Monday, November 21, 2005

Review of "Dude, Did I Steal Your Job? Debugging Indian Computer Programmers"

I decided to spend some money on a self-published book by Nadarajah Sivakumar, and would like to think that as an activist I had some role in provoking him to write this book. I hope he makes a ton of money on it and wish him luck.

Although the majority of the book was one person's opinion lacking much substance in terms of factual statistics, the author had well formed opinions and strong views on the subject of immigrant programmers. I must admit that I found his writing quite enjoyable and in many ways feel responsible for the blatant racism and attacks he and other Indians have endured. Not because I was the source of such pain, but because as an activist we (I) need to take a stronger stand on issues of racism. We inspire others to take action and oppose flawed policy, but how many take their dislike of policy and direct that anger on immigrant workers?

As a member of the Programmers Guild, I can say that we strive to keep these types of attacks at bay. They do nothing to help our cause, and really have no place in civil society. I must admit that I chuckled at his cover page: "
To my unknown neighbor who keeps dirt and dog pile on the windshield of my car every morning, and to the thousands of American programmers who bash Indians with filth at online message boards, for inspiring me to write this book." But after the chuckle, I thought it sad that my fellow Americans treat these people in such a way. Anyone who does this should feel shame.

You can oppose immigration and trade policies without being racist. If you are directing your anger at the Indians, the feeling of anger towards them is natural. But as intelligent people we must realize it isn't rational. Direct that anger in more productive channels such as activism and furthering our profession.

I agree with Mr. Sivakumar that immigrants (and especially Indians) have contributed to our society. When was the last time you saw an Indian gang-banger or an Indian on welfare? Most of the Indians I meet and work with are of high character and very skilled. Although I enjoy their company and the company of foreign nationals, I also have a loyalty to our nation and can't agree with any program that hurts our nation or its people .

I agree with what the author says regarding his view on foreign workers: "
an American job should not be given to a foreigner if you can find a qualified American instead. If a company is giving preference to an H1-B worker, then that is wrong, and I completely oppose that. I also think that reducing the H1-B cap is the right thing in a downturn economy. You shouldn't lay off an American and hire an H1-B worker. That's against the law, and that's wrong from any angle."

The problem is that the laws aren't enforced and these things do occur. Members of the Programmers Guild want a fair system --one that is fair for all. I don't believe that our goals are that far apart.

I believe that if there is truly a shortage of workers, they should be welcome to fill that void. Whatever system (H-1B/L1/etc.) we have in place should be designed to accomplish five main goals:

1. Meet a demand that the local workforce is unable to fill. Metrics and enforcement mechanisms should be in place to guarantee that a void truly exists. There should be a safeguard in place -- as soon as an occupation's unemployment rate goes above average that occupation should be closed to these visas.

2. Prevent the abuse of Immigrants; they must be paid prevailing wages and this should be certified by an independent auditor at a cost to the company. They should be limited in the hours they may work (50?).

3. Have an enforcement mechanism with "teeth" which is part of a comprehensive immigration program. Violators of labor and immigration laws should be aggressively investigated and prosecuted.

4. A system that doesn't tie workers to a single company which has a simple and fast process to change jobs.

5. Not allow visas to be used in the export ("offshoring") of American jobs. Preference should be given to American companies; Infosys, Tata, Wipro, and other companies that offshore should be required to hire much more from the local workforce. Currently they hire very few Americans and use a very large share of the H1-B visas.

Currently, corporations are writing our immigration and trade laws and they aren't designed with the immigrant or American worker in mind. I understand the anger expressed by Mr. Sivakumar and believe that as a nation we should do better to treat our guests with respect and dignity that they deserve. Indians are our competitors in the marketplace, not our enemies. The fact is that the legislators who passed laws designed to benefit corporations as opposed to us, were elected by us. We must demand more from them.

To conclude about "Dude Did I Steal Your Job", I suggest reading it. He spends allot of time defending the abilities of Indian programmers which I don't recall questioning --although some people generally posting anonymously have. I believe there are cultural differences and communication issues that challenge projects when it comes to offshore teams but you would face similar issues in other countries (like Russia and China, for example) and this is the nature of offshore projects having nothing to do with race. There is some humor in the book, and you will learn allot about Indian culture and the guy in the next cubicle you never knew.

In conclusion, let's be nice to our Indian co-workers. And just because you post anonymously on the Internet doesn't mean words don't hurt people. We need to take our message to Congress and let the foreigners live and work in peace. They can't help us, so it is no use giving them a hard time about this issue.

I would love to debate Mr. Sivakumar on the issues if he is up to it. I am thinking of writing a book: "Dude, I Want My Job Back!!!". Only kidding. My next review will be by a person I believe is of Indian ancestry (Ron and Anil Hira) and the former President of the IEEE-USA: "Outsourcing America". I have not finished reading it yet, but I can tell you it is very factual and relies heavily on government data to back findings. The forward of this book was written by Lou Dobbs, author of "Exporting America" and a host of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight.


At 11:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

great blog entry covering both sides of the issue !!!

i recomment every american techie to read the book .


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