Hello all; Cecil here...
Earlier this week I was traveling up the East Coast from the Carolinas to New England (Cape Cod to be specific). The logical route to travel was I-95, which can be heaven or hell depending on the time of day and the region you're traveling through. But I'm always amazed at how quickly the landscape changes over just a few miles.
I rolled through New Jersey and into New York, across the George Washington Bridge, and through Washington Heights into the Bronx. The transition from relatively sparsely populated Southern New Jersey to the density of Greater New York City crept up on me so that driving amidst the millions of New York residents didn't seem all that unnatural. Continuing North into Connecticut was another thing altogether. The shift from urban to rural landscape was sudden and obvious, and my mind drifted to visions of Eddie Albert plowing his farm in Green Acres.
The EDI job market is shifting in much the same way as the landscape did as I drove North into New York City. The change is slow and incremental on a day to day basis. It's only when you stop and look at your surroundings that you really notice what's happening. The section of I-95 that runs along 179th Street in Manhattan is full of potholes and at times seems like it will tear the wheels off the car. Even so, it's not a place I would want to stop or even slow down. You may not want to, but take a look around at your job environment. I'll bet the ride is getting bumpy, but it's not a good time to stop.
A long way from Manhattan
This week there's been an ongoing conversation on one of the EDI conversation groups initiated by Vijay, an employee of a consulting company based in India. This was his initial request of the group:
"Hi All, I am new to Gentran & this group. My name is Vijay I am from
India. I am a fresher in Gentran. My Company is a Consultancy,they place us in other Companies. Ok thats from my side. Thats from my side. How about other members? I am looking for Interview questions that are frequently asked in gentran. Nice to hear soon from other members. Take Care Vijay "
I was intrigued by the variety of responses from the group's members. It occured to me that they might be in the same position I was when driving into New York. The responses from the group members were split between helpfully welcoming and slightly annoyed. Those that were admirably accommodating to the new group member seemed to simply want to help anyone trying to enter their industry, but I noticed a change in attitude as more respondents understood that Vijay is part of the larger group of programmers taking EDI jobs from US employees.
A few weeks ago I reported the conversation I overheard between a couple of Kroger EDI staff members when it was announced that some or all of their jobs were being outsourced to an India based company. This week I heard that "the first 100 days" had begun with the knowledge transfer process. Maybe I should revisit my favorite SkyLine in the next couple months.
Greed and survival
Not surprisingly some of the comments from participants on the EDI group explained away the outsourcing trend as corporate greed. No doubt there's plenty of that to be found, but where's the line between greed and need? Programming is demanding and expensive. And it's tough to ignore hourly programming fees at less than 1/20th the going rate of those in the US.
One prominent technology company recently told me that his competition spends about the same amount on programming each month that he does. The difference is that he employs 3 programmers in the US while his competitor has nearly 80 churning out code in India. From a competitive point of view, how long can he afford to let his competitor out-program him? As one respondent in the EDI group put it, "I do not bellyache about companies that move their tech jobs off-shore. Company leaders are looking to make their companies money, not make us money. If they feel they can add value by outsourcing EDI resources so be it."
Getting away from the crowd
I don't like the idea of anyone loosing their job. But the economics are pretty obvious. Can you blame Kroger for moving it's EDI function offshore? Can you make a good case for the service provider to keep his programming staff producing less than 1/20th the output of his competitor at the same cost? And can you blame Vijay for asking the same questions any of his US-based counterparts would?
As much as I dislike the direction of this journey it's clear where we're going. I was surprised at the sudden change of scenery as I headed away from the crowded New York metropolitan area and into the rural portions of Connecticut. Next time I'll pay more attention to the changes around me and be prepared to appreciate my new surroundings. Keep an eye on what's going on around you and think about the larger picture. It doesn't matter whether we like the roadmap or not, we're better off if we know what's ahead.
And speaking of what's ahead... my itinerary has me heading West for the next few weeks. Let me know how your journey is going.