From Professional to Personal to Political
Blain is more pessimistic about developers' chances of retention through business skill. "Even highly skilled, nimble, highly experienced workers who've moved up the value chain are getting laid off," he said.
These lay-offs are responsible for the daily messages TechsUnite receives from IT workers who have suddenly become political in their views about the industry. According to Blain, tech workers from across the political spectrum will tell his organization everyday, "I never really thought much of unions, but I think we need to organize."
Even the developers who've had an independent spiritBlain describes them as "your stereotypical independent, maverick, Libertarian, 'I'll succeed on my own merits and pull myself up by my bootstraps' kind of tech workershave expressed support for a tech union. Many have gone as far as stating that the issues of offshore outsourcing, as well as H-1B and L-1 visas, will influence how they vote.
Results from a recent online DevX poll
The politicizing effect of the offshore outsourcing trend does not surprise Morello. "The political and federal backlash is something that's going to shape up over the next 2-3 years in the United States and in other developed economies. I would expect it to be a huge electoral issue in any subsequent voting session."
Blain has already seen an organized IT workers' push meet its political goal. His organization put out a call for the General Accounting Office (GAO) to conduct a study on the impact offshore outsourcing has on U.S. workers and communities. Blain said in the first six months of 2003 they generated over 15,000 fax and e-mail letters to Congress in support of the call. In July, two representatives from Washington State submitted a formal request to the GAO asking for such a study, and the GAO replied within two months saying it would do it.
Still, Hayes has his doubts about how effective political action can be in stopping a global market trend. "Look at the automobile industry. How many of those jobs have gone offshore? Look how strong the auto workers unions have been over the years trying to stop that and they've been unable to do it," he said. "All those [tech] organizations could conceivably do is slow things down a little bit, but they'll never be able to stop it."
Change Happens. You'll AdaptAs Always
Before punching the panic button, remember that not all companies are outsourcing their development work. Many companies are reticent to pursue offshoring, and even those that do are keeping core parts of their businesses in the States. For example, user and client interface development, business requirements management, and project management are all aspects of IT that companies prefer to have in-house.
These may not be the aspects you're working in today, but you should consider them as the areas where the most security lies for your career. This may present a significant change in your career to be sure, but if any professional has experience adapting to change it's the application developer. You constantly experience changes in IT that occur in a fraction of the time that similar changes would in other fields.
Do you perform your job the same way today that you did three years ago? Five years ago? Probably notand the changes are probably the result of your own innovation. As the purveyors of much of the change in IT, developers are agile enough to land on their feet when it comes to their work.