Wednesday, April 15, 2009

H1B L1 Brouhaha

Again and again in the media you hear CEOs complain that they can’t hire the overseas talent they need because of visa restrictions. Here’s a typical example.

What an utter crock.

They’d have us believe that in a country of 300 million, home to schools like Yale, Princeton, Harvard, MIT, and the rest, they just can’t find any smart people so they need to go overseas for them.

If you believe that then you also likely believe the Illinois legislature is filled with law abiding people who see public service as a calling.

The truth is far simpler. First off it’s primarily a money thing. They don’t bring computer programmers over from India and pay them minimum wage. But a continuous flow of overseas talent does serve to keep wage demand low.

The second reason is cultural. Managers in the big banks and consulting firms, and I speak from over 20 years experience of both, don’t get into those positions by being brilliant at engineering or having any ability to deliver anything whatsoever.

To become a manager on one of those places requires two key skills: first, the ability to think fast on your feet and say things that sound great right off the top of your head, and second, the ability to identify those with power and make them your friend, so you can hang on to their coat tails on the way up. Brown-nose and bull-shit. Forget all the nonsense they print in business books. Cancel the MBA. That’s really all there is to it.

Now put yourself in the shoes of one of these guys. You’ve got a choice of hiring:

- A US born and raised software developer who is smart, opinionated, articulate and knows how to deliver, wants to get ahead and expects a work environment which will enable him to do so.

- Somebody raised in the third world, where deference to authority is the biggest part of the culture, grateful to be here, mindful that if he loses this job, has a one-way ticket back to a land of bad plumbing?

No choice at all really, is there?

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