Rethink Offshore

We’re in some tough times, not unique, but similar to what we have experienced before, with a few new twists. We are going to re-evaluate what is a marriage of convenience between US tech companies and the folks we use either offshore or that come to the States.

For a few years I was part of a consulting firm of some very limited onshore resources and then having a UX/UI/Front End org tree under me of ~150 people. I had a great time with this crew and the troubles of 2020–2021 aside, I’d still happily be there. I ❤ TA Digital and my time there.

Offshore is not a bad word, offshore are not disposable, but we have some serious things we need to discuss going forward.

How Offshore Came to Be

In the free market world, getting the same for less was certainly attractive. That could be less money, or less drama (moody Americans), and we knew there were trade-offs. In the early days of the internet as things began to need more people than we could get locally, we started looking abroad. Several firms were able to get companies to either bring people over, or be willing to deal with time differences in order to make things, and aa a cheaper price. Big bandwidth made remote work at great distances an option, though it never overcame time differences.

Offshore is remote WFH at scale.

Early on, dotcom work was relatively cheap, it started to grow and get money flowing so the value of employees went up. The domestic-based employees working in real-time had a higher value. That rate gap grew at a different rate than the overall industry. It put a lot of power with the employers and incentives to make coders move to the work.

Loads of Stranded People

Let’s talk H1B Visas for a moment. We do live in a free market economy but a lot of people moved across the planet to get a Visa to work hard. These folks have been here for a while and are totally cool calling this new place home and then there are others that just got here to lose their job. Needless to say the corporations don’t care, these folks were disposable. We are all disposable.

The worst way to look at it is to use the threat of deportation because the company can hold your sponsorship over your head.

I have previously talked about certain firms that are Visa farms that try to overinflate staff to get people Visa sponsorship. This is fraud, it is real, and nobody seems to care but it seems to linger with a lot of people.

Across from Walmart and YouTube in San Bruno, recruiters prep fake interviews to stuff in people that are unqualified and tell them other people they hired would cover for them. I saw this first hand and to be devil’s advocate, the idea of being sent back to a massive pool of competition, I’d find a way in too.

Cultural Differences

We tend to see things through our own cultural filters and values, and those are not universal. This can be a problem.

Holidays

American holidays are commercial and diluted amalgamations of things that don’t always resemble what they celebrate. Some “cultural” things are bigger here than where they came from. All our holidays have an angle to sell us something. Heck, Spring Break is a real thing here based around tourism, alcohol and debauchery.

We seem to forget our colleagues’ holidays and treat them like a novelty, like the circus came to town when we can’t understand what we need to purchase to participate.

Shame

Americans tend to acknowledge failure more publicly (outbursts, blogs). The reaction could be explosive or going to a depression because we tend to put our ego/pride into our outcome and when we fall short, it’s not pleasant. Yikes.

I’m a leader that tells my team that I fail, they win, so please by all means use my favorite words or phrases like “I need help” or “I don’t know how to do ‘x’”. This to me is a chance to get in there to help, pair, or teach. My team have no trouble asking each other or me, and they know I get in there really deep when we need to roll up our sleeves. So failure hurts, it feels like I don’t have trust from my team.

I once in the early days had to discuss some shortcomings with my offshore team, I was so pissed after that they seemed to just recoil into the shadows rather than face things head on. It was me reading it wrong, being insensitive. This was more or less public humiliation to them personally. This hurt people that are relatively stoic. My approach was more micromanagement with those individuals until we got on the same page.

Now to really compound an observation here, a few times when I was the client, I never saw anyone get replaced unless they left the company. I only ever saw more people added to teams. This meant way more mouths to feed, more money and more knowledge transfer. For me, I’d rather help that person than add a body, and I’d rather replace someone that could not be trained up quickly than to have more faces. Training up a bad resource takes longer than replacing with a good one with knowledge transfer.

Disability/Accessibility/Design Sensibility

Semantic, testable, code does not mean it is usable at all. That will get you sued. It’s remembering the answers to a quiz, but not actually knowing the information. Western countries legally have to be compliant, and that means actually testing with the tools like screen readers. I make a LOT of money doing this for offshore teams. I had to think of why this is and while learning programming languages is a strong point, usage is not.

Some countries do not place an emphasis on the same things others do. Canada has everything in two languages and we have to make anything the public can use, actually usable. There is that cultural filter we see everything through.

It’s messed up when you think about it. Not every country invests on helping citizens with disabilities, they are disposable so the skill is not an essential one.

GREED

Recently on LinkedIn, before he blocked me, an offshore leader said that Silicon Valley developers made $200k and it was time for offshore to make the same. The same job at a different company can pay less than half that here in the US, but his delusional approach thought he was looking at the topline pay and thinking that it applies universally. I wish, it’d be awesome for everyone.

Idaho doesn’t make Silicon Valley money, maybe this is the system failing or underpaying for WFH, but when cheap is your advantage and greed is your motivator, you’ll lose.

Look, offshore began as a cheap option. We brought over people we wanted in seats, during our business hours and were willing to pay less for slower delivery at non-business hours. When it results in the same, and has communication issues, why bother to pay the same?

That really is taking advantage of the situation.

I am being paid a lot less for being a remote WFH guy since offices are only ever in horrible places these days.

Be Supportive

I reached out to some places I know often hire and tried to connect some offshore friends get work. I do the same for my US friends, it is not lopsided or unique, but the value of networking should not be self-serving, sometimes you just need to be a compassionate human being. Something about Karma/Dharma coming back to bite you in the ass.

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That Tim Guy

Coder, photog, stick-shifting, animal lover, gardener, cook, comedian, from 11746 living in 90210.