Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The Unfortunate Side of Outsourcing

My friend, Doc Farmer, has another timely article for us. This one is on the human side of outsourcing. - Sailor

The Unfortunate Side of Outsourcing
Written by Doc Farmer
Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Everybody’s talking these days about the dangers and ''crisis'' of outsourcing jobs overseas. Of course, OUTsourcing actually generates more INsourcing, hence a positive result for our economy. But you’ll never hear that from the mainstream media commentators, unless of course they’re talking about a certain ketchup manufacturer....

However, there’s a part of outsourcing that people rarely speak of openly, but which can have devastating social consequences.

Recently, IBM Global Services decided to outsource to India 60 Information Technology (IT) jobs from the Fort Wayne, Indiana, job market. This will be done to streamline support and, of course, to save money for Lincoln National Life Insurance Company, my very first employer. As I understand it, none of the people whose jobs have been ''outsourced'' will actually be fired. They will, instead, be absorbed into the company, doing other jobs.

Hence the devastating social consequences.

You see, these are IT people we’re talking about here. They’re not like normal people at all.

Before any of you IT people start sending me threatening e-mail messages in Klingon, I’m an IT guy myself. Have been for close to three decades. I know from whence I speak.

IT people watch ''Dune'' a lot. We get into heated arguments over which is better--the David Lynch version or the SciFi Channel version. We don’t actually get into fist fights over it, though. More like sissy-slapping fights. It’s rather embarrassing to watch, unless you’ve got money on the outcome.

IT people also memorize Star Trek. Every version. Original Series, Next Gen, DS9, Voyager, Enterprise, and the movies. We can tell you how warp drive works--in mind-numbing detail. For hours and hours on end. Without noticing that the objects of our lecture (i.e. normal people) are being bored into a coma.

IT people listen to techno, despite the fact that it was never cool in the first place. IT people have acne well into our 40s. IT people set up their Windows effects to use themes, sounds, and images from Babylon 5, Farscape, and the Hot Babes of CNBC.

IT people can’t do football pools or baseball pools very well, because we have absolutely no idea how these games are played. We know three-dimensional chess, Fizbin, Qatisqat, Parisi’s Squares and Triad, but basketball is only interesting to us if played by topless Vulcan chicks. Oh, yeah, and you’ll note we still use ''chicks'' as an honorific for the ladies. But only because we know they’ll never hear us use it. Because ladies won’t get within spitting distance of us if at all possible. For us, sexual harassment is when a marginally passable female walks by one of our team and doesn’t throw up. That’s Geek-Speak for a marriage proposal.

IT people live in their own little world. Moreover, it’s a nice place, for the greater part. Flashing lights, technobabble, database subschemas, code reviews, and the smell of tin-core solder and flat Mr. Pibb. We dream in hexadecimal. We tell jokes in binary (which takes a LONG time). We have long and drawn out debates about the proper location of the comma, the nesting of the code, how to fancy up the comment boxes, or how to rewire a Cray supercomputer with paperclips and leftover pizza.

IT people think ''X-Files'' is a documentary.

Now, consider putting a group of 60 of these geeks, nerds, and social wieners into a normal office environment. Picture it in your mind, if you would. Not a pretty picture, eh? Geeks invading your cubicle space with Far Side cartoons that crowd out your beloved Dilbert. Nerds hanging around the coffee machine, calling it Raktajino and conversing in Minbari.

Now, IT people have a much-needed place in our society, so I’m not dissing them out of hand. I’m simply recognizing the truth about our particular subgenus. Sure, we’re about as socially adept as a bowl of grits, but we do good work. IT people keep the information superhighway humming. We keep your networks buzzing. We fix your broken hardware, upgrade your sagging software, and save you from the ''Blue Screen of Death.'' We ask only that we be allowed to do our work, be given regular doses of black coffee and Krispy Kremes, and collect our Stargate SG-1 memorabilia in peace.

But it’s kinda hard to do that when we’re forced to do--ick!--normal work.

So you mighty potentates of the boardrooms, you CEOs bent on squeezing a penny so hard that poor George’s eyes pop out, spare a thought for us poor IT people before you ship our jobs off to Never-Never-Land. You might save a little bit of money by sending IT jobs overseas. But you’ll be causing mountains of aggravation for your IT people, and fear into the hearts of your normal staff as well.

One more thing to consider. India has an ancient and beautiful culture. Do you really want to turn those poor, innocent, unsuspecting folks into IT people?


Doc Farmer, when not translating IBM technical manuals into Klingon or building functional tricorders, can be reached watching his B5 and DS9 DVDs at

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