue. My CTO friend was a big diversity believer and give them a chance kind of a guy until he moved to work at the start up and worked entirely with Americans. He told me he enjoys doing good work too much to start on the old treadmill again and was amazed at how much less time he took reexplaining things.

  6. A chinese (Hong Kong, not main land – there is a big difference in my experience) guy explained to me why the chinese copy everything and create cheap knock offs. It is a matter of pride for them. If they can make what you make, they are just as smart as you are. If they can make it cheaper (even if it is a lower quality) and make more profit than you, they have conclusively proven that they are way smarter than you.

  7. My relevant experience in this realm is scant, but remembered fondly.
    Back in the late 90’s in Dallas we got our first crop of Indians. Day 1 we sat them down and said “your name is Steve. Your name is Tom. Your name is Bill.” Would love to witness the ensuing apoplexy that would strike HR if you did that these days, but these guys didn’t seem to mind; they wanted to be as American as possible, possibly due to the status striving described above.
    Unrelatedly but also touched on above, one of the only good parts of White Tiger is when the lead blows all of his money on a white, bleach blond hooker only to find out the curtains don’t match the carpet. Perfect example of Indian male sexual cluelessness, based on the gents I’ve met.

  8. Odd man out here. My experience with the Indians was relatively positive. I worked in a big city hospital, and the the eastern variety was far more tolerable than the western. Of course, they were mostly women, and stuck to themselves, but I found they were often much more honest and hardworking than other groups from the diverso-bag. That was quite some time ago, and i was much more adventurous then. I’ll bet it’s far worse now, and rather doubtful that anyone that looks like me works in that environment.

  9. My father never quite reached the level of clarity as this OP. Fortunately, he is out of the game now and well-situated. One of his Indian colleagues told him upon retirement that he was the best and “most fair” boss he’d ever had. No woman, Indian, Chinese, Russian, or Paki could conduct the diversity orchestra like a White man.

    I once walked in on my father’s recounting of another former Indian subordinate who was looking for a reference. The guy was complaining how his Indian daughters were very ashamed that he was not achieving promotion quickly enough. With a twinkle in his eye, he asked me what I would say to such girls. My answer was that back in their home country, half the population shits outside. Food for thought.

  10. On cultural differences, it’s not just engineering. The Arabs and Indians, almost to a man had a radically different ethical understanding (and I was working in sales, so it’s not the most upright group to start with). Once heard an Arab in a sales meeting explain that he was putting in the wrong product codes, ones with a higher commission, in hopes that they would accidentally pay him more. Like he didn’t even have the internal software installed that trying to steal is probably something you should keep quiet from the guy you’re stealing from.

    Of course they sold a lot of product, but created massive and costly customer service problems on the back end. It seems like most of the Americans, of whatever ethnic background, at least either kept to ethics, or, if they didn’t, didn’t go so overboard as to easily be caught out. The Arabs and Indians just didn’t care. Ironically I never understood how the company never did the math on what these reps were “making” versus what they were costing.

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