Wednesday, April 08, 2009


Does India Outsourcing remind you of a death march?

The rest of the Washington DC was resting at home enjoying a warm cup of hot cocoa. Comfortable that all the necessary preparations had been made to survive the latest winter storm to hit the area. Everyone that was, except three developers who are employed by a top tier Indian outsourcing firm. Three developers sitting in their fluorescent lit cubes, working furiously to eradicate the latest roach to take up home in their soon to be released system. This ritual was not new to our heroes: it had been repeated every night for the last four weeks. But, despite history, these three developers still believe that with enough fly swatters this system, their new home, will soon be roach free.

While some may argue that long nights and heroism are normal and acceptable that this new value hierarchy is inverted and, if continued, will lead to the collapse of those societies. Further, these societies exist globally, be it regionally co-located, bounded by political borders, or bounded by company doors.

What's insidious about this practice is that it actually works, to an extent. Not, as their pushers seem to think, because people think better under stress. Rather, they work because shared vision and teamwork are effective ways to get thigns done, even if they come from "we're all in this together against the world". Because young programmers are like young soldiers: they don't know any better. The savage art of creating a death march using Indian outsourcing is hard to beat because the things that are better are harder for a manager to understand and harder for a young hotshot to recognize.

In many ways India developers are following the trail into doom of their American counterparts where companies reward heroes with praise and visibility while ignoring those who did it right the first time. Who gets the mention at the next staff meeting - the guy whose code never had problems or the gal who stayed all weekend to fix the bug in the uber-important mission critical system.

Imagine if human resources were more transparent in the job descriptions? Men wanted for hazardous journey. You get the opportunity to receive low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. You get a career path where perception management is more important than technical excellence and demonstrated ability. You get to enjoy growing overweight and with high blood pressure while having the pleasure of spending less time with your family. Your future compensation isn't coupled to either effort nor result but the whims of others.

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