Friday, August 10, 2007

 

Does Outsourcing Require Lowering of Standards?

I heard an interesting statement from an architect while shopping at Home Depot. He mentioned the good old days where he would interview a candidate for a position face-to-face and would have a choice of folks who had extensive experience. Nowadays, he mentions that he only talks to candidates over the phone and isn't sure of their abilities even after the interview...



My first experience with phone interviewing occurred in the late 90's where I interviewed a candidate named Rao Santapur for a project I worked on for a commodities trading firm doing PowerBuilder development. His resume was impeccable and had many of the finest universities listed. He was the first person to ace my interview including trick questions.

Being the lead dog, I had problems dealing with staffing, budgeting and overall architecture. I remember debating with the client about the need for a development environment and how he wanted me to code in production, so my attention on Rao was less than I wanted.

I remember meeting with him and seeing how he did the most kick butt graphical layout in terms of presentation for Powerbuilder that I have ever seen. I then proceeded to look at his code and found horrific abuses of for loops and fugly nested if statements. We rationalized away the fact that we are simply jamming out code to hit the deadline and I didn't pay it attention for a couple of weeks.

Several weeks later, we needed to integrate all of the code we were working on and ran into issues across the project. I then called for a code review and noticed that his code actually got worse and in my usual equal opportunity hostility ripped a new one. Later in the day, he confessed to the fact that he never programmed in his life and that I had interviewed his roommate over the phone. He even told me that the companies on his resume and the references were family members.

The funniest thing in reflecting on this event is that I respected honesty and wasn't upset. In fact, I decided to make it work not only for the simple fact that he convinced me of his willingness to learn, but in all honesty was a very nice guy and the client fell in love with him as a person, so I had no choice.

Over the next year, he actually learned Powerbuilder and became really good at it. He managed to in fact leave the firm I was working for and find a significantly higher paying gig elsewhere.

As I think about the conversation with my peer in the industry who wonders whether outsourcing requires lowering of standards, to this question I must answer emphatically yes. American's must learn that folks in other countries more often than not will bend the truth about their abilities and experiences. If I see this individual again, I would ask him to not focus on what they have done in the past but what they are capable of doing in the future as I have empirical evidence that lowering of your standards may be rewarding...




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