By Michael Woloszynowicz

By Michael Woloszynowicz

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Great Outsourcing Scare

I recently read an article on Yahoo once again claiming that software development jobs will decline in developed countries as outsourcing will become ever more prevalent. 

I for one wholeheartedly disagree with this claim for a number of reasons. First off, we've been down this road before and when I went to take my Computer Science degree more than eight years ago, the .com bust and ensuing rise of India and China as outsourcing destination led many to question me for pursuing such a degree. So where are we now? Well outsourcing certainly has changed the way many industries work, particularly IT and manufacturing, but there is also no shortage of jobs for talented developers. As the person responsible for hiring programmers at my company, I have discovered that the pool of developers with creativity and problem solving skills is getting smaller and smaller. This trend is not only evident in the top percentile of the talent pool, even mediocre developers are hard to find. The same sentiment also extends to tech hubs such as Silicon Valley as talks with several startup companies reveals a similar struggle. So why could this be you ask? First of all, students are being fed the same nonsense that I listened to prior to undertaking my degree and are pursuing different fields. This is evident in the steady decline of CS graduates over the last few years. Next, the recession has brought with it a demand to lower costs and automate processes, something that computers are great at. Similarly the rise of new hardware devices such as tablets and smartphones have created new markets for software, so while some development is being outsourced, the increase in demand has more than offset the negative effects of offshoring. 

One of the central arguments of Yahoo's post was that software development is a simple candidate for outsourcing as it is virtual in nature. By the same argument we could extend the outsourcing scare to professions such as architecture, engineering, business analysis, financial analysis, and so forth. With the North American manufacturing sector essentially dead, and the predicted outsourcing of all "virtual" industries soon to follow, can it be posited that the job market in developed nations is effectively doomed? By their argument there will only be work for doctors, top-level managers, and low level customer service representatives. Wouldn’t this also increase wages in developing nations thus reducing the benefits of offshoring? In fact this trend is already occurring as outsourcing firms are already looking towards new destinations in Eastern Europe to remain competitive. Sure the above example is a bit exaggerated but the fact is that you cannot outsource everything. As we all know, the true success of any company stems from its employees. Outsourcing has an important place in a company’s toolbox but it is not a panacea for IT companies. For a company that strives to be the best, there is no substitute to a locally present, dedicated, and energetic team.
I write this post in the hope that students will continue to view computer science as a lucrative and growing field rather than one destined for decline. 

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