The offshoring of technical positions is on the upswing. According to Forrester Research, US offshore programming jobs have nearly tripled over the past three years, from 27,000 to an estimated 80,000, as reported in the March 1, 2004, issue of Business Week. This trend will probably continue.
Technologists are competing for positions with anyone who has a computer and an Internet connection. To be blunt, if you're a technologist, there's a chance that your position will be outsourced sometime down the road. If you want to save your position by ensuring that no one sees the work you do as a commodity, you need to consider the following six items:
1.Don't plan to write code for your entire career. There's very little future for a person who does only programming. I don't care what language you program in, how elegant your code might be or how much you love being a developer, code is a commodity and can be done by other people for less money. Much less money. Try to think of coding as the beginning of a career, like the mailroom in a large company, perhaps -- a great place to start, but not the kind of thing you want to do for your entire professional existence.
2. Learn to communicate effectively. Public speaking is a critical skill for sharing your knowledge in training sessions, seminars or workshops. By joining Toastmasters, taking a speech course or joining a group that encourages public speaking, you will pick up these skills more quickly than you ever thought possible. The more you do it, the easier it will become. Your value and confidence will increase dramatically, because you will not only be able to do your job but have the ability to speak about it to the world as well. On the flip side of public speaking is the ability to write well. People always tell me they would love to write but don't know how. My advice is always the same: Get a pen and start writing. Then take writing workshops or college courses to help fine-tune this craft. You should also find a good editor who will polish your words and make your writing even better.
3.Develop people skills. I am such a fervent believer in the importance of people skills that I just wrote a book about it. Gone are the days of developers who sit in the corner and code, snarling at the world and avoiding human interaction. As organizations mature and develop partnerships with other organizations both at home and abroad, it's vitally important to be able to manage relationships, politics and alliances at all levels and under all business conditions. If you become the person who can pull teams together, support communication and make things happen, that will help make your position and perceived value within the organization more visible and support the argument that leaving your job intact is a good business decision.
4.Move into the people part of the business. Develop the fine art of managing people and projects and learn how to deal with customers, work with vendors and interact with management in ways that satisfy the needs and objectives of the organization. There's a tremendous need for the human touch -- the relationship, mentoring and leadership skills required to get projects in on time and within budget. Whether you're managing people and projects in New York or New Delhi, the bottom line is the same. This elusive talent is of great value and will support the notion that you are becoming a person who is of great value to your organization.
5. Learn how to sell. Everyone in business today must see that the need to bring in new business is part of his overall responsibility to the organization. New business is the lifeblood of every business looking to grow, prosper and create a stable situation for its employees. If you become known as a business-oriented technologist who can open the door to new revenue and business opportunities, the chances of your job being offshored will diminish.
6. Consider consulting. Many technologists believe they aren't cut out to be consultants. In reality, most of us have far more skills and untapped potential than we ever thought possible. Whether they work alone or as part of a consulting firm, business-savvy individuals who can understand organizational problems and provide cost-effective solutions that support companies' long-term organizational objectives have little to worry about when it comes to outsourcing. That level of experience and value will have management staying up nights figuring out ways to keep you on the team.
There was a time when all you had to do was to get a good education and find a stable job, and all would be well with the world. That time is gone. Doing your job today involves developing a well-planned and carefully thought-out career management and development strategy that will map your progress to skills and requirements that can't be outsourced. At the least, this will provide you with a greater degree of stability. At the most, it will give you a career you never dreamed was possible. To a great degree, you control your career. By following these suggestions, you will never give up that control, and ultimately you will have more input into how your career winds up.
- Management consultant, author and public speaker Howard Adamsky is the founder and president of HR Innovators, and the co-author of Hiring and Retaining Top IT Professionals: The Guide for Savvy Hiring Managers and Job Hunters Alike (Osborne/McGraw-Hill, 2001).