Would you like to be outsourced to ?

I have been in the IT industry for more than 11 years now and most of those years have been spent doing jobs that were outsourced. That would mean that I have spent a major portion of my career snatching jobs from other folks. That wouldn’t be something that would bother me if the jobs moved from them to me only because I was better at it than them. But that is not true.

I know that a majority of the jobs that have moved to me from someone in the US or UK were moved simply for the reason that I would work for less than the said US/UK worker. The question of who was better at the job – me or them – did not even enter into the picture. That is what disgusts me today.

Make no mistake, I am happy to be doing this job. It pays well, I have had a chance to do decent amount of travel,  and the work does not always suck. But I am beginning to not like the looks people in the US give me when they figure out what I do for a living.

As always, I am in the US to help send a job at a US company to India. The person from whom I am taking over holds no grudges, he is mature enough to understand how the industry works. But you cannot ignore the look in his eyes that says: “you are getting this job not because you are better than me, but because you are cheap !”. The word “cheap” has far reaching connotations…and means much more than just “inexpensive”.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity of working in an IT project with a group of Mexican nationals in the US. There too, I was brought on-board to replace one of the Mexicans. This gentlemen did not take it too well. During one of our discussions, he pointed out that Indians make a better impression with the customers because they are willing to work extra hours, weekends, and late nights. He said that he believed that India was the poorest country in the world and Indians were desperate for money. I brushed off that comment with a shrug at that time, but it got me thinking. Do I want to be known as someone who works hard because I was desperate for money or because I was professional ?

This question comes back to my mind now when I see all these Americans giving me that pained look (but always with a smile). Over the years, I have built enough confidence to believe that given a fair chance, I would have gotten the job even if there was no price disparity between me and the other guy. But I know that that point will never figure in most conversations that my clients will have before deciding to hire me. The way most businesses outsource is by thinking: “If this guy does not perform upto our expectations, we would only have lost $25 per hour as opposed to $75 per hour if this other guy flopped”.

Does quality enter into the discussion clients have before deciding to outsource ? I think it does, but I believe its mostly a sanity check. The business just wants to ensure there is not a dramatic drop in quality as a result of outsourcing. In the decision-making matrix, quality has one of the lowest weightages.

I believe that in this day and age, most American/British and Indian workers are on par in terms of skills. There is always the accent issue, but that is mostly for the BPO sector. In the larger IT sector, the disparity in skills has come down a long way even from 10 years ago. Maybe businesses have noticed this and just assume that outsourced jobs will have a certain level of quality when making their outsourcing decisions.

So, why this rant ? It makes perfect business decision to outsource even in the face of disparity in skills. How do I know this ? Because if it didnt make business sense, outsourcing would have taken a hit by now.

So, why bother what others think ? Because image is an important factor in this age of the internet and LinkedIn. I am trying to build an image of a professional who is good at his job…so good that he could get paid at par with an American worker and still keep his job. It has less to do with money and more to do with the professional image. That is the only way to get respect in the industry.

But more than anything else, that is the only way to earn my own respect. I have not suddenly grown a conscience about stealing jobs…I do not care. It is each individual’s responsibility to keep their job from being outsourced. But I have grown a need for my own respect.

I believe this is a more lofty aim than trying to be a CEO of some company. I want to outdo the price market, not just because I want to make more money, but to feel good about myself.

It is time to set the bar high…it is time to vow that this is the last job that I get based solely on cost. Lets see how that works for me.

Tell me how you feel about getting into an outsourced job….